I wrote at the beginning of the season about the woes of F1 as the tide of unwelcome interference from the FIA World Motor Sport Council drove the drivers to threaten to walk out on F1 as we know it and set up shop elsewhere. I giggled to myself as I watched a petrified Bernie Ecclestone running around the track like a headless chicken trying to work his magic and keep his personal pension gold mine together, while bravely telling the press with a distinct wobble of his eye that nothing at all was wrong.
I recall speculating that with the advent of Braun Racing and the all new Red Bull Racing teams we would be in for an interesting ride, and I certainly was not mistaken. It has been wonderful to watch the relative new comers to the sport show just what is possible with dedication and commitment to your team and drivers alike. Brawn Mercedes and Red Bull – Renault have since the starting block pushed the limits of both the drivers championships and the constructors championships in 2009. Both with limited resources in comparison with the giants of the sport Ferrari and McLaren have left the heavy weights clearly standing in their shadow as you can only imagine what the bosses of these seasoned F1 giants must be thinking in the confines of their plush offices. What on earth did they do to get it all so wrong this time out.
Clearly Ferrari is not familiar with this lack lustre performance and in a desperate attempt to get back to winning ways this week finds itself contracted to four drivers for the 2010 season. Its desperation as a team saw them make an ill advised attempt to reinstate Michael Schumacher as a driver when Felipe Massa crashed out in practice during the Hungarian Grand Prix. Thankfully a neck injury prevented his return although speculation has it that the racing bosses put extensive pressure on Ferrari not to readmit Michael Schumacher into the scheme of things for fear of a backlash from fans and a loss of viewers due to his reputation as a skilful yet boring certainty.
Personally I am quite glad that Michael didn’t re-enter the sport. His day is past and our memory should be of him as a famous driver that achieved things that will probably never be achieved again, due to the dull monotony that almost killed the sport off. Since his disappearance we’ve seen Renault leap into Ferrari’s place, followed by a fantastic fight to the finish between Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso. And now 2009 has been I believe one of the best racing seasons in recent memory.
From the very start of the season when Lewis Hamilton threw his toys out the cot after being caught out misleading the stewards and threatened to quit racing, through the most amazing race conditions at the Malysian Grand Prix when you couldn’t even see the cars in the final laps of the race for the rain right through to Silverstone when the Red Bull team turned the horses and closed the gap on their rivals at Brawn in sensational style with inspirational drives from the amazing young Sebastian Vettle, 2009 has certainly produced some vintage sparkle. The fans certainly seem to think so, and viewer numbers have climbed to the greatest numbers in many a year I am told.
We have certainly seen some of the drivers stand out from the pack, and I think we can certainly say Sebastian Vettle has matured into one of the finest class of drivers this season. I have certainly enjoyed watching the young man pull some often startling drives out of the bag as he’s fought his way to the podium six times, twice as race winner, so far this year. In third place in the drivers standings for 2009 thus far, he has been my favourite this season by far.
But of course that takes nothing away from the current leader in the drivers’ standings Jenson Button. With some inspired driving skills and some truly amazing team efforts, Brawn have certainly muscled their way into a position which will surely see them win the constructors title this year, and will leave us with one of the most interesting clash of drivers since the likes of Post and Senna went head to head. It is wonderful to see that in this modern age of teams coveting the production of results more than the freedom of driver skill that two drivers within the same team can be allowed to go head to head for the right to claim the championship as theirs rightfully and fairly.
While I might not always have agreed with Ross Brawn in the past, his own team has been a refreshing change to the boring norm of seeing Ferrari fight McLaren or Renault as the three dominate the sport. With only three main construction engines in the arena in 2009, it is interesting to note that 2010 could see the introduction of a whole new engine as a whole new team bursts into the frame. The South East Asian equation increases its play in the 2010 F1 season two fold with the introduction of the Air Malasia’s boss Tony Grenandes’ new Lotus team that is rumoured to be associated with a Proton Engine. One of three new entries for 2010 it will be good to see British Lotus return to the world of F1. We know that Cosworth are set to return with an engine in both of the other two new teams entering the grid in 2010. We also see Korea enter into the frame as an all new venue for the 2010 F1 circuit. South East Asia now make up a quater of the race calendar and with Force India and Vijay Mallya having stomped their stake in F1 with a number of credible performances this year, the Asian factor only seems set to grow.
Canada also returns to the calendar as one of the 19 venues that F1 will visit next year. So much has changed since a couple of years ago. We now have night time racing, a number of street circuits, a brand new track to end the season in Abu Dhabi to be christened in a matter of weeks from now, new cars, tyre rules and so much more. We have seen a spygate, a crashgate and who knows what else to rock the world of racing before the season ends. Controversy has breathed a new life into the sport in many ways.
So with Renault losing two main sponsors next year, two senior members of its management team, its drivers its a wonder how well the team will fare in the 2010 season of F1. With Ferrari looking at firing Kimi Raikkonen, and no one sure if Felipe Massa will return to driving in 2010 or sit out another year, it appears that Alonso and Fisichella will be the two choices for 2010 as far as the four driver mix up goes. God only knows what will happen is Massa does return to full fitness. Fernando Alonso still has an arrogant air about him that I don’t really like, but we will see if the seat of a Ferrari will do him any better in 2010. All three main players, McLaren, Ferrari and BMW have struggled for performance this year. Toyota quietly plug away slowly perfecting their play and will I believe in time become a very dominant force in F1 unlike their failed rivals Honda Racing.
And so as the 2009 season draws in on us, and the 2010 season looms with a very different flavour about it without Max Mosely at the head of the FIA, we only really need to get rid of the somewhat irritating little Bernie Ecclestone a man who doesn’t do much for the image of the sport with his aloof nature and arrogant air. I am not really quite sure why he deserves the respect he is graced with other than that he has single handed bullied and ruled the Commercial Rights of Formula One for far too long. He is obviously a very cunning man and ruthlessly rich by way of his nack for manipulation and negotiation within the sport. Both he and Max have been central figures in the sport for long as my memory serves me, I guess running it without Max next year will prove if Bernie is really needed to make the sport interesting or not. So in closing let me ask your thought on who has been the most interesting driver in your book this 2009 season?