Thursday, February 15, 2007

Formula One Analysis

Formula Enters A New Era

A new era in F1 will begin on March 18th at Melbourne’s Albert Park. After 15 eventful years in the sport, seven-time World Champion Michael Schumacher will be missing from the grid. Schumi and Ferrari’s unprecedented domination of the sport at the turn of the century - winning five straight titles from 2000-04 – created a lasting legacy by effectively forcing FIA, the sport’s governing body, to reassess the competitiveness of Formula One racing.


Last year Team McLaren Mercedes suffered its first winless season since 1996, as the team continued to be plagued by engine reliability problems. Team Principal, Ron Dennis has however pulled off two major coups for this season. Dennis has poached double world champion, Fernando Alonso from Renault and big-money sponsors, Vodafone from Ferrari. Pinnacle Sports now list McLaren as second-favourites in the Constructors’ title with odds that offer up to 50% better value than other bookmakers.

The team will start with a totally new driving line-up in 2007 as in addition to Alonso, Brit Lewis Hamilton becomes the first black driver in F1 history. Though the British media will undoubtedly hype Hamilton, little should be expected of the 2006 GP2 Series Champion in his rookie season.


In a make or break season for Ferrari - the most successful team of the decade - initial testing suggests the Prancing Horse may have the upper hand after two unsuccessful seasons. However, stability is often cited as a major factor of success in motor sport. This could put Ferrari up against it, given the sabbatical of technical director Ross Brawn, which is the most significant of several back-room changes.

Kimi Raikkonen replaces Schumacher and is currently favourite to take the 2007 drivers crown. However, many question Raikkonen’s willingness to emulate the tireless preparation and attention to detail for which Schumi rarely got the credit he deserved. The lurid stories of the Finn’s drunken antics are in stark contrast to Schumacher’s professionalism. Young Brazilian Felippe Massa, is Ferrari’s number two and though displaying erratic tendencies, he is a fast driver with plenty of promise.

Renault could really struggle this year, and not just because of the defection of Alonso. In the second half of last season, they again failed to develop their car at the same rate as their main competitors. Giancarlo Fisichella, who has scored only two wins during the past two years and seemingly had his limitations thoroughly exposed at the top level, will likely lead the team while test driver Heikki Kovalainen, is promoted to the second race seat.

Having undergone the least disruption of the major teams Honda would appear to have their best chance yet of nicking a title. Jenson Button ended last season as the top-scoring driver over the final six races, while the team successfully homologated a much improved engine over the final two races which they will be able to use this year.


Since entering F1 in 2002 with a rumoured unlimited budget, Toyota have proved perennial disappointments, still seeking their first race win. Their pace is famously inconsistent, as is their reliability, while their driver pairing of Ralf Schumacher and Jarno Trulli is considered by many to be too weak to provide a championship challenge.

Red Bull Racing

If any of the remaining constructors were to land the title it would be a major surprise according to the oddsmakers at PinnacleSports . Though BMW are reliable and have supplied winning engines, neither Nick Heidfeld nor Robert Kubica have winning experience. Red Bull Racing are the playboys of the paddock although David Coulthard scored the team’s first podium finish at last year’s Monaco GP. Though they have high hopes for this year’s Adrian Newey-designed, Renault-powered car, the team cannot be considered realistic challengers.


Williams made a bright start to last season with Nico Rosberg’s fastest lap in the season-opener in Bahrain. However, it was all downhill from there as the team lacked the budget to keep the pace of development with the richer teams. Sadly, the future does not look bright for the once all-conquering team. With no serious backing from a major motor manufacturer, they look set for a repeat of 2006’s frustrations.

Toro Rosso & Spkyer
Toro Rosso gained just one point last season while Spyker ended the season empty-handed. Both will be powered by Ferrari engines, but the comparisons end there. Super Aguri – heavily backed by Honda – did make great strides last year, but were also another team that failed to score.


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