The 2009 F1 Review- Toro Rosso, Force India and Renault

Force India, Toro Rosso and Renault were often backmarkers in 2009

Force India, Toro Rosso and Renault were often backmarkers in 2009

As the Formula 1 2010 season is 69 days away, I decided to do a comprehensive review of all the teams’ performances last year, and look at their prospects for 2010. This review will be done in 5 parts. 4 of these will be groups of last year’s teams, and the last will be dedicated to the newcomers. This article is for the bottom 3 finishers last year: Toro Rosso, Force India and Renault.

After the highs of 2008, Toro Rosso were always going to fall. First of all, they inevitably lost Sebastian Vettel to Red Bull. Also, because of the drastic new regulations, the “satellite” team couldn’t take last year’s Red Bull technical data and use it themselves. The result was that the two drivers, Sebastian Buemi and Sebastien Bourdais, could not be competitive. However, the car was not enough of an excuse for Bourdais, who was outperformed by rookie team-mate Buemi, then dropped after Germany.

His replacement, Jaime Alguersuari, didn’t embarress himself, but didn’t impress either. A good first race in Hungary ahead of Buemi was promising, but his best result after that was 14th.  Buemi was actually quite good throughout the season, as two 7th and two 8th place finishes got him a handful of points, which isn’t bad at all for his debut season. In a few years time, I’d like to see him improve and get to a better team. The team itself, unfortunately, will always be dominated by parent team and owner Red Bull. The team is currently up for sale, and I’m hoping for a good privateer to take hold.  Paul Stoddart…. now there’s a good idea!

13 points, on paper, doesn’t sound like much for Force India. However, they were rated as the most improved teams in many places, and I agree with this. They got their first ever points (and podium) in Belgium, after a masterful pole position from sudden hero Giancarlo Fisichella. But, a lot of this was down to the car being crushingly fast in low-downforce circuits. This was shown perfectly when, after 2 consecutive finishes in the points (one apiece for Fisi and Sutil, in Belgium and Italy), they suddenly slumped in the high-downforce Singapore. They were not to make a comeback after that.

So, the car performed brilliantly- twice. But Adrian Sutil’s crashes and accidents cost them of even more points, at China and Germany. Both were very avoidable, although I wouldn’t be too harsh on him for the China crash- it was extreme wet weather conditions. Still, he must prove he has the ability to get a better drive. Or, if next year’s Force India is as good as I’m hoping it to be, he could get his top drive there.

Fisichella's pole position and P2 finish was enough to get Force India's first points, and got Fisi his dream drive at Ferrari

Fisichella's pole position and P2 finish was enough to get Force India's first points, and got Fisi his dream drive at Ferrari

Utter disaster are the words I first thought of when I reviewed Renault’s season in my mind. It’s not hard to see why:  Awful car, underperforming second drivers, and crash-gate. Fernando Alonso was the only reason the team got any points at all, getting 26 points to prove why he is always world-class. Nelson Piquet Jr, on the other hand, isn’t. His sacking after Hungary initiated a series of events which resulted in the truth of Singapore 2008 come to light. Because of this race-fixing scandal, Piquet was disgraced, and Pat Symonds and Flavio Briatore were thrown out of F1. Good riddance. So where is Piquet now? Testing NASCAR pickup trucks….. nice.

His replacement, Romain Grosjean, was no better. A 13th place finish was his best result in a sluggish car. Alonso’s single podium finish in Singapore was the best result for the team all year. The team’s focus was switched to their 2010 car about halfway through the 2009 season, so hopefully they can improve. Robert Kubica, their currently only confirmed driver for next year, should help this. The team’s future was only secured in December, when Genii Capital secured a 75% stake in the team.The team have recently said that they are aiming to be championship contenders again by 2011, so let’s wait and see.

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