Daily Archives: January 2, 2010

The 2009 F1 Review- Williams, BMW Sauber and Toyota

Toyota locked out the front row in Bahrain but still failed to get their first win

Toyota locked out the front row in Bahrain but still failed to get their first win

Here is the second part of my review of all the 2009 F1 teams, and looking forward to the 2010 season. This article is for Williams, BMW Sauber and Toyota.

At the start of the season, Williams were one of the 3 teams to have incorparated a double-decker diffuser into their car, which gave a big advantage compared to the others. However, Williams didn’t capitalise on this, even at the start, and it resulted in a 7th place out of 10 finish, with 34.5 points. Every single one of these points, just like Renault, came from the first driver: Nico Rosberg in this case. His team-mate, Kazuki Nakajima, was unlucky at times, and probably did deserve a few points. However, he would have still been completely crushed by his team-mate over the last 2 seasons. The main fault of the car appeared to be the Toyota engine, which lacked the power to keep up. Williams have since annouced they are to use Cosworth engines for next season. However, it is still to be seen whether Cosworth can supply a competitive engine, having not supplied engines in F1 since 2006.

A general lack of pace, rather than unreliability or driver crashes, cost Williams dearly this year. The FW31 had no strong points in any sector to make it as good as it should have been. Nevertheless, Nico Rosberg managed 8 points finishes in a row, an excellent achievement. He fully deserves his driver role in Mercedes next year. Nakajima, let’s be honest,  was never going to be retained for 2010. The team have announced Rubens Barrichello and Nico Hulkenberg as their drivers for next year. Barrichello brings 17 years of technical experience, wisdom, and awfully bad luck. He appears to have replaced Mark Webber as F1’s unluckiest driver. Nico Hulkenberg is a very talented driver making his debut in F1 next year. He is the GP2 champion, and formerly won the F3 Euroseries and A1GP. I rate him  very highly as probably the most talented newcomer for next year, so keep an eye on him. So, with 2 very good drivers, it’s all down to the car.

BMW Sauber went into the 2009 season expecting Robert Kubica to be contending for the championship. The poor car put a quick stop to that. Nick Heidfeld had more points finishes, but a second place in Brazil meant Kubica beat him in the drivers standings. Both of them tried as hard as they could, in a car that was designed for the KERS system, which they never got right. BMW decided to discontinue their KERS, while Ferrari and McLaren kept theirs and eventually won races. If BMW Sauber had stayed on, it might have been possible for them as well.

After Hungary, BMW Sauber announced they were to leave F1 at the end of the year. To me, it seems a very poor idea, since it was only one bad year that they had. However, the board did not want to continue funding the team, and attempted to sell the team to a consortium called Qadbak. This eventually failed (see my article “Why Qadbak Failed” for this). Peter Sauber then  took over, buying an 80% stake in the team. No drivers have yet been confirmed for 2010, but Nick Heidfeld is a probability.

After 8 winless years and massive money spent, Toyota finally gave up and left F1 at the end of 2009.  The main reasons were because of the massive amounts of money spent, and the lack of wins. The team could have won in Bahrain, but a bad tyre decision cost them dearly. The drivers, Timo Glock and Jarno Trulli, performed well, scoring 5 podiums between them. This was not enough, as the car’s performance varies massively from track to track. In Bahrain, they qualified 1st and 2nd. Whereas in Monaco, they were right at the back. Performance deteriorated over the season, and the incorporated double-decker diffuser couldn’t give them an advantage any more, when the rest of the teams adopted their own.

Obviously, Toyota are gone, so the drivers have gone off to different teams. Timo Glock snubbed Renault to sign for Virgin, while Jarno Trulli teams up with Heikki Kovalainen at Lotus.  Hopefully, over the next few years, we can see Glock take his first victory, and the notorious “Trulli train” might not be so much of a problem.

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.