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.