Daily Archives: January 3, 2010

The 2009 F1 Review- Red Bull and Brawn GP

Brawn's early season dominance was enough to give them both championships

Brawn's early season dominance was enough to give them both championships

This is the fourth part of my 2009 F1 review, and looking forward to the 2010 season. Tis article is for the top two finishers, Red Bull Racing and Brawn GP.

The 2009 technical regulation changes were a complete revolution in how the cars were to be designed. Massively different aerodynamic regulations, KERS, slick tyres, and engine rev limits, to name but a few. Because of all this change in such a short amount of time, only the greatest masterminds would come out on top. Enter Adrian Newey and Ross Brawn. Newey is an aerodynamic genius, and was cadamite to Red Bull’s radical car design. Ross Brawn is a tactical mastermind, and with Honda’s millions in funding, plus the extra months of development in 2009, meant he was always going to do well. Even in March testing, everyone was shocked by the pace of the Brawn cars, after only being confirmed 20 days before the start of the season. On the other hand, Red Bull’s testing performance was mid-field more than frontrunner.

Their start, at Australia, went very badly. Sebastain Vettel was involved in a crash with 3 laps to go, and finished 13th. Mark Webber was caught up in a crash at the very start, and finished 12th. Malaysia wasn’t much better, Vettel getting caught up in the monsoon conditions, and ended up 15th. Webber was 6th, but only got half points. However, their performance suddenly changed in China, where a 1-2 finish gave Red Bull their first ever win. The next 4 races were not too bad for the team, with 2 podiums apiece for both drivers. However, Vettel should have won in Turkey, but a mistake on the first lap left him 3rd.

At Silverstone, Red Bull brought their heavily revised “b-spec” car, featuring a comprehensive new aerodynamic package. A completely dominant 1-2 finish slammed them right back into contention for the championship. At the next race, it was another 1-2, this time with Mark Webber finally taking his first win of his career. However, from here on, things got more difficult for the team. Two mechanical retirements in a row gave Vettel a shortage of points, and barely enough engines to finish the season. He had to limit his runnings in Friday practice, to conserve his engines. Webber had a torrid run of form, going 5 races without even scoring a single point. In Japan, with his engine situation now at critical point, Vettel managed his latest win, while Webber did similarly well in his win at Brazil 2 weeks later. But it was too late. Their mid-season slump had cost them dearly, and a 1-2 victory at the final race, Abu Dhabi, was little consolation for them.

  Vettel's engine failure at Valencia was one of the things that scuppered his championship hopes

Vettel's engine failure at Valencia was one of the things that scuppered his championship hopes

For the next season, their line-up remains the same. Vettel is contracted to Red Bull until 2011, with an option to extend until 2012. Webber’s contract runs out at the end of 2010. He will need to match Vettel’s speed if he wants to keep his seat. Sebastian simply needs to control his speed to be in contention next year. His crash in Monaco, after excessively wearing down his rear tyres, shows he needs to mature a bit more before he can win a world championship.

When Formula 1 came to Australia, the Brawns rocked the paddock by locking out the front row. Then, after a very eventful race to say the least, they became the first team in history to score a 1-2 finish on their debut. Jenson Button continued their dream start, winning the first 6 out of 7 races. Such was the dominance of his performances that people were already believing the title had been decided, even with 10 races to go. However, 2 things were soon to put a stop to Brawn’s dominnce: They shifted their focus to the 2010 car very early, and Red Bull had brought along a heavily revised car for Silverstone. Since Brawns wind tunnels were now working on next year’s car, their performance began to falter. This was shown as Silverstone, where Sebastian Vettel won in dominant fashion, while Button only finished 6th, in a race he was expected to win. Also, the Achilles heel of the Brawn car was revealed: it struggled to heat its tyres in cold conditions. Suddenly, Button and Brawn looked vulnerable. At Hungary, the Brawns slipped even further down the field, finishing 7th and 10th. Button came on the radio, complaining of chronic understeer, and said: “How can the car be this bad at the moment?”

At Germany, warmer temperatures helped the team, finishing 5th and 6th. And, Rubens Barrichello, who had underperformed in the first half of the season, suddenly took his first win in 4 and a half years at Valencia. In the space of 3 races, it seemed to be falling apart for Button. Luckily, at this point, with 6 races to go, he had an 18 point lead to Barrichello. After this, both Brawns finished every race in the points, apart from Button in Belgium, where he was taken out in the first lap. At this point, McLaren, Ferrari and Red Bull all had the ability to get race wins, and that’s what saved Button. Since no one person could dominate like he did earlier, his points gap couldn’t be reduced quickly enough. Barrichello pushed as hard as he could, taking another win in Italy, but couldn’t catch him in time. In Brazil, Button finished 5th, becoming the wrold champion in his 10th year.

Many people questioned Button’s victory, since it was mainly down to the Brawn car, and his 1st half dominance. However, it must be noted that he finished in the points in every race of the season (except Belgium, where Alguersuari ran into him). Barrichello, however, wasn’t too shabby either. Apart from Turkey, where a gearbox failure took him out, he finished all but one race in the points. At the end of the day, Red Bull could not fully catch up in time, so I feel the Brawn team deserve their titles.

But what now for the double championship winners? As we now know, they have been bought out by Mercedes, and they have got Petronas as a title sponsor for next season.Button has moved to McLaren, while Barrichello was dropped, and elected to go to Williams. They have been replaced by Nico Rosberg and Michael Schumacher. This is certainly a formidable line up, and they are one of my favourites for next years titles. Provided their car is up to scratch, of course.

The 2009 F1 Review- Ferrari and McLaren

Both Ferrari and McLaren struggled initially,but bounced back in the second half of the season

Both Ferrari and McLaren struggled initially,but bounced back in the second half of the season

This is the third part of my review of 2009, and looking forward to 2010. This article is for Ferrari and McLaren.

As we all know, the 2008 championship was battled into the very end of the last race of the season.  Both Ferrari and McLaren continuously developed their 2008 cars to the very end, instead of working on the 2009 car, which needed a completely different approach thanks to the technical changes. So, when Formula 1 rolled into Australia in March 2009, both teams were completely off the pace.

Ferrari had a torrid start to the season, as both cars retired due to differential and suspension problems. In fact, in the first 3 races, they failed to score a single point, their worst start since 1982. Already, many people within the team had completely given up on that season, and wanted to shift their focus to the 2010 car. However, after that, things improved for the Scuderia, as Felipe Massa scored points finishes 5 times in a row(one of these a podium), in races 5-9. In the same period, Kimi Raikkonen only managed one podium and one 8th place. People were now seriously questioning Raikkonen’s commitment to the team, and whether he was even interested in F1 anymore. Being outperformed comprehensively by Massa didn’t seem to motivate him either. However, events at Hungary changed the team’s season completely.

Felipe Massa’s freak accident at the Hungarian Grand Prix, when he was his by a loose spring at 140mph, left him on the sidelines. For the next two races, Luca Badoer was picked to replace him. However, after 10 years as a test driver, he simply couldn’t find race pace. He was replaced by Giancarlo Fisichella (after his heroic Belgium performance) for the rest of the season. But Fisi struggled nearly as much, and failed to score a point for the rest of the season. Kimi Raikkonen fared much better, picking up a win in Belgium, and 3 other podium finishes. His boost in performance may have been the fact that the team’s efforts were now solely on him.

For 2010, Massa will be able to make a return, having suffered no long-term injuries from his crash. Raikkonen was released from his contract one year early, and has moved to the Junior Citroen WRC team. He will be replaced by Fernando Alonso, having spent two years in a mediocre car at Renault. He has stated that he wants to end his career at the Maranello team, because “any other team would be a step down”. Massa won’t be moving any time soon either,  so this security should help them bounce back next year.

As with Ferrari, McLaren went into the season knowing they were well off the pace, as the testing timesheets showed they were 2.5 seconds off the pace. The first race in Australia was a similar disaster, as Kovalainen was taken out on lap 1. In the race, Lewis Hamilton drove from 18th to 3rd, a slightly lucky but still stellar performance. But, after the race, when called to the stewards to investigate an overtaking incident under the safety car involving Jarno Trulli and Hamilton, McLaren threw it all away. Their Sporting Director, Dave Ryan, instructed Lewis to lie about the incident (even though they did nothing wrong), to secure their 3rd place. When the stewards heard radio transmissions between Hamilton and the team during the incident, they knew McLaren had misled them. Hamilton was disqualified, and Ryan was sacked.

This was the worst start possible for the team. Three points finishes in a row after this for Hamilton was good, but the team then slumped in the middle of the season, failing to score any points in the next 4 races. However, McLaren continued to push hard with their development of their car and the KERS system. This was to prove important, when the system was improved, and both drivers could gain up to 5 places on the first lap thanks to KERS. Their hard work paid off, in Hungary, when Lewis took his first win of the season. He took another win and Singapore, and two podiums in Japan and Brazil. Compared to him, Heikki Kovalainen did very poorly. His best finish was a 4th place at Valencia, and only got 7 points finishes across the entire seasons, with no podiums.

  McLaren got their first win in Hungary, after a torrid start

McLaren got their first win in Hungary, after a torrid start

It was little surprise, therefore, to see Heikki dropped after the season end. He will be replaced by reigning champion Jenson Button. This is certainly sweet revenge for McLaren, who stole him from under the nose of Mercedes, just after the two companies separated. For next year, Martin Whitmarsh has already said he thinks the 2010 car is a serious championship contender, and I believe him. With the line-up of Hamilton and Button, they will be a force to contend with. Also, Button has the opportunity to silence his critics who said that he did not deserve the 2009 title.