Things are shaping up for 2010

September 28, 2009

Earlier in the year I had posted a few predictions for a number of key aspects of the 2010 season: teams, sponsors, engines and drivers. We’re not in a position to see how these will totally work out but this is the end of September status report.

 

So will FOTA support at 14th place on the 2010 grid from BMW Sauber?

So will FOTA support a 14th place in 2010 for BMW Sauber?

Teams:

We now have fourteen teams potentially lining up with the current batch of ten being joined by Manor, Campos, USF1 and Lotus. The main question is whether we will see the team currently known as BMW Sauber on the grid in 2010. The FIA statement on announcing the 13th entry (Lotus) is quite clear that there are currently only thirteen places on the grid for 2010. Therefore the only way that the BMW Sauber team will have a place in F1 next year is if either one of the current players withdraws (Toyota and Renault must still be uncertain given that Toyota are still awaiting budget approval for 2010 from TMC and Renault must still be considering their options post crashgate), one of the new entrants fails to materialize (USF1 is reportedly struggling to get their car put together in time) or they reach an agreement with FOTA to extend the grid to fourteen. Of course if the FIA had chosen BMW Sauber as the 13th team, then FOTA would have been pretty unlikely to agree to extending the grid as more teams mean more competition for sponsors, and also the potential for a diluting of the influence of the established players. By selecting Lotus the FIA have now put pressure onto FOTA to accept the fourteen cars and allow one of their founding members to continue in F1. A game of brinkmanship is likely here with FOTA hoping that one of the new teams don’t make it and the FIA trying to make sure they do. Of course if Toyota and Renault do pull out the situation could suddenly change.

Sponsors: There seems to be a bit of a transition going on with some long term sponsors leaving over the next year or so (e.g. RBS, Philip Morris), others continuing (Santander) and some new faces entering (e.g. Virgin, YouTube).

 

Four teams may end up with Mercedes engines next year

Four teams may end up with Mercedes engines next year

Engines:

Some aspects of the engine situation have still to play out. Will Williams switch to Renault? Will Red Bull Racing switch to Mercedes? Will Mercedes buy into Brawn? Will Cosworth supply all four of the new teams? It appears that Ferrari are likely to supply the BMW Sauber team should they get a place, so a potential scenario is that Mercedes supply four teams (McLaren, Brawn, Red Bull, Force India); Cosworth four (USF1, Manor, Campos, Lotus); Ferrari three (Ferrari, Toro Rosso; BMW Sauber renamed); Renault two (Renault, Williams); and Toyota one (Toyota).

Drivers: The key to the driver market has been Fernando Alonso, and it seems an announcement will be made shortly that he will be going to Ferrari to join Massa. Assuming Felipe has lost none of his old skill, Raikkonen will join Hamilton at McLaren, Rosberg will go to Brawn to join Button, possibly for a swop with Barrichello, Kubica will join Renault, the Red Bull Racing drivers stay where they are as do most of the others, with it being open as to who joins the new teams – do they want to make the most of the experience out there (for example Jarno Trulli could move to Lotus to help them develop their car – as he worked with Mike Gascoyne when he was at Renault) or do they want to bring on some new talent – a bit of both probably. The interesting question is whether Nelsinho Piquet Junior will get a drive for 2010, the negative associations of crashgate make it unlikely he will go to a team who requires significant sponsorship, but it will also depend on how much financially he could bring to the party. I looked very carefully at the press release concerning Qadbak who have bought the BMW Sauber operation, it mentions middle eastern and European families – but not, as far as I could see, Brazilian. The great news is that next year we’re likely to see a battle between Hamilton in a McLaren and Alonso in a Ferrari. They had a superb fight at the British Grand Prix going wheel to wheel along the Pits Straight and there they were fighting for 16th and 17th – imagine what it will be like when the world championship is at stake.

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