Tuesday, March 11, 2008

2008 F1 Preview

Melbourne; March 16, 2008
Whale, it’s that time again, time to kick off another groovy season of Formula 1, as the yearly “Winter Olympics” months of plodding of countless kilometers by various test drivers will now cease, handing over the reigns to the teams racing drivers in order to begin another championship season…

And DON’T be fooled by McLaren being chronicled at the bottom of the grid, taking up the tail gunner position is just part of Ron Denis’s “Double Secret Probation” for his beloved Woking based squad’s Stepney-gate shenanigans.

With that being said, let’s take a gander at this season’s current pecking order while the F1 circus wings its way towards Melbourne.

Let’s get ready to rumble!

(1) Scuderia Marlboro Ferrari
With no major changes to announce, the Prancing Horse has spent the winter months consistently at the top of the winter Olympics time sheets and therefore shouldn’t be a surprise to once again challenge for both FIA Championships. Will Kimi repeat, or will Felipe take his turn as World Champion?

(Chassis/Engine/Car No. /Drivers)
F2008/Ferrari 056B
1. Kimi Raikkonen
2. Felipe Massa
Test Driver(s)
Luca Badoer
Marc Gene

(2) Team BMW Sauber F1 Team
While the BMW Sauber racing driver line-up stays unchanged, the team has added new testers Christian Klien and Marko Asmer
, with Klien filling the role of Test & Reserve driver. The F1.08 is claimed to be a radical evolution of last season’s challenger and there have been reports of the new car having some teething problems. Yet, Robert Kubica has claimed these have been ironed out and the car has been towards the top half of the winter time sheets.

F1.08/BMW P86/8
3. Nick Heidfeld
4. Robert Kubica
Test Driver(s)
Christian Klien
Marko Asmer

(3) ING Renault F1 Team
Disappointed with last year’s results, team boss Flavio Briatore took this frustration out upon the driver pairing of Fishy-fella and Rookie Heikki Kovalinen by duly replacing them with Fernando Alonso and test driver Nelson Piquet Jr, in hopes of elevating the team back to championship status.

Surprisingly, the team has taken on three testers with the announcement of Sakon Yamamoto’s addition to the team, which some F1 pundits see solely as a revenue stream. Yamamoto will feature primarily in the Renault F1 road show while Romain Grosjean and Lucas di Grassi will do the bulk of testing, with all three taking part in the 2008 GP2 championship.

R28/Renault R27B
5. Fernando Alonso
6. R-Nelson A. Piquet (Jr.)
Test Driver(s)
Romain Grosjean
Lucas di Grassi
Sakon Yamamoto

(4) AT & T Williams F1
The AT & T Williams team has been quiet over the winter, eschewing the glitz ‘N glamour of a launch party, in favour of celebrating its 30th anniversary as an F1 constructor with multiple celebratory paint schemes. Reportedly Sir Frank has sold a one third stake in his company to an Icelandic investment company, the Baugur Group, which should see a major infusion of capital invested into the team.

Nico Rosberg returns for his third season and is always a threat for points paying positions, while rookie Kazuki Nakajima is still an unknown quantity. “Kazu” brings free Toyota “lumps” to Grove, while reigning A1 GP champion Nicolas Hülkenberg joins the team alongside Narain Karthikeyan for testing duties.

FW30/Toyota RVX-08
7. Nico Rosberg
8. R-Kazuki Nakajima
Test Driver(s)
Nicolas Hülkenberg
Narain Karthikeyan

(5) Red Bull Racing
Perhaps Red Bull will poor some of its vaunted energy drink into it’s recalcitrant seamless shift gearbox’s, as Adrian Newwy seeks some much needed reliability for his latest creation, the RB4.

The team has remained stable over the winter with no major additions besides new test driver Sebastian Buemi and F1’s “Grey Beard” David Coulthard has teased us with some Winter qualie light tanks running.

RB4/Renault R27B
9. David Coulthard
10. Mark Webber
Test Driver
Sebastian Buemi

(6) Panasonic Toyota
This team continues to disappoint, as the Japanese giant seems to focus more upon its NASCAR operation then its F1 efforts, having given the Colone based squad two more seasons to shape up or ship out.

Not surprisingly, Toyota elected not to continue on with grossly overpaid Ralf Schumacher and has signed another German “Hot Schue” to take his place, the reigning GP2 champion Timo Glock. Glock previously drove for Jordan Grand Prix and has also won rookie of the year honours in Champ Car. The team has also hired Kamui Kobayashi as it’s test driver.

TF108/Toyota RVX-08
11. Jarno Trulli
12. Timo Glock
Test Driver
Kamui Kobayashi

(7) Scuderia Toro Rosso
Now known affectionately as “Team Sebastian,” Scuderia Toro Rosso looks set to move up the grid this season as reigning four time consecutive Champ Car champion Sebastian Bourdais has finally gotten his chance in F1 and looks set to nip at promising German “Hot Schue” Sebastian Vettel.

Apparently the team plans to begin the season with an updated version of last year’s chassis, the STR-02, but I’d expect the team to eventually graduate to a new STR-03 platform before the season finishes.

STR-02B/STR-03/Ferrari 056B
14. R-Sebastian Bourdais
15. Sebastian Vettel
Test Driver

(8) Honda Racing F1 Team
Without a doubt, Honda was the biggest disappointment of last season, as its “Earth Friendly” liveried RA107 chassis was overly sensitive to aerodynamics.

The biggest move forwards for Honda was the signing late last season of Ross Brawn as the team’s new Technical Director, which Honda is expecting Ross to be able to sprinkle some of his Scuderia Marlboro magic upon the woefully underperforming Brackley based squad.

While the race driver line-up remains unchanged, with Jenson Button hoping that 2007 was just a bad dream, Rubens Barrichello is set to make history by eclipsing Ricardo Patrese’s all time start record this season. And although SPEED’s Peter Winsor wished him salutations upon his F1 retirement at last season’s Japanese Grand Prix, Alex Wurz has been lured to remain on the grid, albeit as Honda’s test and reserve driver. Wurz will share testing duties with new recruit Luca Filippi, onew of the many GP2 drivers masquerading as future F1 pilots. Yet, Filippi hopes to be the next Italian to become a Formula 1 star, as his country has been devoid of Italian pilotes since Gergio Pantano’s aborted Jordan Grand Prix drive.

RA108/Honda RA808E
16. Jenson Button
17. Rubens Barrichello
Test Driver(s)
Alex Wurz
Luca Filippi

(9) Super Aguri F1 Team
Super Aguri has spent the winter in crisis mode as Aguri Suzuki’s Honda backed satellite squad is currently suffering huge financial difficulties, although the team was set up in order to keep Japanese driver Takuma Sato in F1 after a massive outcry from his adoring Japanese fans, Honda is reluctant to keep footing the bills.

Thus Super Aguri has hardly done any testing this off season, although the new SA08 is FIA certified, Taku-sun and Anthony Davidson (hoping to retain his drive) will definitely be in a catch-up mode for the majority of the season.

SA08/Honda RA808E
18. Takuma Sato
19. Anthony Davidson
Test Driver

(10) Force India Formula 1 Team
Hopefully the team will not have to endure any further ownership changes for the foreseeable future, as the team has now changed names (Hands) four times in the last four seasons. Yet with Ecclestone’s burning desire to crack the third most populist nation with the upcoming Indian Grand Prix and Billionaire tycoon Vijay Malia’s hefty infusion of cash poured into the Dyke of the little Dutch team, Force India’s future looks bright.

While the team will begin with a warmed over Spyker F8VII brought up to 2008 F1 regulations, having been renamed the VJM01 in deference to the new owner, reports claim that the team is now currently occupying time in three wind tunnels. And Force India will look towards senior driver Giancarlo Fisichella to instill some much needed honing of race craft for sophomore talent Adrian Sutil.
Vitantonio Liuzzi has drank the last of his Red Bull energy drinks and seems most inspired to be testing for the Indian team, hopefully awaiting Fishy-fella’s impending retirement, while Roldán Rodriguez and Giedo van der Garde will see limited testing duties.

VJM01/Ferrari 056B
20. Adrian Sutil
21. Giancarlo Fisichella
Test Driver(s)
Vitantonio Liuzzi
Roldán Rodriguez
Giedo van der Garde

Although not representative of Vodafone’ McLaren’s true placing upon the grid, nevertheless The Ronster’s team will sport very unusual car numbers upon the pointy three star noses of its 2008 challengers as part of their punishment over their involvement in Stepney-gate.

The biggest change in the team is the arrival of Finnish driver Heikki Kovalainen who’s replaced the troublesome Spaniard, Fredrico Suave, a.k.a. Fred Alonso… As we all know how the rivalry between Ferdi the Putz and Louise “Jaguar” Hamilton went down last season. Otherwise the team looks to have stayed intact, minus a few Spanish sponsors jumping ship to follow Fredrico home to the Reggie.

MP4/23/Mercedes FA108V
22. Lewis Hamilton
23. Heikki Kovalainen
Test Driver(s)
Pedro de la Rosa
Gary Paffett