Red Bull Racing – a solid driver pairing…

Red Bull were second only to Brawn in 2009, and will be desperate to go one better in 2010 and secure the title. They’re well equipped. Since buying the team in 2004 Dietrich Mateschitz has pumped plenty of the money he’s made from his fizzy, yellow energy drinks in to F1, and Adrian Newey cars tend to be very quick.
2009 runner-up Sebastian Vettel will be as determined as anyone to be champion. You can never rule the kid out, as he showed with a stunning win at Monza ’08 and four superb victories last year. He’s a master in the wet, probably only rivaled by Hamilton, and can extract stellar speed in qualifying.

Weaknesses? A collision with Kubica in Australia and an unforced error at Monaco last year. He also slammed in to the back of now-teammate Mark Webber behind the safety car at China ‘07. Minor criticisms though, all part the F1 learning curve.

To take the title in 2010 Vettel will need another car as good as last year’s RB5. Can Adrian Newey and the boys deliver? Newey’s track record suggests so, though it may be a few races before we see the new car’s true pace. One worry is the Renault engine; last year it was no match for the Mercedes and pretty unreliable to boot.

But if the car and engine can match his rivals Vettel is in with a great chance. Last year he looked a fitting heir to Schumacher’s throne. In 2010 he’ll be raring to topple the old master in the flesh.

Mark Webber overcame a broken leg to emerge as a genuine contender in 2009. Despite many fancying Vettel to make mincemeat of his teammate the Aussie showed his grit, taking two race victories on his way to fourth in the championship. Webber is experienced, supremely fit and, most importantly, very fast. His no-nonsense style endears him to his mechanics and when the car is right he can beat anyone.

However he did have a mid-season blip in 2009, five straight races without points leaving him out of the championship showdown. He needs to avoid such slip-ups if he’s to taste victory this year.

Like Vettel he’ll be hoping Red Bull maintain their momentum and give him another race winning car. If they don’t the young German has to be favourite to emerge the better of the two. But, if Red Bull produce another quick car and he can keep the results going Webber is capable of being champion.

Mercedes Grand Prix – new name, same brains and a legendary driver… oh and Nico

They came, they saw, they conquered. Then they were sold to Mercedes. Brawn have a new name and driver line-up for 2010, but brains of the operation Ross Brawn remains, now backed-up by Mercedes and a massive sponsorship deal with Petronas. Oh, and they’ve signed a couple of okay looking drivers too.

In November they confirmed Nico Rosberg, know as ‘Brittney’ to ex-teammate Mark Webber due to his silky blonde locks, as a Mercedes driver. After four dutiful and increasingly impressive years with Williams Nico gets his chance to shine in 2010, finally driving what should be a car capable of victories.

Having looked set to be Merc’s number one Nico now finds himself alongside one Michael Schumacher in a team run by Michael’s old pal Ross Brawn. Tough gig.

All is not lost for Rosberg though. He’s young, quick and technically minded, and Mercedes know full well that Michael’s comeback can only last a few years max. It’s in their interest to help Nico develop with them if they want long-term success.

If the car is quick enough Nico has a great shot at his maiden win, and should be able to keep up with Schumacher, who will undoubtedly be rusty after three years away. If he can do that it won’t be just Rosberg’s hair that shines this season.

And then there’s Michael. Seven times world champion, Ferrari legend, the devise figure you either love or love to hate. He’ll return with Mercedes in 2010, either fresh from a three-year rest or rusty from a three-year lay off.

Schumacher’s return is good for Mercedes (it’s a marketing dream), F1 (it’ll unquestionably raise viewing figures) and the fans (Schumacher vs. Hamilton/Vettel? Brilliant!) But will it be good for the man himself? Yes he’ll make lots more money and enjoy racing an F1 car again, but could he end up looking slow and damaging his great legacy?

He’d have to be pretty bad to do that. 7 titles, 91 victories and 68 pole positions is a pretty difficult legacy to ruin. We shouldn’t expect him to be as quick as Hamilton, Vettel and the other young guns, but with his experience he may be able to think his way to success this season.

His race skills must have been dulled by three years out of F1. But what won’t have diminished is his racing mind, possibly the finest the sport has ever seen. Alongside Ross Brawn, the mastermind of almost every victory he has taken, you can’t write him off.

F1 2010: bring it on – what do you reckon?