The third part of F1 Badger’s driver preview focuses on the big teams who, perhaps unsurprisingly, also have the biggest names in their cockpits.
Fernando Alonso (Renault, 9th): Alonso’s move to Ferrari was one of the worst kept secrets in F1 for most of last season, so, now it’s actually happened, what can we look forward to? The general consensus amongst the teams after testing seems to be that Ferrari’s car is quick and, seeing as Alonso is often described as the “most complete F1 driver”, it’d be hard to see him having a bad season. He’s likes to have teammates he can beat (no different from any of the other top drivers), so it remains to be seen whether Massa’s presence will unsettle him enough to make mistakes. Season aim:- Be World Champion – it’s as simple as that. Trying to avoid having a season-long argument with his teammate would be a decent starting point as well.
Felipe Massa (Ferrari, 11th): In his last three teammates, Massa has had three World Champions. This shows the standards that Ferrari expect, so it’ll be interesting to see if another failure this season means questions are asked about his Ferrari future, despite his regular beating of Raikkonen and hair’s breadth loss of the 2008 title. For his part, he doesn’t want to get into another Barrichello situation, where he’s forever the able supporter of the driver who wins. If your correspondent was Felipe Massa, the first stop he’d make is to Lewis Hamilton’s garage to ask for tips on getting under Alonso’s skin. Then, do as many of them as possible over the course of the season to see how Alonso reacts. Season aim:- Win the World Championship. Annoy Alonso by any means possible to make it happen.
Driver to back: Alonso. He’s too good not to support in nearly every teammate confrontation.
Red Bull Racing
Mark Webber (Red Bull, 4th): Last season saw a big step forward for Webber, winning races in Germany and Brazil and generally being in and around the top end of the grid. This season he’ll hope to pick up some more race victories and is an outside shot for the title. Before such things can even be thought of though, he’ll have to get the better of his teammate, which will be no easy task. Webber seems to have more of a life outside of F1 than a lot of other drivers and, at least in the view of your correspondent, would probably come close to the top of any “which F1 driver would you most like to go to the pub with?” poll. Season aim:- Beat teammate and, if that happens, the likelihood is that a World Championship challenge will follow.
Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull, 2nd): Highly regarded while at Torro Rosso, Vettel proved he could do it consistently at the sharp end of the grid last season. Four wins and eight podiums indicate the success he had, especially given the early season dominance of the Brawn. The production of another car to challenge McLaren, Ferrari and Mercedes will mean that Vettel will be in and around the World Championship reckoning come the end of the season. He’s rumoured to have some big name suitors, with Mercedes likely to come knocking before too long. Season aim:- World Championship challenge. Match his number of victories from last season, which would be no small achievement given the probable return to form of McLaren and Ferrari.
Driver to back: Vettel. He’s just too quick for Webber, unfortunately.
Nico Rosberg (Williams, 7th): Driving for the team that won both World Championships last season is a big step up for Rosberg, although he can’t have been keen to see Michael Schumacher waltz into the team during the close season. As much as he may profess delight at being able to race in the same car as one of the sport’s greats, he’s on a hiding to nothing. Lose to Schumacher and he’s been beaten by a 41-year old man, beat Schumacher and he’s beaten an over the hill 41-year old man. That, plus Schumacher’s relationship with Ross Brawn, is sure to test his patience. However, all that aside, the focus (as is amply demonstrated by this preview) on his more famous teammate might take the pressure off him and allow him to drive ‘under the radar’ somewhat. Season aim:- Stack up well against Schumacher. Make sure to be consistent under pressure, a trait that hasn’t always been in evidence so far in his F1 career.
Michael Schumacher (returning seven-time world champion): He’s back. That took long enough, didn’t it? The lure of Ross Brawn and big manufacturer backing (including Schumacher’s early association with Mercedes) tempted him back for one last hurrah. He’s signed a one-year deal, with an option for two more years should things go well. It’s unlikely he would have come back for a team that’s not going to be towards the front of the grid and, having always had an ability to outdrive poor cars, we could be in for something special. Season aim:- Win the World Championship. If the car’s not quite good enough for that, then winning a few races and being in and about the front of the grid will have to suffice.
Driver to back: Schumacher. Seven-time World Champion against a driver who’s never won a race – it’s got to be Schumacher, surely?
Lewis Hamilton (McLaren, 5th): After the first few races of last season, if you’d told Hamilton that he’d have won a couple of races by the end of the season, he’d probably have taken it. The McLaren car was in such a state last season that the team’s achievement in making it competitive was truly remarkable. Last season may, indeed, have been the making of Hamilton. A bit of F1 adversity never hurt anyone, did it? He’ll be looking to bounce back strongly this season though, especially given his new teammate is the most recent British World Champion. Although both parties insist they get along, it certainly seems as though there’s the potential for some fireworks during the coming season. Season aim:- Beat his teammate and win the World Championship. Anything short of that will be a disappointment for him.
Jenson Button (Brawn, 1st): Fresh from last year’s success story, Button’s move to McLaren was seen by some as a touch odd, especially given the challenge he’d face from Lewis Hamilton. Not only is Hamilton very fast, but he’s also a very long-serving member of the McLaren team, having come through their junior ranks. Button has chosen a massive challenge against the relative comfort of Brawn, a team he’d been with since 2003. By deciding to compete against one of the best in the sport on his home turf, Button has demonstrated remarkable ambition and drive for such a recent World Champion. Season aim:- The same as Hamilton – beat his teammate and win the World Championship. Anything short of that will be a disappointment for him.
Driver to back: Hamilton. This is a very close call but, by the smallest of margins, Hamilton it is. It’s his team and he’s comfortable there and, although Button is the person you’d probably go for a drink with, Hamilton might just shade it. Secretly though, your correspondent hopes it’s Button, don’t tell anyone though…
images via Alex Comerford