|THE 2009 DRIVERS' CHAMPIONSHIP GAMBLE|
|THE 2009 CONSTRUCTORS' CHAMPIONSHIP GAMBLE|
1. Kimi Raikkonen; 2. Felipe Massa; 3. Jenson Button; 4. Rubens Barrichello; 5. Robert Kubica
1. Ferrari; 2. Brawn GP; 3. BMW Sauber; 4. Toyota; 5. Red Bull
Not often do you look at pre-season testing and see a margin as clear as the Brawn showed in the Barcelona test. Importantly, it was quick over long runs too. But it doesn't have any sponsors, so how long will the money last and who's paying? For that reason I'll go with Ferrari. On the evidence of last year you'd probably go with Massa but I've a feeling the tyres might suit Kimi relatively better.
There seems to be something fundamentally wrong with the new McLaren. If the team solves the problem with the car it will be competitive, but the rest are all so close that, if it doesn't, it will be in big trouble. The first thing new commentator Jonathan Legard could be tasked with is explaining why Jenson Button is on the Melbourne pole and the new Messiah is at the back...
1. Felipe Massa; 2. Lewis Hamilton; 3. Kimi Raikkonen; 4. Jarno Trulli; 5. Robert Kubica
1. Ferrari; 2. Toyota; 3. BMW Sauber; 4. McLaren; 5. Brawn GP
Felipe Massa will prove that his form in 2008 was no fluke, as he bids to make the most of the solid car Ferrari has built for 2009. That said, there will be plenty of fluctuating fortunes this year, with early season success for Brawn and late season success for Lewis Hamilton, resulting in many phases to the championship.
1. Felipe Massa; 2. Kimi Raikkonen; 3. Jenson Button; 4. Jarno Trulli; 5. Lewis Hamilton
1. Ferrari; 2. Brawn GP; 3. Toyota; 4. Renault; 5. McLaren
This, of all seasons, is nigh on impossible to predict. All you can go on is testing form and which teams have the resources to stay strong through the season. On balance, it's likely Ferrari could have the strongest package, but if Brawn GP's testing form is to be believed - particularly over long runs - the team will start off with a handy edge. But the competitive order will change a lot, particularly early on in the season.
1. Felipe Massa; 2. Robert Kubica; 3. Lewis Hamilton; 4. Kimi Raikkonen; 5. Fernando Alonso
1. Ferrari; 2. BMW Sauber; 3. McLaren; 4. Brawn GP; 5. Renault
Massa proved his championship mettle beyond doubt last year, and knows how to play winning games. But Kubica is hungrier and more focused than the Brazilian, although the Pole's BMW is probably about one per cent shy of Ferrari's pace - providing all the elements for a fascinating duel, in which Felipe scores a win over Robert.
If McLaren manages to turn its MP4-24 around soon it should beat Mercedes customer Brawn; if not, Ross and his team will mix it for podiums. Expect Fernando and Renault to play a waiting game, too.
1. Kimi Raikkonen; 2. Robert Kubica; 3. Lewis Hamilton; 4. Fernando Alonso; 5. Felipe Massa
1. Ferrari; 2. BMW Sauber; 3. McLaren; 4. Renault; 5. Toyota
My instincts say Ferrari will be the team to beat and Raikkonen will be back on form after a lousy 2008. But BMW Sauber will not be far behind, and Kubica will be a championship protagonist all year long.
Based on the team's own words, I expect McLaren to have a difficult start to the season, leaving Hamilton to play catch-up in the second half. Alonso and Renault will spring a few surprises and Toyota will win its first race.
1. Rubens Barrichello; 2. Robert Kubica; 3. Jenson Button; 4. Kimi Raikkonen; 5. Timo Glock
1. Brawn GP; 2. BMW Sauber; 3. Ferrari; 4. Toyota; 5. Red Bull
I didn't quite pull names out of a hat, but it was close - with so many unanswered questions ahead of Australia, trying to predict the outcome of the 2009 season is frankly pointless. Anyway, Brawn's test pace looked like the real deal and I liked Barrichello's form last season, so he gets the nod.
Kubica seems happy in the new BMW but the Pole may not use KERS as much as Heidfeld this year, so much depends on whether that affects his results. Raikkonen could bounce back from a disappointing 2008 if the F60 is reliable, and while Glock might not have Trulli's outright pace, expect him to scoop up more points over the course of the year.
1. Fernando Alonso; 2. Kimi Raikkonen; 3. Lewis Hamilton; 4. Felipe Massa; 5. Jenson Button
1. Ferrari; 2. Renault; 3. McLaren; 4. BMW Sauber; 5. Brawn GP
Renault is a great innovator, and the team and star driver Alonso will come out swinging in terms of the new technical regulations. However, Ferrari's winning pedigree and two top drivers will secure another constructors' championship for Maranello.
McLaren will struggle at times but is too good to be down for long. Hamilton will play catch-up as the season progresses, but will ultimately fall just short. Brawn-Mercedes will have its moments but will lose ground gradually as other teams out-develop the squad.
BMW will again accumulate points effectively but its drivers will share the successes evenly, hurting the chances of both to challenge for the championship.
1. Kimi Raikkonen; 2. Robert Kubica; 3. Jenson Button; 4. Lewis Hamilton; 5. Felipe Massa
1. Ferrari; 2. BMW Sauber; 3. Brawn GP; 4. McLaren; 5. Toyota
Kimi is the driver with the most wins, 17, and is motivated after the drubbing his reputation took in 2008. He has been first or second in every test session in which he participated. Kubica is as tough and fast as they come but needs a perfect car under him, which the methodical BMW team will supply.
The "Brawnda" will be sufficiently ahead of the aero curve to permit Jenson to eke out a win or two before rule adjustments level the playing field for the aero-swift Brawn GP and Toyota teams.
Hamilton will come down to F1 Earth after two charmed seasons, make a lot of mistakes, be penalised, finish strong but not strong enough. As Kimi succeeds, Massa will be clashing with the McLarens and Trulli in the second order and have as many wins as DNFs.
1. Kimi Raikkonen; 2. Felipe Massa; 3. Robert Kubica; 4. Jarno Trulli; 5. Jenson Button
1. Ferrari; 2. BMW Sauber; 3. Toyota; 4. Brawn GP; 5. Renault
The Brawn may have won the winter test war, but without the big bucks behind it the team will struggle to keep pace in the development war. This will leave the door open for Kimi and Ferrari to claim the title following a season-long duel with BMW Sauber's Robert Kubica, who once again transcends the pace of his car to mount a fight for the title.
1. Fernando Alonso; 2. Felipe Massa; 3. Robert Kubica; 4. Lewis Hamilton; 5. Kimi Raikkonen
1. Ferrari; 2. Renault; 3. BMW Sauber; 4. McLaren; 5. Brawn GP
Alonso is the best driver in Formula 1, coupled with Renault who have proved themselves maestros at discovering big development jumps in a short turnaround period. Ferrari will prove to be their closest rivals, and probably win the most races, but as that rule doesn't count yet, Alonso will be crowned a three-time champion.
1. Robert Kubica; 2. Kimi Raikkonen; 3. Felipe Massa; 4. Fernando Alonso; 5. Lewis Hamilton
1. Ferrari; 2. BMW Sauber; 3. McLaren; 4. Brawn GP; 5. Toyota
A clean slate for the rulebook and some of the closest and most bizarre (team rescued with weeks to spare on top, reigning world champion miles off the pace) testing results for years make it foolish to even try a prediction for the 2009 season.
So my shot in the dark has the ever more impressive Kubica doing enough to edge clear of a resurgent Raikkonen, who will re-establish a narrow advantage over Massa. Alonso will perform more miracles, but won't quite have a title-winning car.
I'd be delighted if Brawn's testing pace translated into season-long form, but that's surely a fairytale too far, while McLaren and Hamilton are too good to spend all year in the midfield.
1. Jenson Button; 2. Nick Heidfeld; 3. Jarno Trulli; 4. Kimi Raikkonen; 5. Nico Rosberg
1. Brawn GP; 2. BMW Sauber; 3. Ferrari; 4. Toyota; 5. Williams
I was on holiday during the most vital two weeks of the pre-season and everything turned upside down while I wasn't looking!
For the sake of much-craved novelty, let's imagine the testing form will stick. Button to come back from his lowest low to storm to the title in Brawn's debut season. Five different teams in the top five, Heidfeld and Raikkonen shaking off 2008 to lead their respective camps, Hamilton, Massa, Kubica, Alonso all to be also rans... OK, unlikely perhaps, but we'll all tune in to find out!
1. Kimi Raikkonen; 2. Felipe Massa; 3. Robert Kubica; 4. Fernando Alonso; 5. Lewis Hamilton
1. Ferrari; 2. BMW Sauber; 3. Renault; 4. McLaren; 5. Brawn GP
I must admit, I'm largely influenced by the winter testing results, even if I should know by now that they often don't mean much. But at least one thing has to be taken into consideration: McLaren has problems with its new car. The team will sort it out, but this will take time.
Who else remains? Ferrari, as in the last ten years, did little wrong, and on to BMW Sauber: the Germans have a point to prove, as they alone insisted on keeping KERS while their competitors wanted to trash it.
With this in mind, the drivers' championship is sorted out automatically, with two 'wild cards' in fourth and fifth place. And let's hope the new rules carry some more action on track and less in the pits.
1. Felipe Massa; 2. Fernando Alonso; 3. Robert Kubica; 4. Kimi Raikkonen; 5. Lewis Hamilton
1. Ferrari; 2. BMW Sauber; 3. Renault; 4. Brawn GP; 5. Toyota
With season long consistency paying off I would opt for Massa; his performances were less up-and-down last year and the Ferrari may be the only car fast at both the start and end of the year. Alonso, with equal consistency, will grab second place. The remaining three will all score regular points, but I doubt their ability to string a full season together.
Two solid drivers in a team is what will reward in the constructors' championship. Hence, Ferrari should come out on top, followed by the equally consistent BMW and Renault. McLaren will lose out due to its slow start to the year, leaving the up-and-coming Brawn and Toyota teams with strong seasons.
1. Lewis Hamilton; 2. Felipe Massa; 3. Robert Kubica; 4. Jenson Button; 5. Fernando Alonso
1. Ferrari; 2. McLaren; 3. BMW Sauber; 4. Brawn GP; 5. Renault
I'm quite confident that my predictions won't even be close to being correct, because this year I really have no confidence in who is quick and who isn't. I suspect McLaren will be more competitive than it appears to be and Brawn less so, but whether I've made the right adjustments to their performance, I doubt it!
1. Felipe Massa; 2. Robert Kubica; 3. Fernando Alonso; 4. Kimi Raikkonen; 5. Lewis Hamilton
1. Ferrari; 2. BMW Sauber; 3. Renault; 4. Brawn GP; 5. McLaren
In one of the most unpredictable seasons-to-come, I'll just hedge my bets over Felipe Massa: he who won the most races last year and is driving a competitive car - the Ferrari - once again this year.
Reigning world champion Lewis Hamilton, whose McLaren appears to be in trouble, will have his work cut out to keep abreast of the competition. The fight at the top will be fierce, with the BMWs, the Renaults, and the Brawn GP cars all looking to be in with a chance to take race victories.
1. Kimi Raikkonen; 2. Fernando Alonso; 3. Felipe Massa; 4. Lewis Hamilton; 5. Jenson Button
1. Ferrari; 2. McLaren; 3. BMW Sauber; 4. Renault; 5. Toyota
Kimi Raikkonen will be back to his best this season, seeing off the challenge from his team-mate Felipe Massa and a resurgent Fernando Alonso. McLaren has already been forced into major aerodynamic upgrades ahead of the first round, and it will take the team several races to settle into the campaign properly.
BMW's points' haul will be shared more equally by Robert Kubica and Nick Heidfeld, allowing the team to maintain third place in the constructors' championship ahead of Renault, where Fernando Alonso will do most of the scoring again. Brawn GP's impressive run of early-season results will help Jenson Button's points tally immensely, but by the end of the year it will be the Scuderia that will be celebrating.
1. Kimi Raikkonen; 2. Robert Kubica; 3. Felipe Massa; 4. Lewis Hamilton; 5. Jenson Button
1. Ferrari; 2. BMW Sauber; 3. Brawn GP; 4. McLaren; 5. Toyota
It's all change in 2009 and Kimi Raikkonen could be the man to come out on top, providing Ferrari can get the reliability of its challenger under control. BMW's relentless pursuit of KERS could be a big advantage and Brawn GP's sheer speed is likely to put the former Honda team in contention from the outset.
Despite the testing ban, the immense resources at McLaren's disposal should eventually lead to a recovery from the MP4-24's inauspicious winter form, but poor pace early in the season will leave Hamilton with an uphill struggle to defend his crown.
1. Kimi Raikkonen; 2. Rubens Barrichello; 3. Jarno Trulli; 4. Felipe Massa; 5. Nick Heidfeld
1. Ferrari; 2. Brawn GP; 3. Toyota; 4. BMW Sauber; 5. Renault
I think Raikkonen will 'click' with these cars and the return to slick tyres will allow him to have an impressive but uninteresting run to the championship. The speed of the Brawn car, especially early in the season, should allow Button's consistency and general avoidance of trouble to rack up the points, with Jarno Trulli sneaking into third with a quietly competitive Toyota.
BMW Sauber's decision to abandon 2008 early to focus on 2009 will help them win some races but it will lose its way (again) as the season goes on. The combined results of Heidfeld and Kubica will keep them ahead of Renault with the weak link in that constructors battle being Piquet.
1. Kimi Raikkonen; 2. Robert Kubica; 3. Fernando Alonso; 4. Lewis Hamilton; 5. Jenson Button
1. Ferrari; 2. BMW Sauber; 3. McLaren; 4. Toyota; 5. Brawn GP
Wow, this year is difficult to predict. Brawn, Button and Barrichello look so strong right now, but it's so unprecedented that it's hard to believe they'll win titles, so Kimi is my favourite to bounce back after a poor 2008. Nevertheless, Hamilton can still play a factor in the championship this season, and I don't think we've seen everything from Renault. Then there's BMW and Toyota's testing pace... and what about Red Bull? Never has the cliche that ends with 'Bullshit stops' been more appropriate!