At last the wait is over, and the 2006 season will be officially underway tomorrow. There has never been a more anticipated season, with Fernando Alonso putting the 1 on his car, after 5 Schumacher seasons. For the first time in over a decade, the V8's are set to return. Michlelin are leaving F1 after this season, and with 6 commited manufacturers, we are hopefully looking at the closest season in years.
Renault - After winning the double crown last year, Renault seem to have built a reliable and fast car, over the winter. If testing times are an indicator, Renault have an early edge, and if they manage to win the first few races, it could be Renault all the way for the championship. However, with Alonso leaving for McLaren, it remains to be seen whom the team would favour this year.
McLaren - Quick and unreliable. No team has made the quantum of improvement they have over the winter. On the other hand, it remains to be seen if the engines could last 2 race weekends. With McLaren not taking the option on either driver, the driver market seems to be wide open. Expect to see a few flying steering wheels this year, and the flying finn at ferrari next year. If only they could get the reliability right NOTHING can stop Kimi for WDC 2006 and Macca for the constructors. On the corporate side, McLaren seem to be going great guns having landed long term deals with Vodafone, Johnnie Walker, Hilton Hotels and Emirates Air.
Ferrari - How the mighty have fallen!! After being unbeatable for 5 long years, Ferrari slip to third this year. After Rory Bryne in charge for so long, is it mere coincidence that the first Aldo Costa car is a dog? This is a make or break year, for Schumi as well as the design team. Also expect Ferrari to do much better now that tyre changes are allowed. Winter testing suggests they are marginally behind renault and Honda, but with Schumacher at the helm, marginally behind is all he would need. Also expect a lot of questions on Schumi's retirement, Rossi and Kimi
Toyota - After a magnificent season last year, can Toyota have a repeat performance. Testing results suggest not. And with a weak driver line up, expect to see Toyota slip down the ratings this year. Though I wouldn't bet against some Trulli magic at Monaco
Williams - Nobody, and I mean nobody knows more about V8's than Cosworth. It is amazing, the job they have done on a restricted budget. Though their driver line up is a bit shaky, expect to see them ahead of BMW.
Honda - With arguably the best driver line up they have had, reliable engines and a good chassis, I expect to see Jense break his duck. Championship contendors? not really.
Red Bull - Can they maintain their success this year? No. Even with Adrian on board, I would wait another couple of years to see them succeed. And the lack of a works engine would obviously not help. Winter testing suggests this is a car that simply doesnt have it.
BMW Sauber - Expect them to drive for points and an occasional podium. Jacques is WAY beyond his sell by date. Do not see them in front of Williams.
Midland F1 - Making up the backmarkers, expect to see them mixing it up with Super Augri.
Scuderia Torro Rosso - There is ONLY one Scuderia, and that is Ferrari. Period. Could the Cosworth V10's help? Yes. Score points? No.
Super Augri - Damn. So we have to see Taku once again. What bet he crashes before the pitlane exit? Well, who ever said F1 was boring? Expect to see atleast one irate championship contender bang him on his helmet a la Schumi. (Just imagine Taku taking out Kimi while he is in the lead?? Wow!! The ice would melt pretty quickly!!)
Quick Predictions for 2006 -
WDC 2006 - Fernando Alonso
Constructors championship - McLaren
Most improved performance - Honda
Disappointment of the year - Toyota
Engine of the year - Mercedes (Jus' kiddin')
Most asked question - Is Schumi retiring?
Most ocurring incident - Merc engine blowing up, Kimi blowing up thereafter.
Damp squib of the year - GPMA
Yawn of the year - Qualifying
With that its all set for Formula One World Championship 2006.
Get your engines revved............