Sunday, February 25, 2007

Spanish Symphony? F1 2007 - The Year In Preview

As the countdown to the 2007 F1 season begins, with less than a month to go, the teams have settled into a kind of order. Heres a look at whats new for the season, and the predictions for the year.
Whats New?
No Schumi or Ross Brawn, Kimi to Ferrari, Alonso to McLaren, Newey at red Bull, Single trye manufacturer with choice of 2 race compounds, Resurgance of the Ferrari Politics, Lewis hamilton seem to make this year one of the most anticipated and unpredictable.
Now on to my predictions for this year

Vodafone McLaren Mercedes
McLaren seem to have everything going right this season. With the youngest driver lineup on the grid, the team seems to be on a roll. McLaren have found the sweet spot with the Bridgestone Potenza tyres, and with other teams complaining of rear tyre degradation that causes them to back off by 3-4s on a single lap, this seemsto play into their hands. Lewis seems to have adapted himself magnificently and the car suits Alonso's rather unique driving style. Above all the car seems reliable and quick for the first time in years. McLaren have been on longer stints than Ferrari in testing and there does not seem to be any major problem so far.
The driver combination is the most exciting on the grid and Alsonso looks all set to be the first man since Fangio to win three titles on the trot in different cars.
Predictions : Drivers : Alonso : 1, Hamilton : 3
Constructors : McLaren : 1

Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro
With Ferrari being the only car to go in for the longer wheelbase car, which at least theoretically add to the rear degradation woes, opinion is still divided as to whether ferrari know something the rest of the teams know or if they have made a major design blunder. Straying from their philosophy of a single lead driver that lead them to stupendous success over the years, the buzz is that both Kimi and Massa would be slugging it out for the championship, a problem that key rivals McLaren do not have at present. Also the team seems to be in a state of flux with Brawn on a sabbatical, and Stepney disgruntled with the team, and shunted to a new role. Ferrari do not seem to be coping with changes as well as McLaren and ever since Kimi leaving for Ferrari becoming official, Ferrari have done a pathetic job of protecting Kimi. Even during the last few races, McLaren did a fabulous job, with the team thanking Kimi for his work and never once slagging him in public. On the other hand, Ferrari team members have been vocal in expressing dissatisfaction in the way Kimi operates from Monza on, comparing him unfavorably with Schumi. The whole situation is ridiculous, as Kimi has been runner up in the championship twice. And for people with short memories, Kimi lost out on the championship in 2003 by a slender 2 points, that too on the 2002 spec car. In 2003 Kimi simply out schumachered schumi. In 2005, if not for reliability Kimi would have been champion again. It is ridiculous to expect a man with such a poor work ethic to have done so well in fragile McLarens for 5 years. Kimi is out and out the fastest driver in F1 today (though it can be argued that fernando is the more complete driver), and all he needs is a reliable and quick car. This year however, I pick Kimi as runner up yet again, adding that Ferrari are neither going to win, nor do they deserve to win the World Championship this year.
Predictions : Drivers : Kimi : 2, Massa : 4
Constructors : ferrari :2

BMW - Sauber F1
This is the surprise package of the season, and look to be in fantastic form, keeping up with the Ferrari and McLaren. The wind tunnel at Hinwii has been put to good use and Kubaica and Heidfeld have been regulars at the top of the chart. The only question is if the top times have been set by cars running on vapours, which I personally am disinclined to believe. This should be a great year for BMW and hopefully, they will build on this and 2008 be the year for their championship bid. The only question mark lingers over the drivers. Though Kubaica is rated highly and Heidfeld a good driver, we are yet to see if they are championship material.
Predictions : I will go on a limb here and say Drivers : Kubaica 5
Constructors : BMW 3

ING Renault F1
Of all the Michlen runners, it was Renault that was packaged closely with the tyre. It comes as no surprise then that Renault are finding it difficult to adapt to the new Bridgestone Potenza tyres. So far, they are yet to find the sweet spot that let them take early leads in the last two seasons. With Alonso switching to McLaren, this years challenge will be headed by Fisichella, who has onsistently failed to impress. This should be a make or break year for Fisi and I am more inclined to go with the break than the make. It does not seem that Renault are going to retain their championships. Heikki does look good though, and should be challenging for the championship should the team get it right next season.
Predictions : Heikki to beat "Team Leader" Fisi,
Constructors : Renault : 4 / 5 (Too close to call)

Honda Racing
Honda started their runs in a pretty unspectacular way. While Button and Barichello are racking up the milage, the car is not yet on the pace. At the same time, it is not far off the pace of the top 3, and as far as Renault goes, it is too close to call. While Renault seems to be a more drivable car, the Honda drivers seem to have the edge on the Renault duo. While Honda should be able to to challenge for wins, and not just due to rain, they are not going to be challenging for the championship.
Constructors: Honda 5 / 4

AT&T Williams - Toyota
The Williams looks quite quick, and seems quicker than the Toyota at least at present. William start the 2007 season, looking to be able to score points. The driver lineup is not very exciting with Wurz making his return after 6 years. The one thing that is suspect is the teams ability to improve the car over the season, and their funding. This should make them drop down the order over the season, though they should be able to embarass Toyota easily during the first half at least.
Constructors: Am going out on a limb here and saying Williams beat Toyota for 6th

Panasonic Toyota Racing
Since the day they entered F1 Toyota have failed to impress. While 2005 was a good year, things have gone downhill ever since. This team has extremely deep pockets but so far I do not see how they are even able to justify their presence in F1. If you take the ratio of points earned to dollars spent, Toyota have the least distinguished record so far.Even the erstwhile Minardi had gven better value for money. On the driver front, neither driver is ever going to win a championship and both are well past their sell by date. Toyota continues, for some inexplicable reason to pay Ralf Schumacher huge sums for under performing in an already under performing car. Toyota needs to make radical changes, lower their budget, get rid of their drivers or simply get out of F1.
Constructors : Toyota 7

Red Bull Racing
This was supposed to be the dark horse of the season. With all the hype surrounding the launch of the Newey designed Red Bull and Renault engines. However, Newey seems to have over designed the car, and has simply been too clever for his own good. The team still has transmission problems and the over heating issues have not been solved. Newey has always needed a more down to earth team around him, to work best. (Patrick head at Williams, the corporate structure at McLaren). At Red Bull he seems to have been left to his own devices and the flamboyant design has not been a success. The car looks rather McLaren like though, it has not yet sprouted horns. Another problem is the mating of the Renault engine with the chassis. In spite of all these problems, if there is one man who can turn it all around in a month, it is Newey. While the car may not start the season with a bang, I do expect it to get quicker as the season progresses, and might even be able to challenge Toyota for 7th. Also expect the Red Bull to be challenging from the front (DC in particular) at tight circuits, especially Monaco.
Constructors : Red Bull : 8

Spyker F1
The only other independent team on the grid for 2007, (Williams being the other), Spyker are not in the same league as the other 8 teams on the grid. Not much to say about this team, and they look all set to take the last place on the constructors championship.
Constructors :9

Scuderia Torro Rosso, TBA Super Augri F1
With STR running a clone of Newey's Red Bull chassis and Super Augri running the 2006 Honda Chassis, I do not call either team as constructors. In my opinion (irrespective of that of the FIA's), both teams have violated the intellectual copyright issues, and neither team deserve any constructors points. As far as 2007 goes, I do not rate either of the two teams, and irrespective of where they finish, have predicted the results for the other 9 teams.
Constructors : N/A

- Hari

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