Preview>> Formula One: Teams And Drivers

The 2009 Formula 1 World Championship kicks off this weekend in Melbourne, Australia. This has the potential to be one of the most open seasons ever, with new rules and regulations.

A number of rules have been brought in, giving a Formula 1 car a different look. From the side, most of the aerodynamic aids have disappeared and the cars look much cleaner. However,wider front wings and narrower rear wings look out of place, even after 2 months of testing.

The earlier Video post below goes into more detail regarding the changes, with the help of Red Bull and Sebastien Vettel. I will focus on teams and drivers in this post

McLaren Mercedes, 1. Lewis Hamilton  2. Heikki Kovalainen

The first rule of testing, is NEVER believe test times.

However, on this occasion, many people are scratching their heads at the lack of pace of the McLaren MP4/24 and this has been the talk of the pre-season.

One of the first chassis to be released, the car hasn’t been very quick in testing, although some reasonable pace was found last week. McLaren appear to have aerodynamic issues. They have been using coloured paint to show them how the airflow works around the front suspension, sidepod and rear wing.  It is very unusual to see this at a public test. It is also unseal for McLaren to admit they are not happy with their performance.

The team ran a larger 2008 rear wing in most testing, which suggested a) McLaren are hiding something for Melbourne or b) They are in trouble.

We will know on Sunday if McLaren are hiding something. Some people are blaming the retirement of Ron Dennis from day-to-day involvement of the race team handing it over to Martin Whitmarsh.  BS I say! Its10 years since I worked for McLaren, and back then, Martin was more than capable and was already heavily involved in leading the team.. In some ways, I feel this will change will be beneficial to McLaren.

Lewis Hamilton now carries the No 1 as 2008 World Champion with team mate Heikki Kovalainen under pressure to perform after a lacklustre 2008.

Ferrari,  3. Felippe Massa  4 Kimi Raikkonen

2008 Constructor Champions, Ferrari were the first team to launch their 2009 car. The car appears sleeker than the bulky McLaren.

Although Kimi Raikkonen failed to shine in 2008, the driver combination with Felipe Massa is one of the strongest on the grid. Raikkonen HAS to perform this year, after being consistently out shown by Massa who is much cheaper forvFerrari. I understand Kimi likes the 2009 car more and feels at home.

Ferrari have also been testing their KERS system extensively. Massa’s test will come from putting that last lap at Brazil behind him, where he thought he was the World Champion,,, for about 15 seconds.

BMW Sauber,  5. Robert Kubica  6 Nick Heidfeld

The German-Swiss team will be looking for their first championship. The team struggled a little last year and began development early on their 2009 car. Another team who have been very quick on occasion. They appear to be reliable which should help their cause early in the season. They have completed lots of testing with 2009 regs with a modified 2008 car as well as this new chassis.

Robert Kubica has come on leaps and bounds since he joined Formula 1. He is a title contender, if BMW can be consistent. Nick Heidfeld is another driver under pressure to improve. One of my favourite racers, he appeared to lose his edge in 2008. Was it the pressure of Relative new-boy Kubica shinning or was it the difficult car set-up.

Renault,  7. Fernando Alonso 8. Nelson Piquet (Jr)

Back of the grid in the looks department, the livery hurts my eyes! 

Alonso looks like Ronald McDonald in that race suit and the car looks very bulky. Despite all this, the Renault does appear to have some pace.

Ignore all the negativity with Alonso at McLaren in 2007, he is a star and probably the best driver on the grid.  Alonso’s team mate remains Nelson Piquet Jr. He struggled early in 2008, but did appear to improve during the year. Make or break season for him.

The Renault R29 is one of the more unusual cars with a very larger bulky looking nose. Renault believe they are onto something. Expect Alonso to get the car into higher positions than it should!

Renault were allowed to improve their engine performance over the closed season. The team had complained about lack of power and had to lobby the FiA for the break.

Toyota, 9. Jarno Trulli  10. Timo Glock

Quite a few people are tipping Toyota this year for some good results. They appear to have good speed in testing, but you should never put too much weight on that.

Even so, the likes of Massa say Toyota are doing a good job. Its a very important car for the team. Toyota has one of the biggest budgets and still has no wins in its short history. Add the Financial Crisis to the mix and the race team may be on notice later this year.

The optional KERS system will not fit in the current 2009 chassis without modification. If teams running it find a performance advantage, they will suffer. Many teams seem to be struggling, so putting all your energy (!) into  other areas may prove a good decision.

Toyota are using a rear diffuser which many other teams feel breaks the rules. It appears the FIA will allow this to stand, so any advantage at Melbourne may disappear by 2nd or 3rd race.

Jarno Trulli, one of the few drivers to have raced in Formula 1 on slicks,  remains with the team, as does his team mate Timo Glock, who did well last year.

Red Bull – Renault,  14. Mark Webber  15. Sebastian Vettel

The most attractive car on the grid in my eyes, it looks so much smaller than the McLaren.

A typical Adrian Newey design, where the body is tightly wrapped around driver and components. With new rules, Newey has shown some different thinking to other teams. The front wing is very complex, the nose very high, and narrow. The rear end bodywork falls away and the rear wing endplate are cleverly integrated into the diffuser.

They are one of the few teams to continue with a ‘Shark-Fin’ on the engine cover. This is very extreme as it actually connects to the rear wing.

Mark Webber remains, recovered from a Broken leg. Italian Grand Prix winner, Sebastian Vettel, moves up from Scuderia Toro Rosso. Vettel is the most impressive of the recent newcomers.  I think he will give Webber a wake-up call. 

A very impressive car, but come race-day, reliability is often the Achilles heel for any Newey designed machine. If the Championship was for looks, almost all the other teams would have gone home by now.

Scuderia Toro Rosso- Ferrari  11. Sebastien Bourdais   12. Sebastien Buemi

I say almost, as the sister Red Bull team, Scuderia Toro Rosso are running a very similar car, but powered by Ferrari.  This necessities a new gearbox and rear suspension. The Ferrari engine gave ‘STR’ a big advantage over Red Bull’s Renault unit last year, helping the team to its first win. It is unlikely they will have this advantage now, as Renault were given dispensation to improve the engine performance, much to the disgust of its rivals

Sebastien Bourdais remains at the team, joined by Sebastien Buemi. They must like the name at STR as he replaces Sebastian Vettel!

If nothing else, I like the two Red Bull cars, because the dark blue on the front wings helps disguise how stupid looking the wings look! (Updated: defined by the new FIA wing regulations)

Williams –Toyota,   16. Nico Rosberg  17. Kazuki Nakajima

Last of the old school teams, one of the few not backed by a manufacture. It seems a long time ago that Williams were winning championships with Piquet, Prost, Hill and ‘Our Nige’. Now, they make up also-rans.

This may change for 2009. The only team to have a fully developed flywheel based KERS system, the FW31 was one of the quickest cars at a Spanish test earlier in March,,,, remember, never believe any test times, but I’m hopeful!

Williams have a similar controversial diffuser to Toyota, who are also the engine supplier.

Their drivers remain as in 2008. Nico Rosberg is very quick and was a match for Lewis in lower formulae, but he also had a number of ‘off’ weekends in 2008. Maybe he was over driving. 

The surprise driver in 2008 for me was Kazuki Nakajima. When he joined Williams at the end of 2007, no one rated him. He came with Toyota engines, amusing given his father’s Honda ties, but he worked hard and was fast at times last year.

He did have a number of accidents, normally in the vicinity of David Coulthard, but quite a few people, me included have come around to Kaz. He may keep Nico on his toes.

Eagle-eye readers will have noticed Rays wheels on the Williams. It seems every time we post an image of the BMW M3 GT2, someone comments on the wheels, so here you go Rays fans!

Force India- Mercedes,  20. Adrian Sutil   21. Giancarlo Fisichella

The team which was once Midland, Spyker and before that,Jordan finally have some consistency in ownership. Indian businessman, Vijay Mallya now owns the team and the car is sponsored by many of his companies, including Whyte& MacKay Whiskey. The car is all new and seems a huge improvement on its 2008 machine, which still had DNA from its Midland days. Morale within the team is up and many are commenting that its like the ‘good old’ Jordan days.

Force India have agreed a partnership with McLaren Mercedes. Engine and gearbox are supplied by Mercedes and McLaren respectively, while one of McLaren’s directors has been seconded to Force India’s Silverstone base.

This agreement was finalised quite late in the day, and the car did need some revisions from its original Ferrari engine based design. They have been testing for a number weeks with respectable, if not spectacular times. With so many other teams looking impressive, its going to be hard for ‘FI’ to move up from the rear of the grid.

The team retain their drivers. Giancarlo Fisichella is one of the few who remembers slick tyres in the 90’s. Adrian Sutil needs to shine this year. I was very impressed with him in GP2 in 2006, but it seemed to struggle a little in the last two years. 

Brawn GP- Mercedes,  22. Jenson Button   23. Rubens Barrichello

A new name to the mix. If you have any interest in Formula 1, you will be aware Honda decided to pull out of Formula 1 in a shock announcement at the end of the year.

The team were funded into the new year, hoping to find a buyer. Lots of people claimed to come forward, but at the end a Management buy-out took ownership of the team fronted by Ross Brawn and Nick Fry.

You would assume this would have put the team at a disadvantage….not so. Brawn was quick to realise the 2008 car was a dog and stopped development early in the season starting 2009 design months before anyone else. Although  development will have slowed while the team was for sale, the car made its track debut two weeks ago and was immediately quick, topping the time sheets.

They have been consistently fast with both Jenson Button and Rubens Barrichello setting fast times. Another team with a controversial diffuser, it is not clear if the speed is genuine. Years ago, Prost GP topped the time sheets in testing, running light, hoping to attract sponsors. Note the similarities to Brawn?

Difference is, the speed does seem real. We won’t know until Sunday, but it appears that Brawn really are quick and they could cause quite an upset. It would be a great reward for all those who stood by Ross and Nick since Christmas, working overtime, not knowing if they would have jobs in March. As I write this, rumours of 300 lay-off's are being reported by some F1 websites. A real shame and a kick in the teeth, IF that is the case.

So, there you have it. The regulation changes have made it a very open championship, but the cream always rises to the top. Might take a while, so don’t be surprised to see an upset in the first few races. I have a feeling McLaren will struggle for a while and be playing catch up with Renault, BMW and Ferrari. If Red Bull can sort their reliability, then they could be up there too.

The big talking points of the weekend are likely to be the legaility of the Brawn, Toyota and Williams diffusers, the pace of the new Brawn GP car and the lack of pace for McLaren. More on the diffuser issue can be read here

Just for the record, the planned points changes, announced last week by the FIA have now been put back until 2010.

I have produced a free PDF and JPEG F1 Spotter Guide, in conjunction with Radio Le Mans. and, which you can download at

Who do you think will win in Melbourne and become World Champion at the end of the season.

-Andy Blackmore

Images: F1 Teams and Engine suppliers.

Full Calendar



Comments are closed.


by Oldest
by Best by Newest by Oldest

Great post Andy,

I, like you am looking forward to the season, the cars are so much slimmer then last years contraptions. I just hope that the F1 circus somewhat stops with the drama this year with all the new regs. Eccelstone, Herr Mosley and the crew are seriously making me disappointed year by year.

Hope to see some great racing this year!

I sure hope that they don't take SPA off the schedule, since it lost money last year.

On another note:

You should post about the awesome comeback that Solberg had in Cyprus. And Loebs 50th win.



Lol. I think there are too many Sebastians in F1


Stewards have cleared the diffusers of Brawn, Toyota and Williams.

Other teams, can and may protest this again on appeal.


I am so FLIPPIN' excited for the race on Sunday!! I will be entering a media blackout soon so qualifying and the race does not get ruined for me. :)

High hopes for BrawnGP this year. And I'm rooting for Mclaren as I've always had!


i thought drivers numbers were decided by manufacturers championship standings?

its good to finally see F1 on speedhunters


^ hey buddy, the race is on Saturday =D, well at least in my time zone. BGP as a front runner would be shocking, but I think Fernando will be the driver to look out for. Fernando gives the best feedback to the car designers and engineers and will create one hell of a car together.


Yes this season is going to be great!! Practice session 1 (P1) starts tonight! :D


liamsil - You are correct on the number allocation. Confusion comes as FIA announced Brawn would be considered an all new team and would thus, be at the end, moving Force India up to 18,19 and Brawn 20,21

Then today, FIA changed their minds again as Force India complained about the number change (they had already produced merchandise with 20,21) so the Brawn are now 22,23 and FI revert to their origial numbers. (No 18,19)


Looks like Redbull is stealing some graphic elements from Martini Racing. But hey as long as it looks good its ok to state your name 100 times on the car


I think the cars look great. I hope all the rule changes will lead to some good racing.


Can't wait for the kick off !

I'm wondering if the cars will be faster with so little aero advantages (small wings, larger rear wing and side diffusers)......

Time will tell.

As usual, kick ass post Andy !


Kinda' confused. Did you like the Red Bull/Toro Roso cars or dislike them? Your first and last sentences seem to be contradictory.


i like the Red Bulls. I should have worded the last sentence better, but I was trying to say, I like the fact they have dark coloured front wings, to disguise how stupid those wings look.....wings are defined by the FiA regs


Never thought I would see an F1 post in Speedhunters lol. Always did follow F1 on another site and already knew some of the news. Well just hope free practice on Friday would show how the team matches against each other and seeing how the teams running KERS is going to perform.


wait shouldn't ferrari be 1&2 since they were constructor champions


Bob - No, Champion Driver always takes No 1 and his team mate takes No 2.


If the driver moves teams (i.e: if Lewis had moved to Ferrari), he would take No1 with him. The only exception, is if the World Champion does not compete the following year. In this case, the car has traditionally run 0 and 2 (Williams about a decade ago)


I wish they were coming to Montreal this year :(


OH! LOL! Totally agree with you there!


@ BlueSlug: Me too! the 16 hour drive (including the 5 hours stuck in traffic driving through toronto) were totally worth it!


Spoke to one of the rival Engineers earlier on MSN.... It does seem that paddock thinks Brawn's pace is real and could get a podium. Would be quite amazing if that happens


Adrian Sutil never raced in GP2, he was Japanese F3 champ in '06. Great post though!


The new look of the F1 grid actually looks sexy to me...from certain angles. I'm totally rooting for the Brawn GP team since their coming in as the underdogs and so far have setted some of the best times during testing. They've recently received sponsorship from Virgin (Sir Richard Branson) so this will go a long way in ensuring the teams survival throughout the season. I doubt they would have gone on to far without a major sponsor. I still dont understand why Honda decided to fund their own program without a primary sponsor like the rest of the grid. This would have probably made them stay a little longer.


Virgin haven't been confirmed yet. Its still a rumour. I think its likely, but Branson is a master of PR hype, so I'll only believe it when the logo is on the car.


A desktop of that first pic would be awesome! Any chance it could happen?!


Very much looking forward to tomorrow's race. Thanks for the in-depth post.


I'm quite disappointed that speedhunters doesn't have that much of f1 coverage.


THat first pic PLSSSS make it a desktop.

Thats one awesome shot!!!


The first image came from Williams and is a press image. We only offer desktops of our own images


Our Formula One preview proved popular last month, so I thought I would share this cool image of Sebastian


The Formula One season starts this weekend in Bahrain and given our F1 preview was so popular last year


The Formula One season starts this weekend in Bahrain and given our F1 preview was so popular last year