Articles and debate on the world’s most glamorous sport

Team Mate Wars 2009 Part 2

TOYOTA – Jarno Trulli and Timo Glock

Jarno Trulli completely walloped Glock in the first half of 2008, but in the second half of the season, Glock improved and came back strong. In the end, it was Trulli who won the team mate war, but it didn’t end up as comfortable as it might have been.

Glock looks to be a very handy driver. After a tough start, he has adapted himself very well to F1. He will improve furthur and have a very good second season.

However, he will find it very hard to beat Trulli. Trulli is in the form of his life at the moment. He is also arguably F1’s best qualifier. If he can get a few cars between himself and Glock, then Trulli has a great chance of leading Toyota’s charge for podiums and wins.

Trulli can find an extra few tenths from nowhere when it matters most. This sets him apart from Glock, certainly when it comes to qualifying.

In 2009, Jarno will be able to get rid of his worst enemy—the grooved tyre. He will be one of the drivers who benefits most from the changeover to slicks. When Trulli first started in F1, he was super-quick on slicks. I think Trulli stands a chance of having his best ever season in F1 in 2009.

Glock will have a good season too but don’t expect to see Trulli’s No. 1 status in the team changing. Glock will push him all the way, but Trulli has enough to stay ahead and may edge further ahead of Glock.

If Toyota is going to win races this season, Trulli is more likely to be the man to deliver them.

FINAL VERDICT: Glock is a very competent driver who will keep Trulli on his toes. However, I don’t see No. 1 status shifting to Timo’s side of the garage this season. Trulli looks set to build on 2008 and will become harder to beat.


Scuderia Toro Rosso – Sebastien Buemi and Sebastien Bourdais

For Toro Rosso, it’s the battle of the Sebs again!

Bourdais may not have had many points last season, but in the final third of the season, he was very strong. Luck wasn’t with him at times.

He could have challenged for the win in Monza—it rained at the wrong time in Spa. Then there was that dreadful decision by the stewards in Fuji. Once he adapted to the car he was fast.

The decision to give Buemi the drive is a strange one. He didn’t finish that high up in the GP2 standings, and his best results came in the sprint races benefiting from the reverse grid system.

I think with so little experience, and having the new F1 cars to adapt to, it will be a very tall order for the young Swiss. As the season goes on, I am sure that he will get more adapted to F1, but it’s going to take some time. I don’t expect him to get results straight away.

Bourdais, on the other hand, could have a very strong season. These new cars could really suit him down to the ground. Over in Champ Car, he was used to cars with slick tyres and more emphasis on mechanical grip.

In Champ Car, there also was the “push to pass” button. This may give him a little head start, when it comes to making the most use out of the KERs system, when it comes to overtaking.

Bourdais could be one of the surprises of this F1 season. He could get the odd podium. I think that he will come out on top at Rosso this season.

FINAL VERDICT: Rosso has brought Buemi into F1 too soon and he may struggle. Bourdais has a chance of having a great second season. He will improve massively on what was overall a disappointing debut season. He will feel more at home with the new spec F1 cars.

Renault – Fernando Alonso and Nelson Piquet Jnr

In 2008, it was this team mate war which featured the biggest difference between the two drivers. In qualifying, Alonso thrashed Nelson 18-0.

Piquet Jnr has always been much better in his second season in all the series that he has driven in. I am sure that it won’t be any different this season.

But to try to gain on Alonso and beat him will be like trying to climb Mount Everest 10 times in a week. Plus this is very much Alonso’s team. He is such a good developer of the car, puts an awful lot of work in, and has the whole team built around his fingertips.

It’s going to be hard for Piquet to be anything other than a No. 2 driver. He needs to dramatically improve his self-confidence and try to get as close to Alonso as he can.

Even if Piquet really improves in 2009, Alonso should still have more than enough in his pocket to comfortably beat Piquet over the season.

If Piquet can just occasionally match Alonso, then it will feel like a victory for him, and he will gain respect from the rest of the paddock.

FINAL VERDICT: Piquet Jnr will make big strides forward in 2009 and have a respectable season,  but he won’t be able to trouble Fernando’s clear No. 1 status within the team.


BMW Sauber – Robert Kubica and Nick Heidfeld

This team mate war has been quite interesting over the last couple of seasons. In 2007, it was Nick Heidfeld who had the upper hand over Kubica quite comfortably.

In 2008, it became a role reversal and it was Robert Kubica who had the upper hand—although Heidfeld had a few stunning highlights in 2008, and wasn’t far off by the end.

This sets up their battle for 2009 quite nicely. Heidfeld’s main problem recently has been qualifying. His race pace and race craft are on a par with Kubica.

However, because he hasn’t been starting at the front on a regular basis recently, it’s handed Kubica the advantage in the races. If Heidfeld can get a better grip on qualifying and start right up the grid with Kubica, then he will give him a very hard time this season.

Heidfeld is now one of the most experienced drivers on the grid and has quite a smooth driving style. I think that he will be quite easy on his tyres, and this should only help his good race pace further.

Kubica has improved immensely as a driver over the past season, and he will go into 2009 with plenty of confidence and determination. He might have to re-adapt his style a little to avoid heavy tyre wear on the 2009 slick tyres.

This team mate war is going to be very close. I think both men will be race winners this season. Kubica will be as strong as he was last season, but I feel Nick will join him too.

I do feel that, if one of these drivers is going to be world champion, it’s more likely to be Kubica. I think that he has a little bit more swagger about him. Therefore, I think that  he will win this team mate war. It could only be by a few points though.

FINAL VERDICT: This is going to be very close. I can’t see a Kubica walkover here. Quick Nick will live up to his name and be very competitive in 2009 and will possibly enjoy his best season yet. In this writer’s opinion though, Kubica has something extra and will edge this one.


Ferrari – Kimi Raikkonen and Felipe Massa

In 2008, Kimi Raikkonen struggled all season long to match Felipe Massa, who had a much improved season and probably should have won the title. He has turned into a far more complete package.

Raikkonen’s main issues were qualifying and then struggling because of it in the races. He made too many errors at times too. He never got a handle on his Ferrari, whereas the Ferrari became an extension of Felipe Massa’s body.

This season, thanks to the new F1 cars, the outcome of the team war at Ferrari could well shape up completely differently. Raikkonen will be far more at home with the 2009 spec F1 car.

Raikkonen thrives on oversteer, which will be one of the dominent features of the cars in 2009. Raikkonen struggled with the previous era of Bridgestone tyre, so slicks should suit him better too. I think we will see more of the Raikkonen that we saw back in his Mclaren days.

Massa prefers a car that has an understeer tendency, and last season the Ferrari featured that. Therefore, he has a bit of adapting to do this season.

However, there is no reason why he shouldn’t be challenging again. On his day, he is as fast as anyone, so there is no reason why he can’t compete with Raikkonen, even when he is in top form.

This is one of the tightest team mate battles, but I think that I would have to go with Raikkonen. I think this will be a huge comeback year for Raikkonen, where he will prove his biggest critics wrong.

When he is on it, he is devastatingly quick, and I think we will see more of that in 2009 than we did in 2008. Even so, Massa will still run him very close and win races himself.

But for me, in 2009, Raikkonen will win the inter-Ferrari battle.

FINAL VERDICT:  Raikkonen will be another driver to benefit from the rule changes. I think he will be back to his best form. Massa will have another decent season.

Ultimately when both of these drivers are in their best form, I feel that Raikkonen is the slightly quicker of the two. I think that’s what we will see this season. It will be close though. Raikkonen will never have it easy against Massa.


Mclaren – Lewis Hamilton and Heikki Kovalainen

Last season, Heikki Kovalainen struggled to get on terms with Lewis Hamilton. A slow start and bad luck in the first half of the season made the points difference between him and Lewis grow very quickly. Therefore the shift of focus switched very quickly to Lewis, and Heikki’s season got even worse as the season wore on.

For this team war to be more competitive this season, Kovalainen simply has to hit the ground running straight away.

He also needs to assert himself more within the Mclaren team and concentrate on getting the most out of his talent, which he failed to achieve last season. If he drives to his full potential then he can challenge Lewis. He needs to focus on his own job and avoid looking over at the other side of the garage too much.

Lewis Hamilton on the other hand will be feeling very good coming into the 2009 season. Lewis will love the new spec of Formula 1 cars. Like Raikkonen, Lewis loves oversteer and will thrive this season. He has the added confidence of starting the season as world champion, and having the No. 1 on his Mclaren will gives him a huge boast.

I think Kovalainen will end up having a much stronger season, but it is very hard to see beyond Lewis in this team mate war. No doubt, it will be closer, but I would still expect it to be fairly comfortable for Lewis.

FINAL VERDICT: Heikki will surely improve on what was a poor showing in 2008, but Hamilton will be too much for him after winning the championship last season.

I will refer back to the team mate wars throughout the season to see how the inter team battles are shaping up, and how close I am with my predictions.


March 24, 2009 - Posted by | Previews | , , , , ,

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