Could Mclaren still win this championship?
It’s not impossible that Mclaren could fight back and win a championship this season. The amount of progress that they have made since pre-season testing has been staggering. In the test in Spain they were over two seconds of the pace of Brawn GP. However Mclaren have immense resources and personnel. If anyone can quickly cure their problems and close the gap then it’s Mclaren. Remember 2004 when Mclaren came back to win at Spa after a dreadfully slow and unreliable start to the season.
Each weekend so far this season they have made strides forward. Hamilton did a great qualifying lap and was 5thon the grid on merit rather the result of a lighter fuel load. He qualified ahead of Barrichello with more fuel on board.
In the race he was able to keep up with the front runners, but fell back a bit in the last stint. 4th was still a stunning result for the team. This a result which many would have regarded as impossible before the season began.
Perhaps the most impressive fact was Lewis’s position in the fastest laps of the race chart. His lap was less than 0.4 seconds slower than Trulli’s quickest lap. Both their fastest laps were set towards the end of the first stint. That is now the gap Mclaren have between themselves and the front three of Red Bull, Toyota and Brawn (who incidentally are now much more closely matched than at the start of 2009).
In Spain Mclaren will be bringing a substantial upgrade. A few weeks ago there were predictions from people inside the team, saying that the car would fly in Spain. That suggestion sounded crazy back then, but after seeing the progress the car is making, then maybe it’s not impossible.
Mclaren will have keep control of their expectations as other teams including Ferrari and BMW Sauber are planning massive upgrades are. Brawn GP are also introducing their first major season upgrade in Spain. Therefore they can’t be too cocky.
Nobody is going to be standing still between now and Spain. Lewis admitted that there is even a chance of Mclaren falling backwards in Spain. It all depends on how good everyone else’s major upgrades. The order could look completely different in Spain as the field is so tight. A few tenth’s worth of development will shuffle teams around.
Catalunya is a circuit where it’s important to have really good aerodynamic efficiency, and good tyre management. This is a very demanding circuit where cars with shortcomings are found out. If Mclaren can show a good performance there, then signs could be very promising for the rest of the season.
I think McLaren will end up winning races this season but I feel they will have to wait a bit longer. I can see them returning as regular front runners in the second half of the season.
In terms of the championship it could be too late by then. The gap could be too big to close down. Of course the other factor is what punishment Mclaren receive from the WMSC on Wednesday.
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.