Friday, March 10, 2006
Start your engines!
Prepare your ears for the sound of powerful engines "nneeeeyoowww!". Yeeep, it's that time of the year again - the 2006 Formula One season kicks off this weekend in Bahrain. That's the first positive thing about this season - the timing. It's the first time in ages that the season won't be starting in Australia or some other country where I have to wake up at 6 am - on a Sunday! The race starts at 12:30 CET.
Here are 10 questions on my mind before this season:
1. How will the new qualifying session work out?
I'm actually quite excited about this. I'm especially looking forward to the final minutes of every session. I like it that the fastest ten cars have to decide early what their fuel-load is going to be. I hope the slower guys can profit from this during the race.
2. What about the other rule changes?
I'm glad the teams are allowed to change tyres again. It just adds a little bit more action to the whole race - and of course leaves room for error (like Ferrari forgetting a tyre a few years back). And that way, we probably won't have to go through another scandal like Indy 2005 when only the Bridgestone cars were able to race cause the Michelin tyres couldn't last the distance.
As for the new engines; it looks like the teams will still be able to do equally fast laps with the new V8 engines, compared to last year's V10s. Honda driver Davidson just recently broke the lap record in Valencia.
3. Can Michael Schumacher strike back?
The big problem for Ferrari is as usual the tyre issue. Their Bridgestone tyres still look slower than Michelin. And though there are more teams running Bridgestone this year, the other main contenders (Renault, McLaren and Honda) still run the faster Michelin.
4. How will Felipe Massa fare against the old man?
Personally I'm very curious to see how Massa will perform against Schumi. Everyone knows he has the speed - I would say he's faster than both Barrichello and Irvine. But faster doesn't necessarily mean better. Though he showed some improvement last year, he has the tendency to make mistakes. I think (or is it more hope) he will give the old man a run for his money.
5. Will Jenson Button finally get his first win?
The first race of the season will be Button's 101st - without a win. After solving his contract issues and deciding to stay with Honda, he can now fully concentrate on racing. It's time to prove the critics wrong - stop all the talk of him being the Beckham of F1. Having Rubens "I believe I can be champion this year" Barrichello as a teammate is supposed to put some pressure on him.
6. How will the Japanese teams perform?
It looks like F1 is going to end up being a one-on-one battle between Honda and Toyota. According to some sources, these two lead the money-spending with Toyota coming in first with USD 455 million - closely followed by Honda's USD 420 million.
The only sure thing about the Japanese teams is that Super Aguri is going to be the last one in the group.
7. What to expect from BMW Sauber?
By taking over the Swiss team, BMW have also acquired the typical Swiss understatement - "don't expect any wins from us this year". They probably are right, but they should be making some noise. BMW has had a very good engine in the past. And considering the small budget, Sauber has always produced good results - mainly cause of a good aerodynamic package.
8. Is this Jacques Villeneuve's last season?
I'm afraid so. I've always liked him - even before he joined my guys at BAR Honda. I'm just not sure whether he can perform at a top-level and compete with the likes of Kimi, Alonso and Massa. I'd be surprised if he was able to keep Heidfeld in check - I consider Heidfeld to be among the most under-rated drivers in F1.
9. Which team will win the constructors' title?
My money is on McLaren Mercedes. They came awfully close last year and I think they learned from their mistakes and should be more consistent this year. I also think that they have the most balanced driver pairing in the field.
10. Who will win the drivers' title?
I think Schumi will once again come through - and then retire. Somehow Ferrari and Bridgestone will find a way to put the old man on top. The other drivers will be stealing points from each other, while Schumi can be assured to collect maximum points when Ferrari is in a good position.