The 2008 F1 season gets under way tonight (Saturday afternoon in Australia where the race is). Defending champion, Kimi Raikonen puts it on the line against sophomore Lewis Hamilton. Ferrari battles McLaren on the track. Hopefully all the shenanigans with all the spying is behind us and we can get down to some racing.
This will be the first of my preseason posts. This one will take a look at the teams, the second one will take a look at the drivers and the third one will look at the rule changes for this year.
With McLaren again collecting points, the constructor's championship should again be a two horse race. Ferrari and McLaren look to be the class of the field and the teams to catch. Here are my thoughts on the teams.
- Ferrari should be the team at the top again this season. They have the same two experienced drivers as last season; drivers that finished first and fourth in the driver championships. They should be able to dominate the podium as long as the car is reliable and the drivers can handle the loss of traction control.
- McLaren - Mercedes should finish second this year. Both their drivers are sophomore drivers and could find their performance falter slightly. The major reason that they will not win is that Heikki Kovalainen is not at the same level as Fernando Alonso and as a result will not pick up the points that Alonso did last year in finishing third in the driver's championship. As always, reliability could be a factor as last year was the first year in a while that they have shown the kind of reliability that wins championships. It will be interesting to see if they can be reliable again.
- BMW Sauber should improve on the good season they had last year. Both of their drivers are experienced enough and the car is good enough to take podiums away from the top 2 teams should someone falter. Robert Kubica will only be driving in his second full season so he will have to continue improving to make sure that BMW Sauber is the best of the rest.
- I am picking Red Bull - Renault to finish fourth. They showed good improvement last year and so far in testing this year have shown they have a car to be reckoned with. David Coulthard is the one of the most experienced drivers on the circuit and Mark Webber is one of the smoothest drivers. Both of these facts should help the team now that driver aides have been discontinued. Reliability has always been a problem for the team and if they can overcome that, this team can do some serious racing.
- Renault will finish behind their engine customer this year. Fernando Alonso is back with the team and that will help them somewhat however the car has not been that good in testing and Alonso alone can't improve the car. Rookie driver, Nelsinho Piquet, will struggle to learn the new car and won't be much help this season in helping with car set-ups. His season will be a learning one and his contribution to points will be small.
- Williams - Toyota, like Red Bull, will finish ahead of their engine supplier. Nico Rosberg gained some good experience last year and Kazuki Nakajima gained some experience after he took over for Alexander Wurz late last season. Last year, Williams was one of the most improved teams when it came to reliability reducing retirements from 20 in 2006 to only 7. I look for them to finish solid in the middle of the pack.
- Toyota will drop from 6th to 7th this year. Ralf Schumacher is gone this year, replaced by Timo Glock. Along with Jarno Trulli, this well financed team will continue to falter. This team has the weakest drivers line-up of the top teams and with the money that Toyota spends you think they would be able to afford a better pair of drivers.
- Honda has improved their car for this year but not enough to make much of a difference. A very experienced driver line-up with Jenson Button and Rubens Barrichello, you would think this team would be able to improve more than they have. Unfortunately, Honda will continue to struggle to achieve points. They need another year or two to finish working out the kinks with their car.
- Toro Rosso - Ferrari will again be the best of the worst. Sebastien Bourdais has moved from Champ Car where he was a 4 time champion and should help this team out somewhat but they just can't get the car to work with their Ferrari customer engine. This team could continue to improve during the season and if Bourdais can adjust to F1 quickly, they might be able to give Toyota and Honda a push for points.
- Force India - Ferrari should be able to pull this team off the bottom of the heap this year. After purchasing the hopeless Spyker team last year, they have made some improvements to their car and with the Ferrari customer engine, they should be more reliable. They have also contracted veteran driver, Giancarlo Fisichella to help the team with set-up. While I don't expect a drastic improvement during their first year, they should no longer be a lock for the last two places on the starting grid or race result.
- Super Aguri - Honda will take over as the bottom dwellers this year. The team has had financial problems and as a result did very little testing over the winter. They will spend the first half of the season trying to do what the rest of the teams have already done and by that time they will be further behind as teams continue to improve.
As usual I look forward to some good racing and I am hoping that the reduction of driver aids makes for some better racing with more overtaking.