As Felipe Massa stood on top of the podium in Brazil last year, beating his chest and blubbering his way into the hearts of right-thinking sports fans the world over, his teammate Kimi Raikkonen probably felt a bit embarrassed by all the emotion.
There was a whiff of Mussolini in the way that Massa plumped out that puggish bottom lip, hand on heart, thirty feet above throngs of adoring, flag-waving fans with their nationalistic fever.
Meanwhile Kimi had been slipping into failure for months prior, in an altogether more elegant, understated, and Nordic manner. The Iceman's title challenge had melted away long before the fervour of abrupt defeat stoked up Massa's Latino fire.
The 29-year-old Finn has since become F1's herpes—everyone knows what he can do, but no one really talks about him. We've all been preoccupied with Ross Brawn's new role as fairy godmother , McLaren's ongoing battles with physics, and the FIA's machinations over whether Kimi will secure his second world title by virtue of points or race wins.
That's right, Kimi's second title. Just as dreamy as the 2008 Ferrari was for Massa it was equally as frustrating for Raikkonen. It suited his driving style about as well as Bernie Ecclestone would suit a pair of French knickers and a peep-hole bra.
But the '09 machine is shaping up to be an entirely different prospect, Ferrari will be up there at the end of the season but it will be Kimi leading their charge this time around.
A lighter back end, rear tires that go off quicker than the fronts and about 15 percent less downforce than last year, mean that precision driving will be everything and oversteer will be king. This, makes for a machine more suited to Raikkonen's driving style than Massa's preference for understeer—a key reaon for his form in the '08 car.
Also if we get a few wet races, God help the Brazilian, the instabilities of the '09 cars will be exaggerated in the rain, and as Massa proved last year at Silverstone, he's not at his most comfortable on wets.
It's ironic that a sport trying so hard to push it's environmental credentials for the sake of popularity, is that much more exciting when it rains—and wetter European summers are one of the predicted symptoms of climate change.
Kimi will of course have challengers for the title and if we do get a dose of downpours it could suit his rivals.
Typically, the Brits will do well in the rain. We are used to it after all. Hamilton's mastery in the wet is one of the most blissful sights in modern F1, and Button's exceptional car control means that with a decent machine under him this year, he'll take some beating on reduced grip.
If the rain doesn't add an extra aspect of unpredictability (as if we needed anymore this season!) then it could be good old German inexorability and planning that bars Kimi from his second title.
BMW have had this year earmarked for their title push since their entry as a team owner in 2006. They are so dedicated to this plan that they sacrificed a title winning position last year in order to throw development resources at the '09 car.
With that kind of devotion, a nose ahead in the KERS race and a team principal whose moustache looks better engineered than Force India's car, Kubica and even Heidfeld should also not be discounted as possible title contenders.
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