What Lies Ahead for McLaren and Lewis Hamilton?

Richard DeveauCorrespondent IMarch 25, 2009

BARCELONA, SPAIN - MARCH 12:  Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain and team Mclaren Mercedes in action during formula one testing at the Circuit de Catalunya on March 12, 2009 in Barcelona, Spain.  (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)

As the 2009 Formula One season looms over the horizon, fans have a lot to look forward to heading into this weekend's Australian Grand Prix.

Many questions abound for the start of this season, more so than ever maybe. New cars and new technologies make this one of the most unpredictable seasons in F1 history.

New aerodynamic packages are supposedly going to allow for more overtaking, along with the re-introduction of slick tyres. The new KERS system should help also, if it's being used.

This year, race fans will be watching young defending champion Lewis Hamilton as his McLaren team attempts to be world champion for a second consecutive season.

The British driver fought against Brazilian driver Felipe Massa last year, claiming the championship by overtaking the Toyota of Timo Glock on the last turn of the last lap.

Hamilton has shown many skills behind the wheel of his McLaren, such as dominating in the rain at Silverstone or pulling off some amazing passes at Hockenheim.

His aggressive style of driving has impressed and excited fans all over the world, sometimes causing a spark between himself and other drivers.

So does he have what it takes to be a two-time champ in this sport? It's definitely possible and it could happen this season.

But Hamilton and the McLaren team have struggled very much this winter in testing, being on the bottom of the charts for many sessions. The team also admitted that they were slower than expected.

Of course, with these new rules, other teams could improve.

Jarno Trulli reports that the new Toyota is the best he's ever driven and he believes Toyota could finally appear on top of the podium.

The new Brawn GP (the old Honda team), with engines supplied by McLaren, weren't expected to be strong. but they had some very strong runs in testing.

Brawn once even beat the field by an entire second. Watch out for these guys, who could be a dark horse no doubt.

BMW had some strong runs last year, including a win with Robert Kubica at the Canadian Grand Prix. It will be interesting to see if this team improves.

Ferrari is of course a threat for McLaren, as the biggest rivalry in all of motorsports is set to begin.

The Ferrari boys, driven by Felipe Massa and Kimi Raikkonen, seem as strong as they've always been and should have another championship potential season.

Then we have Williams, who could unexpectedly return to their winning ways. Not a lot of experience behind the wheel with Nico Rosberg and Kazuki Nakajima, but you never know.

The Renault team seems to be struggling in testing also with their new car, but they do have two-time champ Fernando Alonso. Having a slow car did not stop Alonso from winning twice last year.

The Red Bull team will be one to watch and could possibly be McLaren's biggest challenge. Mark Webber brings experience to the team, and they have young sensation Sebastian Vettel, who wowed us last year winning at Monza, in the rain, in one of the slowest cars in the field.

Red Bull seemed strong in winter testing and we should expect to see a win from these boys.

Toro Rosso, Red Bull's sister team, is not expected to be very strong, despite winning a race last year. Sebastien Buemi will participate in his rookie year, and he still has a lot to prove.

Sebastien Bourdais struggled in his rookie season last year, but these new cars have less downforce. This means the new cars will drive more similar to a Champcar, a series that Bourdais dominated, winning five consecutive championships.

That leaves Force India, with engines powered by McLaren. I wouldn't expect much from this team this season, but you never know.

So does Lewis Hamilton and the McLaren team have what it takes to win a second straight championship? Well it's hard to tell, but it will be challenging as this new car opens up the opportunity for other teams to improve.

I believe Hamilton will have his work cut out for himself and it will be harder than ever to complete his goal, but it's possible.

Can McLaren win the constructor's championship? Possibly, but it's definitely no easy task to knock Ferrari off the top. If Heikki Kovalainen has a stronger, more consistent season, it's a high possibility.

But Kovalainen and Hamilton need to get along better, as this has been a problem in the past.

So this weekend, I hope you all watch the Australian Grand Prix, should be a great one.

For those watching in America, the race will be at a funny hour, starting at 2 a.m. ET, but it's worth it. Or you can catch the re-runs later in the morning at a more reasonable hour.

So this year, sit back, relax, and enjoy some good 'ol Formula One racing; should be a great season!