Formula One testing is about to be over later today. In the past month, there has been lots of speculation of how each team has prepared their new contender for the 2010 season. But unruly weather, red flags galore, indeterminate fuel loads, and lots of other factors have left the expected running order foggy, if not cloudy for when the lights go out in a fortnight in Bahrain.
I intend to handicap the chances of the four contending Formula One teams based only on driver quotes about their cars. So, in no particular order, here they are, your contenders for the 2010 World Championship.
Fernando Alonso said this about the Ferrari F10.
"It's the best car that I've ever driven," the Spanish driver said after testing in Barcelona.
"I'm not saying that I have the best car on the grid, but it's the best that I have ever had. However, I don't know if that will be enough."
All I can say is "Wow." To hear those words coming from the mouth of the driver that drove the R25, one of the greatest Formula One cars ever, to a championship is stunning. Alonso has always been one to call it the way it is, just like when he said the R29 was the worst car on the grid in 2009, I believed it.
Alonso making a declarative statement like that is a pretty shining endorsement on the pace of a car. Alonso doesn't mince words and he knows what he likes and what he doesn't. Above all, when the Ferrari has been fast, its been almost untouchable, the data is there to back up Alonso's claim.
Jenson Button in talking about the MP4-25 said this.
"I'm happy with the car that we have but I don't think we're getting the maximum out of the package we have."
Button is certainly no Fernando Alonso, he's not the kind of person to be bold and uncompromising. No offense to anyone, but the man is the perfect Englishman, kind of boring and careful but entirely substantive and trustworthy.
Button thinks the car is good, but can be improved. But who wouldn't say that about their machines at this stage of the season? The lap times, taken with a grain of salt, have backed up the fact that the McLaren is fast, but definitely not the fastest car on the grid, yet entirely competent of being at the front of the grid.
Mark Webber said this about the team's and the RB6's chances.
"This team is one of the best, if not the best, in the pit-lane in terms of what we've done last year and what we're doing this year, so we are very confident going into Bahrain."
Mark Webber exudes a calm, cool confidence. He seems to be unshakable, a man made of steel that takes everything in stride and can absorb both the good and the bad very well. So confidence from Webber is a good sign; much like a Alonso, he too is honest to a fault, so if Webber says Red Bull has the best team—well you better believe it.
Red Bull's testing so far has been troubled with reliability issues and some other minor problems. But when the RB6 was running extended, trouble-free sessions it had set some of the most blistering times of the entire grid. Which isn't surprising for one very good reason; the RB5.
Unlike the F10 and the MP4-25, which are entirely new designs, the RB6 is heavily based off the 2009 contender, which was often faster than the incredible Brawn GP car. Now, with the inclusion of a double diffuser coupled with the successful aerodynamic parts from the RB5, the RB6 has to be a clear favorite.
The Machine, the Alien, the Predator, is back in Formula One—Michael Schumacher, and he has this to say about his W01.
"Looking at the results and the data, actually it looks very reasonable - not too bad. So let's see where we are."
"I am here to fight for it yes (the championship), and I am sure we will be in the position. Whether will be able to achieve it is another matter."
We all know Schumi, he's been around for so long that he's become predictable. Schumacher is hyper-competitive to a fault, he can't lose that truth. Which is why he spins cars and brings out red flags to keep his Pole Position or purposely runs Damon Hill off the track to win a championship.
But another symptom of that is Schumacher will not tell the truth. It's not in his nature. But understated confidence is still good; he knows he has a good car. But he won't tell us, that would make it too easy.
The W01 is developed from the Brawn car that won the Constuctor's Championship last year, with a few key updates like the duck-bill style Red Bull nose and a longer wheelbase as standard for all teams to accommodate the new larger fuel tanks. So as a base, the W01 has a step above the competition, if not a very large one.
Both Rosberg and Schumacher have been consistently at the sharp end of the order and Rosberg ran fastest of all in Saturday's test in Barcelona. Mercedes seems confident, but not overly so; they're not drawing too many conclusions from testing. They know their pace and are happy to work from that point.
I reckon the order come the end of the season will be:
- Red Bull
The Driver's Championship seems to be more wide open but I feel Alonso and Vettel have the best chance at winning a title and I think all eight of the drivers from those teams can earn Pole Positions and race victories. The order will be.
- Fernando Alonso
- Sebastian Vettel
- Lewis Hamilton
- Michael Schumacher
- Felipe Massa
- Mark Webber
- Nico Rosberg
- Jenson Button
P.S.—You all can message me at the end of the season and point out how wrong I was, but at this point I feel fairly confident in these lists.