Formula One is changing. After 2009 there will be new rules to adhere to. The state of the art cars we see racing today is being replaced with new devices for drivers to play with, an innovative energy saving booster known as K.E.R.S and a reduction of aerodynamic pieces for the new models.
So, with this in mind, and a reminder that slick tires are returning, what does the new season hold?
Obviously, nobody knows. Anyone who remembers the last major rule change concerning design limitations and restrictions will remember that the Williams team were the team to beat at the end 1997.
1998 rolled around and Williams were a midfield team, caught out by changing rules. They were not adapting well enough and Mclaren came to the fore by a country mile before Ferrari caught up.
So why the article? Well, there has been much debate among the people of this community and also in the world of Formula One about what 2009 and its sweeping changes will bring.
This is all hypothetical but based on thoughts and rumblings heard on the subject. An educated guess is the best we can do, but let's see what we think. Team by team.
Obviously with racing pedigree like theirs you can never rule Mclaren out. In 1998 it was Ron Dennis' outfit that got it right. You have to say though, they are in a stiff battle for the 2008 championship and can't drop '08 development now.
This could be costly when the new rules take effect and not enough development has gone on for the '09 car. However, it could go the other way, Mclaren's development for this season is curbed in certain areas anyway as a condition for their involvement in the "spygate" fiasco.
With this in mind, perhaps they are developing what is a good '08 car only marginally and concentrating more and more on 2009. So as not to fence sit, I believe Mclaren may struggle at the outset of '09 and be relegated to third or fourth team. Before the season is out they will be back though.
People seem to forget that between 1979-2000 Ferrari had not won a great deal. Their car was mediocre at the best of times. It was a "dream team" of people who dragged the Scuderia back to winning ways, and drag is the correct term.
I observe a steady decline in the standards at Ferrari now that the last of the Schumacher team is gone. Obviously you can never discount Ferrari as with Mclaren but I feel with the same situation as with Mclaren, too much concentration on 2008 could hit Ferrari harder.
A return to the midfield? I think it could happen, at least for a short while.
I expect BMW to give up on '08 and try and place as highly as possible despite the risks of losing drivers or positions. 2008 is definitely going to either a Ferrari or Mclaren driver, and realistically, only one driver from each.
However, BMW have made noise about 2009 and the target for 2008 has been reached. They have a multi-year program to run and I believe hitting the front is on the agenda for 2009.
I perceive domination at the opening 2009 rounds akin to that of Mclaren back in 1998. If Kubica is still there, then even more so.
A team I don't actually expect to move in relation to performance. They are a lower points scoring team at the moment. I expect them to stay there for the time being.
I don't think the stability and the speed of development is there in this team. I understand this is almost entirely arbitrary but the Renault team seems weaker than it was in the championship years and even before this.
On the other hand, I loathe to try and write them off entirely since the team seems this season to have pretty much consigned 2008 to a disaster and to try and limit the damage. There could be a dark Renault shaped horse on the horizon. I tend to think not though.
In a similar fashion to both Renault and BMW I believe Honda have more or less given up on 2008 development after the improvements at the Spanish Grand Prix. Their updates have had a small effect on moving the team up the grid.
2009 though, seems like they are quietly optimistic. If BMW are going to be the Mclaren of the new era, then Honda I expect will be playing the catch up game the quickest and the best. They have the infrastructure and the manpower now to do a good job.
They showed they had the means to challenge once before, they may well do it again. Jenson Button certainly seems more excited for next year than he does this, but then, he really has to doesn't he? There is little to shout about for 2008 so far.
Third team is my prediction for the opening few rounds of 2009. Adrian Newey was the mastermind behind the Mclaren and Williams world championship cars and the success of his designs is beyond question.
Red Bull look set to produce not only a quick and effective but also a beautiful Grand Prix car for '09. If young Vettel moves to Red Bull then expect the new car to fly. Red Bull are definitely approaching the front.
Development of two Red Bull family teams I believe is due to dry up and though they have been assured for 2009 as a Grand Prix team, I believe the years are numbered and will be no more for 2010. With this in mind then Toro Rosso will probably end up sliding to the rear of the field in Formula One sharing the back rows of the grid.
It really makes no sense, as it didn't make sense to have two teams in Formula One after Red Bull came well and began challenging for points. Not a strong 2009 in prospect.
Toyota really should have taken some silverware by now. They have competed in Grand Prix racing since 2002 and have not so much as won a race.
Like Toro Rosso but for different reasons I believe that the team will head for the rear of the field. They somehow don't seem to have the will to reach the front nor the ability in the team.
Sticking with Jarno Trulli and Timo Glock isn't really the fresh approach or radical direction I was hoping for. Languishers for 2009 is my prediction with a bold and entirely arbitrary two more seasons of life given to the team. I don't expect a Toyota on the grid for 2011.
A tough midfield is expected to continue into 2009 and I think perhaps Force India with their rate of improvement in 2008 in mind, could perhaps be the surprise of 2009 challenging for some points finishes on a more regular basis.
They need to attract some star quality for the task ahead but I will go out on a limb and say Force India could leave Toro Rosso and Toyota behind them for 2009. Swapping paint with the likes of Ferrari and Williams perhaps?
Another team I don't expect to move too far either forward or backward is Williams. Williams too have an awesome racing heritage and to tip them to hit rock bottom would be silly.
I don't think they have the resources to reach the front at the moment however. So Williams I think will sit around the midfield for the 2009 season.
As development takes hold I'm not sure whether they will move forward or backward but I do think one thing: Williams will probably need to take on a big money backer that also offers technology as part of the partnership before they can move forward at all.
This as I have said throughout is a basic guess. Educated by just what I have heard and what I perceive the picture to be right now.
I'd like to see what has happened this time next season and look at this again and see how wrong I was! So there we have it.
Some predictions for the coming season. I am not entirely emotionally invested in this prediction so comments in disagreement are very welcome. Any other ideas?
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