F1 has seen an on-track resurgence in the last few years. Both 2007 and 2008’s titles were decided at the last race; while 2009 was dominated mostly by off-track news, it was an year where the regular order crumbled and a new order in the sport was created.
Who would have imagined the likes of Ferrari, McLaren, BMW Sauber, and Renault were nowhere near the title picture? Brawn and Red Bull not only were better than the established teams, but they dominated the season so much that barring a few races, none of the big guys could match the pace of these two teams.
Brawn GP truly had a Cinderella year; if Honda had remained patient for a few more months, all the money they have put in their F1 program would have finally raked in the benefits it deserved, and they would not have pulled off F1.
Instead, Ross Brawn took over the team when they were not even sure if they would be on track at the Australian GP. But once they were on, they dominated the first half of the season. Though Red Bull did put up a stiff challenge, in the end, Brawn managed to win both the titles without any major chaos.
Their title rivals Red Bull and its drivers had a breakthrough year and they managed to challenge the Brawn team until the end.
Sebastian Vettel proved that he is the real deal, and at one stage had all the big teams running for his contract, but in the end he decided to extend his deal with Red Bull. This seems to be a very wise move, as teammate Mark Webber won his first race and proved that given a good car, he can challenge for the title.
This will be an important year for Webber, and if Renault could provide them with stable engines, the team can once again emerge as an early favourite for the titles.
Ferrari and McLaren had a very poor season by their standards, though McLaren in the end managed to salvage something, pulling the coup of the year by signing the reigning world champion Jenson Button to form a British super team with the 2008 world champion Lewis Hamilton. They could pose a very serious threat for the 2010 season.
Ferrari had its moments during the season, but while they enticed Michael Schumacher to return to racing as a fill-in for the injured Felipe Massa, in the end he signed for the Mercedes GP team.
Kimi Raikkonen has taken a sabbatical from the sport for 2010, but no one will be too shocked if he fails to return again. Fernando Alonso finally did sign for the Ferrari team, and his partnership with Massa would be a real threat for any team for the coming season.
Williams and Toyota both had disappointing seasons; both were early title contenders, and Williams had Nico Rosberg scoring points consistently, but a lack of podiums did the team in. Toyota, meanwhile, finally pulled out of F1 after spending close to $2 billion and failing to win a single race during its tenure in the sport.
Toyota ideally should have made Williams its works team; their decision to form their own team in the end was one of the worst moves in the companies’ corporate history.
BMW Sauber, after being a title contender for 2008, pulled off suddenly, leaving the team in a disarray after the failed Quadback takeover. They later managed to get a spot on the grid, thanks to Toyota’s pullout, and Sauber will be once again be there on the grid as an independent team.
Renault had a season to forget, and the off-track situation nearly made the team leave the sport in disgrace.
The team can still continue as an engine supplier due to Red Bull’s success, and the phased pullout of the team, with it selling a major stake of the F1 team to a investment group, will keep Renault on the grid for the next two years. Beyond that, however, it will be highly doubtful if we will see the Renault name as an constructor.
The year was also good for Force India, as it not only managed to convincingly outpace fellow backmarker Toro Rosso, but also at different times managed to be faster than the likes of McLaren, Williams, Renault, BMW Sauber and Toyota.
It was one of the best ever seasons for the former Jordan team, and with four new teams coming in for the 2010 season, Force India can relive Jordan’s midfield status for the next few years.
It was a remarkable year for F1, but 2010 should be even better, as Schumacher makes a comeback with the Mercedes GP team. Also, for the first time since the early '90s, we will see four World Champions on the grid. As many as four teams and six drivers have a realistic chance of going for the driver’s championship.
We can also see the likes of gun drivers like Hamilton, Vettel, and Rosberg going head-to-head with the greatest living driver, Schumacher.
Though he may not win the title, even a few wins would be the most remarkable comeback in the history of the sport.