2010 European GP Preview: Can the Prancing Horses Catch Up with McLaren?

Ravikumar RajagopalCorrespondent IJune 26, 2010

VALENCIA, SPAIN - JUNE 25:  Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain and McLaren Mercedes drives during practice for the European Formula One Grand Prix at the Valencia Street Circuit on July 25, 2010, in Valencia, Spain.  (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
Mark Thompson/Getty Images

McLaren and Lewis Hamilton are on a roll after back-to-back one two for the team and will be looking for a hat-trick of wins, but the biggest competition for Hamilton will be his teammate Jenson Button, who is just three points behind Hamilton and could upstage Hamilton during the European GP at the streets of Valencia.

Despite the track, which should ideally favour McLaren, the team should not rule out the likes of Red Bull and Ferrari. Even Mercedes have looked strong in practice and should pose some threat.

Red Bull has not been the same since the incident at Turkey, but the team has to forget that and ensure that they catch up with McLaren as another one two here could take McLaren on pole position for both the championships.

Vettel looks most likely to be the driver who can win the title for Red Bull, and Webber, despite his phenomenal form this season, has yet to prove if he can maintain that over the course of a season.

Red Bull may also use the much improved F, duct which can swing the race in its favour, but it needs superhuman drives from both the drivers to finish one two here.

Ferrari and Alonso had the pace in Canada, and if not for the back markers, they might have even won the race. This race is crucial for Ferrari as Alonso needs the win this to close in on the championship leaders.

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If Ferrari wants to challenge McLaren and Red Bull in the constructor’s championship, then they have to ensure that Massa too gets onto the podium. Massa has not been the same, and despite a good start this season, his form has dipped severely. He should be resigned to the fact that he will be the No. 2 driver for this season unless he can win the next three races.

Mercedes have still not given up on this year’s car, but ideally, the team should focus on the 2011 car rather than continue to work on its current car. The problem for Mercedes is that the current car was built around Button and Schumacher and is having difficulty adapting towards it, while Rosberg was doing ok until the team shifted its attention to develop the car as per Schumacher’s liking. This has done nothing good for the team.

Mercedes should give up on its current car and focus on the 2011 championship. Renault and Kubica have been a revelation and, at times, have been faster than both Ferrari and Mercedes on different tracks, but the team does have a realistic chance of catching up with Mercedes while Ferrari has found its pace and is well ahead as of now.

Renault is clearly ahead of the middle bunch like Force India and Toro Rosso, and if Vitaly Petrov scores more consistently, they do have a realistic chance of beating Mercedes this season.

Force India has been the best of the rest, and while they have clearly beaten the likes of Williams, Toro Rosso and Sauber, they are well behind Renault. Now they should focus on catching up with the likes of Renault and Mercedes. It is a tall order for the team, but with Adrian Sutil and Vitantonio Liuzzi the team has 2 good drivers who could be driving for the top teams. Another race with both drivers finishing in the top 10 will be amazing for the team.

Toro Rosso has caught up with Williams, and they need to ensure that they beat Williams by the end of the season. Both Sebastien Buemi and Jaime Alguersuari are still very young and have a long future ahead, but they need to keep pushing themselves. By the time they race for bigger teams, they have all the experience in the world to go for wins straight away.

Williams have once again promised improvement this weekend, but unless they show it during the race, no one will take them seriously again. Rubens Barrichello and Nico Hulkenberg have done all they can despite the limitations, but if Williams need to get back to its old glory, then they need to have one look at Red Bull. Despite being an independent team with customer engines, the team has done extremely well.

Williams should focus on the 2011 car and should get Renault engines because the Cosworth engines are taking them nowhere.

Sauber will race as BMW Sauber until the end of the season despite BMW playing no part in the team and the awkwardness which goes with the team calling itself BMW Sauber Ferrari. But the team should stop blaming Ferrari engines for its trouble as Toro Rosso uses the same engines and have not had reliability issues.

Sauber has the pace, but if its reliability issues are worked out, then they can catch up with Williams and Toro Rosso.

Kamui Kobayashi and Pedro de la Rosa needs to become more consistent if they want to retain their seats for 2011, but de la Rosa is already looking for a seat for the next season.

Lotus will be going for its 500th race, but despite not having any real heritage with the Classic Lotus team, the new Lotus team has ensured that it does everything to continue the legacy. Even though the team is best among the newcomers, it needs a lot of improvement  to catch up with the likes of Sauber, Williams and Toro Rosso.

Virgin and HRT will make up for the numbers, but the team has to keep itself away from the faster cars as Karun’s HRT cost Alonso a lot during the Canadian GP. Also the team needs to catch up with Lotus if anyone actually is to take them seriously.

European GP Top 10 Predictions:

1. Sebastien Vettel

2. Mark Webber

3. Jenson Button

4. Fernando Alonso

5. Lewis Hamilton

6. Nico Rosberg

7. Robert Kubica

8. Felipe Massa

9. Adrian Sutil

10. Michael Schumacher

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