One of the reasons why 2009 was such a great season, with different cars doing better at different tracks (such as a brilliant 2nd place for Force India at Spa), was due to the huge number of rule changes.
Next season will see more rule changes, but nothing on the scale of the 2008-2009 shift. The biggest difference is that refuelling goes out of the window, and so the cars will have bigger fuel tanks. KERS is still an option, but all teams are going without it.
This is rather a shame from my perspective, as I liked KERS and the refuelling strategy was integral to my betting approach.
Pit stops will remain as drivers will have to use both tyre compounds during a race (assuming it stays dry). The F1 website reckons this could make them as quick as 4s.
The points system is also overhauled, to reflect the change of having 13 teams (assuming they all make it…) and 26 drivers. First place will earn 25, then 20, 15, 10, 8, 6, 5, 3, 2 and 1. So, even 10th place will now give out points. This seems reasonable and will give middle of the pack teams something to tussle over.
I quickly worked out how this would’ve affected last season. The actual result was:
Jenson Button 95
Sebastian Vettel 84
Rubens Barrichello 77
Mark Webber 69.5
Lewis Hamilton 49
With the new points system it would’ve been:
So, it makes surprisingly little difference at the top end.
Wheel fairings are no more, after Alonso amusingly lost a tyre because one of his pit crew didn’t fasten it on properly.
Qualifying will be much as before, but with 8 drivers eliminated in Q1 and Q2, so that there remains only 10 for the Q3 shootout. All qualifying sessions will be done with low fuel.
There were murmurings about giving points for pole positions and fastest laps, but I don’t think anything’s been done about it.
So, will these changes benefit or disadvantage any drivers more than others? Hamilton may find the no refuelling tricky. With only one pit stop necessary each race (for tyre changing) he may struggle in certain places to manage his tyres properly. Button’s smooth driving style should prevent him suffering a similar problem.
Last season Vettel was the most consistent qualifier, and the absence of refuelling will increase the importance of qualifying even more in the forthcoming season. Alonso is also very reliable so it might assist him (though he’s not had a top class car for a few seasons which may’ve dulled his edge).
The rule changes are available here:
2010 could be a brilliant season, even better than 2009. There are four potential Constructors’ winners, and probably six potential Drivers’ champions. Testing (12 days of it) begins on 1 February. I strongly advise not betting until at least some of it is complete. Brawn threw an enormous surprise last season, so much so that the world champion-to-be was 70/1.
McLaren finished the 2009 season as the best car, Red Bull were consistently at or near the top throughout and Brawn started with a fantastic advantage over all others. My suspicion is that Mercedes (formerly Brawn) might just have a monstrously good car once again. The Top Gear F1 blog asserted in early November that Ross Brawn switched efforts from developing the 2009 car to producing the 2010 car as soon as the seventh race, after Button’s sixth win. Brawn is an engineering genius, and he’ll now benefit from the support of his old comrade-in-arms Schumacher.
My hunch is that Mercedes will be the top team to start with, but I’m not putting money on it until I see test times. Unfortunately Red Bull won’t be participating in the first 3 days of testing, as they’ll be playing with the wind tunnel instead.
The drivers I’ll be keeping my eye most closely on are Schumacher (not because he was the best of drivers, but because I suspect he’s still good and will be in a great car), Vettel and Massa. Vettel’s around 7/1 and Massa is 14/1. If the Red Bull is decent, Vettel stands a good chance as, possibly excepting Schumacher, I think he’s the best driver on the circuit. Massa I think is very good indeed, and certainly not 3x worse than Alonso who is just 4/1. But, as I said, I’m only keeping my eye on them at the moment.
My intention is to have 1-2 more posts pre-season, regarding the testing times. I’m also considering having pre-qualifying, pre-race and review posts per track rather than just a preview and review.