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PF1's 2009 Season Predictions: Part 1

Tuesday 24th March 2009

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PF1's 2009 Season Predictions: Part 1

PF1's 2009 Season Predictions: Part 1

It's that time of the year when the PF1 crew and our chums at Sky Bet and Autotrader put forward their predictions for the 2009 F1 season.

PF1's Michelle Foster, Frank Hopkinson and Pete Gill, plus Sky Bet's David Pilgrim and Autotrader's Keith Collantine are doing the crystal ball gazing...

01. Who will win the Drivers' Championship?
MF: Kimi Raikkonen. The Finn is determined to bounce back from last year's humiliation and I'm confident he can do it.
FH: Robert Kubica - Now that we've dispensed with that pesky driver-with-the-most-wins formula, Kubica has an ever greater chance of taking his maiden title. He has Schumacher's (that's Michael not Ralf) Terminator-like ability to never give up. Even with a slower, less-developed car he was able to challenge till late in the 2008 season. His biggest hazard will be Nick Heidfeld taking points away from him.
PG: Kimi Raikkonen. It's make or break time for the Finn. And I reckon it might - hopefully - be the making of him.
DP: Robert Kubica - the young Pole was arguably denied a realistic shot at the title last season after BMW chose to develop the 2009 car primarily, and they could find themselves among the quickest cars this time around.
KC: I've been watching F1 for 20 years and I've never known a season that's been harder to predict. BMW have looked consistently strong throughout testing, made an early start on the F1.09 and got a lot of mileage in. So I'm going to say Robert Kubica.

02. And the Constructors' will go to?
MF: Ferrari. Naturally. The Italian outfit has a great car and two strong drivers. McLaren, though, have only one strong driver in Lewis Hamilton so once again Heikki Kovalainen will cost them the Constructors' crown.
FH: BMW. They have spent the most development time on KERS and have experienced fewest pre-season problems of the Ferrari-McLaren-BMW triumvirate. That's not to say that Toyota, Renault and Brawn won't win races in 2009, but last season's top three can be relied on to keep the car fast over the course of a season.
PG: Ferrari.
DP: Ferrari - Two experienced drivers who both know how to win, and positive noises coming from the Maranello outfit.
KC: BMW. Reliability will play a big role and theres has been outstanding in recent years.

03. Who will score more points - Button or Hamilton?
MF: Hamilton. I can't for the life of me see Brawn GP matching McLaren.
FH: Hamilton, but not at first. Button's early season success will be dependent on the Brawn diffuser not being deemed illegal. If they have to radically alter the back end of the car with limited on-track testing then that picture could change radically.
PG: Button will start the season with the fastest car and as there's no guarantee that McLaren will be able to recover what they've lost then it's only sensible to back Button here.
DP: Tough one given the early testing times, but I'm going to say Lewis by a narrow margin. McLaren may find themselves playing catch-up but they have the experience to fight at the front once they get the car sorted out.
KC: Hamilton. Brawn are fast now but will they still be halfway through the season?

04. Who will be in pole position in Melbourne?
MF: Ferrari.
FH: Jarno Trulli. He's good on the streets and the Toyota is in spanking form. That doesn't mean to say he'll win, though.
PG: Jenson is probably the favourite so I'll take an outside shot with Rubens Barrichello.
DP: Button looks to have as good a shot as anyone, and I'd not be surprised to see him pip Felipe Massa to pole.
KC: Button.

05. And who will suffer the first retirement of the season?
MF: It will be one of the Toro Rosso drivers. They've barely tested and I think they will pay the price come Australia.
FH: If it's for a mechanical reason then the gods always favour Red Bull. Let's just hope it's not Mark Webber at his home GP. If it's for a pushing-too-hard reason then it could well be Lewis Hamilton. The barriers are close in Albert Park and the McLaren MP4-24 isn't as fast as he wants it to be.
PG: Considering their lack of testing, either a Force India or Toro Rosso. Seb Bourdais doesn't seem to be one of life's lucky men so he'll be my pick.
DP: Much depends who chooses to run KERS, but I'm going to have a stab at Force India who haven't had a lot of testing time.
KC: Mark Webber, luck running true to form.06. Who will cause the year's biggest scandal?
MF: Well here's hoping Max Mosley stays out the headlines (I'm still having nightmares over that) but alas I think it will be him but in his capacity as head of the FIA. In fact the FIA have already caused a scandal with their rather daft 'winner-takes-all' scheme, which has now been pushed back to 2010.
FH: It looks like the FIA and FOTA are heading for a showdown over budget caps. There could be significant fall-out. It's hard to tell if this barking idea from Max is yet another of his negotiating points or he really is sincere in the belief that what F1 needs to attract more people to watch it is a set of incomprehensible technical rules.
PG: Tamara Ecclestone. Well, we can but hope.
DP: I'm going for the Diffuser Row which threatens to over shadow the beginning of a cracking season.
KC: Max Mosley, again.

07. Which driver will be replaced before the year is out?
MF: I think all the drivers will see out the season. Given the new in-season test ban it would be one hell of a risk to bring someone else in during the year who hasn't had time in the car.
FH: None. They'll all have too much fun for that. The only rookie, Buemi, looks like the real deal, the only replacement might come through injury. The drivers who might go at the end of the season are Fisichella and Barrichello. But if Rubens has a good year who's to stop him going on?
PG: Nelson Piquet jr. Another humiliation awaits.
DP: I think the same 20 drivers will complete the season this time around, but Nelson Piquet Jr needs to improve his stock if he is to ensure a full season in F1.
KC: Nelson Piquet Jnr, for Romain Grosjean.

08. Raikkonen or Massa?
MF: Raikkonen. As said earlier I think he will win the title.
FH: Raikkonen. Massa works best when he's got pole position and a clear track and he can just wind out faster and faster laps. It looks like they'll be less chances of that in 2009 thanks to the progress of Toyota, Brawn and BMW. Raikkonen can mix it in the pack and still come through and so he's a much better driver for a slower Ferrari.
PG: I've backed Kimi for the title so I'll have to back him here as well. But I do consider Felipe to be the most under-rated driver in the sport.
DP: Massa - showed maturity in 2008 and can kick on from there with another good season.
KC: I'm not going to make the mistake of underestimating Massa yet again - but I think Raikkonen will be closer this year.

09. Will the season prove Brawn's winter testing pace was real?
MF: Hmm, I'm in two minds about this. Yes and no. I think Brawn's winter pace is in qualifying trim, so give them points for qualifying near the front of the pack. But I think in grands prix they may suffer from a lacking of mileage.
FH: Yes. Providing they don't have to redesign the back end of the car around a different diffuser. It looks like there will be protests over their interpretation of the 2009 regs in Melbourne.
PG: Why wouldn't it be? They were consistently quick throughout testing and have been working on that car for over a year. Honda should be kicking themselves.
DP: Yes. I was initially sceptical about the pace, but it looks genuine and they will start the season strongly. Whether they can keep improving ahead of their rivals is probably the bigger question.
KC: They will be quick (though not whole seconds per laps quicker than the opposition) early in the season, but I suspect most of their rivals will develop their cars more quickly.

10. Will this be Toyota's breakthrough year?
MF: They had better otherwise it seems Toyota could withdraw from F1. But will they? I don't think so.
FH: Yes (but see above). It has to be. The world's car giant is not immune from the massive emergency stop that has happened to car sales. They should come away with at least a couple of victories and it might be Glock that does it for them.
PG: If by 'breakthrough' we mean race wins then I still suspect they will come up just short.
DP: No. I don't expect a great deal form the Japanese outfit despite upbeat talk from the team.

Don't forget to read the second round of PF1's season predictions tomorrow.

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