It’s a grey, chilly morning in London. The traffic has been intense, the news programmes are full of the Libya intervention, Japanese earthquake, problems in Yemen and the prospect of the British chancellor bringing in a tax on private jets. And Karun Chandhok has just been given the reserve driver role at Lotus this morning.
Formula 1 seems trivial in comparison to the seismic events going on in the world, however sport and politics have already overlapped this season with the cancellation of Bahrain Grand Prix and I’m sure it will overlap again as F1 forges paths into new markets in an unsettled world.
The new season is here and I’m getting onto a Malaysian Airlines flight to Melbourne via Kuala Lumpur. I’ll arrive on Wednesday night in time for a shower, dinner and hopefully a good sleep before the business starts on Thursday. I’m interviewing Hamilton, Vettel, Webber, Heidfeld among others for Australian TV that day, the everyday interactions of F1 life will quickly get back into step; the lunge and parry of the drivers and media, the mischievous politicking of those higher up the food chain, the bustle in the paddock.
It’s a great feeling, the start of a new season and this is the 22nd time I’ve felt it.
Every year we travel hopefully, wanting it to be a good season low on politics and high on good racing. Lately it’s been pretty good, with seasons going down to the wire more often than not.
This season I reckon we’ll have loads of fun with the Pirelli tyres. It’sgoing to make the strategic side of the racing so much more important.
I’ve started a content strand, kindly supported by F1 sponsor UBS, where I will do a deep dive into the race strategy and how the decisions get taken, with inputs from insiders. I hope you like it, it should help fans to understand in more depth why things happened as they did in the races. I’m also doing pre-race strategy planning content which will sit on the UBS F1 website.
I predict a good battle for the title between Vettel and Alonso, which might get a bit fractious at times. Webber will give it everything to be part of the battle, Hamilton too.
I worry a little bit about his decision to take on Simon Fuller as manager. Hamilton came into F1 with single-minded focus on racing, his Dad’s strict discipline saw to that. Then he split with his Dad, got more into the LA lifestyle with his pop star girlfriend and now Fuller is going to make him into a brand.
Rumblings of unhappiness with the team that brought him into the sport have emerged since that management contract was signed. The relationship between the man and his team is changing. McLaren tried to be clever with this year’s car and it caught them out. Now it’s another uphill fight to catch the front runners.
In terms of other predictions I also think we’ll see a stronger Schumacher this year, mixing it with the younger front runners at times. I also expect quite a split in the middle of the grid with the stronger drivers in slower cars getting ahead of the weaker drivers in faster cars. There is a lot for the drivers to deal with this year with new tyres, KERS, adjustable rear wing and I think it’s a tough time to be a rookie.
The odds for the championship, according to Paddy Power, are
What are your predictions for the season? Put them down below and to the one I like the most I’ll buy an Australian GP T shirt and send it to them!