Say hello to the 2010 Formula One season.
Starting this weekend, another set of intrigues will be set into motion. Formula One has by no means been bereft of excitement of late; unpredictability was quite its hallmark last season, with an unlikely drivers' champion in Jenson Button. 2010, of course, will again see a number of drivers vying for the crown. Sebastian Vettel will be looking to avenge his loss from 2009, while Lewis Hamilton and fellow Brit Button- both in McLarens- will look to go one up on each other as they take a shot at a second title. McLaren will sure have its hands full with two ambitious drivers at the helm.
Ferrari, pretty impressive in testing, will go all out to recapture their lost glory. Felipe Massa, returning from injury, is bound to jostle with Ferrari newcomer Fernando Alonso- the Latin line-up is already raising eyebrows, and of course, we're all geared up for a fight.
The transition from the last season to this has by no means been placid- even into the last week before the season kicks off, teams are announcing their line-ups. US F1 has run into troubled waters and Campos Meta F1 has undergone revamping even before the start of the season, renamed Hispania Racing as a result of the takeover by a majority stakeholder. Karun Chandhok finally makes a breakthrough- albeit without any F1 testing experience under his belt- pairing up with GP2 teammate and Ayrton Senna's nephew, Bruno. This certainly won't be a team to look out for, but Chandhok's entry does mark an increased Indian presence in F1. The mythical Indian Grand Prix keeps alive its hunt for an auspicious season to make its launch in, but the interest in the sport should now be palpable- the Sports Ministry certainly doesn't have its eyes in the right place if it still continues to ignore this lucrative market.
Lotus Racing and Virgin F1 are the other teams kicking their F1 campaign off this season. Curious, isn't it, how airline magnates find themselves strongly attracted to motor racing. Tony Fernandez and Richard Branson already have a bet on (bound to be extremely embarrassing for the one who loses) about which of their teams will perform better, but that's a different story. Vijay Mallya, in the meantime, continues his ambitious drive to the midfield. Force India had a reasonably good season, earning their first podium position, and they will look to garner a few more, which, of course, is by no means going to be a walk in the park.
Formula One has created quite a bit of off-season news, with the rigorous shuffling and curious pairings keeping the recently renewed interest alive. However, it isn't just the juggling and the newcomers that are grabbing attention. Comebacks are the new rage in sport in general, and when the man who gave F1 its tag of 'predictability' and often frustrated certain fans with his clinical precision decides to stage a return, speculation is definitely rife and armchair experts discover a new adrenaline surge. Michael Schumacher returns from retirement- or call it a sabbatical- at the wheel of former mentor Ross Brawn's Mercedes team. Discussing his devotion to the sport would mean merely stating the obvious; what we now have to look forward to is a season of fireworks, and the arsenal of weapons he deploys against much younger rivals. Interestingly, his teammate is another German, Nico Rosberg, who has already made clear his intentions of not letting awe get the better of him as he drives alongside a much-decorated driver. Mercedes will definitely enjoy a lot of home support, as will McLaren.
Teams and drivers apart, the new rules and points systems will have a huge say in the way the results pan out. With twelve teams on the grid this season, the number of positions being awarded points has gone up to ten. Major rule changes include the use of narrower front tyres, no refuelling during the race- think blink-and-you-miss-them pitstops, heavier cars (though KERS is not going to be used). All is neatly wrapped up now, though, and we're extremely close to Bahrain and a massive rush of testosterone- which, sadly, it is going to be limited to; rumours or not, Danica Patrick is definitely not making her debut in F1 this year.
2009 witnessed a lot of trouble- the fracas over cost-cutting and the FOTA mess almost led to the formation of a new breakaway league. However, Mr. Ecclestone, with his inimitable suavity, has managed to rein in things yet again. The teams kissed and made up, and while budget considerations still cause a few pangs off and on, the testing flexibility allowed to teams that adhere to the budget cap should put some demons to rest.
This season will see the launch of yet another Asian track. South Korea makes its debut on the F1 calendar, and we'll just have to wait till to see what marvel Hermann Tilke has managed to come up with this time around. He pulled off a stunner at Abu Dhabi, and expectations will inevitably be high.
The weekend is almost here- so unfasten your seat-belts and chuck the earplugs away. Let the bloodbath begin!