With the ringing in of the new year comes the increased anticipation for the 2010 Formula One season. Although the first race isn’t due to begin until March 12th with Friday Free Practice in Bahrain, testing duties will start at the beginning of February and there are still some announcements due to be made regarding drivers and sponsors. Combined with four new teams, one re-branded squad and the return of Massa and Schumacher, 2010 looks set to be a blast.
Testing is strictly controlled these days, which explains the lack of track action since the 2009 season closed in Abu Dhabi. However, the teams are set to descend on Spain’s Valencia circuit in February to iron out the kinks in their new cars. The rules are largely staying the same for the upcoming season, so the cars should just be an evolution of those we saw last year.
Furthermore, because of the restrictions on testing, it is expected that the squads will run their race drivers during testing as opposed to the test drivers, who would appear to have taken on a more reserve driver role. As a quick catch-up, here are the runners and riders for 2010:
McLaren – Continuing with the Mercedes-Benz engine, and fielding Briton’s Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton.
Mercedes – Re-branded from Brawn, the 2009 constructor’s champions, Mercedes will run Germany’s Michael Schumacher and Nico Rosberg.
Red Bull Racing – Sticking with the Renault engine, Red Bull will also continue with drivers Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber.
Ferrari – The decision to replace Kimi Raikkonen with Fernando Alonso will prove interesting, and the team will enjoy the return of Felipe Massa to the cockpit.
Williams – Having been forced to replace their Toyota engine with Cosworth, this enabled the team to drop Kazuki Nakajima in favour of Rubens Barrichello. The departing Nico Rosberg sees test driver and GP2 champion Nico Hulkenberg get a promotion.
Renault – Although on the verge of being sold, apparently, the team have confirmed Robert Kubica for one of the seats. The second remains unannounced at this time.
Force India – Having a technical alliance with McLaren, the team will continue with Mercedes-Benz engines and the partnership of Adrian Sutil and Vitantonio Liuzzi.
Scuderia Toro Rosso – For the first time, the Red Bull juniors are having to build their own chassis around the Ferrari engine, but have retained Sebastien Buemi. Jaime Alguersuari is expected to be in the second car.
Lotus – Like all new teams, Lotus will run the Cosworth engine, and have announced Jarno Trulli and Heikki Kovalainen as the drivers.
Virgin – Have signed Toyota-refugee Timo Glock and partnered him with rookie Lucas Di Grassi.
Campos – So far have only announced nephew of Ayrton, Bruno Senna.
USF1 – Are yet to announce any drivers.
As for testing, the show has been widely reported as kicking off on February 1st in Valencia, with running expected to continue until the close-of-day on the 3rd. The Valencia circuit is often used for testing, much like the neighbouring Jerez and Barcelona tracks. The mix of corners at these facilities provide the teams with ample opportunity to gather as much data as possible. For new fans, it should be noted the Valencia track used for testing is not the same as the Valencia circuit used in the championship. The testing venue is a purpose built facility, whereas the championship track is a street circuit that winds its way around the docks of the city.
After Valencia, testing continues at Jerez from the 10th to 13th February, and then again from the 17th to 20th. The circus will then move to Barcelona’s Circuit de Catalunya from the 25th to 28th February. After which, the cars will be transported to Bahrain for the first race of the year. There may be some straight-line testing taking place at airfields around England, straight-line running not being considered a part of the testing restrictions because of the limited amount of data that can be obtained.
In the meantime, the teams are expected to roll-out their new cars in low-key ceremonies. There had been talks of a group launch involving all squads, the idea being that this would save money. However, the logistics of getting all the teams to agree on a date, and then to ensure they actually had a car ready by this time, proved too much. In years gone by, the squads would often put on lavish ceremonies to unveil the new cars, but as we saw in 2009, the luxuries have been replaced with more simple and straight forward shows.