Tuesday, December 22, 2009

2010 Deadpool

Well I went 0-for-3 on my initial predictions last year. I predicted that Honda and Torro Rosso would be gone this year, and that Williams and Red Bull would be the low-hanging fruit for 2010.

So Bernie Ecclestone is predicting two team failures even before the first grid. His low-hanging fruit: USF1 and Campos. So lets quickly have a look at the current grid, plus first-alternate-elect, and see if we can call any failures.

The Establishment:McLaren, Ferrari, Red Bull, Williams, Mercedes. All definitely in.

Not Really Establishment: Torro Rosso. Red Bull's junior team is getting their own manufacturing capability, which means they are going to have to design their own car. This was a necessary step in separating the team from their big money parent. Red Bull wants out of Torro Rosso -- they'll get sold sometime this season, possibly to one of the potential entrants who were thwarted during this summer's expansion.

Similarly I drop Force India in here. While there were some surprising results in 2009, and while team owner Vijay Mallya hasn't run out of money yet, I really don't know anything about the ownership structure of the team. Results will continue to depend on the organization being a McLaren B team. I will say they will continue through 2010.

Former Members Of The Establishment: Renault is executing a graceful exit by selling 75% of the team to a third party. Renault as an organization will be out of F1 within three years; however the team should be good to continue on at least through 2010.

Similarly, Sauber (ex-BMW) will be good to participate all through 2010. Technically the team should be able to perform in the top half of the grid, although I have doubts of their ability to either step up to the top tier, or to keep up with the big teams in terms of ongoing development through a season.

First-Alternate-Elect Stefan GP has acquired the designs for Toyota's 2010 car, and as such qualifies as a "Former Member." The team intends to test their car next year if they are not permitted to race. Should someone fall out before Australia, Stefan GP may get the nod to show up. Personally I don't give them much of a chance of being able to show up in 2010, even if asked to. If space opens up for 2011, look for them to show up then -- and we'll re-evaluate them then.

The New Boys: Lotus Racing is the organization bankrolled by the Malaysian government. The Lotus name has a storied history, but unfortunately the most recent parts have not been covered in glory. The Malaysians have money, so the team will participate through 2010. However if the results are not there, they may not make it to 2012.

USF1 has been making a splash all year with their intentions to race in 2010. I believe they will have the finance to make it through 2010. The results, combined with the F1 visibility in the USA and whether or not an economic recovery starts to take hold there will dictate how much further they get.

Virgin Racing has an infusion of cash from the Virgin brand. While this is a splashy sponsorship, keep in mind that Richard Branson never spends money he doesn't have to and decided not to pursue title sponsorship with Brawn. Nick Wirth is involved, and while his ownership of Simtek didn't go well, he isn't the owner this time, just technical director. I would say they have a chance, probably a better chance than Lotus or Campos. But not much better.

I don't know anything about Campos Meta. However they do have Bruno Senna driving for them, so I presume that money will be OK for at least the first part of the season.

My predictions:

I would say that the bubble teams are Campos Meta and Lotus, with Stefan GP not being able to show up even if asked. Virgin could end up on the bubble next year depending on results.

Tune in next year for the laughing and pointing.