Following the new fashion in Formula 1 for going retro, 2010 saw the return of Sauber as a privateer. With BMW pulling out, the team was re-bought by founder Peter Sauber. That was great news as it saved the jobs of all the team staff and kept Sauber's brilliant factory open. And it was certainly better than having that Qadbak company in charge.
Truth be told, Peter Sauber wasn't that keen on buying his team back. Being in his 60's and having founded his team in 1970 in sportscars and run it up to 2005 and still been involved afterwards, he was looking forward to retirement, so he does want to find a good buyer at some point.
Thankfully the FIA had the sense to grant Sauber an entry for 2010. A deal was struck to run customer Ferrari engines (which frankly are pretty rubbish - no customer Ferrari team has ever enjoyed great success). So the official entry name strangely, was BMW Sauber - Ferrari. The team kept the BMW name seemingly because it was too late to go through the whole process of having it changed. Perhaps it was to return the favour BMW had given them, when they kept the Sauber name (and earned a lot of respect from me and all Sauber fans in doing so).
It was very interesting to see what the new Sauber would look like - what colour they would go with. In the end, it actually didn't look that different. The white remained white. But everywhere else had become black. it did look different to me though and I really liked it, although the lack of sponsors was a concern.
The other interesting was who would now drive for the team. It wasn't long before a driver was announced - Kamui Kobayashi.
RED BULL RACING - RENAULT:
Having ended 2009 so strongly, I actually believed this team would step up another gear, continuing the momentum, and the design department headed up by Adrian Newey would build a car that would prove to be the fastest! I actually wondered if Sebastian Vettel could surprise everyone and dominate the season! Reliability was a great concern in pre-season testing though. As for Mark Webber, apparently his broken leg from the cycling accident prior to the 2009 season had had more of an effect on his performance than he had let on. It was quite impressive to me that he hadn't made a big fuss of it and hadn't seemed to use it as an excuse, especially considering that Webber, himself known as a qualifying specialist, was astonishingly defeated 15-2 in qualifying last season.
Before this season, while Mark was certainly considered to be one of the better drivers in F1, he was not ranked in the same tier (the word "tier" seems to be the word of the moment in Superstar Racing) as Lewis Hamilton, Fernando Alonso, and his own precocious team-mate Sebastian Vettel. And given the much talked about "top 8", meaning the Ferrari, McLaren, Red Bull, and Mercedes teams and their drivers, all of whom are mostly considered to be in the top 10 of driver's in F1, alongside the expectation that these 4 teams cars would prove to be very closely matched, would result in a driver near the top, but not quite on the summit of F1 talent, such as Webber, being consigned to a season of regular 4th and 5th place finishes.That was certainly my expectation, especially if Red Bull didn't produce clearly the fastest car. But if Red Bull did make the fastest car, then I could quite easily have conceived Webber finishing 4th, 3rd or even 2nd in the championship - with Vettel as the likely champion.
The expectation was that with Webber's leg now fully healed, he would provide a sterner challenge to his young team mate. My opinion was that although Webber would be stronger and more confident this year, so would Vettel by a similar amount, as he had gained valuable experience by now. So I expected the gap to probably close, but not by much.
HOW HAS IT TURNED OUT?
1.BAHRAIN - THE TRACK EXTENSION MADE IT EVEN DULLER THAN USUAL
The prevailing expectation was played out in Bahrain. Sebastian Vettel sort of surprised with a pole position - a fairly dominant one, while Webber started 6th. Vettel led from the start and appeared to be on his way to victory (but Alonso just cannot be counted out!) before an untimely mechanical failure spoiled his day. So he was definitely up for driver of the race award. Meanwhile, Webber launched off the grid in a cloud of smoke, causing problems for others behind, before finishing an unimpressive 8th.
2.AUSTRALIA - THE BEST TRACKS ARE ALWAYS UNDER THREAT. THIS ONE LOOKS LIKE IT'S GOING NOW!
Onto Webber's home race then, and Vettel showed superiority over Webber with a brilliantly commited qualifying lap taking pole to knock Mark firmly into second place, both on the track and in the Red Bull hierarchy. Again, Vettel seamlessly powered away and would have won, but lightning struck twice. This time there was no survival and a mechanical problem put young Seb out of the race altogether. Again, he was about the strongest contender for driver of the race. Meanwhile, Mark again showed a difference between himself and his team-mate by driving a pretty scrappy race, wasting an opportunity to even win, by clattering clumsily into an innocent Lewis Hamilton, and just not showing very good racecraft on his way to 9th. After this race, the fragility of the Red Bull was a real talking point, with some claiming Red Bull had already thrown away the championship. There was a point here. Vettel could easily have had 50 points by now, but had just 12! The pressure was on, as Red Bull co-founder Dietrich Mateschitz had declared that he expected nothing less than at least one championship from his team this year - or else!
Round 3 at Malaysia, and this time Webber took pole, with Vettel 3rd, but maybe that could have down to extenuating circumstances (the weather was a bit crazy after all). Again, what seemed to be a difference in class between the two drivers was exposed as Vettel came from not one, but two places back at the start to take the lead from Webber and then proceeded to win the race this time. Webber finally drove decently to place 2nd.
4.CHINA - YOU WOULDN'T THINK IT WAS CHINA LOOKING AT IT. COULD BE ANYWHERE.
Onto China and once again Red Bull showed their pace to take the front row of the grid. And once again Sebastian Vettel showed superiority over Webber by just proving too fast for him, something Webber openly admitted. In the race, both cars struggled in the rain, and the hierarchy was maintained as Vettel beat Webber home.
Webber's season had not been considered to be very impressive, and any thought of him challenging for the title was pretty much quashed as he had lost too much ground by now. He said at this time that one win was all he needed to turn it around. I basically rolled my eyes and thought "yeah yeah just talk - but no walk". Then he turned up in Spain and stuck it on pole and ran away with the race - and in the process leaving Vettel behind!!! This one win did indeed put Webber right toward the top of the championship and turned around his season - just as he said! Mark had been really stung by losing the win in Malaysia by being jumped by Vettel into the first corner. That had had a real affect on him, and he was hugely frustrated. It really ticked him off. But he used it positively, channeled this anger into focus and determination resulting in this run of great form.
6.MONACO - NOT SO GOOD NOW THEY REMOVED A LOAD OF THE ARMCO AND PUT PAINTED-ON KERBS DOWN
Round 6 at Monaco, a very different track to Barcelona and one that was not supposed to suit Red Bull much. Webber only went and put it on pole again! And again dominated the race and won, as he did in Formula 3000 in 2001. What's more, he now led the championship for the first time (although jointly). By this time, Vettel's usually sunny smile was much more cloudy. His confidence seemed to have been knocked a little. He must have been just as surprised as most at this sudden burst of form from his team-mate, who up to this point was usually a step or 2 behind the standard set by Vettel.
7.TURKEY - NOT BAD FOR A TILKE TRACK. I'VE ALWAYS THOUGHT MALAYSIA WAS HIS BEST ONE THOUGH.
Webber's season coming alive was a big talking point coming into Turkey, but the Red Bull drivers would provide a talking point of a totally different sort in the race. Webber had added a 3rd consecutive pole in qualifying, although some problems for Vettel put him back to 3rd. It had looked like Vettel had an edge over Webber here. The race was an interesting battle with the McLaren drivers. The Red Bull team has come in for plenty of criticism for a standard of race operation that has been desribed as a little "naive" and not up to what the best teams show, not making the most of what they have and of being unwise in seeking only short term strategic gain only to pay a bigger price later. In the past this has certainly cost them, but to their credit, in Turkey, a nice bit of quick thinking saw both drivers emerge from the pit stops in the lead! Into the position that enabled them to have that infamous crash together on the back straight. This was a pretty messy situation as it exposed a few goings on in the background of Red Bull. Many people are aware that Red Bull boss Dietrich Mateschitz is in favour of young Vettel prospering in the team - over Webber! And it is even more clear that Mr Mateschitz's right-hand man, and main contact with the Red Bull race team Dr. Helmut Marko is not a big fan of Webber at all.
Well, we know what happened, Vettel tried to overtake Webber on the back straight. Webber squeezed him. Vettel had barely any room, but had just enough. Having come alongside, he veered right slightly to prepare for the upcoming corner. But Webber was still squeezing a little to the left! Well I think it went something like that anyway. 2 into 1 just doesn't go, and the dramatic clash was a disaster for the Red Bull team as the 1 - 2 finish went straight down the pan. Now, I have to say I have always thought
Webber was more to blame for this crash, even thought I like him more than Vettel. The team however, showed a favouritism to Vettel that I didn't like at all. It was very nice of the Red Bull top staff to hug Sebastian and give him condolences as he arrived back at the pit wall. And if they felt Webber was really at fault, they had a right to express that opinion. But to me, the way they pre-gravitated to Sebastian was one-sided. The team criticised Mark, and Helmut Marko did not waste this golden opportunity to strongly slate him in the press. It all smacked of favouritism to me.
The Turkey business was all quite a bitter episode really, and the fallout rumbled on over the Atlantic to Canada, and another track not expected to suit Red Bull much. So 2nd and 3rd on the grid was pleasing to them. Impressively it was Mark who was once again ahead. But a 5 place grid penalty meant he started 7th. As usual, the team were not as strong in the race as qualifying and they came 4th and 5th, Vettel ahead as he had eventually started ahead.
9.EUROPE - VALENCIA (BALEARIC!)
Back to Europe for Valencia in Spain (a track that I really like on Superstar Racing, but which is fairly rubbish in real life), where Sebastian regained his superiority over Webber by claiming pole. At this point, Seb had surprisingly only won one race this year, Malaysia. So the fact that he won here was very welcome. But for Mark, he dropped right back to 9th at the start and had a very nasty crash as he clipped Heikki Kovalainen's Lotus on the back straight, his second collision in two races. This one was horrible though, as the car somersaulted upside down, evoking memories of his 1999 Mercedes horror crash, but thankfully landed the right way up, before sliding a long way at great speed. Even though the barriers were distant, Mark still crashed into them at some force. In this age of gigantic run off areas spoiling the racing (in my opinion), it was good on this occasion that there was plenty of run off area in a sensible place (at the end of a high speed straight). It goes without saying that safety is the most important thing. Still, it put an abrupt halt to Mark's good run. He had still salvaged 3rd in Turkey.
9.THE NEW SILVERSTONE
By the time (the new) Silverstone arrived, the whole Turkey thing had died down. So surprise! More controversy and dark rumblings of favouritism! This time it all centred over a front wing. Red Bull had developed a new front wing, apparently worth about a tenth of a second, although time constraints dictated that only 2 would be available in time for this race - one for each car of course. No problems there! It only all went to pot after Sebastian's wing then failed in practice. That was that - no new wing for Sebastian! So what did the team do? Get this, they march over to Webber's car, UNBOLT HIS front wing from his car and carry it across the garage and attach it onto Sebastian's car like so. Now correct me if I am wrong, but if I am a child in a family, and we are each given an ice cream (yum! TRIPLE chocolate please), and the other child drops his, then the parent takes mine off me and gives it to him, does that not speak volumes about who is the favoured son? (As it happens, I would like to think I would be happy to share my ice cream - if possible. I hope I would be nice enough to do that.)
Another big outcry then. Christian Horner's defence was that there was not much time to decide what to do, and they had to decide quickly without much time to think it through, and he made the decision in collaboration with Adrian Newey. They took into account the fact that Vettel was slightly quicker than Mark in practice, and that he was ahead in the championship at the time. Also, he was more positive about the wing than Mark was. Christian Horner came across very sheepish it seemed to me, in an interview which appeared on www.itv-f1.com. I thought he could have just said he made a mistake. I for one would have understood. I really do think there is some unpleasant favouritism toward Sebastian Vettel and AGAINST Mark Webber. But I think Christian Horner is a decent guy, and the problem is with some people who are
over him (I won't mention any names). To be fair to Horner, I think he had a point when he told of how the team had supported Mark by trying to help him because of his weight disadvantage (cos he's a big 6ft Aussie while the others are little kids you see). Actually come to think of it, with Mark being about the heaviest driver in F1, this HAS to penalise this speed. I have heard Martin Brundle talk (in his East Anglia accent) about how every 10 kilos of fuel is worth 0.3s per lap and suchlike. If fuel weight makes that sort of difference, why not driver weight? If you recalculate driver's performances taking their personal weight into account, then Mark looks extremely impressive indeed, with others like Massa maybe not so much. Puts a whole new spin on things eh?
Here's another dimension about this wing thing though. In practice when both drivers had the wing, Sebastian Vettel was much in favour of the new wing. Webber was not so keen on it and didn't feel it really made a difference. So could it be that Mark's protest was not just about being denied the wing, but that this was an opportunity to put some leverage on his team by going public? So was it as much a political motivation as a sporting one? Having said that, Mark should NOT BE in a position where he would have to do that. Consider also that Sebastian didn't seem to mind at all being given Mark's wing...
Mark really did look very unhappy and ticked off when he shook Sebastian's hand after qualifying, in which Vettel beat him to pole by 0.143 seconds (which let's be honest was more than the estimated 0.1s advantage the new wing offered). The top 3 drivers posed for the cameras together. There were smiles from Vettel and Alonso. Webber's smile was upside down though. Certainly plenty of that would have been down to the fact that this competitive sportsman was beaten by his team-mate. But later we found out the full reason why.
The controversy was not over yet though. Onto race day, and Webber shot off the line beating Vettel into turn 1. There was contact with Vettel's wheel against what was reportedly Hamilton's front wing endplate (thought there was suggestion it had been contact with Mark at first!). The result was Vettel went wide and lost a lot of places! He then went off again at Beckett's. He had a puntcure! He crawled around the track and had to pit, putting him dead last, almost a lap down already! Apparently, there was an outburst of cheering from the Silverstone crowd, who sympathising with Webber, viewed Vettel as something of the bad guy after the previous day. Mark said after the race that Vettel's puncture was "karma". I'm not a karma person myself, but He meant that it was justice - payback! Mark had put in another winning performance to take the outright championship lead. Vettel eventually finished 7th, not helping to dispel criticism of his racecraft by rudely barging Adrian Sutil out of the way towards the end. He did put a pretty good move on Schumacher though, but is that so special in 2010?
"Karma" wasn't the only thing Mark said. Knowing that the public could hear the radio transmissions, Mark replied to team boss Horner's congratulations for winning the race "not bad for a number 2 driver." MIAOW! Apparently, Horner then muttered in reply "maybe you can actually start smiling now"... The BBC interview after the race with Christian Horner was pretty good too (I wouldn't know - I didn't watch it!) But anyway, Christian Horner said something along the lines of Mark did very well and congratulations to him etc... to which Eddie Jordan (seems not to miss an opportunity to make team bosses squirm - shows them no mercy!) directly replied on-air that that sounded a bit insincere!
10.GERMANY (HOCKENHEIM THIS YEAR)
Hockenheim was a much quieter affair, Mark having a subdued time - 4th on the grid, 6th in the race. Vettel had shone to beat a resurgent Ferrari to pole by 0.002s! Silly weaving tactics, which was now pretty usual for Seb, meant he lost not only the lead off the line, but 2nd as well. That was that for the afternoon, and he couldn't get ahead of the Ferraris, so 3rd it was.
On a side note, it was funny to see how quick Horner was to take the moral high ground over Ferrari's team orders scandal, suggesting Red Bull would never do such a thing (yeah - favouring one driver over another - imagine!). It was suggested that he had taken this opportunity to deflect bad press from his own team onto Ferrari.
11.HUNGARY - WHY DOES F1 KEEP TURNING UP TO THIS AWFUL PLACE YEAR ON YEAR?
Hungary was the scene of a huge dominance by Red Bull in qualifying - another front row, Sebastian ahead. It would have been an easy 1 - 2 in the same order on race day, under normal circumstances. An early safety car mixed things up, and Webber defied conventional wisdom by pitting early. Vettel broke a pesky rule by being more than 10 lengths behind the safety car. I have to say I think the whole rule is ridiculous, but the FIA know better than any racing drivers and fans. Sebastian could quite rightly feel a bit hard done by. As it turned out, Mark ended up shooting into the distance while Sebastian got stuck behind Alonso! Mark was honest enough to say he questioned his team's wisdom with the strategy Now it really looked like Mark had the advantage in the championship. But it has to said Sebastian had been the quicker driver for 4 races in a row...
12.BELGIUM - WHY IS IT THAT GREAT TRACKS LIKE THIS ARE ALWAYS UNDER THREAT WHILE THE RUBBISH ONES ARE SET IN STONE FOREVER? (SEE ABOVE)
Another pole for Mark in Belgium, and a fine 2nd place in the race after an awful start. Vettel had his worst qualifying, only 4th, but even that is good (as it was raining again). He was much criticised for that dumb crash with Jenson. Jenson was an innocent victim and deserved to not be too happy about it. But it's easy to forget that Vettel had only recently turned 23. When you turned 23, did you by that time have a race win in a Toro Rosso and finish 2nd in the World Championship? That reminds me, by this time, there was a badnwago
13.ITALY - AT LEAST THEY HAVEN'T GOT RID OF MONZA YET
Webber qualified ahead again in Italy, on a poor track for Red Bull. Bad start put him behind Hulkenberg. Every time Mark tried to get past, the Hulk was very naughty and went wide and gained an advantage at the chicane. It seemed pretty unfair he didn't get penalised, but I didn't watch the race so I don't know do I? To his credit, Mark didn't get flustered and did his best to get 6th. Vettel was 4th, the superior result not reflecting that Mark was quicker this time. But then it was the other way round in Hungary.
Singapore saw Vettel back on form, on a much higher level than Webber. But he wasn't perfect, gifting pole to Alonso. And "Alonso the Merciless" is NOT the kind of driver you can afford to be giving gifts to! That was a win lost then. Mark was impressively mature again in accepting it wasn't his weekend this time and made the most of it, managing to get on the podium from 5th on the grid. But he only did it by stuffing Hamilton out of the race - judged a 50/50 accident. That wasn't so mature. It didn't seem possible that Mark's front suspension could survive. It was pretty screwed up but somehow made it to the end.
1 - 2 on the grid, 1 - 2 in the race. Simple. With Sebastian ahead, as he usually is when things are simple. Sebastian had been due a win by now, having not been on the top step since Valencia.
Brand new Korea, onto another bland could-be-anywhere-in-the-world track. It was alright actually. The wimps were scared to out in the rain although drivers always have done since the creation of the World Championship - just that they're paid a bit more now. Why are things suddenly different? Alright seriously, I do see the whingers' point. Tough to call, when the consequences could be sobering. But I have long forseen a day when there won't be any wet running at all. Just like Tennis or Cricket, they will all cry and call it off immediately. We just CANNOT ever be doing with any sort of unpredictability and excitement (SARCASM ALERT). I shudder to think... Anyway, an unexpected 1 - 2 on the grid at this crucial stage of the season was welcome. Mark was leading the championship and the most important thing to do is finish! THEN worry about finishing first. But what did he do? Spin off almost straight-away and hit a wall and he was sensationally OUT OF THE RACE!!! The championship leader! It was awful. A catastrophe for Webber and his supporters, including myself. I felt sorry for Australia, imagining a collective groan of disappointment from the other side of the world. Having thought about it, Mark was really unlucky. He only made a very slight error, gently hit the wall at slow speed, and got a very unforgiving and harsh punishment for it.
Think about it, when you consider how many other drivers were behaving like idiots out there, going off left right and centre, often taking someone of with them, and they get away with it - it does make Mark's slight error seem very harsh indeed. More drama as it didn't end there, as he then slid across again and smacked into Leo di Caprio in the Mercedes, in a spectacular spray of car shards. No one hurt - so good to know. Vettel meanwhile, led from Alonso, and similar to Bahrain, you just cannot count that guy out, but it looked like Vettel would probably win. And with Webber completely out and unable to add to his championship points tally, it was an open goal for Seb and the others. Now he was looking good to be the youngest ever world champion after all. But then catastrophe, at this utterly important stage, a huge engine failure - smoke everywhere put him dramatically out, leaving Alonso laughing all the way to the flag. A double "Did Not Finish". Gut wrenching stuff for Red Bull.
And so that wily Alonso took the championship lead. That formidable foe is tough to keep behind at the best of times, but now he has the lead with two races left. Prising a championship lead from Alonso is the worst thing to try and do. Raikkonen couldn't do it. Schumacher couldn't do it. Now we move on to Brazil and will see.
Now after Korea, there are more rumblings on behind the scenes, with their various implications. Gerhard Berger, a close friend of Dietrich Mateschitz publicly suggested that Webber had deliberately tried to take off a rival! And that he would have aimed for Alonso or Hamilton, but hit Rosberg by mistake! Mark put his hand up and confessed that he had indeed attempted to take either Alonso or Hamilton out of the race. No I'm just kidding - he denied it of course. Christian Horner did as well, but on further analysis according to a fair few people, his explanation was not convincing. Who knows?
Also, Christian Horner said that it is too early for Red Bull to back one driver over another in the championship (THERE ARE TWO RACES LEFT!!!) Well that's OK, but remember what Mr. Mateschitz said before the season that the team had better win at least one championship! It could possibly be construed from this that failure to do so could result in Mr. Horner seeking alternative employment! It's up to you Christian, if you really want to lose this championship.
It would be interesting to see if Red Bull would back Vettel to the title, either publicly or otherwise, if it were the other way round...
That was the eventual name for the team propping up the 2011 Grid. I always liked Campos Meta better, but to have any new team at all is fantastic. 20 cars just seems to be too little for me, though Bernie doesn't agree. Now there are more seats available for drivers to get in. Yay! Pay drivers they may be, but to be fair, the 2010 crop contained a very decent helping of talent too. There were certainly no hopeless cases at all, unlike the mid 1990's (I will mention no names, expect for Jean-Denis Deletraz, a driver who the facts show to be so shockingly awful, needs to be named and shamed!).The same has to be said for the team too. By no means were Hispania hopelessly out of their depth, and they averaged a gap of roughly 5-6 seconds to the fastest, which is not too bad. Again, the 1990's are a good reference if you want to know what a truly bad team is. I'll pick on Andrea Moda, a team who's death-trap cars thankfully didn't kill their drivers. They did actually qualify for the Monaco Grand Prix in the hands of "supersub" i.e. Roberto Moreno!Considering Hispania have come in for plenty of flak over the season, it is just good to have another team there at all, especially because they have shown some sort of respectability and played pretty well with the cards they were dealt, it seemed to me. In fact, they did an excellent job to get to Bahrain at all. It really did look for a while that they too would go the way of USF1 and close down before they even got started! But they not only got there, they made it to all the races and reached the end of the season intact (just about). That defied quite a few predictions that were going round.A major bonus was the recruitment of Geoff Willis, the man who brought BAR such a great improvement with his sharp 2003 and 2004 machines. 2003 would have achieved good success, had BAR not been saddled with Bridgestone tyres, which for that season, were fairly useless. Willis then went even better in 2004, coming up with a creation which, having also changed to Michelin tyres, memorably scored a ton of podiums and points and an easy 2nd in the constructors' championship. He also worked well for Williams before that.Campos Meta, as they were called at their time of creation, had been founded by Adrian Campos, a Spanish former Minardi Driver 20 years ago. Like many Minardi drivers, he wasn't particularly good, but fared better as a team boss, running his team in Formula Nissan, and more recently GP2 with some good success.A good move at the start of the season was hiring Colin Kolles. He might not have a reputation as the greatest team boss ever, but he does have recent experience with the Midland/Spyker team. And he also has a history of Lower Formula success as a team boss. For where Hispania are at now, he can only be an asset to them.The same theory could go for the signing of Christian Klien as 3rd driver (test driver). Although when he had a go in the car, Chandhok said that Klien had reported nothing extra to what the race drivers had. So it wasn't known how useful he could be.
With such a short timescale to get ready for the season (like all the new teams), Campos decided to contract out the designing and building of the car to Dallara, a constructor with very high pedigree in lower Formulas. Unfortunately, as Reynard showed in 1999 (with BAR), that does not at all mean that will translate to F1 success. And so it proved for Campos too, with a new, competitive car - by GP2 standards!!! When Geoff Willis came on board, the ancient technology Dallara had used almost drove him insane! He almost left the team.Now for the drivers. Campos Meta enjoyed the honour for being one of the very first teams to confirm a driver for 2010 - and it was an extremely interesting name - none other than Bruno Senna! The name needs no introductions, and it wasn't much of a secret that Campos stood to benefit very well commercially and otherwise from being associated with it. They also hoped that Bruno had inherited some of his uncle's talent too.The first seat (Senna was signed for car 21 for some reason) remained empty for almost the whole of the off season without much of a clue as to who would fill it. Eventually, a deal with Karun Chandhok was announced. With only a couple of weeks to go before season's start, India's second F1 driver, hailing from South-Eastern Chennai (Madras) had plenty of work to do - quickly. This driver line up also replicated the 2008 line up at i-Sport in GP2, when Senna and Chandhok were team-mates. That time, qualifying had gone about 7-3 to Senna who finished runner up in the Championship, with Chandhok 10th.So shaky were things looking at the end of February that the team, by this having been renamed Hispania, were not even able to test at all before shipping out to Bahrain. Unsurprisingly, they were well off the pace at the first round. Chandhok qualified about 1.7 seconds behind Senna, but maybe that was actually very good, for he had had much less running and more problems than his team-mate.Hispania turned out to be the slowest team of all, and that did not change as the season went on. Quite impressively, both cars definitely finished more often than not. However, in this age of super-reliability, they were unable to score higher than 14th place.Perhaps against expectations, it was Chandhok who early on posted the better finishes. He outqualified Senna a few times too. Unfortunately, this led to the very unbalanced (in my view) opinion that Chandhok was actually the better driver! Is it just me or is that extremely superficial and naive, or am I being naive thinking others are being naive? Though Senna was undoubtedly posting more retirements, a more objective view surely puts the former GP2 runner-up ahead. Chandhok still did a solid job though, and many were disappointed to see him lose his seat mid-season. But it seemed financial issues dictated that that was how it had to be. He seems to have gained quite a following though, and is proving popular with the fans. He is also reportedly well-connected with Bernie Ecclestone and on friendly terms with him - that must help! So it looks like we could see him back at some point.Onto Senna. With his illustrious name, it seemed that F1 was becoming very retro (that is not bad at all, by the way!). In the same year, there has been the return of Schumacher, Mercedes and Lotus. And Sauber as well. And Pedro de la Rosa (ok, maybe not him so much).Anyway, looking at things objectively, it has to be said he was definitely the fastest of the regular drivers. It is possible that he is actually doing an outstanding job considering he has the disadvantage of a career gap of more than a decade!!! That must have a (gigantic?) effect. But from another angle: Senna's uncle was able, in his first season and only his 6th race, to almost win the Monaco Grand Prix. He would have defeated even Alain Prost in a McLaren had Prost not had the race stopped unfairly to protect his position. Consider that Ayrton was armed with just a lowly Toleman, and the conclusion is that if a driver is truly great, then his talent should be able to shine through whatever the circumstances. Also consider that in 2001, Fernando Alonso was able to demonstrate overflowing talent in a hastily bolted together Minardi, in very similar circumstances to Bruno - all at the age of 19. It has to be said that at no stage has Bruno appeared to show something similar... So the jury is still out on how good the guy can be.Bruno was dropped at Silverstone, although his seat was promised to be given back to him. A convincing reason was not given. The unconfirmed rumour was that the real reason he was dropped was as discipline because Senna had been bad-mouthing Colin Kolles behind his back. This had been carried out by email, it was said, and the driver meant to send that email to his friends. But he sent it to his boss by mistake! (We've all done something like that eh?)Anyway, Senna's absence paved the way for the return of Sakon Yamamoto, bringing with him 5 Million (in some sort of currency I can't remember). That can't have hurt. He qualified and finished last at short notice. Yamamoto then took Chandhok's seat for most of the remaining races. Now Sakon does not appear to be world champion material like some people, but I feel that a lot of the stick he gets is unwarranted. He does look very much like a world chamion compared to Deletraz. To be fair, Yamamoto actually has shown flashes of talent. At Super Aguri in 2006, it was well known that the team had performed very strongly at their last race of the season in Brazil. Takuma Sato had finished a Super 10th, with 9th fastest race lap! A much talked about result. What was less known that day was that Yamamoto set the 7th fastest race lap.
He actually either outqualified Senna or came close to doing so a fair few times. That compared well with his 2007 performances at Spyker when he failed to outqualify Adrian Sutil (also in his first season) once. Then again, Sutil wasn't catching up from an unbelievable 11 year career gap! Yamamoto's performances against Senna seemed to reflect well on him, but also badly against Senna in equal measures. Sakon showed particularly well at Korea.
The final driver to make an appearance for Hispania was Christian Klien. On 3 occasions the Austrian driver, unceremoniously dumped by the Red Bull team in 2006, took to the driving seat. The unfancied driver caused a bit of a stir by demolishing Senna at Singapore before then outperforming him in Brazil (in qualifying at least). At the time Klien was dropped in 2006, David Coulthard had spoke publicly, criticising the Red Bull team for not handling Klien's career well and not giving him enough of a chance. It's not very often David criticises his team like that. In truth, Klien's 2006 was surely better than it looked. His qualifying performances and fastest race lap comparisons with Coulthard seemed to say so. Consider also, that had he avoided a silly accident towards the end of the Monaco Grand Prix that year, it would have been he, rather than Coulthard, who would have scored Red Bull's first ever podium (and he would have got to wear the Superman cape).
Towards the end of the season, flying in the face of some expert predictions that they will not be around in 2011, Hispania announced a technical link-up with Williams, who will apparently supply them with gearboxes and stuff (not sure what exactly!). That looks promising. Also, a collaboration with Toyota was announced as the huge firm seems to desire to have an involvement in F1 in some form, rather than be completely out of it. But now that deal has been broken off, as Toyota complained that Hispania hasn't paid them any money. That doesn't look so promising.
Well it remains to be seen what will become of this team. They did not disgrace themselves. Their budget was barely enough to get to all the races, let alone develop the car. Lets hop the Williams link-up will help their stock rise a bit and they can get some sponsorship. It would be a shame to lose this team again so soon as they add more variety to F1 - and what's more, 2 extra precious spaces for
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