2009 F1 drivers – early predictions

2008 Australian Grand Prix, Melbourne, start, 470150

It’s early days, but Luca di Montezemolo’s comments last week about Ferrari not needing Fernando Alonso started me thinking about which drivers might be on the move for 2009.

On the face of it Montezemolo doesn’t seem to want to change his pairing of Kimi Raikkonen and Felipe Massa. And after three driver changes in the last two years McLaren surely want to retain stability in their Lewis Hamilton-Heikki Kovalainen line up.

So where does that leave the other drivers including, most importantly, Fernando Alonso?

BMW

Robert Kubica, BMW, Bahrain, 2008, 2, 470313

It looks very much as though BMW have taken a significant step forward once again, and having been comfortably best of the rest in 2007 they are now up their with McLaren and potentially in contention for victories.

In Robert Kubica they have one of the stars of the future – just ask Lewis Hamilton, who’s always respected his former karting and Formula Three rival (read more about their history here).

But what about Nick Heidfeld? The German has always been a safe pair of hands and can be relied upon to bring the car home in the points – as he did to terrific effect last year. But Kubica seems to have that crucial final few tenths of speed.

Do BMW need an established superstar driver like Fernando Alonso to become championship contenders?

Renault

Nelson Piquet Jnr is only four races into his F1 career so it’s too early to judge how good he will be in the future. But last year the team dropped Heikki Kovalainen after he rallied from an indifferent start to soundly beat Giancarlo Fisichella, which doesn’t bode well for Piquet. He is, however, valuable to the team in terms of sponsorship, and is likely to remain in the picture as long as Alonso is there.

If Renault do go for another change of drivers (and like McLaren they have had three changes in two years) expect Romain Grosjean to gain a swift promotion to the team. The Swiss-French driver strolled to the GP2 Asia championship and, despite a blunder in his first race of the GP2 championship proper, is still favourite to win the title.

Renault have taken two drivers from GP2 since the series began in 2005 – Kovalainen and Piquet – and both spent a year testing before making their F1 debuts.

I don’t think it did either driver much good – look how much better Lewis Hamilton did by switching straight from GP2 to F1? That’s the route I think they should take with Grosjean.

Romain Grosjean biography
Latest news on Romain Grosjean at Maximum Motorsport

Toyota and Williams

Jarno Trulli, Nelson Piquet Jnr, Nico Rosberg, Barcelona, 2008, 470313

Jarno Trulli’s contract expires at the end of next year. Toyota have two Japanese drivers waiting in the wings: Kazuki Nakajima, currently with Williams, and Kamui Kobayashi, who won the GP2 sprint race last weekend.

Toyota have an option on their engine supply deal with Williams for next years and its a good bet that the continuation of that deal will be linked to one of their Development Drivers staying with the Grove team alongside Nico Rosberg.

Latest news on Kamui Kobayashi at Maximum Motorsport

Red Bull and Toro Rosso

Sebastian Vettel is tipped to replace David Coulthard at Red Bull, who may finally be heading towards retirement. His incident-filled start to the season is not helping his cause.

Red Bull owner Dietrich Mateschitz is trying to sell Toro Rosso, which could place Sebastien Bourdais’ future in doubt. He is managed by Nicolas Todt, son of Jean, who also manages Felipe Massa.

Honda

Both Jenson Button and Rubens Barrichello’s contracts expire at the end of 2008.

On the face of it, given the teams’ struggle to get on top of its technical problem, consistency on the driver side would surely be a boon for them. Button is generally the quicker and Ross Brawn and Barrichello have worked together for years.

Alexander Wurz is not likely to return to racing and neither of their young drivers Mike Conway or Luca Filippi looks like F1 material yet, but I’ll be keeping an eye on their progress in GP2.

Latest news on Mike Conway at Maximum Motorsport
Latest news on Luca Filippi at Maximum Motorsport

Force India

Vitantonio Liuzzi, Force India F1 Team, Barcelona, 2008, 470313

Giancarlo Fisichella is looking back to his old self now that he’s in a car that’s not at the sharp end of the field. But Adrian Sutil has had an iffy start to the season.

His most likely replacement, Indian Karun Chandhok, racing for GP2 team iSport. He didn’t do much in the Spanish round and made a few blunders in GP2 Asia earlier in the year, but has time and nationality on his side.

Vijay Mallya has said he wants an Indian driver in the car in time for the first Indian Grand Prix in 2010, and Chandhok is his best bet. If he chooses to leave Chandhok for a year, test driver Vitantonio Liuzzi could get a call-up.

Debate: Should Force India have Indian drivers?
Latest news on Karun Chandhok at Maximum Motorsport

Super Aguri

Given their current state of affairs it’s hard to predict the future of the team with any confidence, never mind its drivers.

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28 comments on 2009 F1 drivers – early predictions

  1. DG said on 1st May 2008, 8:43

    Here are a few predictions: Ferrari – we are seeing the start of the battle between the drivers to be ‘No 1′ – whoever scores most points will be given the chance to aim for Champion later in the season. Given that Massa has the backing of the Todt/Schumacher clan, I hope that Kimi has people behind him too. I still think Alonso is on his way to Ferrari, no matter what is said, otherwise why else was he let off so easily during the ‘Spygate’ affair?McLaren – The Hamilton / Kovaleinen pairing is working well, they appear to work together and don’t upset the Management! Renault – Considering how much talent Renault can pick up through GP2, Formula Renault and the Clio Cup, they should have an endless pool of drivers waiting to fill Alonso’s shoes. Piquet is good, but needs to come out from Alonso’s shadow more, since he was incredible in GP2 and A1!
    Basically though, I was disappointed with most of the teams (including Ferrari) because they did not drop/promote their old campaigners and bring in younger talent. Mind you, there is no Rookie Championship, so they have no reason to actively support and push new drivers every year.

  2. Rohan said on 1st May 2008, 9:06

    I’m still holding out hope that Pizzonia will come in to replace Kaz for us. He was immense during testing, regularly beating Ralf and One-Problem. Shame it’ll never happen :(

  3. Toncho said on 1st May 2008, 9:53

    Is too early to tell but I would like to see some of the old guys like DC, BAR or FIS leaving so they leave some space for the new talents.

  4. Steve said on 1st May 2008, 10:43

    You guys give us Bourdais back and we will give you an American winner in five years in Graham Rahal.  Deal?

  5. the limit said on 13th May 2008, 4:03

    McLaren ; Hamilton / Kovalainen
    Ferrari ; Raikkonen / Massa
    BMW Sauber ; Alonso / Kubica
    Renault ; Piquet / Heidfeld
    Red Bull ; Webber / Vettel
    Toro Rosso ; Bourdais / Coulthard
    Toyota; Glock / Truilli
    Williams ; Rosberg / Nakajima
    Force India ; Fisichella / Chandhok
    Honda; Button / Senna

    That is my prediction for 2009. Sutil will get dropped by Force India for Chandhok. Barrichello will retire opening the door for Bruno Senna, Alonso will go to BMW Sauber and Heidfeld to Renault. Coulthard, if he is lucky, will make his last stand at Toro Rosso. Vettel will get upped to Red Bull and pitted against the impressive Mark Webber.
    My reasoning. Most of the young guns will have more experienced team mates, as opposed to placing two novices in the same team. Bruno Senna will get the nod due to his name, Honda always did have a soft spot for Aryton, and the impact his name will have on Honda’s marketing.
    Chandhok because he is Indian, in an Indian team, to increase F1′s appeal in India just in time for the first F1 race there. Bernie’s ultimate wet dream!!

  6. Chrisy said on 20th May 2008, 12:16

    Ferrari- Raikkonen & Massa
    BMW Sauber-
    Renault- Alonso
    Williams- Rosberg
    Red Bull-
    Toyota- Trulli
    Toro Rosso- Vettel
    Honda- Button
    Force India-
    McLaren- Hamilton
    Prodrive-

    Those drivers (hopefully not breaching contract) are apparently confirmed for next year and should be driving.

    This is my prediction believing those drivers will not leave early.

    Ferrari- Raikkonen & Massa
    BMW Sauber- Heidfeld & Kubica
    Renault- Alonso & Di Grassi
    Williams- Rosberg & Piquet
    Red Bull- Webber & Bourdais
    Toyota- Trulli & Nakajima
    Toro Rosso- Vettel & Fillipe
    Honda- Button & Senna
    Force India- Fisichella & Glock
    McLaren- Hamilton & Kovalainen
    Prodrive- Sutil & Sato
    new team to fill all 24 grid slots?

    Basically since Honda have always loved Ayrton and as young Bruno is impressive I could easily see him snapped up for 2009.
    Renault should definately keep up tradition and offer GP2 runner up number 3 their drive after one year of testing.
    Williams should try out old Piquet’s son in the same team he won his last championship in.
    Bourdais is too high profile driver to be small time like the Toro, and I think super talent Vettel would mature better with fellow super talent Fillipe beside him.
    Glock is hideously underperforming, perhaps a seat alongside Fisichella could raise his game well.
    Trulli is becoming amazing again..and what could be better for young Nakajima to join the works team for next year.
    With Barrichello & Coulthard likely retiring Prodrive should hastily grab some experience for their team, Sato would prove helpful for them and also raise their profile in Japan as a new Aguri style team.

  7. southernjunky said on 25th May 2008, 18:35

    my guesses

    Ferrari : Raikkonen – Massa
    McLaren : Hamilton – Kovalainen
    BMW : Kubica – Heidfeld
    Red Bull : Webber – Vettel
    Renault : Alonso – Grosjean
    Williams : Rosberg – Kobayashi/Nakajima
    Toyota : Trulli – Nakajima/Kobayashi
    Honda : Button – Sato/Andretti
    Toro Rosso : Bourdais/Buemi – Senna
    Force India : Fisichella – Sutil/Chandhok

  8. Ferrari – Massa & Raikkonen
    Mclaren – Hamilton & Kovy
    BMW – Kubica & Fernando
    Renault – Piquet & Nick
    Red Bull – Webber & Vettel
    Williams – Rosberg & (anyone other than that complete and utter idiot Nakajima – Sutil maybe…
    Toyota – Trulli & Glock
    Torro Rosso – Bruno Senna & Bourdais
    Honda – Button & Barrichello
    Force India – Fisi and Chandhok

  9. Scarily good prediction from this end of the season.

    Ferrari – MAS & RAI
    Mclaren – HAM & KOV
    BMW – KUB & ALO (still prefer HEI & ALO but…)
    Renault – PIQ & Grosjean
    Red Bull – WEB & VET
    Williams – ROS & Di Grassi
    Toyota – TRU & GLO
    Torro Rosso – Senna & HEI
    Honda – BUT & BAR
    Force India – FIS & BOU

  10. Scarily good prediction from this end of the season.
    My predictions :)

    Ferrari – MAS & RAI
    Mclaren – HAM & KOV
    BMW – KUB & HEI
    Renault – Di grassi & Alonso
    Red Bull – WEB & VET
    Williams – ROS & Nakajima
    Toyota – TRU & GLO
    Torro Rosso – Senna & Bourdais
    Honda – BUT & BAR ( Not sure about this one :P )
    Force India – FIS & Sutil

  11. nikhil said on 3rd November 2008, 6:08

    Ferrari – massa & raik
    MClaren – ham & kov
    BMW – kubica & hei
    Renault – alonso & piquet
    Red Bull – web & vet
    Torro rosso – bour & sato
    force india – fis & sutil
    honda – but,barr & senna
    toyota – trulli & senna
    williams – rossberg & Nakajima

  12. nikhil said on 3rd November 2008, 6:10

    Ferrari – massa & raik
    MClaren – ham & kov
    BMW – kubica & hei
    Renault – alonso & piquet
    Red Bull – web & vet
    Torro rosso – bour & sato
    force india – fis & sutil
    honda – but,barr & senna
    toyota – trulli & kubica
    williams – rossberg & Nakajima

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