F1 2009: 10 questions for the off-season

Honda: front runners in 2009 thanks to KERS?

Honda: front runners in 2009 thanks to KERS?

As the 2008 F1 season ends on a high we now look forward to what should be one of the most fascinating off-seasons for many years.

With radical changes to the technical rules, fraught political tension between the rule-makers and the teams, and two holes suddenly appearing in the calendar, these are the questions that will be answered in the run-up to 2009.

Will the teams who started early on KERS have an advantage?

Honda, Williams and BMW are among the teams that claim to have switched their focus to 2009 early in order to perfect the new Kinetic Energy Recovery Systems in the hope of gaining a major competitive advantage.

Honda have staked the most on their 2009 performance and their 2008 campaign has suffered hugely as a result. Ross Brawn will have been in charge of the team for over a year when the 2009 season starts. A huge step forward in performance is demanded.

How many teams will start 2009 with a working KERS?

The other talking point about KERS is whether it will bring enough of a performance advantage and be reliable enough for all the teams to consider it worth using.

Toyota, who earlier described the hybrid systems planned for 2009 as “primitive”, have already said they will not be using their KERS at the start of 2009. John Howett said:

We will run a car in January with KERS in a monocoque not designed for it, which we could not race, but it will be a test platform – and our gut feeling is that the earliest (it will race) will be mid season.

Ferrari, who have twice said they are having problems with their KERS, may also choose not to.

Will the cars look ridiculous?

We have already seen how narrows the rear wings of next years cars will become under the 2009 F1 rules. The front wings will become much wider, and the winglets and flip-ups along the flanks of the cars will disappear.

The early renderings we’ve seen of the 2009 F1 cars look decidedly odd. Will the new look grow on us or will 2009 be the dawn of the ugly car era?

Will the cars be able to follow each other more closely?

The reason F1 cars are potentially being uglified is to create something most of us would like to see: F1 cars being able to follow each other more closely in dry conditions and maybe – whisper it – being able to pass each other once in a while.

Once the teams start testing their 2009 cars we’ll keep a close eye on what driver have to say about how close they can follow each other. Another talking point here is whether these much-vaunted movable front wings are going to make a difference – and how easily we’ll be able to tell if drivers are using them.

Will we see any new liveries?

Toyota: F1\'s dullest paint scheme?

Toyota: F1's dullest paint scheme?

With just about everything else set to change the liveries on the cars might be one of few things that stay the same. Personally I hope a couple of teams take the opportunity to give their looks a refresh.

Toyota’s F1 car design has never been particularly exciting, and Renault’s is downright horrible. Honda will surely be sticking with their ‘Earthdreams’ concept for another year (it would be rather strange of them to ditch it having made such a hue push on developing KERS) but will the change the excecution?

With KERS arriving, will any of the teams go for an ‘electric’ design similar to Peugeot’s 908 HY sportscar prototype? Or might that be too much of a risk after BMW’s unfortunate incident in testing?

Will the recession cause any major sponsors to pull out?

The effects of the huge financial trauma experienced in September and October have yet to really make themselves felt in F1. But that doesn’t mean they won’t come – as Ron Dennis said earlier this year, there is usually a delay between the beginning of economic problems and their effects being felt in F1.

Perhaps the most vulnerable team is Williams. It doesn’t have the support of a major car manufacturer – it is believed to get its Toyota engines in exchange for running Kazuki Nakajima. Major sponsor RBS has received support from the UK government and its sponsorship of F1 and other sports such as rugby may now come into question. And Baugur Group, which backs Williams sponsors All Saints, mydiamonds.com and Hamley’s, may suffer from the problems in the Icelandic economy.

Will the Canadian Grand Prix be reinstated?

Will F1 race at Canada in 2009?

Will F1 race at Canada in 2009?

The shock loss of the Canadian Grand Prix from the 2009 F1 calendar was followed by the equally surprising disappearance of the French round. That leaves us with 17 rounds in 2009 instead of 19, and several gaping holes in the calendar.

Bernie Ecclestone has held discussions over bringing Montreal back onto the calendar and an announcement was expected on Friday. Nothing has been heard yet. However there has been no sign the French Grand Prix might return.

Which drivers will fill the remaining open spots?

Renault, Toro Rosso and Honda are yet to confirm their 2009 F1 driver line-ups. Fernando Alonso is expected to announce today that he will stay at Renault (but he’s surprised us before), and Jenson Button is expected to remain at Honda.

Honda has confirmed it will test Bruno Senna, but it may decide to hold onto Rubens Barrichello who’s had a decent season. Senna along with Sebastien Bourdais, Sebastien Buemi and Takuma Sato are believed to be under consideration for the Toro Rosso drive. If Nelson Piquet Jnr doesn’t hold onto his Renault seat Lucas di Grassi or Romain Grosjean may take it off him.

Will we see any major shifts in the balance of power between team mates?

McLaren, Ferrari, BMW, Toyota, Williams, Force India – all teams sticking with the same driver line-up for 2009. This year we saw Felipe Massa and Robert Kubica turn the tables on team mates who had beaten them the previous year.

Could we see something similar again as the drivers get to grips with the radically differnet 2009 cars?

What’s Max Mosley’s next move – and is he really preparing to step down?

Will Max Mosley still be FIA president in 12 months\' time?

Will Max Mosley still be FIA president in 12 months' time?

The political situation in F1 has become increasingly tense in recent months as the teams’ association (FOTA) and FIA president Max Mosley have tried to agree on future rules aimed at cutting costs in face of the worsening economic climate.

Despite the two agreeing terms last month, Mosley has continued to push for the adoption of standardised engines. The constructors have made it clear that they wish to retain the ability to build their own engines – and Ferrari and Toyota have threatened to quit F1 if standard engines are introduced.

In addition to that Mosley had stated repeatedly that he will step down from his post of president in 2009. But since surviving the sadomasochist sex scandal earlier this year an emboldened Mosley seems less keen on stepping down. Will he be forced to? And who could emerge as his successor?

F1 Fanatic will be keeping a close eye on these – and more – during the 2008-2009 off-season. What else is on your mind about 2009 – and how do you think these questions will be answered?

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38 comments on F1 2009: 10 questions for the off-season

  1. Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 6th November 2008, 15:24

    Ron – no, which is exactly why some people are considering not using it. It’s not just a weight penalty – enlarging the ‘packaging’ of the car could negatively affect aerodynamics.

  2. I rather like the look of all the bits and bobs that are hanging off the cars these days for aero’s. I only started watching F1 last year, but the looks of the cars are beautiful and one of the reasons I really took to this open wheel racing over Indy or Champ car. They dont all look the same. If all the teams end up having the same car with the same engine, its going to be jsut like the other open wheel series’ with nothing really to set them apart. I say keep the cars the way they are now and drop the hideous rear wing that is set up for 2009. Its hideous.

  3. First off, very good article Keith- I think you hit pretty much every key issue that’s on the burner at the moment. My thoughts…..

    – I have always thought that KERS was an innovation that would allow the big car manufacturing teams to improve greatly in performance, and I think whichever one masters the technology the fastest will indeed be pushing for podiums next season. I’m not saying that Honda is exactly the favorites for the WCC, but it greatly increases their chances of being competitive.

    – In terms of appearences for the cars, the renderings I have seen of the 2009-spec cars don’t look very good. However, if they offer a trade-off in performance and increase overtaking, the I’m sure none of us will mind, and after so long we will be so used to them it won’t even be an issue anymore.

    – Out of the teams that have announced their line-ups, I think the only major shift in power may be Heidfeld running at the same pace as Kubica. Heikki and Piquet won’t get close to Lewis and Fernando, but perhaps the most interesting battle will be between the Ferrari drivers- who will ge tthe upper hand in the team? In terms of the teams yet to announce their drivers, I think if Senna shows even a glimmer of promise in his test, the ride is his. At STR, my guess is as good as yours……

    – In terms of calendar announcements, I would expect to hear a defenate word on Canada very soon. With the days ticking by and teams needing to make travel plans, I don’t know if it will be back for 2009, but I would say 2010 without a doubt- if Bernie asks the government for big money, then they will give him big money. Also, while we’re on this subject, there are many of us down here south of the Canadian border who are waiting for not only an F1 return to North America, but to the United States of America. If nothing comes out before December, keep an eye on the Motorsports Business Forum in Monaco early next month, where I believe Tony George is one of the featured speakers.

    – And lastly, on the subject of Mad Max, I believe he has been given a second wind after winning his court case, and the attempt to introduce spec engines is just a sign that he dosen’t intend to go away anytime soon. I see his attitude towards the FIA presidency in the same light as another rouge political figure, Charlton Heston, once said when speaking of his right to own a firearm here in America…….”I’ll give it up when you pry it from my cold, dead hands.”

  4. One major difference will be the performance spread. We saw in Brazil what several years of intense development with relatively stable rules means: A high degree of techinical excellence and narrow performance differences front to back. That has been lovely.

    The cars were knocking on the times laid down by unlimited rev V-10 cars with more downforce (and MSC)and the Force India was only a couple seconds off the front of the mid-pack. And how may times was .3s the difference between pole and row 3?

    We may be back to 4-6 seconds front to back—the 3-stage qualifying will be largely academic. The slicks and reduced turbulence will be moot if cars are not actually competitive. I love the techinical development but I don’t want to see a 90s style season where one or two teams lash the field by 3-4 seconds in qualifying and one car romps to 15 victories.

  5. Chris Reynolds said on 22nd November 2008, 22:18

    Will the teams who started early on KERS have an advantage?

    Lets face it, the teams who accelerate their development,and testing are the teams that accelerate to the finish line in the top three..
    Whatever decreases lap time or a pit stop is key here, how much money you spend should only be limited by development deadlines.
    You just can’t put a price on first place..(because then everyone would try to buy it no matter the cost!)
    Champions are made by finding new technology, then getting the maximum performance out of it and applying
    their contribution to the team. Processes like this develop those key people to build a team of champions.

    How many teams will start 2009 with a working KERS?
    I am happy to hear this has become a non issue, run it if you want to, or simply watch others develop the technology and come on board when it’s necessary. We’ll see….”Race Proven” is just that.

    Will the cars look ridiculous?

    Define ‘ridiculous’?– New developments change the appearance but love runs deeper than shells.
    When you have the ultimate machinery and skills at your disposal, then by all means use them!!
    You can make fun of my looks all the way to the finish line, and if I win I’ll thank you for the attention. Greatness doesn’t have a look, it is a state of mind. A
    motion in fact, coupled with desire, determination and the will to win. There is one place to aspire to be thats #1 period. Doesn’t number 1 look pretty? Call it ridiculous if you like…

    Will the cars be able to follow each other more closely?

    Oh man, now I’m gonna blow!
    Perfection is a demand champions make, both on there selves and their governing body ,they endure it and see it to the end. When will the FIA come to their senses?
    From the Stewards to the Ambassadors, strict rules and regulations need to be mandated, there is no excuse to leave races up to vague interpretation of an event. Rules such as:
    1. No if and or butt’s about it, if your nose is in the lead, then you OWN the corner at the designated corner beginning. But all four tyres need to be in the raceway designated boarders- this would include but not be limited to the ‘Double line’, curb and wall or infield. In the event you are in the lead at the corner you are not allowed to take your race line off track, if your forced then you have the all clear, if not forced you must relinquish the position and must follow until the next lap . If you are not in the lead at the corner designated beginning (marked with solid red line) and you cause and incident you are given a ten second penalty and lose 5 grid positions in the next race. Like or not if you don’t own the corner, or hold your line you must give way and relinquish the position.- Replay tape and car sensors will show final proof that is undeniably accurate.
    2. We get that it’s your country, but it’s OUR F1. Delegates and Ambassadors are great for the sport, get them and let them be involved. This should not include any live racing decision period. Let them make their case and be heard, but Stewards MUST maintain the dignity and accuracy of all penalties with no exception!

    Will we see any new liveries?

    Very easy to answer, YES. Put teams together on a racetrack and you get instant liveries, if it wasn’t last week then it’s a new one! Who are you racing against? EVERYONE!

    Will the recession cause any major sponsors to pull out?

    It is always hard to say what will happen in the financial markets when they can be corrupt and ever changing. Some will come and some will go. Never forget this is F1, the best, the cream of the crop, the top of the line, simply put: “There is no better”

    Will the Canadian Grand Prix be reinstated?

    Cultural demands are great, one can never tell the odd steps of a country and just what may be in store in it’s future. Fans should be the ‘end all’ deciding factor. Do the teams wish to race? YES So now your just deciding where they race at. Origins and history live long, when you have one you must embrace it. Sacrifices must be made on occasion. Safety never being one, of course.

    Which drivers will fill the remaining open spots?

    All decision have been made- each team has chosen the best drivers. Teams depend on and chose the correct winning combination for each event, whether it is for practice, race or testing. Let the teams salute their nominees with class. Wait for their announcements.

    Will we see any major shifts in the balance of power between team mates?

    A shift occurs when one driver out performs the other, the question is can the shift be maintained. It is always off balance. Due to the scale being tipped by first place, nothing else is on that side of the pendulum. You win or you lose there is no other.

    What’s Max Mosley’s next move – and is he really preparing to step down?

    I can’t tell you that. But what I can tell you is that he is an embarrassment to both his country and F1, not to mention his family. End of discussion, no really, Max, hit the road and don’t come back.

    I am looking forward to the upcoming races!!

  6. The f1 grid looks much to boring. Theres to much white cars. I would love to see some more yellow or even green out there.I dont have a problem
    with toyota,mclaren,ferrari,or red bull. The rest are just plain and ugly. Toro rosso needs to go get a sponsor, force india looks to much like the mclaren, renault’s colors just dont work together,the honda’s look gay,bmw need some graphics, william needs to realize the are not connected to bmw anymore and don’t have to run blue and white.

  7. i disagree, the renault livery is one of the best. but yeh the toyota dus need a little changee

  8. So yeah , I finally readed some thing ionteresting currently , post far more about this please .. bookamrked!

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