Everything you want to know for the new season

Can Alonso return Ferrari to the top? Who will crash the big boys' party? What will happen on the first corner in Bahrain? David Tremayne answers your questions


Q After last season's rows over diffusers and Briatore scandals, are the Formula One chiefs desperate for a good sporting season?

A Definitely. But they should have reason to feel confident. 2010 marks the 60th birthday of Formula One, and as if to mark the occasion, four world champions, Michael Schumacher, Fernando Alonso, Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button, are on the grid – something we haven't had since the time of Schumacher, Jacques Villeneuve, Damon Hill and Mika Hakkinen in 1999. This season, which begins in Bahrain this weekend, may well prove to be the hottest competition in decades.

Q Who are the main contenders for the title this year?

A No one's writing off any of those previous world champions, but Fernando Alonso (below) and Lewis Hamilton have the weight of opinion behind them. Alonso has taken Kimi Raikkonen's vacant place at Ferrari alongside Felipe Massa – back from his horrific injury when he almost lost an eye at Hungary last year. There is no doubt about Alonso's ability – this is the man who, at Renault, ended Schumacher's five-year dominance for Ferrari by taking back-to-back titles in 2005-06.

The Spaniard yesterday said he is most looking forward to racing again. "I have driven the car all through winter testing, but that is just preparation and now we can finally go racing," he said, adding that he felt very positive about the move to Ferrari. "When you change team, you need to adapt to the people and their work philosophy and pre-season that has all gone great. I felt very comfortable from day one and we are well prepared, and I'm ready for the fight."

He refused to make predictions, however, but there is no question that the tifosi look to him as the man to restore the magic to the Prancing Horse that has been missing since Michael Schumacher retired.

"We can say that four teams, Red Bull, Mercedes, McLaren and Ferrari can all be favourites to win here," Alonso said, "then there are other teams like Force India and Sauber who could also have some good races. My goal is to win the championship, but I want to be world champion in November, not in March. It will be a very hard job. I have spent all winter getting ready and I have also waited a long time to come to Ferrari, so it has all been about preparing for this moment and we are in a position to fight for the wins."

But Hamilton will be hard to beat. While his main rivals have switched teams, Hamilton is still with the pit lane he knows best. And the rule changes could favour his racing instincts rather than Button's smoother style – which should pay dividends in qualifying.

There was good news for McLaren yesterday when the FIA declared their controversial rear wing to be legal, in the wake of complaints by Ferrari and Red Bull. It is believed that an air inlet on the left side of the monocoque chassis can be opened and closed by movement of the driver's left knee, to direct airflow over the rear wing and help stall it to make the car faster on the straights. It has been described as a "simple but brilliant trick".

Beyond Alonso, Hamilton and Button, Schumacher returns at the ripe old age of 41 to take over Button's old seat at Brawn GP, now renamed Mercedes GP, with up-comer Nico Rosberg moving across from Williams. And Red Bull have Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber again. That's all four champions and a total of seven race winners in the four top teams.

Q Any dark horses to upset the balance of power?

A Force India have two hungry youngsters: Tonio Liuzzi and Adrian Sutil, while BMW Sauber's mercurial rookie Kamui Kobayashi should make an impression. More experienced are the highly rated Robert Kubica at Renault and evergreen Brazilian Rubens Barrichello at Williams.

Q How close will the competition be from race to race?

A Very, since none of the main drivers should be hindered by an underperforming car. "It's exciting that Michael is coming back," Button enthused recently, "and I love racing against Lewis, Fernando, Sebastian, Mark, Felipe, whoever. Michael's return is a big point for Formula One, because he's achieved so much, he's the most famous."

"All the teams are quite close," the Mercedes team principal, Ross Brawn, concedes after four tests in which the question of individual fuel loads made calculating form harder than ever, "so I think it's going to be a super-hard battle this year."

On top of that there are three new teams, which range from the headline-seeking razzmatazz of Richard Branson's Virgin Racing through the sheer passion of AirAsia chief Tony Fernandes' revival of the revered Lotus team and the flat-out-to-make Bahrain endeavours of Hispania Racing (né Campos Meta 1). All of them expand the depth of the sport at a time when grids in other formulae are desperately thin.

Q How will the new rules affect the racing?

A Changes in the points system are a major boost, with a victory now worth seven points more than second place instead of a measly two. That, and the ban on refuelling, will encourage drivers to do their overtaking on the track, rather than waiting to jump rivals during pit stops.

Q What are the new demands on drivers?

A Outlawing refuelling ups the ante by creating a more cerebral F1. Refuelling was reintroduced in 1994 and each grand prix became a series of sprints between refills; now some of the races may be slow-burn events as drivers have to preserve their tyres early on, before exploding into dramatic denouements. "It's going to give us some great racing," Hamilton said recently, with glee.

The triple champion Niki Lauda agrees. "The biggest asset is going to be Schumacher. He's the one everyone is going to watch, to see whether he can still do it or who can beat him.

"And no refuelling means that after each qualifying session we will all know which is the fastest car. It will be much more transparent, but teams will have to juggle whether to qualify on the standard tyres or softer options. Looking after the tyres, when the cars are full of fuel and possibly four to five seconds a lap slower than in practice, will be a major challenge. And we should also see more overtaking on the track. It's going to take us at least two of three races before we really understand things."

Q And when will we first get to see the effects of all these changes?

A At 3pm at the Sakhir Circuit this Sunday. All the hoopla and speculation will be consigned to history once the red lights go out. As Button says: "The good thing is that you can overtake in Bahrain. Turn one is going to be interesting in a car with 160 kg of fuel aboard..."

Q Will Michael Schumacher be able to stand the pace?

A The seven-times world champion is 41 now – and had to cancel a return last season when he struggled to recover from a neck injury sustained coming off a motorbike. But he is fit and the most ruthless of competitors. Ross Brawn, his team principal at Mercedes GP, proved with Jenson Button last year that he can produce fast cars for good drivers, but seems to be suggesting the car will be more competitive after a few races, when extra development has been done.

Q Who will be crowned world champion?

At the moment, for me it's Lewis, because the McLaren looks good and he'll have a slight edge over Jenson. Johnny Herbert

It's impossible to answer right now, based just on indications from testing in Barcelona. All the top cars are within a couple of tenths, so we'll have to wait for the first two or three races to see which cars are reliable and quick. Niki Lauda

Sebastian Vettel: David Coulthard

Fernando Alonso: Martin Brundle

Lewis Hamilton: Eddie Jordan

News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Armstrong, left, and Bain's writing credits include Peep Show, Fresh Meat, and The Old Guys
TVThe pair have presented their view of 21st-century foibles in shows such as Peep Show and Fresh Meat
Arts and Entertainment
Keys to success: Andrew and Julian Lloyd Webber
arts + entsMrs Bach had too many kids to write the great man's music, says Julian Lloyd Webber
Sport
footballMan City manager would have loved to have signed Argentine
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
people
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Hand out press photograph/film still from the movie Mad Max Fury Road (Downloaded from the Warner Bro's media site/Jasin Boland/© 2014 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.)
films'You have to try everything and it’s all a process of elimination, but ultimately you find your path'
Arts and Entertainment
Imelda Staunton as Dolores Umbridge in the Harry Potter films
books

New essay by JK Rowling went live on Pottermore site on Friday

News
people

Top Gear presenter is no stranger to foot-in-mouth controversy

News
Russia Today’s new UK channel began broadcasting yesterday. Discussions so far have included why Britons see Russia as ‘the bad guy’
news

New UK station Russia Today gives a very bizarre view of Britain

Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch at the premiere of The Imitation Game at the BFI London Film Festival
filmsKeira Knightley tried to miss The Imitation Game premiere to watch Bake Off
News
i100
Sport
Enner Valencia
footballStriker has enjoyed a rapid rise to fame via winning the title with ‘The Blue Ballet’ in Ecuador
Arts and Entertainment
A top literary agent has compared online giant Amazon to Isis
arts + entsAndrew Wylie has pulled no punches in criticism of Amazon
Arts and Entertainment
Charlie Sheen said he would
tv

Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Bryan Adams' heartstopping images of wounded British soldiers to go on show at Somerset House

Bryan Adams' images of wounded soldiers

Taken over the course of four years, Adams' portraits are an astonishing document of the aftermath of war
The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

Commons debate highlights growing cross-party consensus on softening UK drugs legislation, unchanged for 43 years
The camera is turned on tabloid editors in Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter'

Gotcha! The camera is turned on tabloid editors

Hugh Grant says Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter' documentary will highlight issues raised by Leveson
Fall of the Berlin Wall: It was thanks to Mikhail Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell

Fall of the Berlin Wall

It was thanks to Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell
Halloween 2014: What makes Ouija boards, demon dolls, and evil clowns so frightening?

What makes ouija boards and demon dolls scary?

Ouija boards, demon dolls, evil children and clowns are all classic tropes of horror, and this year’s Halloween releases feature them all. What makes them so frightening, decade after decade?
A safari in modern Britain: Rose Rouse reveals how her four-year tour of Harlesden taught her as much about the UK as it did about NW10

Rose Rouse's safari in modern Britain

Rouse decided to walk and talk with as many different people as possible in her neighbourhood of Harlesden and her experiences have been published in a new book
Welcome to my world of no smell and odd tastes: How a bike accident left one woman living with unwanted food mash-ups

'My world of no smell and odd tastes'

A head injury from a bicycle accident had the surprising effect of robbing Nell Frizzell of two of her senses

Matt Parker is proud of his square roots

The "stand-up mathematician" is using comedy nights to preach maths to big audiences
Paul Scholes column: Beating Manchester City is vital part of life at Manchester United. This is first major test for Luke Shaw, Angel Di Maria and Radamel Falcao – it’s not a game to lose

Paul Scholes column

Beating City is vital part of life at United. This is first major test for Shaw, Di Maria and Falcao – it’s not a game to lose
Frank Warren: Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing

Frank Warren column

Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing
Adrian Heath interview: Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room

Adrian Heath's American dream...

Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room
Simon Hart: Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manuel Pellegrini’s side are too good to fail and derby allows them to start again, says Simon Hart
Isis in Syria: A general reveals the lack of communication with the US - and his country's awkward relationship with their allies-by-default

A Syrian general speaks

A senior officer of Bashar al-Assad’s regime talks to Robert Fisk about his army’s brutal struggle with Isis, in a dirty war whose challenges include widespread atrocities