F1 teams don’t know what to expect. Praise be!
After a winter dominated by debate over the long-term future of the sport the serious stuff finally gets under way in Melbourne on March 4. Only then will we see how the teams really compare, but thanks to the rule changes, practice and qualifying speed will not provide all the answers.
Indeed the real fun will be had in the closing laps of the second race in hot and humid Malaysia. Engines will be pushing the outer limits of reliability as they approach the end of their second GP weekend, while tyres will be running out of grip after a full distance on the punishing track. It will be a step into the unknown for everybody. And that’s reason for hope.
Will Ferrari’s decision to start the season with a modified 2004 car pay off? Others took the view that it was a waste of time applying the new aero package to an old chassis, as so much else had to change.
With increased Honda support BAR expects to maintain its 2004 momentum, although there are some reliability doubts. Renault’s overall package looks mighty impressive, but it’s easy to forget that old rivals Williams and McLaren battled for victory at the final race of last year. And Nick Heidfeld’s elevation from forgotten ex-McLaren protégé to Williams race driver is one of the great stories of the off-season. Watch out Mr Webber!
However, it’s been a hard winter for team principals with 30 per cent of them — Eddie Jordan, David Richards and Tony Purnell — falling by the wayside. The loss of the Jaguar name and the colourful personality that is EJ will be keenly felt, but at least the teams have survived, under ambitious new management.
Welcome to the Piranha Club, Red Bull and Midland.