2009: Hamilton vs Alonso Part 2?

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Will we see more of this in 2009?
Will we see more of this in 2009?

Almost lost among the news of the many cost cutting changes made by the FIA last week was the news that Renault will be allowed to increase the power of their engine to catch up to the other teams.

This raises the prospect of Fernando Alonso being able once again to challenge for wins all season long – and have a shot at taking the championship off Lewis Hamilton.

Will slicks returning and radically changed cars geared at improving the quality of racing, there’s much to look forward to about 2009 already. But Alonso and Hamilton resuming their no-love-lost battle of 2007 would add a fascinating human element to the drama.

It’s far too early to read anything into testing times. But Renault ended 2008 with two wins and a second place from the last four races. Now the World Motor Sports Council has allowed them to make several changes to their engines in order to reduce the ground they lost to their rivals during the engine development freeze. That surely puts them on a very strong footing for 2009.

As good as this year’s title race was, Hamilton and Felipe Massa didn’t have the kind of personal animosity to rival Hamilton-Alonso, never mind Senna-Prost.

Alonso’s grudge seems to be aimed more at McLaren than Hamilton, as he made clear in the run-up to the championship finale. Alonso felt McLaren didn’t treat him properly in 2007. By the end of the year relations between Alonso and McLaren had deteriorated so much that Alonso refused to disembark from his private plane in order to conduct his contract termination negotiations.

Hamilton may tend to play down any tensions with Alonso but he’s not above turning the psychological screw on his rival – as their encounter at the Hungaroring last year demonstrated.

Of course Ferrari won’t be sleeping over the winter. And last time Hamilton and Alonso locked horns it worked out very nicely for the Scuderia. We could see a similar scenario again – or perhaps even the one of BMW’s ultra-consistent pairing – in 2009.

Who are your early tips to be the championship contenders of 2009? Will Alonso and Renault be back at the sharp end?

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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24 comments on “2009: Hamilton vs Alonso Part 2?”

  1. Could be awsome!… I like the idea of 2 drivers battling for something else apart from the win. They both want to beat the other no matter if it’s for the win or for the 8th place :P

    Anyway. Subaru out of WRC, Suzuki out of WRC, Honda out of F1, Audi out of LMES (apart from Sebring and Le Mans), some seem to be leaving MOtoGP too!. What’s next? :S

  2. If Renault can get the engine at the same level as Ferrari/ McLaren, I am putting my money on Vettel to give colour to the 2009 season. Nah that is just wishfull thinking of a Vettel fan but I predict renault and Mclaren will decide the championship. Ferrari will slide down the order because they will not be able adapt to the new regulation. Halfway the season, Ross Brawn will come back but it will be to late as the championship is by now far out of reach) BMW will put in a great effort but will have a similar season to 2008. Red bull will score it’s first win and Toyota leaves Formula 1 at the end of the 2009 season. Force India stays where it is… last.

  3. 09 looks to have the makings of a super competitive year. Hammy, Massa, Alonso, Vettel, Kubica, maybe Kimi all have a realistic shot at the title. And what about Buemi, Quick Nick, and SeaBass (well, mabye not SeaBass…it’s just that I’m a huge fan of his)? The constructors race looks to be wide open with McLaren, Ferrari, BMW, Renault and perhaps Red Bull/Toro Roso and a resurging Williams not far behind.

    Trust me (that’s how they say f**k you in L.A.), 09 is going to be a great year for F1…even with all the hysteria about the economy and such.

  4. @donwatters

    ‘SeaBass’ just had me in stitches! nice one.

  5. One concern I have about next year is if Force India’s McLaren basis pulls them up the field a bit and Adrian Newey does a good job designing the RB/STR cars around the new regulations, Williams could now find themselves plum last.

    At the front its hard to say, but Renault seemed to have improved their engine performance by the last quarter of 2008 anyway so if they are making further upgrades, then Alonso will be hard to beat.

  6. By any measure the new rules for 2009 should have a significant impact. But history shows that a major rule change tends to favour the front running teams – who generally have the most resources and use them effectively to adapt to the new rules in the shortest possible time. If this is any predictor of future form McLaren and Ferrari will be on top once again in 2009. However, there are a few unusual factors to consider.

    BMW Sauber made the brave decision to give up its 2008 chances to focus on 2009. This gave them a considerable head start on the rest of the field (save Honda) and, unless they’ve pursued a blind alley in developing their 2009 package, they should be well placed for next year. But there’s no guarantee of anything in this game.

    Conversely, Renault continued to develop their 2008 package until the very end of the year. McLaren and Ferrari are both in the same boat but are likely to have greater resources at their disposal. Renault could suffer from their focus on 2008 if it detracted from work on 2009 – we won’t know until next year but it has to be a question mark over their prospects. The engine concession is good news for Fernando Alonso – but if the chassis falls short then a few extra horsepower won’t be enough to make the difference.

    Also, there’s the question of how the new rules will suit different driving styles. The return to slicks and the new aero package is expected by some to play to the strengths of Kimi Raikkonen and Heikki Kovalainen. That could mean McLaren and Ferrari both field two competitive drivers at most races, as opposed to the situation in 2008. Throw in a quick BMW Sauber and Renault could face a tough time breaking into the top six, let alone challenging for wins and the title.

    Toyota, Red Bull and Williams will all do well to stay roughly where they were in 2008. STR is likely to go backwards as Red Bull will get first call on developing the new chassis. I can’t see Force India making an overnight quantum leap either.

  7. I agree with Pete, I think Williams are going to struggle next year for sure – but you never know.

    If one good thing does come out of these rule changes, it’s that come Melbourne we are definitely going see some surpises, with hopefully Fernando and Lewis on the front row $ : )

  8. I think Ferrari and BMW will switch places at the beginning of the season…but not after halfway. But by then McLaren may have a decisive lead. (This is all based on KERS so far, though)

    I’m bullish on any of the midfield teams making MAJOR progress. Trulli thinks he’s going to win a race in 2009, I doubt it unless everyone in front cops the bananas left by mario’s kart. I think it’ll be tight once more, but Alonso and Vettel mixing it up (as they did in 2008). The only teams I was looking forward to seeing major progress from was Force India (which they should do thanks to McLaren) and Honda – boo hiss.

    I do hope that Renault do make progress though, would love to see Alonso back on top – a 5 way driver and 4 way constructors championship would be very nice indeed :D

  9. Driving style is something that we really should take a closest look in the next months. This thing has decided some destinies this year and could decide again in 2009.

    I think oversteers driving styles like Lewis´s, Kimi´s and Nick´s, will take advantage of the oversteer behavior of new slicks tyres, as Autosport has noticed some months ago:


    Oversteers cars, as McLaren which depends more of mechanical grip, will take some advantage too…

    Something very weird for me was the statement made by FIA about Renault´s engine boost:

    “…all other engines will remain unchanged. Comparative testing will not be necessary…”

    Why a comparative test will not be necessary? What I will say is just speculation, but looking closest to the Renault´s performance in the last races of the season, I think they already made their engine increment…

    . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .


    You should ask Steven Roy, who drove in some spec Formulas, to write a post about driving style. He has made some interesting insights into the matter here and in Ollie´s blog! What you think?

  10. Becken – I think the push for comparative testing to ensure that all engines were more or less equal was being pushed by Honda and Renault. Both teams felt they’d lost out by sticking to the spirit of the engine freeze, unlike Ferrari, Mercedes, BMW et al who’d all made modifications to improve reliability that also improved performance.

    With Honda now gone, regardless of whether anyone buys the team, it does make sense to allow Renault to catch up so that everyone is more or less equal. It also avoids the need for a messy and difficult round of comparative testing and equalisation.

    Renault’s improved form in the last few races was down to a significant improvement in their chassis rather than the engine. Red Bull being outperformed by STR probably made differentials in engine performance look more important to laptime than it actually is.

  11. Any and all battles will be greatly welcome and I particularly hope that the teams at the lower end of the grid can narrow the gap to the top teams to spice it up even more…

  12. Hamilton and Alonso in equally matched cars will be a dream come true. I believe they are the only two top drivers who have the personalities to force a win through sheer willpower and aggressive driving. Kimi and Felipe seem to be content to let the car do the work and if it doesn’t win, too bad.

    One thing Alonso needs, however, is a few sessions with a sports psychologist to tame his emotions and get him to think in terms of strategy for a whole season. Then he will get the results to match his talent.

  13. I agree with Loki.

    Seeing as im a Nick Heidfeld fan, i’m looking forward to seeing if he can get his maiden win:)

  14. Red Bull must be happy too

  15. martinb, twenty-odd wins and two titles in seven seasons are not good enough results for Alonso so far? Wow, I wouldn’t want you as my boss! :D

    For me there’s no use trying to predict performance for ’09 just yet. What I sincerely hope though is to see more than two teams genuinely challenging for wins all season. I think the last time this happened was 2003. Since then it’s been one or two teams, and this is partly responsible for some processional racing in recent years. Hopefully the new regulations, along with budget cuts, can throw up a few surprise packages. How cool would it be to have four teams neck and neck all year!

  16. 1st race = penalty for alonso 2nd race0 penalty for hamilton 3rd race = alonso and hamilton desqualified …..
    penalty year coming!!!!

  17. i think redbull will come into the title challenge a bit with mark and sebastian vettel taking wins.

    bmw will be real title contenders and mclaren will fall a bit.

  18. schumi the greatest
    18th December 2008, 10:15

    I hope so, i think seeing these two head-to-head in different card would be great, probably better than 07 because they wont be taking it turns in qualifying for who has the best strategy!

    F1 Needs to have alonso at the front because hes pure class! Add in the ectra bits like overtaking made easier, slick tyres and it could be a fantastic battle between the pair of them.

  19. Even if Renault don’t quit the series, what makes anyone think their new car will be competitive? I haven’t heard boo about their new car, KERS, or anything positive.

    Sure the engine boost will be helpful, but what’s the season long impact on testing bans? Will teams be able to improve as Renault did last year, or will a bad car at the onset be the same bad car at the end of season?

    I think we’re in for a long season of mediocrity from mid pack back. More Ferrari – McLaren dominance as they will spend the most now, when it counts, to develop their cars. Force India may outperform Williams, and who knows where Toyota end up.

  20. This is what F1 needs a huge rivalry!!

  21. Just curious — where did you find that tidbit:
    “By the end of the year relations between Alonso and McLaren had deteriorated so much that Alonso refused to disembark from his private plane in order to conduct his contract termination negotiations.”?

    That’s pretty interesting. I’d never heard that.

  22. so the FIA are going to fiddle things to make sure one team is level with another… I thought it was about which team could do the best job!

    Who wants to place a wager the FIArrari will allow the red cars to increase their power to make sure they are competitive.

    All teams are created equal some just more equal than others! :-)

  23. *rubs hands with glee*

    Oooo I hope so !

  24. but it will never be like senna-prost…..
    and yes renault will be back on front

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