F1 2009: the drivers

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Jenson Button, like most F1 drivers, keeps the same team mate this year

The 2009 F1 grid is remarkably unchanged compared to how the drivers lined up in 2008.

Eight of the ten teams boast the same driver pairings as they did last year. How will those ten partnerships fare in 2008?

Mark Webber vs Sebastian Vettel

The first new driver pairing is at Red Bull. It was widely expected even before 2008 that Vettel would move from Toro Rosso to the Red Bull ‘first team’ for 2009, as Vettel had a long-term contract with the soft drinks giant.

The are many fascinating dimensions to this new alliance – starting with the fact that it was Vettel, in his sixth F1 start, who harpooned Webber out of the 2007 Japanese Grand Prix when Webber was in with a chance of winning. Since then, Vettel has chalked up his maiden win but Webber is yet to do likewise.

Webber is making a recovery after breaking his left leg early in the 2008/9 off season during his Pure Tasmania charity event. He has made light work of most of his team mates – except perhaps Nick Heidfeld – and Vettel could prove his toughest challenge to date.

Sebastien Bourdais vs Sebastien Buemi

Sebastien Buemi is the only rookie on the grid this year

Stepping in to take Vettel’s place is the only rookie on the 2009 F1 grid and the only graduate – so far – from last year’s GP2 championship.

Buemi had a decent first GP2 season with a pair of wins, including one brilliant victory scored from the back of the grid at Magny-Cours in the wet.

While Buemi is out to make a reputation for himself, Bourdais needs to salvage his after taking a bit of a kicking at the hands of Vettel last year. The French driver has said he expects to perform better on slick tyres in 2009 – he needs to deliver on that expectation, and quickly.

The status quo teams

Together again: Fernando Alonso and Nelson Piquet Jnr

The rest of the line-ups may be the same but there’s no shortage of intrigue. At Ferrari and BMW, for example, the drivers who scored the most points in 2008 had been beaten by their respective team mates in 2007. Will Felipe Massa keep Kimi Raikkonen behind – and will Robert Kubica do the same to Nick Heidfeld?

One of the happiest stories of the off-season has been the saving of Rubens Barrichello’s F1 career. Having already started more F1 races than anyone ever, it was widely assumed that last year’s Brazilian Grand Prix would be his last. That suspicion was reinforced when Honda put its F1 team up for sale. With the team now re-born as Brawn GP, Barrichello will keep his seat alongside Jenson Button. Better yet, the car looks a cracker – their lower-order battles from 2007 and 2008 could be played out at the sharp end of the track this year.

Heikki Kovalainen and Nelson Piquet Jnr both had moments of glory last year but both need to up their games to justify their place alongside two extremely capable team mates. (Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso respectively). Hamilton faces the prospect of having to defend his world championship in a car that so far doesn’t look to be up to the task – a fascinating prospect, though a frustrating one for his fans.

Finally, speculation during the off-season suggested McLaren were trying to get one of their drivers into a Mercedes-backed Force India – either Pedro de la Rosa (who tested for Vijay Mallya’s team) or DTM star Paul di Resta. If Giancarlo Fisichella or Adrian Sutil don’t come up with the goods, might we see one of them moved aside for a Mercedes driver?

Which drivers do you think will have a strong 2009? Will we see any changes in the balance of power in the teams? Have your say in the comments.

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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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19 comments on “F1 2009: the drivers”

  1. I think that with all of the changes, having a relatively unchanged driver line up will be good to see who will deal with the changes the best! I am so pleased about Brawn GP being there, and fighting, and will be good to see how Buemi handles an F1 car.

  2. Roger Carballo AKA Architrion
    17th March 2009, 16:46

    Can’t imagine that Hamilton and Fred won’t sweep their teammates…. they’re so good that Heiki and Nelsinho won’t have a chance.

    I’ll put my money on Kimi over Felipe this time. Incoming slicks will make him the favour, thinking about the kind of skiding that is allowed with slick tyres.

    The rest of the pack….. well, this is my bet

    Sutil on Fisi
    Jenson sweeping Rubens
    Kubica tied with Heidfeld
    Mark will put that rookie Seb on his place
    Glock wil retire the Trulli train
    Can’t imagine Nakajima wining on Rosberg
    The time has come to Bourdais to show what he’s got under his pants. His american curriculum tells me he is good enough to beat a rookie.

  3. The easy by a mile ones – Hamilton over Heikki, Alonso over Piquet, Rosberg over Nakajima.

    The closer ones – which I think will include some fantastic in team battles…
    Jens just over Rubens with a remotivated JB and a car rewarding smooth driving as opposed to wrestling a dog
    Quick Nick just over Kubica with no reoccurance of tyre warming issues – I still think he’s under rated
    Trulli just over Glock and Fisi just over Sutil with experience winning
    Webbo and Vettel will reacquaint by trading paintwork with it being down to whose RBR stays in one piece the longest

    1. Interesting you say that about Jens and Rubens… Rubens is regarded as one of the smoothest drivers out there… hence his uber wet weather skills.. if the car rewards smooth driving then expect Rubens to destroy.

  4. The drivers i think will be strongest this year:
    1)Kimi Raikkonen, has to save his seat so that means impress the higher up’s.
    2) Fernando Alonso, he is hungry to get back at Hamilton and win another championship.
    3)Robert Kubica,he will probably want to show what he is really mad of. (This goes for Heidfield as well.)
    4) Felipe Massa, he will want to get back at last years lose.
    5) Jenson button, he will be hungry to do good to show he is better than Barichello and bring brawn to glory.

  5. The pairs I’m much more interested on are:

    Kimi Raikkonen Vs Felipe Massa.

    So much have been told about Kimi and Felipe last year and I’m wondering what are we going to see this new one. I hardly see Felipe acting as 2nd driver actively, and on the other hand, I want to see if Kimi will be motivated enough to fight for the championship all year.

    Robert Kubica Vs Nick Heidfeld.

    My personal preferences goes to Kubica but having this year a competitive car, I would like to see the battle between both drivers. Is going to be interesting.

    Jenson Button Vs Rubens Barrichello

    I’m not English (as you see keeping in mind my English skills) so I would like to see if all that have been commented by English fans about Jenson become true.

    On the other hand I like a lot Rubens Barrichello and I think he deserves this opportunity and win more races, at least just to balance those in Ferrari that he deserved to win but was denied by his Team status.

  6. I think Rubens is hungrier than ever so i do think that this season Rubens will become Button’s biggest enemy. However having said that, as a Button fan i think that Button will be able to keep Rubens behind.

  7. I think Seb will give Webber a run for his money, he has the pace. It will be straight shoot out between Buemi and Bourdais, both with a lot to prove. Can’t pick the Bimmers apart, I feel that Heidfeld will need to prove he is as quick as Kubica, anything can happen.

    Nelson Piquest doesn’t have any shot at getting anywhere near Alonso, not a chance. Kimi will pick himself up and overhaul Massa, I’m pretty sure he’ll get the car setup the way he wants in to work, also the change to slicks may play into his hands. Glock will better Trulli, while the latter may be more consistent of the two, Timo is clearly faster.

    I think Jens may just pip Ruebens, it looks to be close, I’d like to see Jens ahead. Can’t pick between Fisi and Sutil, but I’m going for the Italian, sentimental values you know? Rosberg will sweep Nakajima aside, the latter is not of this class and it has been obvious. Finally to Lewis and Kovi. If the cars are crap, it could be an even playing field. I get the feeling that Kovi might be working overtime to get closer to Lewis, so it may be a close one, with Lewis just ahead!

  8. All the “number one’s” will beat their team-mates, with the exception of Ferrari, and assuming Button is Brawn’s lead driver

  9. My gut feel for 2009:

    HAMILTON pips Kovalainen.

    RAIKKONEN pips Massa.

    KUBICA pips Heiidfield.

    ALONSO pips Piquet.

    GLOCK pips Trulli.

    BOURDAIS pips Buemi.

    VETTEL pips Mark.

    ROSBERG pips Nakajima.

    BUTTON pips Barrichello.

    SUTIL pips Fisischella.

    For sure, there will be a few surprises.

  10. If Giancarlo Fisichella or Adrian Sutil don’t come up with the goods, might we see one of them moved aside for a Mercedes driver?

    I am not sure where the information originated but not that long ago, few weeks at most, I believe there was a mention on one of the more reliable F1 sites (can’t recall which one) that Liuzzi has a race drive for 2010 with Force India guaranteed somehow in his contract. I remember being surprised by the very matter of fact way how that was mentioned …

    1. Especially since it hadn’t been so much as rumoured anywhere else up to that point, and still hasn’t to the best of my knowledge (apart from sites commenting on the grandprix.com rumour).

  11. I’m interested to see Raikkonen against Massa. Kimi can be very fast and should be able to beat Massa most of the time. However, Kimi rarely seems to be fully motivated and sometimes looks like he can’t be bothered.

    I’m expecting Massa to come out fighting from the start of the season. Will Kimi come out fighting to keep his place in F1? I’m doubt it.

  12. Some are easy to predict:

    Hamilton beats Kovalainen
    Alonso beats Piquet
    Trulli beats Glock
    Rosberg beats Nakajima

    And others are more difficult:

    Sebastien beats Sebastien (Don’t know which one though)
    Vettel beats Webber
    Raikkonen beats Massa
    Kubica beats Heidfeld
    Fisichella beats Sutil
    Button beats Barrichello

  13. My predictions, in order of the difference between the two drivers.

    Alonso to easily beat Piquet, probably the biggest difference in team mates on the 2009 grid.

    Hamilton to beat Kovalainen.

    Rosberg to beat Nakajima.

    Bourdais to beat Buemi.

    Vettel to be ahead of Webber.

    Glock to have the edge over Trulli in races.

    These ones I think could go either way.

    Button will probably just edge Barrichello.

    Sutil over Fisichella, even with Fisichella’s experience if Sutil doesn’t beat him I can’t see his F1 career lasting that much longer.

    Raikkonen to beat Massa if he has got his motivation back, if not Massa to be the lead Ferrari driver.

    For BMW if I had to pick a driver it would be Kubica, but if Heidfeld has fully solved his problems from last year I can easily see Heidfeld getting the better results, it depends on who the car suits more.

  14. Massa should get the better of Raikkonen. I have never liked Kimi.

    Alonso should beat Nelson Piquet every race. I won’t be surprised to see Alonso lap Piquet too in a few of the races.

  15. The way many analyse Raikkonen’s performance vis a vis Massa’s last year resembles a Texan long horn – a point here, a point there, and whole bull in between. What a nonsense to say that he was beaten because he was demotivated. When he is winning, his taciturn behaviour makes him the ice-man, when he is losing it becomes lack of motivation. I, for one, believe that the banning of traction control killed him and if it is true, it will continue to hamper his performance in 2009.

  16. button got decent car, I think he should prove his quality..

    well, ruben will challenge him, like last year but now with better spec.. :)

  17. kimi all the best for 2009 season…
    Would like to see a repeat of 2007 season

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