Extract of F1CBC2000s


The most fundamental rule changes in a quarter of a century reshuffled the F1 pack, with wing dimensions changed to improve overtaking. The front wing increased in width to 1,800mm with six-degree driver-adjustable upper flaps that could be activated twice a lap. The rear wing decreased in width to 750mm and was now level with the top of the airbox. Aerodynamic appendages such as bargeboards, winglets and airbox ‘horns’ were banned in specific areas of the car. With the front wing the full width of the car, controlling airflow outside the tyres was key.

The so-called double diffuser was crucial to the outcome of the 2009 World Championship. The maximum height of the rear diffuser was reduced to 175mm but Brawn, Williams and Toyota exploited wording in the regulations to add a second central diffuser into the crash structure with air channeled through gaps between the two. A protest by Ferrari, Red Bull and Renault at the Australian GP was turned down with the decision confirmed by the FIA Court of Appeal on 15 April, by which time the other seven teams were already working on their own interpretations.

Each driver had eight engines for the season, with a ten-place grid penalty for exceeding that limit. Renault and Honda agitated for the engine freeze to be relaxed so performance could be equalised. Maximum revs were reduced from 19,000 to 18,000rpm. The drive towards a more ecological future included the optional Kinetic Energy Recovery System (KERS), which stored energy lost under braking in batteries or a flywheel, and delivered an extra 80bhp for 6.7 seconds per lap. With KERS adding at least 25kg and prompting some safety concerns, only McLaren-Mercedes, Ferrari, BMW Sauber and Renault raced the system.

Slick tyres were reintroduced for the first time since 1998 but a proposed ban on tyre warmers was cancelled following opposition from the Grand Prix Drivers’ Association. Testing was limited to 15,000km with none from the start of the season to the New Year. Wind tunnels were restricted to 60 percent models and a speed of 50 metres per second. F1 factories had to be closed for a total of six weeks during the season, including a summer break after the Hungarian GP. The controversial pitlane closure at the start of a safety-car period was abandoned, with drivers now having to abide by a minimum time to reach the pits to prevent them speeding past an incident.

The worldwide economic recession and recent withdrawal of three manufacturers hastened the need for cost control. FIA president Max Mosley campaigned for contentious new regulations in 2010, including provision for a £40m budget cap with technical freedoms for teams that chose to adhere. The Formula One Teams’ Association objected with only Williams and Force India entering the 2010 championship by the deadline in May. FOTA’s remaining members announced the breakaway Grand Prix World Championship on 18 June. Compromise was reached six days later with Mosley not standing for re-election, the budget cap dropped, and cost control managed by FOTA. A new Concorde Agreement (to the end of 2012) was finally signed on 1 August. Jean Todt succeeded Mosley as FIA president on 23 October after defeating 1981 World Rally Champion Ari Vatanen.

Bernie Ecclestone proposed that gold, silver and bronze medals should replace championship points with the title going to the driver with the most race wins. That was met with scepticism by most, but the FIA World Motor Sport Council initially ratified the concept on 17 March, albeit without awarding medals, although that was rescinded.

The Australian GP started at 5pm as part of an extended deal that safeguarded the race until 2015. Half points were awarded in Malaysia after heavy rain forced the race to be abandoned. The Japanese GP was held at a redeveloped Suzuka as part of an agreement to alternate the venue, although Fuji Speedway gave up its right to host in 2010. Abu Dhabi began its long-term contract as the final round of the year with a race that started in daylight and finished in darkness. The Hermann Tilke-designed circuit featured a spectacular hotel over the track, a pit exit via a tunnel and precious few overtaking opportunities. The French GP lost its place on the calendar eight years after Bernie Ecclestone had said: ‘I can’t imagine the championship without its oldest and most prestigious race.’ Plans for a circuit outside Paris at Disneyland or Flins-sur-Seine went unfulfilled, and it was 2018 before the race returned at Paul Ricard. With the cancellation of the Canadian GP, there was no North American round despite the obvious economic benefits.



Brawn Grand Prix secured both world championships in its only F1 season – a unique achievement. Jenson Button won six of the opening seven races before better-funded rivals caught up. His struggle with tyre-temperature issues during the summer put his prospects in jeopardy, with Rubens Barrichello challenging his friend and team-mate by winning twice, but then Button rallied at the penultimate race to complete one of the feel-good stories of recent F1 history.

When Honda announced its withdrawal on 5 December 2008, team principal Ross Brawn, chief executive officer Nick Fry and contracted lead driver Button were defiant. Brawn sought to rescue the team and secure engines but the 700-strong workforce had to be placed on three months’ notice and testing cancelled while he set about the task. Interest was reported from the likes of Prodrive, Magna Group and Force India before Brawn and Fry acquired the team for £1 in a rescue package that included a substantial dowry from Honda to avoid closure costs. The goodwill up and down the pitlane extended to McLaren helping arrange Mercedes-Benz engines in February. The Honda payment and television money due to the team provided just enough budget to compete in 2009 although there were 270 redundancies and Button agreed to take a pay cut.

Barrichello had been expected to leave after 2008 with Honda chasing Fernando Alonso until he signed for Renault. Bruno Senna and Lucas di Grassi tested at Barcelona in an apparent shoot-out for the second seat, with the former impressing by lapping within three tenths of Button. However, with in-season testing banned and the late appearance of the new car, Brawn opted for experience when Barrichello was named in March. That was initially for the first four races although he stayed for the whole campaign. Jörg Zander began the year as deputy technical director but left on 19 June to form an engineering consultancy. John Owen was project leader for design while head of aerodynamics Loïc Bigois oversaw three separate concept teams in wind tunnels at Brackley, Teddington (Ben Wood leading a group from the defunct Super Aguri Honda ‘B’ team) and Tochigi.

Development of the recalcitrant Honda RA108 stopped in mid-2008 to maximise opportunities presented by the regulation changes. ‘We’ve got KERS, slick tyres, a different aero package,’ mused Ross Brawn about the new challenges in the autumn. ‘For sure somebody is going to get it right on the money and a few teams are going to miss the boat.’ It was Brawn who was right on the money with the Brawn BGP001-Mercedes (née Honda RA109).

Button shook down the BGP001 at Silverstone on 6 March as the takeover was announced. It was immediately obvious that Brawn had stolen a march on its rivals, with Barrichello and Button a second quicker than anyone else at the following week’s Barcelona test. Key to this performance was the double diffuser, which radically increased downforce. In the memoir he co-wrote with Ed Gorman, Fry credited junior Honda aerodynamicist Saneyuki Minagawa with the idea.

The full-width front wing featured complex endplates that channelled air around the wheels. The distinctive drooping nose had small turning vanes on either side and a splitter ahead of the floor. Sidepods were set back to create space for small bargeboards behind the area where aerodynamic appendages were now banned. The sidepod intakes were relatively small with a pronounced undercut to the fore.

Honda was first to test its KERS, in May 2008, but discarded it. That proved to be a good decision because KERS proved an expensive and heavy distraction in 2009. Also contributing to the BGP001’s success was the switch from Honda’s engine to the more powerful Mercedes-Benz FO108W, although the positioning of its crankshaft meant the gearbox and rear suspension had to be raised by 6mm. Only three BGP001s were built.

Such was its testing pace that Brawn Grand Prix went from the edge of extinction to overwhelming pre-season favourites in a fortnight. Plain white bodywork with black and fluorescent yellow trim was evidence of its lack of sponsorship, although a late deal was struck with Richard Branson’s Virgin Group. With the cars on the front row in Australia, Button led all the way from pole position. Barrichello, who made a poor start and changed his front wing at the first pitstops following contact with Kimi Räikkönen, moved up from fourth to second after Sebastian Vettel and Robert Kubica collided.

Button made a slow getaway from pole in Malaysia so ran third during the opening dry stint. Some searing laps before his pitstop were rewarded with the lead as rain arrived and he was ahead by 22.722sec when the event was red-flagged. Barrichello received a grid penalty for changing his gearbox and was fifth when rain stopped play. Nine days later, on 14 April, the FIA International Court of Appeal upheld the ruling by the Australian GP stewards that the diffusers on the Brawn, Toyota and Williams were legal.

Red Bull dominated in the Shanghai rain, where the Brawn-Mercedes finished third (Button) and fourth (Barrichello) having struggled to generate tyre temperature. Concerns about engine overheating in Bahrain qualifying meant they started fourth (Button) and sixth (Barrichello) but Button took third from Lewis Hamilton on the second lap and passed the Toyotas during the first pitstops to ease to victory. Barrichello was fifth after three stops and an afternoon spent in traffic. Button snatched pole for the Spanish GP in the dying moments but lost the lead to his team-mate at the start. However, he switched from a three- to a two-stop and headed another 1–2 after Barrichello struggled in his final stint. That result was repeated in Monaco, where Button’s only mistake was to park his winning car in the wrong place, which meant he had to run around the track to the royal box.

Red Bull had its own double diffuser in Monaco and the light-fuelled Sebastian Vettel qualified on pole in Turkey. However, Button took advantage of Vettel’s opening-lap mistake at Turn 9 and dominated thereafter in what Ross Brawn called ‘the most impressive drive I have seen from him’. Button’s sixth victory in seven races gave him a 26-point lead over Barrichello, who made another poor start and retired when his gearbox overheated.

It was unfathomable at the time that Button would not win again all year as the struggle to generate tyre temperature in cooler European conditions threatened to derail his title charge. This coincided with a heavy revamp for the Red Bull RB5 at Silverstone that transformed it into the pacesetting machine. The quicker Brawn driver throughout the British GP weekend, Barrichello started second and finished third with Button only sixth.

Barrichello repeated that qualifying performance at the Nürburgring and survived contact with Mark Webber to lead until the first pitstops. However, Brawn switched to three-stop strategies to alleviate the tyre issues that dropped both cars out of contention for victory. Button was fifth with an angry Barrichello sixth having lost more time at his second stop due to an issue with his fuel rig. They struggled in the Hungarian heat with seventh-placed Button complaining that ‘the car was very difficult to drive with a lot of rear-tyre graining… our pace is nowhere’.

Brawn-Mercedes returned to form at the European and Italian GPs with Barrichello to the fore. He qualified third at Valencia and used his heavier initial fuel load to jump both McLaren drivers in the pitstops and win by 2.358sec. They qualified on the third row in Italy with enough fuel for the optimum one-stop strategy. The in-form Barrichello dominated once he, and then Button, passed the similarly fuelled Heikki Kovalainen on the opening lap. Barrichello qualified fourth for the intervening Belgian GP, where he recovered from another poor start to finish seventh, after which an oil leak caused a fire. Seventh in Valencia, Button was punted out of the Belgian GP by Romain Grosjean on lap one at Les Combes and completed a Brawn-Mercedes 1–2 at Monza.

Now 16 points ahead, Button was eliminated in second qualifying for the Singapore GP but Barrichello failed to take advantage. Handed a five-place grid penalty for changing his gearbox when he crashed in Q3, Barrichello stalled at his second pitstop so lost fifth position to Button. Both had grid penalties in Japan for failing to slow for yellow flags and finished in the minor points positions, Barrichello seventh just 0.833sec ahead of Button.

Barrichello qualified on pole for the penultimate round at Interlagos and led the opening 20 laps before being jumped by Mark Webber and Robert Kubica in the pits. He dropped to eighth after a late puncture caused by contact when Hamilton passed him. That left Button, who had qualified in a ‘disastrous’ 14th position, needing fifth place to clinch the drivers’ crown with a race to spare. He made incisive early overtaking manoeuvres, including finally passing an obdurate Kamui Kobayashi, to claim that position and the title. Cue his joyous rendition of ‘We Are The Champions’ as he returned to the pits. Brawn Grand Prix also clinched an unlikely constructors’ title that day. More relaxed than for months, the new champion overtook Barrichello on the opening lap of the Abu Dhabi GP as they finished third and fourth behind the Red Bulls.



Red Bull Racing enjoyed its breakthrough campaign in 2009 with six victories and second in both championships. Adrian Newey took the opportunity of new rules to make a significant step forward and only the FIA ruling in favour of the Brawn-Mercedes double diffuser prevented title success. The beautifully crafted Red Bull RB5-Renault was modified once that decision was confirmed in the FIA International Court of Appeal and ended the year as the class of the field.

Having signed a one-year contract extension before the 2008 British GP, Mark Webber had his winter preparations interrupted for nearly three months by a broken right leg sustained in a charity cycling event in Tasmania on 22 November when an oncoming car hit him. Sebastian Vettel was promoted from Scuderia Toro Rosso to replace David Coulthard, who retired from F1. Five-time World Rally Champion Sébastien Loeb impressed when he tested at Barcelona on 17 November 2008 but did not take it further. Head of race engineering Paul Monaghan assumed a wide-ranging role that included liaising with the FIA on regulatory matters, with Ian Morgan appointed head of race and test engineering. During Webber’s enforced absence, Red Bull juniors Brendon Hartley and Sébastien Buemi joined Vettel in testing.

Red Bull shared its reserve driver with Toro Rosso during 2009 with Hartley named before the season. However, Coulthard replaced him at the first four races while his super licence was approved. The New Zealander’s tenure only lasted four races before another junior, Jamie Alguersuari, replaced him at the Nürburgring. Coulthard was placed on standby once more when the Spanish youngster was promoted to the Toro Rosso race seat in Hungary.

Introduction of the RB5-Renault was delayed until 9 February – two days before Webber returned to the cockpit – to give Adrian Newey as much time as possible to interpret the regulations. His solution was unique with a return to pullrod rear suspension after a 22-year absence. The scalloped nose had raised outer edges to meet the required height dimensions, under which the intricate front wing had a cambered and adjustable upper element with endplates that channelled air around the wheels. Bargeboards and turning veins guided air to undercut sidepods that fell away to a very low rear. The dorsal fin on the engine cover was retained. The rear-suspension configuration allowed the gearbox to be lowered by 15mm and space created by the revised diffuser dimensions to be exploited. That lowered the centre of gravity and improved airflow to the narrow ‘Coke bottle’ rear, aerodynamic upper wishbones, beam wing and into the single diffuser. Red Bull benefitted from the FIA’s decision to allow Renault to unfreeze its engine specification to equalise performance. The team abandoned its KERS development during the winter.

Vettel set the testing pace at Jerez, until everyone was blown away by the Brawn-Mercedes. That the RB5 was the second quickest car was confirmed by Vettel starting third at the opening two races. Webber lost his front wing at the first corner in Australia and was the last runner still circulating at the finish. Vettel held second until three laps from the end when, slowed by overly worn tyres, he did not yield to Robert Kubica in Turn 3 and slid into the BMW Sauber, damaging both cars. They continued for another two corners before both crashed simultaneously. Vettel continued once more despite the front-left wheel hanging off his car, for which the team was fined $50,000 and the driver penalised ten grid positions in Malaysia. Webber was sixth in the Malaysian monsoon but Vettel spun out.

Newey was not present to witness the team’s breakthrough victory in China for he was hard at work developing Red Bull’s double diffuser. Vettel led a qualifying 1–3 and dominated when it rained on Sunday despite being rear-ended by Sébastien Buemi’s Toro Rosso behind the safety car. Webber recovered from a spin to pass Jenson Button and claim second. Webber’s Bahrain GP was ruined when he was impeded by Adrian Sutil and therefore eliminated in Q1. Vettel spent the first stint trapped behind Lewis Hamilton’s KERS-equipped McLaren-Mercedes after dropping from third to fifth at the start. He jumped Jarno Trulli’s Toyota at the second stops and was 7.187sec behind Button’s winning Brawn-Mercedes by the finish. Vettel qualified second in Spain but again fell behind a KERS-equipped car (Felipe Massa’s Ferrari) at the start and so could not challenge the Brawn-Mercedes duo. Webber passed Fernando Alonso on the opening lap and beat Vettel into third place thanks to a long middle stint.

Red Bull’s double diffuser was ready for Monaco although this upgrade was compromised by the RB5’s unique rear-suspension layout. Vettel started fourth but crashed at Ste-Dévote after 15 laps while Webber enjoyed a strong run to fifth. That Red Bull had taken a step forward was confirmed in Turkey when Vettel snatched pole position, albeit with a light fuel load. His Turn 9 mistake on the opening lap ceded track position to Button and he dropped behind second-placed Webber when he switched to a three-stop strategy.

There was a major overhaul for the British GP with the axle line moved rearward in relation to the engine, gearbox and chassis. That eased load on the rear tyres (wear had been an issue thus far) and created space to optimise the double diffuser. The nose was raised and a new engine cover worked in concert with the rear aerodynamics in what was a B-spec redesign in all but name. The result was a crushing display at Silverstone, where Vettel dominated from pole with Webber second, and the leading Brawn-Mercedes 41.175sec behind. There was a surprise departure amid that success for technical director Geoff Willis left with immediate effect before the German GP.

Red Bull-Renault’s newfound status as pacesetters was reinforced at the Nürburgring where Webber claimed a dominant first pole position. He was slow away from the line and jinked right into Rubens Barrichello’s Brawn-Mercedes on the run to Turn 1 before clipping Hamilton’s rear tyre. Handed a drive-through penalty for hitting Barrichello, Webber had the pace to recover and cruise to a maiden GP victory at the 130th attempt. Vettel completed Red Bull-Renault’s second successive 1–2. Beaten to pole for the Hungarian GP by Alonso’s light-fuelled Renault, Vettel damaged his suspension in the first-corner fracas and eventually retired. Webber finished third on a track that exposed the RB5’s slow-corner weakness.

The team’s title hopes took a hit in Valencia. Vettel had already lost time due to a refuelling issue when his engine failed, while Webber dropped out of the points when engineers had to check that he had received a full tank. The Renault engine’s lack of top-end power compared with Mercedes-Benz showed at Spa-Francorchamps and Monza, although Vettel was the quickest driver during the Belgian GP as he recovered from eighth on the grid to finish third, while Webber finished ninth for the second successive weekend following a drive-through penalty for an unsafe release at his first pitstop. They started the Italian GP from the fifth row with the RB5s in ultra-low-downforce trim to boost straight-line speed. Webber tangled with Kubica on the opening lap while Vettel held on to eighth at the finish.

Metal plates were fitted under the gearbox in Singapore to avoid a repeat of Webber’s freak 2008 retirement and a new front wing improved slow-corner performance. Denied pole by an untimely red flag, Vettel started second but dropped to fourth when penalised for speeding in the pitlane at his final pitstop. Webber crashed in Turn 1 when his right-front brake disc failed. Vettel maintained his lingering title hopes by dominating the Japanese GP from pole position. Webber crashed at the first Degner curve during Saturday practice and missed qualifying while his car was rebuilt. He started from the pitlane but three pitstops in the opening four laps (to fix a loose headrest and then for a puncture) turned his afternoon into an extended test session.

Vettel’s title aspirations effectively ended during first qualifying at Interlagos. Heavy rain before he could set a competitive time meant that he did not progress, after which he climbed from 15th on the grid to fourth at the finish. Webber qualified on the front row and showed that the RB5 was still the class of the field by taking the lead at the first pitstops and controlling proceedings thereafter. Red Bull and Vettel clinched second in their respective championships with his fourth win of the year, while Webber withstood Button’s late pressure to complete another Red Bull-Renault 1–2.



Lewis Hamilton’s title defence was compromised by the engineering resources and development required to achieve that last-gasp success in 2008. McLaren-Mercedes began the year 2.9sec off the pace after drastically miscalculating the downforce that could be generated under the new rules. It was remarkable that the team turned around the fortunes of its recalcitrant MP4-24, at least with Hamilton at the wheel and on circuits where aero efficiency was not critical.

The McLaren MP4-24-Mercedes was launched at the McLaren Technology Centre on 16 January. Ron Dennis used the occasion to announce that Martin Whitmarsh would replace him as team principal from 1 March. He remained as chairman and chief executive officer of the McLaren Group before officially severing his ties with the F1 team a month later to concentrate on McLaren Automotive. Head of race operations Steve Hallam joined Michael Waltrip’s NASCAR team in the close season. Members of Bruce McLaren Motor Racing when it was created for the 1963 Tasman Cup, Teddy Mayer died on 30 January while Tyler Alexander retired two months later.

Reserve driver Pedro de la Rosa gave the MP4-24 it its track debut at the new Autódromo Internacional do Algarve near Portimão on the day after its launch. Pat Fry was chief engineer for the MP4-24 within the engineering matrix led by directors Neil Oatley and Paddy Lowe. The front wing’s main element was suspended under the nose by twin supports, with two upper planes that cascaded to either side. Sidepods were unusual with less pronounced undercut sides than before to accommodate the KERS, which was the best in the field and was raced at every event except Silverstone. The rear wing had slots above extended and lower endplates. The front-wing endplates initially guided some airflow inside the front wheels, leading to high-speed stalling of the conventional single diffuser.

With a dire lack of rear downforce and aero stability, respectable times at the first Jerez test were only achieved by using a wide 2008-specification rear wing. Pre-season was spent testing new parts – floor, wings and bodywork – as the team tried to make the aerodynamics work in unison and claw back its deficit to the pacesetters. The pessimism was confirmed during qualifying for the Australian GP when the MP4-24s brought up the rear in second qualifying, with Hamilton beginning his title defence from 18th on the grid due to a five-place penalty after gearbox failure prevented him from setting a Q2 time. His fastest race lap was 1.314sec off the pace but he drove a steady race and inherited third when Jarno Trulli was penalised for overtaking him behind the safety car.

The Hamilton/Trulli safety-car incident dominated the build-up to the following week’s Malaysian GP. Hamilton and sporting director Dave Ryan originally denied that the McLaren driver had been instructed to let Trulli past and this was reiterated when the stewards reinvestigated at Sepang on the Thursday. After the submission of further evidence, however, an apologetic and emotional Hamilton was excluded from the Australian results a day later for misleading the stewards. Ryan left the team he had joined in 1974 two days after the Malaysian GP and McLaren received a suspended three-race ban when it appeared before the World Motor Sport Council on 29 April.

Kovalainen retired from the opening two races without completing a lap, in Australia because he was involved in the first-corner altercation between Mark Webber and Rubens Barrichello and in Malaysia through spinning out. Hamilton ended his troubled Malaysian weekend with seventh place. An interim new floor was fitted for the Chinese GP with raised central diffuser. Hamilton qualified for the top-ten shoot-out at that race and the next as slow progress was made. During the Shanghai downpour he had several off-track excursions, the last of which handed Kovalainen fifth place. Bahrain masked the MP4-24’s issues and Hamilton finished fourth.

The Spanish GP upgrade included new front wing, floor and double diffuser. However, the diffuser continued to stall in fast corners. McLaren-Mercedes did not score a point for four races although Kovalainen did qualify seventh in Monaco, where the slow corners reduced the aero deficiencies. He had gearbox issues in Spain, crashed in the Swimming Pool section in Monaco and broke his rear suspension at Silverstone in a clash with Sébastien Bourdais. Ninth in Spain, Hamilton was eliminated in first qualifying at Monaco, Istanbul and Silverstone, such was McLaren’s plight.

Matters improved with an aerodynamic overhaul on Hamilton’s car at the Nürburgring. New front-wing endplates guided air outside the wheels while the sidepods were wider at the rear, reducing the ‘Coke bottle’ but allowing for better radiator exits. The rear bodywork was redesigned and the bottom diffuser lowered to increase the area for the upper deck. That transformed the previously recalcitrant machines, with both McLaren-Mercedes qualifying on the third row. Hamilton leapt from fifth to challenge Barrichello and Webber for the lead into Turn 1, but the Australian’s front wing clipped his right-rear tyre and caused a puncture that ruined his afternoon. Kovalainen finished eighth on a much-improved showing for the team.

The competitive turnaround was completed at the slow-speed Hungaroring. Hamilton started fourth and used KERS to pass Webber for second on the fifth lap before taking the lead when Fernando Alonso pitted seven laps later. The reigning champion was untroubled thereafter and Kovalainen completed a notable day by finishing fifth. As a one-off at the European GP, Hamilton used a chassis with shorter wheelbase (by 7.5cm) and redistributed weight to claim pole, with Kovalainen second in the standard MP4-24. Hamilton led until a slow final pitstop, when the mechanics, expecting Kovalainen, did not have his tyres ready, leaving him second with his team-mate fourth.

The long-radius corners at Spa-Francorchamps showed that the MP4-24’s high-speed issues remained. Both cars were eliminated in second qualifying and Hamilton was knocked out of the race on the opening lap at Les Combes by Jaime Alguersuari’s Toro Rosso. Hamilton led a qualifying 1–4 at Monza and was lying third when he crashed at the first Lesmo corner on the last lap. Fourth in Valencia and sixth at Spa-Francorchamps, Kovalainen was the best-placed driver on the preferable one-stop strategy at Monza, so it was a disappointment when he faded to sixth during a lacklustre race.

McLaren-Mercedes’s final upgrade in Singapore included a new front wing and undertray. A KERS issue on Friday forced the mechanics to work overnight to rectify Hamilton’s car and he repaid their effort with a dominant pole-to-flag victory, with Kovalainen seventh. Hamilton qualified and finished third at Suzuka despite his KERS not working for half the race and a gearbox malfunction at his second pitstop. Kovalainen needed a new gearbox when he crashed in final qualifying at Suzuka’s second Degner corner and he lost any hope of points by clashing with Adrian Sutil at the chicane on lap 14.

Neither driver made it through Q1 at Interlagos, where Hamilton stormed through the field to third having pitted once. Kovalainen had an incident-filled race from a first-lap spin (caused by Sebastian Vettel) to leaving his pitstop with the fuel hose still attached, the incident splashing Kimi Räikkönen’s Ferrari with fuel that briefly caught fire. Hamilton dominated qualifying in Abu Dhabi before a problem with the right-rear brake slowed and then stopped him. A gearbox issue in Q2 and loss of KERS during the race handicapped Kovalainen’s last outing for the team.

Given the team’s poor performance before Germany, it was some recovery to reach third in the constructors’ standings, with Hamilton fifth.



Ferrari won just once in its worst campaign since 1993. Company president Luca di Montezemolo highlighted three reasons for that predicament. Firstly, ‘grey rules with different interpretations… Second is KERS, introduced to have a link between F1 and advanced research for road cars. We have done it immediately even if it meant a lot of money and problems with safety and reliability… The last reason is that we started the new car late and I feel that inside the team there has been a little bit too much of a presumptuous approach.’ The overly conservative Ferrari F60 lacked the grip of its double-diffuser rivals, and its KERS was not as good as the Mercedes-Benz version. Furthermore, Felipe Massa sustained serious injury and the occasional strategic errors remained.

Kimi Räikkönen eschewed talk of retirement by extending his contract to the end of 2010, although that would prove to be a costly decision for the Scuderia, while Massa was committed for 2009. Test drivers Marc Gené and Luca Badoer re-signed in September and started testing a Ferrari F2008 with wings set to replicate expected downforce levels once track activity resumed in November.

The Ferrari F60 was the first new car to be revealed when it ran at Mugello on 12 January, with its designation marking 60 years since the first Ferrari F1 car. The KERS, which was developed with Magneti Marelli, had its storage battery under the fuel tank, giving a raised centre of gravity when the tank was full. The wheelbase remained long with shorter sidepods to create space for small bargeboards, while the mirrors doubled as turning vanes. The exhausts were exposed at launch, but these were covered in revised sidepods by the end of testing. The front wing and rear diffuser were conventional although development of the twin-deck version began as soon as it became clear that these would be declared legal. The gearbox casing was wider and lower than before, limiting the area for the double diffuser once it was developed. Ferrari sacrificed development of the F60 and turned its attention to 2010 when it decided not to alter the gearbox. The F60 was extremely kind on its tyres but not good at generating front-tyre temperature, which hindered single-lap performance and did not suit Räikkönen’s driving style.

There had been stability at the top of Aldo Costa’s technical team during design and build of the F60, with Nikolas Tombazis, John Iley and Gilles Simon leading the design, aerodynamics and engine/electronics groups. However, Iley left in the summer and Simon was replaced by Luca Marmorini in October. Chris Dyer was promoted to chief race engineer with Andrea Stella now engineering Räikkönen’s car.

Four days’ testing at a damp Mugello followed the launch with favourable initial impressions before two of the days in Bahrain were lost to sandstorms. There were reliability concerns about the new systems and the F60 was a second slower than the Brawn-Mercedes when they ran together at Barcelona in March. Ferrari was one of those to protest the double diffusers in Australia, although that was rejected by the FIA International Court of Appeal on 15 April.

Massa and Räikkönen started the Australian GP from sixth and seventh respectively, with Massa initially third before experiencing excessive tyre wear and an upright/suspension issue. Räikkönen was set to finish in that position until he damaged his front wing against the Turn 7 wall. Delayed by the subsequent pitstop, his differential failed with three laps to go. Massa was sitting in the garage as others went quicker and eliminated him from first qualifying in Malaysia. Still on course to score points, he pitted for full wets a lap before the red flag. Räikkönen inexplicably switched to wet tyres while the track was still dry and they were worn out by the time rain did arrive.

Ferrari restructured its trackside operations in response to the Malaysian errors and its worst start to a campaign since 1992. Sporting director Luca Baldisserri was redeployed in a factory role with Dyer also covering that brief. KERS was disabled for the Chinese GP as they failed to score once more: Massa, who made a mistake in Q2, lost a podium finish when his electrics failed behind the safety car, while Räikkönen finished an anonymous tenth. The Finn finally ended the non-scoring run with sixth in Bahrain, where Massa had front-wing damage at the start, temperamental KERS and a loss of telemetry.

Major changes for Spain included a lighter chassis (to offset the weight of KERS) and new wings, albeit with compromised double diffuser. This was a step forward with the scarlet cars 1–2 on Saturday morning. Unfortunately, the operational issues remained for Räikkönen repeated Massa’s Malaysian Q1 elimination as he sat in the garage. Massa started fourth but faded to sixth when forced to ‘lift and coast’ due to being short-fuelled at his final stop; Räikkönen’s hydraulics failed.

Ferrari enjoyed its most competitive weekend so far at Monaco, where the rear bodywork and floor were refined with new exhaust exits and improved airflow to the diffuser. Räikkönen only missed pole position by 0.025sec and finished third despite a slow second pitstop, while Massa set the fastest race lap on his way to fourth. Winner of the past three Turkish races, Massa finished sixth at Istanbul Park while Räikkönen made a poor start and came home ninth. Massa showed the F60’s improved pace with fourth place at Silverstone, where the wheelbase was shortened to reduce rear-tyre wear and shift weight forward, and third in Germany; in those races Räikkönen respectively finished eighth and retired with radiator damage.

Ferrari’s travails thus far were put into perspective by Massa’s serious head injuries at the Hungaroring. He was following Rubens Barrichello during second qualifying when the Brawn-Mercedes lost a spring that pierced Massa’s helmet and fractured his skull. He was released from hospital in Budapest nine days later but missed the rest of the season. The race saw Räikkönen make an aggressive start and raise morale by finishing second after his best performance of the season so far.

Ferrari asked Michael Schumacher to replace Massa for the rest of the season and the 40-year-old tested a Ferrari F2007 at Mugello on 31 July, but neck injuries from a motorcycle racing accident in February precluded any comeback and Badoer stepped in. Having not started an F1 race since 1999 or even tested during the current season, Badoer was hopelessly off the pace at the European and Belgian GPs, qualifying and finishing last. He was 2.570sec slower than Räikkönen in Q1 in Valencia, where his race included a spin and drive-through penalty. He crashed during first qualifying at Spa-Francorchamps, where his deficit to his team-mate fell to 1.378sec. Third in Valencia, Räikkönen took full advantage of KERS on the long straights and fast corners in Belgium, jumping from sixth to second at the start, passing surprise pole-sitter Giancarlo Fisichella’s Force India on the Kemmel straight after an early restart, and maintaining his narrow lead to the finish. By scoring his fourth Belgian GP victory by 0.939sec, Räikkönen broke Ferrari’s winless 2009 streak.

Thrust into the limelight by his Belgian performance, Fisichella replaced Badoer for the rest of the season, although those five races proved to be a disappointing footnote to his F1 career. Ninth on debut at Monza was his best result as he finished on each occasion without threatening to score points. He did not qualify in the top ten during that time and was eliminated in first qualifying in Singapore, Japan, Brazil (having spun) and Abu Dhabi.

In contrast, Räikkönen’s rich vein of form continued at Monza just as the Scuderia was negotiating to pay off his 2010 contract to accommodate Fernando Alonso. He qualified third, lost that position when he stalled in the pits but regained it when Lewis Hamilton crashed on the last lap. Räikkönen was uncompetitive in Singapore, where the F60 displayed its slow-speed shortcomings, but finished fourth at Suzuka and sixth in Brazil, despite changing his front wing when clipped by Mark Webber on the opening lap. A lacklustre 11th on the grid in Abu Dhabi and 12th in the race rounded off his time with Ferrari.



Faced with posting its first-ever annual loss in March 2009, Toyota considered following Honda out of F1 before the corporation’s chief executive officer, Katsuake Watanabe, confirmed its continued participation on 23 December amid the need to cut costs. That included the 15 January launch of the Toyota TF109 being via the internet rather than by invitation, followed by redundancies in the spring. Toyota also terminated Fuji’s contract to host the Japanese GP in 2010.

Team manager Richard Cregan accepted a senior role at the new Abu Dhabi circuit before the end of 2008 and respected engine boss Luca Marmorini quit in January 2009 with Kazuo Takeuchi his replacement. Jarno Trulli and Timo Glock entered the final year of their current deals and reserve driver Kamui Kobayashi re-signed. Pascal Vasselon continued to run the chassis department with Mark Gillan as head of aerodynamics. There were subtle management changes before the British GP as withdrawal remained a very real possibility. Team principal Tadashi Yamashina relocated from Cologne to the Japanese headquarters.

The Toyota TF109 first ran at the Autódromo Internacional do Algarve on 18 January with Kobayashi entrusted with its shakedown. Toyota’s KERS was not raced despite the company’s commitment to hybrid technology in its road cars. Toyota was one of three teams to base its design around the controversial double diffuser, with the tallest central section of all. The car had a high nose with well-aligned front wing suspended by curved supports with endplates configured to guide air around the front wheels. The sidepods were even more undercut than had first been seen on the TF108. The lower-front wishbones had high mounting points that compromised low-speed traction.

The combination of no KERS and a double diffuser meant that Toyota showed early-season promise, however, initial race-winning pace was followed by a mid-season malaise as too many upgrades failed to work as predicted. Podium finishes in Singapore and Japan did not save the season or the team.

Toyota was busy with the Australian scrutineers at the opening race of the season. Not only were the double diffusers protested, but both cars were excluded from qualifying due to flexing rear wings. Trulli finished third to confirm winter testing pace only to be handed a 25sec penalty for overtaking Lewis Hamilton behind the late safety car. That decision was overturned before the next race and Hamilton was disqualified when he and his team manager were found to have misled the stewards. Glock was fourth in Australia (fifth on the road) after narrowly avoiding Fernando Alonso’s Renault when he momentarily lost control. Trulli led a qualifying 2–3 in Malaysia although Glock lost places off the line and was trapped behind the KERS-boosted Alonso. Toyota’s decision to switch the German onto intermediates when most chose full wets proved inspired and at times he lapped 15 seconds quicker than anyone else. Having then switched to full wets himself, he passed Nick Heidfeld for second place moments before the race was red-flagged. The result was declared at the end of lap 31 with Glock classified third and Trulli fourth.

Briefly second in the constructors’ standings, Toyota scored two more points when it rained in China. Following a mistake in Q2 and gearbox change, Glock started from the pitlane and finished seventh despite an incident with Heidfeld. Disappointed to only qualify sixth, Trulli’s race ended when Robert Kubica’s BMW Sauber crashed over him in the murk. Qualifying for the Bahrain GP confirmed the TF109’s early pace for Trulli led a front-row lock-out, albeit on low fuel. Glock made the better start to lead a Toyota 1–2 until pitting, when switching to the slower medium rubber proved an error. Trulli managed to hold onto third by the finish with Glock only seventh.

New wings front and rear for the Spanish GP made the car less stable and were ditched, so Toyota struggled at that race and the next. Trulli crashed into Nico Rosberg and Adrian Sutil at the start of the Spanish GP, and both cars were eliminated in first qualifying at Monaco when unable to generate tyre temperature. An upgrade for Turkey included an expanded central section to the diffuser as the team tried to regain performance. Trulli qualified fifth and finished a strong fourth despite locking brakes. Glock salvaged eighth from a weekend in the midfield.

After taking seventh (Trulli) and ninth (Glock) at Silverstone, an upgrade for the German GP did not solve the tyre warm-up issues that ruined qualifying at that race and the next. Penalised for impeding Alonso in Q1 at the Nürburgring, Glock used a one-stop strategy to come from the pitlane to finish ninth. Trulli spent his afternoon at the back after an early pitstop for a new front wing. They were eliminated in second qualifying for the Hungarian GP before adopting long opening stints to score points, Glock sixth and Trulli eighth. Glock set the fastest race lap in Valencia thanks to a short final stint on super-soft tyres. He had already been delayed by a first-lap incident with Sébastien Buemi, and neither Toyota troubled the top ten.

Trulli qualified on the front row at Spa-Francorchamps and was well-placed due to his heavy fuel load. However, a slow start effectively ruined his podium chances for he damaged his front wing in the first-corner concertina and was running last when his brakeless car was retired; a refuelling issue denied Glock points. Lacking power and off the pace at Monza, the cars received new front and rear wings in Singapore as part of a final upgrade and Glock finished a merited second.

Kamui Kobayashi replaced Glock on Friday at Suzuka due to illness. The German returned for qualifying but crashed at the final corner during Q2 and was ruled out of the race due to leg and back injuries. Trulli bounced back from his sub-standard Singapore GP by qualifying and finishing second in Japan. Trulli’s opening-lap attempt to drive around the outside of Adrian Sutil in Brazil went wrong when he lost control and crashed into the Force India. The Italian berated his rival by the side of the track and was fined for his actions. Kobayashi replaced Glock at the final two races and finished both. Ninth on debut following a robust battle with Kazuki Nakajima, he made his one-stop strategy at Abu Dhabi work to lead a Toyota 6–7 at the finish.

Toyota’s F1 future had been in doubt all year and planning for 2010 was placed on hold until a board meeting in November to sign off its budget. Team president John Howitt had been critical of the drivers and there was interest in signing Kimi Räikkönen with Kobayashi expected to remain as his team-mate. However, Yamashina announced the immediate closure of Toyota’s F1 operation at an emotional press conference in Tokyo on 4 November. The Japanese giant left the sport after eight seasons without the victory it desired.



The global economic downturn had far-reaching effects up and down the pitlane with the independents in danger and major manufacturers under pressure. BMW motorsport director Mario Theissen told Autosport in May 2008: ‘There is definitely more pressure from the board. We have reduced our powertrain budget and the budget cap will limit chassis development.’ Crédit Suisse ended its association with the team it had once co-owned due to difficulties in the banking sector.

Technical director Willy Rampf scaled back by becoming technical co-ordinator on 1 November 2008. Managing director Walter Riedl assumed his managerial and production responsibilities while Rampf retained his on-track role and leadership of vehicle concept. BMW Sauber exercised its option on Robert Kubica for 2009 and confirmed Nick Heidfeld’s continued stay in October. Christian Klien’s first test of KERS at Jerez on 22 July 2008 was marred when a mechanic was knocked over by an electric shock when he touched the car.

BMW Sauber’s preparations for the regulation changes had been extensive, as Riedl explained at launch: ‘We started last February, took in a lot of tests, built two interim cars… I think we are prepared.’ Having stopped developing the 2008 car mid-season, BMW Sauber concentrated exclusively on its 2009 aerodynamics once testing resumed on 17 November. Use of the KERS, which was air-cooled and fitted with a superconductor, depended on circuit and driver, for the taller Kubica was particularly penalised by the extra weight. As BMW had been vehemently opposed to KERS being postponed until 2010, the team’s abandonment of it – due to aerodynamic compromise and its extra 25–30kg outweighing any performance advantage – after just four races was a surprise.

The new F1.09 first turned a wheel at Valencia’s Circuit Ricardo Tormo on 20 January. With the ancillary horn and antler wings of the F1.08 banned, there were turning vanes under the flat nose, rudimentary box-like front-wing endplates and distinctive sidepods without cooling chimneys or louvres. The space occupied by KERS and its ancillaries reduced the sidepod undercuts. Its suspension, gearbox housing and driveshaft were all modified to withstand the increased grip expected from slick tyres. The rear wing was centrally supported with large, simplified endplates, with a single diffuser under the beam wing and crash structure. Theissen again reiterated the aim of challenging for the World Championship, as had been stated every year since BMW’s acquisition of Sauber. There was some promise at the start of the campaign, but the metronomic progress enjoyed since 2006 came to a sudden halt.

BMW Sauber split its KERS strategy at the start of the season and only Heidfeld raced with the system. In Australia, Kubica qualified fourth and, benefitting from being on the faster medium tyre at the time, closed to within five seconds of the leader with three laps to go, but when he went to pass second-placed Sebastian Vettel around the outside of Turn 3 the two collided. Both heavily crumpled machines continued only to crash again two corners later, Kubica’s hefty shunt caused by his damaged front wing. His engine caught fire on lap two of the Malaysian GP. Heidfeld missed Q3 at both races despite using KERS. Slowed by damage caused in the first-corner incident in Australia, he was second when the Malaysian GP was red-flagged after staying out on worn intermediate tyres when others pitted. They finished outside the top ten in China, where Kubica crashed over Jarno Trulli’s Toyota and Heidfeld picked up debris.

Both cars raced with KERS for the first time in Bahrain but remained off the pace. They were eliminated in Q2 and needed new front wings when involved in first-lap incidents. Kubica later collided with Kazuki Nakajima’s Williams-Toyota and spun as they finished at the back. With BMW Sauber’s season in danger of unravelling and questions being asked at board level, the Spanish GP upgrade designed to redress the F1.09’s lack of downforce included a lighter chassis, revised single diffuser, new wings, and more heavily undercut sidepods now that KERS had been dropped. There was some performance gain as Kubica qualified in the top ten and Heidfeld finished seventh thanks to a long opening stint. Kubica was slowed by an issue with his clutch.

However, they were eliminated in first qualifying in Monaco when unable to generate tyre temperature and did not figure in the race. BMW Sauber’s double diffuser was ready for the Turkish GP although the existing gearbox design precluded full exploitation of the concept. Kubica finally scored his first points of 2009 with a hard-earned seventh. Heidfeld was 11th in Monte Carlo and at Istanbul Park, and both cars languished outside the points at the next three races. That mediocre run coincided with BMW’s announcement on 29 July that it would withdraw at the end of the season.

Kubica snatched eighth at Valencia thanks to Mark Webber’s slow final pitstop. The BMW Saubers featured in the shock qualifying order at Spa-Francorchamps with Heidfeld lining up third, two places ahead of Kubica. Kubica jumped into second at the start before Kimi Räikkönen passed him on the Kemmel straight and ran wide on the entry to Les Combes. There was contact as the Ferrari rejoined but Kubica survived to finish fourth despite losing out to Vettel at the final pitstops. Heidfeld also ran across the grass at Les Combes on that chaotic opening lap and finished fifth.

That low-downforce pace boded well for Monza, but engine problems during qualifying were subsequently blamed on a ‘quality issue with the valve gear’. Heidfeld made a fast start from 15th and drove a steady race to seventh. Kubica had an eventful couple of opening laps. Having already clashed with Webber at the Roggia chicane, he passed Vettel into the first Lesmo despite being forced onto the grass as they approached the corner. Ordered to change his damaged front wing by race control, Kubica retired due to an oil leak.

Further revisions in Singapore delivered 0.7sec a lap. There were new front-wing endplates and a redesigned gearbox casing allowed the double diffuser to be optimised. Sent to the back of the grid due to an underweight car, Heidfeld started from the pitlane but was eliminated by Adrian Sutil’s Force India, which hit him when rejoining into his path following a spin. That ended a run of 41 consecutive finishes. Heidfeld showed that the new package was finally working in Japan by starting fourth and finishing sixth following a slow pitstop. Eighth in Singapore and ninth in Japan, Kubica returned to form by finishing second in Brazil. Eliminated in first qualifying at Interlagos, Heidfeld ran out of fuel shortly after his pitstop due to a faulty rig. They filled row four in Abu Dhabi, where Heidfeld’s fifth place was enough to snatch sixth in the constructors’ championship from Williams-Toyota – a far cry from the title challenge that had been promised.



The Williams FW31-Toyota made its track debut at the Algarve test on 19 January when reserve driver Nico Hülkenberg completed 28 laps in mixed conditions. Sam Michael’s technical department responded to the rule changes with a new concept in its attempt to reverse Williams’s slide down the grid. The FW31 was one of only three new cars to incorporate a double diffuser from launch. It had a wide nose, undercut sidepods and pushrod suspension with a zero-keel at the front. The conventional wing package included a simple two-element front at the start of the season. Vertical ‘skate’ wings on either side of the driver’s helmet were discarded after some winter evaluation. Williams Hybrid Technology developed a unique flywheel-based KERS and also investigated the battery route, but neither was raced.

Nico Rosberg and Kazuki Nakajima were confirmed in an unchanged line-up in October. Royal Bank of Scotland remained for the final year of its contract despite its bailout by the British taxpayer. Philips increased its sponsorship but the absence of Baugur Group (Hamley’s), Petrobras and Lenovo logos was evidence of the credit crunch.

The FW31 was quick in winter testing and showed impressive single-lap pace during free practice at several GPs. Rosberg qualified in the top ten at all but two races and scored points 11 times, albeit without finishing on the podium. Seventh in the World Championship was a disappointing return given the FW31’s potential.

The Australian GP saw protest and counter-protest as the diffuser row unfolded. This included a post-qualifying Williams challenge about the legality of Red Bull and Ferrari sidepods but this was later withdrawn. Rosberg was quickest in all three practice sessions and qualified fifth after making a mistake in Q3. After dropping a place at the start and a slow first pitstop, he set the fastest race lap and finished sixth on deteriorating super-soft tyres. In Malaysia, he made a demon start from fourth on the grid to lead the opening 15 laps only to lose out to Jenson Button at the pitstops. There was criticism of his pace on ‘in’ and ‘out’ laps, and he faded to eighth when rain arrived. Another wet race in China saw him finish only 15th and he came home ninth in Bahrain.

Rosberg then scored points at the next eight races, starting with eighth in Spain despite rear-end instability. His sixth place in Monaco included brave overtaking of Felipe Massa and Sebastian Vettel during an early dice. An aero upgrade for Turkey included a new triplane front wing with complicated endplates that redirected air around the wheels. Fifth at that race and the next (Silverstone), Rosberg recovered from poor qualifying in Germany to finish fourth. Williams kept up its aggressive development path as it tried to exploit its best car in years. There was a new front wing, engine cover and rear diffuser at the Nürburgring, and another iteration of both front and back wings in Hungary. Rosberg’s scoring run continued with fourth at the Hungaroring, where a stuck fuel nozzle at his first pitstop cost him a podium, and fifth in Valencia.

The FW31 lacked grip at Spa-Francorchamps, where Rosberg salvaged eighth, and all four Toyota-powered cars were down on straight-line speed at Monza. The FW31 was better suited to the low-speed and bumpy Singapore streets, where Rosberg qualified third and chased Lewis Hamilton’s leading McLaren during the opening stint. However, a drive-through penalty for crossing the pit-exit line dropped him out of contention. Rosberg was eliminated in Q2 at Suzuka but started seventh due to grid penalties. He kept his fifth-place finish when his team successfully argued that his speeding behind the safety car was caused by a bug in the standard ECU, so he was unaware of the required delta time. He ran third in the early laps of the Brazilian GP only for his gearbox to fail. Abu Dhabi, his final appearance for Williams, brought a disappointing ninth.

Nakajima did not score a point during his chastening second full F1 season. Retirements from three of the first four races included crashing when third in Australia. Front-wing damage on the opening lap of the Spanish GP ruined that race, having made Q3 for the first time, then he crashed on the last lap in Monaco. A strong showing in Turkey was not rewarded by the points finish it deserved due to a slow second pitstop. Nakajima then used a light fuel load to start the British GP from a career-best fifth position and run fourth before fading. He tangled with Jarno Trulli at the start of the German GP, then qualified and finished ninth in Hungary.

Nakajima was quick on Friday at the European GP only for a Q1 engine issue to restrict him to the penultimate row of the grid. A puncture then dropped him to the back of the field and he parked his damaged car before the chequered flag. Last but one in Belgium, his was the leading Toyota-powered car when tenth in Italy. He celebrated the anniversary of his previous points score by finishing ninth in Singapore. Anonymous at his home race, Nakajima joined his team-mate in Q3 for the Brazilian GP, where he challenged for points. However, he had a sizable accident when he was forced onto the grass on the Reta Oposta during a feisty dice with Kamui Kobayashi’s Toyota. Nakajima’s F1 career petered out with 13th in Abu Dhabi.



Renault’s victories in the autumn of 2008 were not the springboard back to title contention that had been hoped. Instead, the controversial repercussions of that’s year Singapore GP enveloped the team as it sank to eighth overall, with every point scored by its lead driver. Informed before the season that ING would not renew its title partnership for 2010, the slump in global car sales and unfolding scandal placed Renault’s future participation in doubt.

Fernando Alonso was disappointed when Ferrari extended Kimi Räikkönen’s contract in September and Renault’s hopes of retaining its star driver were boosted by his 2008 Singapore and Japanese GP wins. Lucas di Grassi impressed during a three-day test at Jerez, but Renault announced contract extensions for both of its existing drivers in November despite Nelson Piquet Jr’s patchy debut campaign. Di Grassi relinquished his role as reserve in the hope of finding a race drive and was replaced by Romain Grosjean.

The Renault R29 initially failed its crash test but was ready to test as scheduled at Portimão on 19 January, with Piquet completing two days before handing over to Alonso. This was the first car under Dirk de Beer as head of aerodynamics, with technical directors Bob Bell and Rob White responsible for chassis and engine respectively, and Tim Densham as chief designer. The new computational fluid dynamics centre in the basement at Enstone became operational in September 2008 and was instrumental in the later design stages.

The R29’s blunt, wide nose, combined with dorsal fin on the engine cover and rudimentary wings, gave a bulky overall impression at launch. Vertical fins under the nose guided air to the sidepods, undertray and single diffuser. Renault had contacted the FIA’s Charlie Whiting during the initial design of the R29 regarding its own interpretation of the double diffuser. The semantics of its enquiry proved crucial, for that concept was abandoned when the design team believed that it would be ruled illegal. The wheelbase was shortened to redistribute weight towards the front. Renault was given permission to unfreeze its engine specification over the winter to achieve parity with its rivals.

Developed with Magneti Marelli, the KERS was installed under the fuel cell, a location that raised the centre of gravity and spoiled the balance of the car. Unlike Ferrari, the tank could be lowered when KERS was disabled, giving better handling. It proved an expensive distraction at a time when cuts were being made elsewhere, especially in the aerodynamics department. A late decision was made to use the system in Australia, but it was dropped after the Bahrain GP and only adopted once more, at Monza. Alonso hauled the ungainly machine into the qualifying top ten for much of the campaign, but it lacked grip and aero stability, and Renault faded as development stalled.

Alonso had been bullish at launch: ‘The intention is absolutely to win the championship, and from what I have seen so far I don’t see any reason why we can’t.’ Rain affected its initial Portuguese test, where Renault was two seconds off the pace set by Nico Rosberg’s Williams-Toyota. Mechanical gremlins restricted mileage and performance, while the final test at Jerez was interrupted when Alonso crashed on the first day after just four laps.

Neither driver made the top-ten qualifying shoot-out for the Australian GP, where Alonso used his KERS to keep more nimble cars at bay on the way to fifth. Laid low in Malaysia by an ear infection and battling his ill-handling machine, Alonso jumped from eighth to fifth at the start before fading to 11th when rain arrived. Needing a strong start to his campaign, Piquet was eliminated in Q1 at the first three races. He blamed brake failure for his crash in Australia, was ‘anonymous’ at Sepang and needed a new front wing when he spun in China. ‘It’s not going well for him,’ was Edd Straw’s understated comment in Autosport. The first iteration of Renault’s double diffuser was flown to Shanghai and fitted to Alonso’s car before qualifying. Alonso planned a short opening stint and used his low fuel load to claim a shock second on the grid only for rain to ruin his race strategy. He stopped early behind the safety car and recovered from a high-speed spin to finish ninth.

Dehydration from a broken drinks bottle caused Alonso to collapse after he was eighth in Bahrain. Piquet escaped Q1 for the first time at that race and finished tenth. Renault’s upgrade in Spain only maintained its position in the midfield, although Alonso ran sixth after a great start and snatched fifth from Felipe Massa’s fuel-starved Ferrari on the last lap. After finishing 12th in Spain, Piquet was punted out at Monaco by Sébastien Buemi on the approach to Ste-Dévote; Alonso finished seventh. They finished outside the points in Turkey and at Silverstone. The latest upgrade on Alonso’s car at the Nürburgring included intricate new front-wing endplates and revised suspension. Piquet got through to final qualifying and started ahead of his team-mate for the first time, but made a bad getaway and never recovered. Alonso was eliminated in Q2 and spun on the warm-up lap, but then set the fastest race lap on his way to seventh.

Piquet’s latest non-score triggered a performance clause in his contract stipulating that he had to be within 40 percent of Alonso’s points total by this time. He was retained for Hungary where he continued to struggle in the midfield. Alonso’s decision to qualify with a light fuel load once more was rewarded with his first pole position since 2007. He led the opening 11 laps while his fuel lasted, only to emerge from his pitstop with the front-right wheel not properly secured. After losing the wheel in Turn 9, he three-wheeled back to the pits only to retire with low fuel pressure.

The fallout from the Hungarian GP was felt during the summer break. The FIA issued Renault with a one-race ban for Alonso’s unsafe release, although this was reduced to a $50,000 fine on appeal. Piquet’s sacking prompted a pre-emptive statement on the Brazilian’s website on 3 August and column inches in the specialist press.

With Renault cleared to race at the European GP, Alonso continued to shine by topping the FP2 timesheets, qualifying eighth and finishing sixth. Grosjean replaced Piquet, with di Grassi drafted in as reserve. The Frenchman was no more successful than his predecessor in his seven races with the team, finishing no higher than 13th. His debut included clashing with Luca Badoer’s Ferrari at the second corner and a spin, after which he finished last of the unlapped runners. Raceday at the Belgian GP broke with news that Renault had been summoned by the World Motor Sport Council to answers questions regarding Piquet’s crash at the 2008 Singapore GP. It was an unhappy race at Spa-Francorchamps as the R29s lacked downforce and retired, Grosjean having crashed into championship leader Jenson Button at Les Combes on the opening lap. At Monza, Renault used KERS for the first time since April as a one-off and it helped Alonso to claim fifth. Last after an altercation at the first corner, Grosjean was the penultimate finisher with intermittent KERS.

Flavio Briatore and Pat Symonds left the team on 16 September, five days before a 90-minute hearing of the World Motor Sport Council found that Piquet had been instructed to crash deliberately. Those departures contributed to the suspension of Renault’s exclusion from the championship, while Piquet was granted immunity when he alerted the FIA in July and was contrite: ‘I bitterly regret my actions to follow the orders I was given.’ ING accelerated its withdrawal and severed its association with immediate effect. In the wake of those revelations, Bob Bell became team principal with Jean-François Caubet promoted to managing director.

Confirmed by Ferrari for 2010, Alonso outperformed his car once more on the return to Singapore, where he qualified fifth, set the fastest race lap and finished third to claim Renault’s only podium of 2009. Grosjean’s recurring brake issues ended a miserable weekend. Both were eliminated in Q1 for the Japanese GP and made limited progress in the race. They lacked grip in Brazil, where Alonso was a first-lap victim of Adrian Sutil’s spinning Force India and Grosjean finished a lacklustre 13th. A turbulent campaign ended with a downbeat Abu Dhabi GP where both cars were backmarkers.



Force India signed a three-year technical partnership with McLaren-Mercedes on 10 November 2008. The team continued to design and build its own chassis with supply of engine, gearbox and hydraulics covered by the agreement. It was the first time Mercedes-Benz had supplied engines to a customer team since its return in 1994. Force India also had access to the McLaren-Mercedes KERS but chose not to use it. A consequence of the deal was that Force India dropped its own seamless-shift gearbox, which had only been raced since August 2008.

McLaren operations director Simon Roberts joined as chief operating officer on a one-year secondment and team owner Vijay Mallya formally replaced Colin Kolles as team principal. Also leaving at that time, a year early, and heading for the law courts was chief technology officer Mike Gascoyne. An unchanged line-up of Giancarlo Fisichella and Adrian Sutil was confirmed before Christmas, with Vitantonio Liuzzi retained as reserve. Mallya’s long-term commitment was emphasised by expansion of the Silverstone factory and investment in computational fluid dynamics.

The late completion of the McLaren-Mercedes tie-up delayed the launch of the Force India VJM02-Mercedes until 1 March. James Key (technical director), Mark Smith (design director), Ian Hall (design project manager) and Simon Phillips (head of aerodynamics) modified the back of the new monocoque, sidepods, cooling system and rear suspension, with the build completed in 108 days. Finished in the colours of the Indian flag, the VJM02 was a conventional single-diffuser design. The nose and front of the chassis were noticeably higher than before, so two tall struts supported the conventional triple front wing, which had turning vanes on the underside. Force India’s was the only front wing not to have six-degree movable elements at the Australian GP but these were introduced in Spain; they were separated from the immovable central section by vertical fences as part of an impressive number of upgrades during the season. The sidepods were reduced in size due to the Mercedes FO108W engine’s cooling requirements, with exhaust exit fairings ahead of the rear wheels. These had distinctive inlets that combined with side-mounted turning vanes and aerodynamic mirrors to control airflow from the front wheels.

Each driver had just four days in the new car at the end of pre-season testing, so Force India began on the back foot. That was enough time to identify lack of downforce although straight-line speed and aero efficiency were good. Neither car negotiated Q1 at the first five races. Sutil lost his front wing at the first corner in Australia but recovered to finish ninth when just 0.037sec from snatching a point. Plagued by locking rear brakes, Fisichella’s chances evaporated when he lost 20 seconds by overshooting his box at the first pitstop. They were the final classified finishers in Malaysia, where Fisichella spun moments before the race was red-flagged. Sutil outperformed his team-mate in China but was denied sixth during the closing stages when he aquaplaned off at Turn 6.

Force India introduced its double diffuser in Bahrain. Key explained to Autocourse’s Mark Hughes how such a small team had been so quick with that development: ‘We’d looked at it before but weren’t convinced it would be allowed. That gave us a bit of a head start and we didn’t wait for the ruling.’ Still, it did not allow Force India to penetrate the top ten as Sutil had a three-place grid drop for impeding Mark Webber and Fisichella survived late contact with Felipe Massa in the race. They started from the last row at Barcelona, where the adjustable front wing was used for the first time. Sutil was caught up in the Turn 2 pile-up and Fisichella finished last after stopping four times due to a refuelling glitch.

Both cars escaped Q1 for the first time at Monaco and Fisichella finished ninth. Sutil repeated that qualifying improvement at Istanbul Park before fading in the race, with brake issues sidelining Fisichella after just four laps. Yet another aero upgrade for Silverstone included an intricate new front wing and undertray, although Sutil’s Q1 crash at Becketts prevented either from progressing. Fisichella had a strong race into tenth while Sutil had to start from the pitlane in his newly assembled replacement chassis. Sutil starred at a wet Nürburgring by qualifying seventh despite a heavy fuel load. Briefly second during the first pitstops, a probable points finish was lost when he ran into Kimi Räikkönen’s Ferrari when exiting the pits, forcing him to pit next time around for a replacement wing. The non-scoring continued in Hungary when Sutil retired after two laps and Fisichella again finished outside the top ten.

A major upgrade at the European GP was worth seven-tenths a lap. The latest front wing with complex channels underneath and revised movable upper element seemed to work for Sutil started 12th (having only just missed the Q3 cut-off) and finished tenth, two places ahead of his one-stopping team-mate. That improvement did little to prepare the watching public for incredible performances at the next two races. The VJM02’s aero efficiency, strong engine and effective soft tyres helped Fisichella claim a shock pole position for the Belgian GP. He lost the lead when defenceless against Kimi Räikkönen’s KERS on the Kemmel straight before shadowing the Ferrari throughout and finishing second, just 0.939sec behind at the chequered flag. Sutil narrowly missed Q3 and finished 11th.

Fisichella’s performance at Spa-Francorchamps was rewarded with a Ferrari move, with Liuzzi promoted for the rest of 2009 despite stories linking the well-funded Vitaly Petrov to the drive. Pedro de la Rosa doubled as reserve for McLaren and Force India thereafter. Force India’s excellent low-downforce set-up also suited Monza, where Sutil qualified second and Liuzzi started his first GP since 2007 from seventh. Sutil finished fourth and only lost a podium finish when he hit a mechanic at his second pitstop, while Liuzzi was on course to score points when a driveshaft failed. Unfortunately, that was his strongest performance for he finished the next four races outside the top ten.

Force India returned to Q1 backmarkers at Singapore’s high-downforce Marina Bay circuit. Sutil spun when he attempted to pass Jaime Alguersuari (Toro Rosso) and ran into Nick Heidfeld (BMW Sauber) as he rejoined, then retired with braking issues. Sutil qualified fourth at Suzuka although he started eighth when penalised for speeding through a yellow-flag zone. There was no reward in the race for he tangled with Heikki Kovalainen when attempting to take eighth as they exited the chicane, leaving both out of contention.

Simon Roberts returned to McLaren before the Brazilian GP and former Honda Racing vice president Otmar Szafnauer replaced him as chief operating officer. Sutil again excelled by qualifying third at a wet Interlagos but clashed with Jarno Trulli on the opening lap to prompt an angry trackside exchange between the drivers. Lacking grip in Abu Dhabi, neither driver got through Q1 and they finished among the backmarkers – a downbeat end to a mixed season.

Although Force India-Mercedes regularly threatened the top eight following the Valencia upgrade, the team scored points only twice, but those performances in Belgium and Italy did move it off the foot of the contructors’ table.



Six months after its shock victory in the 2008 Italian GP, Scuderia Toro Rosso began a torrid campaign that ended with the Red Bull junior team last in the constructors’ standings. The departure of Sebastian Vettel, the late arrival of its chassis, reliance on in-factory development (now that testing was curtailed) and restructuring caused an alarming slump.

Rather than sell his shares as had been mooted during 2008, Dietrich Mateschitz regained full ownership of Toro Rosso by acquiring Gerhard Berger’s 50 percent stake in December 2008. The team continued to expand its workforce and facilities as it prepared to construct its own car in 2010. Franz Tost, Giorgio Ascanelli and Laurent Mekies remained as team principal, technical director and chief engineer respectively. Gianfranco Fantuzzi replaced Ferrari-bound Massimo Rivola as team manager.

Vettel was promoted to Red Bull Racing although there were some who questioned whether that was the right move given Ferrari’s engine advantage over the Renault used by RBR. Sébastien Buemi and Takuma Satō tested at Jerez on 17 and 18 September respectively as the team evaluated whether to promote youth once more or hire an experienced driver. Buemi completed over 2,500 testing miles for Toro Rosso and Red Bull before being announced as Toro Rosso’s first 2009 race driver on 9 January. Despite his inconsistent maiden campaign, Bourdais was preferred to Satō as Buemi’s team-mate. Brendon Hartley was named reserve driver for both Red Bull-owned teams after approval of his super licence in May.

The conversion of the Red Bull Technology-designed Toro Rosso STR04-Ferrari was completed in 22 days, with fuel system, clutch, cooling ancillaries and hydraulics all modified at Faenza. The new car first ran in a private session at Adria in northern Italy on 3 March before joining the following week’s Barcelona group test. Toro Rosso’s Ferrari deal included the supply of a KERS although the team did not race it. The adaptations to the basic design shifted weight distribution rearwards, giving compromised high-speed aerodynamics and more rear-tyre wear.

Already on the back foot following the late introduction of the STR04, pre-season mileage was limited by a suspension issue and teething troubles. Modest expectations appeared accurate when both cars were eliminated in first qualifying for the Australian GP. However, they adopted a long final stint and benefitted from a late crash to finish eighth (Buemi impressive on debut) and ninth (Bourdais). That became a double points score – seventh and eighth respectively – once the outcome of the Jarno Trulli/Lewis Hamilton yellow-flag incident was decided. A Q1 crash meant Buemi started last in Malaysia, and his spin as the monsoon hit was a contributing factor to the race being abandoned, a decision rued by tenth-placed Bourdais. Buemi continue to impress by qualifying in the top ten in China. He survived running into the back of Vettel’s Red Bull behind the safety car to finish eighth. That outshone his more experienced team-mate, who was eliminated in first qualifying and spun twice during his race into 11th. Q1 elimination followed for both drivers in Bahrain.

The first upgrade of the year at Barcelona included new wings and Red Bull’s Malaysian-specification diffuser. Bourdais failed to negotiate first qualifying once more and the team-mates collided while trying to avoid Trulli’s spinning Toyota at the second corner of the race. Bourdais eased mounting pressure with eighth in Monaco but Buemi rammed Nelson Piquet Jr’s Renault at Ste-Dévote. Increasingly uncompetitive as they waited for much-needed upgrades, both cars were eliminated in Q1 at the next three races. Bourdais was last in Turkey, collided with Heikki Kovalainen at Silverstone and retired at the Nürburgring. Those performances took their toll for Bourdais was released four days after the German GP and did not race in F1 again.

In Hungary, Toro Rosso became the last team to introduce a double diffuser, to Red Bull’s Silverstone specification. It required the hydraulics to be reworked and rear axle line moved back to increase space for the upper deck. Buemi used the revised STR04 to start from an improved tenth but made a poor start and finished last following a spin. Reserve driver at the German GP, Jaime Alguersuari replaced Bourdais in Hungary amid speculation that five-time World Rally Champion Sébastien Loeb would race at the season-closing Abu Dhabi GP. Loeb tested David Price Racing’s GP2 car at Jerez on 8 October but that intriguing F1 one-off was cancelled when his super licence was denied. The youngest F1 driver to date when he started the Hungarian GP at 19 years and 125 days old, Alguersuari stayed out of trouble to finish that race and the next as he learnt the car and tracks without any testing. Buemi crashed out of the European GP when a brake disc failed.

In Belgium, Alguersuari was involved in the first-lap mêlée at Les Combes and Buemi finished 12th. A year after Vettel’s Monza victory, the Toro Rosso duo qualified at the back and made no impression during the race. Both drivers retired on lap 48 of the Singapore GP and were accident-prone at Suzuka. Buemi hit the barriers at Degner in Q1 and both crashed in Q2, Buemi at the Spoon Curve and Alguersuari at the first Degner. Given a five-place grid penalty for attempting to limp back to the pits after his shunt, Buemi was delayed on the grid by a clutch issue that terminated his race after 11 laps. A bruising weekend ended when Alguersuari lost control at 130R and crashed again.

Brazil saw Toro Rosso finally score points for the first time since Monaco when Buemi converted an excellent sixth on the grid into seventh at the finish. He backed that up in Abu Dhabi with another Q3 appearance and eighth place, although Toro Rosso-Ferrari still finished last in the constructors’ standings.