The F1 season has come to an end with the drama of Brazil wherein we saw the driver’s title go to Lewis Hamilton by the hair of his chinny, chin, chin and Ferrari score a comfortable win in the manufacturer’s point race.
As we look back on the season, it is all to easy to focus on the drivers. While there is certainly a lot to talk about in that area, drivers are only so good as their cars. In this article, we take a look at the best teams in 2008.
The best team in 2008 was clearly McLaren Mercedes. They managed to avoid the massive tactical mistakes that have plagued them in the past. Well, at least for the most part. They also were able to bring the reliability of their car to, well, Ferrari levels. All and all, it was a dominant season. So, why didn’t they win the manufacturer’s title as well? One word – Heikki. After the debacle with Fernando Alonso, the team brought in a second driver who lacks the pace and skill to carry his fair share of the load. The 2009 season is shaping up the same way unless Heikki Kovalinen suddenly discovers some talent.
Ferrari was the second best team in 2008, but one has to wonder if this will last. The hierarchy of the Schumacher days is now gone. It shows. Before Ross Brawn and the gang came in with Schumacher, Ferrari was known for poor race strategy and even poorer reliability. To be frank, we started to see these problems return this year. The race strategy throughout the year was poor. The former perfect reliability faded, particularly with the crushing engine failure for Massa at Hungary. The question is whether this is the beginning of the end for Ferrari or a one year problem. 2009 will be an interesting season indeed for the team in red.
Toro Rosso – The “second” team of Red Bull clearly stomped the first team into the ground. Mark Webber must wonder what it takes to get into a competitive car! By the end of the year, no less than Fernando Alonso was saying the Toro Rosso was the most competitive team after McLaren and Ferrari. How shocking is that? Toro Rosso is formerly the Minardi team, the worst team in the history of Formula One. An amazing turn around that will no be undone as Red Bull will undoubtedly tweak things to make sure its first team actually finishes above its second team in 2009.
BMW – The boys from Germany have prescribed to a slow, but steady, development schedule. With typically German efficiency, they are right on pace. 2008 saw their first victory with Robert Kubica taking Canada. Admittedly, it was after Lewis Hamilton had one of his “moments” and drove into the back of Kimi in the pit lane, but a win is a win is a win. One thinks 2009 will bring more of them with BMW perhaps replacing Ferrari as one of the dominant teams. Many will wonder about the fade in results suffered by BMW in late 2008, but the team was focused on developing the 2009 car given the fact Kubica had no realistic chance of winning the driver’s championship.
Finally, a quick nod to Renault. The team built a terrible car. The first races found the Renault putting along at pedestrian pace. By the end of the year, it had become the little car that could win two races. So, why isn’t Renault higher on the list? Well, Fernando Alonso gets the vast majority of the credit for the improvement. He is far and away the best driver at developing a car in the field and it is not even close. Still, that draws some of the credit away from the team.
The 2009 season is shaping up to be one of massive change. The rules for car design are dramatically different and we should see a shuffling of the teams. Ferrari could come back to the pack a bit as could McLaren. BMW and Renault seem to be coming on. Who will be the dominant team? We will just have to watch to see, but I will go out on an limb and pick Renault.