It's going to be a very intriguing season indeed. BMW, from being the third best team in terms of pace last year, are aiming to ruffle the feathers of Ferrari and McLaren. Renault, from being an also-ran last year are expected to make significant improvements this season, pace-wise. Which means they too are expected to challenge Ferrari and McLaren. Which means they're aiming to occupy BMW's territory. Now, BMW will want to look forward to catching up with the top teams rather than worry about Renault catching them. On the other hand, Renault are ex-champions and are wounded. They'll want to bounce back with a vengeance on the top three teams. Who will come out on top? That's a big question. And certainly not an easy one to answer.
Let us assume here that pace-wise BMW and Renault are evenly matched throughout the season. That pace might be something like 3 or 4 tenths off the best of Ferrari or McLaren. Then the results (of BMW and Renault) will come down to operational efficiency--pit-stops, strategy, development rate, drivers. Of all these, it is in the driver department that BMW seem to lag a very small bit behind Renault. I'm talking about comparing Alonso with Heidfeld and Kubica. But then Heidfeld was the one who pulled quite a few superb passing manoeuvres on Alonso last year despite being in a slower car. Sigh.
BMW have proved last season that they're aggressive developers of their machine. The key difference between Renault and BMW is that Renault have problems with their old car that they need to sort out with their new machine. The problems include aerodynamic issues resulting in overall low grip levels and few other handling difficulties. BMW don't have those issues. Their F1.07 was a positive car--positive in the sense, a car that can only improve. At the very least, should they really misinterpret the data (which is highly unlikely), they'll be at the same level as last year. Which will still mean Renault needing to improve to catch up with them.
To conclude this article, we're set for a dramatic fight. A fight, at this point of time, we cannot say if it's going to be between Renault and BMW behind whoever is ahead of them or between BMW and whoever is ahead of them with Renault behind BMW or between Renault and whoever is ahead of them with BMW behind them or--although very less likely--a fight between BMW and Renault AHEAD of everybody else!
I won't have a calm sleep until the season starts.
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