Most of the big teams have filled their seats, so it's a good time to start thinking about who will win the title next year. There's a pretty good selection of contenders and many of them are in new locations, so it should be an interesting year.
Last year, I wrote several articles saying that several different drivers were going to win the 2009 world championship. Sadly, I wrote them all before Brawn had been created, and therefore was wrong about all of them. This year I'm hoping to get one of them right, so in no particular order, here are several drivers who will definitely be the 2010 champion.
Driver Number One: Fernando Alonso
After two fairly unsuccessful seasons at Renault, Alonso will be desperate to challenge for the title once again. Replacing Kimi Raikkonen at Ferrari, he is moving to the most successful team of the decade, although you wouldn't know that based on their 2009 challenger.
He has only won twice in the last two years, and one of them involved his team fixing the race. Only 26 points came his way in 2009, which is not something a double world champion who's still on top of his game will be proud about. Ferrari will give him the chance to change that, and as long as he doesn't fall out with Stefano Domenicali, Alonso should be fighting for the championship once again.
Driver Number Two: Lewis Hamilton
When McLaren have a half-decent car, Hamilton can get some impressive results out of it. Two wins in 2009 shows his talent, and he outscored everyone else over the final half of the '09 season. Compare that to team-mate Heikki Kovalainen, who was unable to make the podium all year.
Like Ferrari, McLaren shouldn't make the same mistakes twice, and 2010 has to be a lot more successful for them. Lewis definitely has the skill, and having been with the team for many years, he should have the upper hand over new team-mate Jenson Button. His driving did improve over 2009, but the car couldn't prove it with the results.
Driver Number Three: Felipe Massa
It's easy to forget that Massa was sitting in 5th in the championship before his accident, and there are many who say he would have won the Hungarian GP. 2010 will be his fifth year with Ferrari, and his driving has got better every year.
However, he will not have driven competitively (charity karting doesn't count) for many months, and it won't be clear whether the accident has had an impact on his ability until the first race of the season. Personally I think he will be fine. After all, when Michael Schumacher broke his leg he won the next five consecutive titles...
Driver Number Four: Sebastian Vettel
Vettel is a future world champion, and it's just a case of guessing 'when' instead of 'if'. He could have won it in 2009 if he hadn't made mistakes, and the car wasn't blowing its engine all the time.
Red Bull will need to provide him with a good car again, and it's up to Adrian Newey to prove the '09 car wasn't a fluke. With a decent car, Vettel will once again be a huge championship threat. Most importantly though, it needs to be reliable, and with engine manufacturer Renault's interest in F1 looking a bit dodgy, this could be tricky.
I'm sure you're wandering where Jenson Button is on this list. To be honest, I don't think he will win the title two years in a row, especially with a much more challenging team-mate. When the car is perfect, Jenson can dominate, but when faced with pressure, he isn't there. However, you can't write off a world champion, so we'll have to wait and see.
It might be worth keeping an eye out for Nico Rosberg as well. 2009 showed that he has a lot of potential by scoring 34.5 points in a car that his team-mate couldn't score any with. Now with Mercedes, it could be quite interesting to see how he performs. A race win, perhaps?
For a time, Mark Webber was looking very promising, but he looks to me like one of those drivers who seem destined not to win the championship. He has no luck, but I would be very pleased to see him lift the title.
There's still three months to the start of the year. Sigh.
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