Formula 1 2009 - team by team betting preview
Since the 2008 Formula 1 season finale in Brazil, in which Lewis Hamilton secured the most dramatic drivers' championship success in living memory, life in the pit lane has changed almost beyond all recognition.
As with everything in the world, the global economic crisis has ripped through the heart (or is it wallet) of the frivolous car manufacturers that form the most extravagant brand of motor racing.
What's more it isn't just the also-ran constructors that are feeling the pinch; it has even affected Ferrari, Formula 1's most iconic car.
There are positives to the new, measured form of testing and development. The main one being it may throw up a few surprise results; for instance Jenson Button is currently the clear favourite to win the opening Grand Prix in Australia - a clear sign the world has gone mad!
Another thing that hasn't changed are the drivers' championship scoring rules as the radical plans that would see the racer with most wins rather than most points crowned champion have been delayed and won't come into effect until 2010.
So with the economically enforced spending restrictions and new teams on show in 2009 who is likely to come out on top in both the drivers' and constructors' championships?
Felipe Massa was so close to winning the 2008 championship and that experience should hold him in good stead for this season. The Brazilian is now undoubtedly Ferrari's number one after Kimi Raikkonen's miserable title defence last year and if the Finn cannot improve this time it could be his final season.
However, even with doubts about Kimi you would struggle to find a better one-two driver partnership in F1 and if the car holds up to the test then surely another Constructors' Championship is not far off.
Whether either driver can take the all important Drivers' Championship remains to be seen but, if Massa's performance in Brazil is anything to go on, he looks to be easily capable of becoming the first Brazilian since Ayton Senna to win the title.
The car also seems to be running well after the final test in Spain, leaving Ferrari as the early front runners.
Where some teams pleasantly surprised in the final tests McLaren really struggled. Over the four days in Cataluña last year's constructors' runner-ups struggled to register a time that didn't put them in last place.
Luckily if there is one person to make something of an average car it is current champion Lewis Hamilton who will be desperate to successfully defend the title he was born to win. The same unfortunately cannot be said for his team-mate Heikki Kovalainen as he struggled throughout 2008 in a much more competitive vehicle.
However, despite the disappointment in testing, modifications have since been made to the visually impressive MP4-24 which should put the team closer to the leading pack. Whether a shot at the Constructors' Championship is realistic is a whole different matter though.
2008 was a real break-out season for the German-Swiss team as Robert Kubica brought BMW their first win in Formula 1 and, with both Kubica and Nick Heidfeld retained, things could get even better this year.
There is a lot of optimism in the BMW Sauber garages that this could be the year where they finally break up the McLaren-Ferrari battle and there is certainly enough to suggest it's possible.
For the duration of the break the team have seemed to be a step ahead of their rivals, testing many of their developments well before anybody else. Whether they stole a march will only be answered in results but they are a hugely ambitious team led by two of the quickest drivers on the circuit.
A constructors' title may be slightly beyond them this year but any slip up from McLaren in particular can expect to be punished.
Renault and Fernando Alonso took a while to get going last year and it was only towards the tail end of the season that results started coming their way. This time around could prove much more fruitful though especially if Alonso and team president Flavio Briatore get off to a good start.
The Spanish double world champion is a supreme driver and, as he showed in winning back-to-back titles in 2005 and 2006, he knows what it takes to win and he will go all out to get it again. He is also helped by having a mediocre number two in Nelson Piquet Jr., as there is no confusion over who is the main man.
The big problem is that testing was unspectacular if not a little disappointing and it will take some hasty moves if they want to avoid a repeat of last season.
Another year of anonymity could spell the end for Tadashi Yamashina's Toyota team. The team principle was forced to fight in order to keep cars on the grid especially after Honda's withdrawal. However, an off-season in which the TF109 consistently showed pace suggests there is a chance that Timo Glock and Jarno Trulli could feature on the podium every now and then.
Trulli in particular knows the dangers that face the lesser teams in Formula 1 and if he can convert one of his good qualifications into a win then Toyota should be back for 2010. His team-mate, Glock, has also hinted at the potential to win GPs in the future.
Based on Adrian Newey's Red Bull RB5, the Toro Rosso STR4 looks good enough to pick up a fair few points this season if, and it is a big if, Sebastien Bourdais and rookie Sebastian Buemi can compensate for the loss of Sebastian Vettel (Sebastien seems to be the buzz word around Toro Rosso!)
Vettel produced a number of great performances last season and his departure to parent team, Red Bull Racing, is a massive loss.
More importantly for the team this season is a reorganisation behind the scenes as 2010 regulations stipulate that Toro Rosso must become an independent constructor. It is going to be a tough job and in the meantime fans will be interested to see how the big Ferrari V8 engine competes and what happens in the first couple of races where both cars will be running without the newly developed Kinetic Energy Recovery System.
Adrian Newey has gone design crazy in the off-season in an attempt to make sure the Toro Rosso team don't get the better of them this time around. Radical modifications have been made to the chassis and suspension amongst other things, and are aimed at improving airflow to the rear of the car; the result is a beautiful looking machine.
Testing threw up a few issues in regards to reliability but, if everything clicks in time for Australia, Red Bull should improve on the seventh they achieved in the 2008 Constructors' Championship; especially since Mark Webber and Sebastien Vettel form the best partnership of the midfield pack.
Long gone are the days of Williams' dominance, the likes of which are now a passing memory of the early 90s, and once again the main aim in 2009 is to be at the top end of the midfield pack.
In Kazuki Nakajima they unfortunately have one of the worst drivers in F1 but at least Nico Rosberg is capable of turning in good performances regularly. Whether the car allows for potential podium finishes is another question though.
Both drivers said the pace of the FW31 is good after testing but it seems more likely that the main aim of this season is to attract potential sponsors to replace RBS. With this in mind, a poor 2009 could spell big trouble for the Williams brand.
There is renewed hope around the Force India camp as owner Vijay Mallya believes both Adrian Sutil and Giancarlo Fisichella can finally pick up some points for the team.
It has been nothing but grief since Mallya took over the Spyker team in 2007 as the Ferrari engine they employed struggled to move away from the last row of the grid. However, this year Ferrari has been dumped in favour for a new, closer partnership with McLaren and, after testing, there is enough to suggest a championship point is a real possibility.
Honda's withdrawal from F1 could have been disastrous for the sport and Jenson Button's undistinguished career however, things are suddenly looking a lot rosier with new owner and principle Ross Brawn at the helm.
The final testing session in Barcelona was a big eye opener and suggested that Brawn isn't intent on survival; he wants to be a challenger. The Brawn BGP001 shot into focus by posting the fastest lap times throughout the four day official testing period and while many initially speculated it was due to running a low fuel load, it now seems the times were legitimate.
Most insiders, including Frank Williams and Mark Webber, now believe Brawn GP and Jenson Button are the ones to beat in Melbourne on opening day - amazing news when you consider the bizarre circumstances.
It seems unlikely the high will last for the duration, or even a major chunk, of the season but Jenson and Rubens Barrichello can both look forward to a big points haul in Australia if the car proves to be reliable.