It is early days in the 2010 F1 World Championship, but McLaren’s decision to hire Jenson Button is looking inspired at the moment. A combination of his experience and smooth driving style is certainly giving him an advantage when racing in changeable weather conditions. After 4 races, Jenson and McLaren lead both the driver and constructor championships. He has won two races out of four despite relatively poor qualifying positions, where Red Bull seem to have a clear advantage.
We should not forget the battling Lewis Hamilton who is driving out of his skin, but making his own life a lot harder than it needs to be. Hamilton is doing a lot more overtaking, driving right on the limit and regularly the fastest on the circuit, but Button appears to be able to drive calmly and under control and still beat his new team-mate. What is nice to see is that Hamilton does not appear to be throwing his toys out of the pram and the relationship between the two McLaren drivers appears to be a friendly and productive one. For now.
As the year progresses, the teams may get a better handle on tyre degradation which may start to eliminate the advantage that Jenson Button appears to have at the moment. If McLaren develop their car as rapidly as they did in 2009 (where they gained over 2 seconds per lap in performance) then they must be favourites for the 2010 F1 titles. That would make Hamilton the biggest threat to Button keeping his crown.
It is going to be a fascinating year, but I have not written off Fernando Alonso who is driving extremely well and seems very fast when compared to Felipe Massa. In fact, had Alonso not been held up at a couple of races by Massa he would probably be higher in the championship standings. Today may be a turning point at Ferrari with Alonso making a cheeky overtake upon entry to the pitlane on Massa. No doubt Massa’s side of the garage will be spitting bullets but the way Massa faded afterwards shows Alsono gained a psychological advantage today. Lets hope Alonso has not caused in-fighting at another top team!
I guess I should also mention Sebastian Vettel who is undoubtedly very talented and driving the best car for qualification, however Red Bull’s failure to convert their early advantage may cost them dear as the other big-budget teams bolt on a lot of enhancements to their cars when they come back to Europe. Red Bull may fade while Mercedes, McLaren and Ferrari rapidly gain performance.
Assuming, of course, a certain volcanic ash cloud doesn’t decide to hang around and cause races to be cancelled!!