Formula One coverage in the UK switched back to the BBC last season after a 12-year absence, where it was fronted by Jake Humphrey. Autocar recently caught up with Humphrey to hear his thoughts on the upcoming F1 season, including the return of Michael Schumacher and who he thinks will win the title.
Themes for the season
“As interesting as all of last year’s politics were, I think we’re all looking forward to some stability this year. F1 has never been stronger in terms of drivers, so it has to now capitalise on this. It will be interesting to see how the Jean Todt era at the FIA starts, too.
“F1 is going to have its green credentials questioned by the wider world soon and this is a subject the sport can really take the lead on, but isn’t doing yet. FOTA has shown really unity, and can continue to do so on issues like this.
“But the real success story is going to be Q3. Drivers will be running as light as possible, so the weight variant is going to be taken out and we’ll see some stunning lap times and battles at the end of qualifying sessions.”
Michael Schumacher’s comeback
“The real story before the season – and throughout the season - is Michael Schumacher’s comeback. If he wins the title, he will be known for beating the finest crop of drivers for decades, but he’s too tough and too experienced to be phased by any pressure.
“Ross Brawn told me that he had forgotten just how committed Michael was. He’s up for going up against this new crop of young and talented drivers for the first time.
“It’s going to be a real badge of honour for these guys if they beat Michael. If he’s wheel to wheel with Lewis or Vettel, who’s going to lift first? That’s going to be fascinating.”
Lessons from last season
“The F1 2009 season will go down as an abnormality. We had the biggest rules changes for a decade and most of the grid struggled to deal with the double diffuser issue. The second half of the season – which Red Bull won – is the only place that can be relied on for looking at form going into this season.”
“Lotus and Virgin give F1 a moral high ground. They’re being run openly and on strict budgets and that’s important in showing the sport isn’t completely out of touch with reality.
“For any of the new teams to be on the grid is a great achievement. Lotus coming back is a real success story, too, although it will be working hard to ensure it can live up to its historic name.
“Lotus also has the benefit of two race-winning drivers in Jarno Trulli and Heikki Kovalainen. Heikki has a real point to prove after McLaren and Jarno has every right to feel he has earned a place at the front of the grid by now. His qualifying pace will be a real aid to the team in showing the car’s true pace."
McLaren’s British super-team
“McLaren wants to be constructors' champions again and it has got the last two world champions to help achieve that. I didn’t realise just how much a driver could galvanise a team, but Lewis Hamilton did just that at McLaren last year. Now he’s got Jenson to contend with, too.
“In F1, you’ve got to beat your team mate. And whichever McLaren driver does this has every chance of beating the likes of Schumacher, Vettel and Alonso, too. Jenson also can become Britain’s only ever back to back world champion – he has a chance to become a great.”
Who’s going to win the title?
“Sebastian Vettel has the chance to beat Schumacher and he wants to show people he’s the fastest German in the sport. F1 is experience driven and Vettel didn’t have the composure to win the title last year, but he would have learned lessons.
“He also has a more than able team mate in Mark Webber, who will also challenge for the title. The car is quick and if Vettel isn’t winning races, Webber will be. Both Red Bull drivers won races at the end of last season and will carry that high forward into this year.”