Sebastien Vettel was a dominant force last season, with fans comparing him to Michael Schumacher. While it is of course a compliment to his success, it made for very few entertaining races, with the Red Bull car far ahead of the rest. Fans, especially the casual enthusiasts, will hope for a competitive season this time around. It said something about Vettel's dominance last season that not even teammate Mark Webber could put up a championship fight. Early testing times indicate Red Bull are still the quickest of the cars, but only marginally, with this year's McLaren looking far more competitive. Here's hoping.
2) Michael Schumacher's last chance saloon
As comebacks go, Schumacher's return to F1 has been a colossal disappointment. The German has announced this will be his final season, unless he changes his mind again. This year's Mercedes car is a real unknown quantity, but has to be better than last year's, and if Schumacher could win just one race, fans will go home happy, and have at least one positive memory from his three seasons with the team. Team principal Ross Brawn has pledged the car can deliver wins, but the proof will be in the pudding.
3) Under-performing Ferrari
It has often been said that Formula One needs a strong Ferrari. It's not strictly true, but the Italian motorsport giants want to be challenging for titles. Sadly their latest car looks to be well off the pace, and it could be another difficult season for the team. Fernando Alonso will of course get all he can out of the car, while there is real pressure on Felipe Massa to deliver after a poor season last year.
4) New teams, new names
Right, get ready for some confusion. Renault are no longer called Renault, their team name is now Lotus. The Lotus team is no more, they are now called Caterham F1, while Virgin Racing is now owned by Russians and the team is called Marussia. With us? Grid fixtures Jarno Trulli and Rubens Barrichello have quit F1, and there are a host of new drivers, including Marussia's Charles Pic, and the Toro Rosso duo of Daniel Ricciardo, and Jean-Eric Vergne. Nico Hulkenburg is back, this time with Force India while last year's new boys Pastor Maldonado and Bruno Senna keep their seats at Williams, along with Sauber's Sergio Perez.
5) A battle in the television studio as much as on the track
For the first time, television rights for F1 are to be split between two broadcasters. The BBC now only have the rights to show 50 per cent of races live, after Sky Sports snapped up live rights to show all the races. Martin Brundle is one pundit who has made the jump to Sky, while other BBC staff such as Lee Mackenzie and David Coulthard have elected to stay with the BBC. If you have Sky Sports, then you can look forward to watching their new dedicated racing channel, hosted by Georgie Thompson, but if you only have terrestrial television, it could be a very frustrating season.
6) Can Lewis Hamilton re-energise his career?
Last year was a disappointing one for Hamilton, there's no getting away from it, with the driver himself recently admitted he was 'distracted' by off-track goings on in his personal life. The 2008 World Champion will be keen to challenge for the title, and he will hope he has the car to do it. Early signs look good, but testing times can be misleading, and Red Bull were so consistent last year that Hamilton will know he cannot afford a single slip-up.
7) Is this year Sauber's big breakthrough?
It was only three years ago that Sauber looked as if they may be forced to call it quits, but heading into this season their prospects seem brighter than ever. Featuring a driver line-up of Sergio Perez and the promising Kamui Kobayashi. Perez topped the times on the penultimate day of testing, and boss Peter Sauber believes his outfit can spring a surprise in their 20th year. The constructors championship is a tough field to make inroads in, but the team are ambitious, and will hope to beat the trio of Lotus, Williams, and Force India, and build from there. If they can step up and even fight for the odd podium, it would be a remarkable comeback story.
8) Will the Bahrain Grand Prix go ahead?
Sorry to get all political, but this is going to be a big discussion point early on in the season. The Bahrain GP was cancelled last season because of political unrest in the country, and there will be motivations by opponents of the nation's rulers to stop it going ahead again. It is the fourth race of the season, penciled in for April, but the fact it is scheduled close to the anniversary of the previous unrest will only shine more light on goings on in the country, and add the the chance of further unrest, which will leave the F1 calendar with another vacant weekend, losing money, and potentially losing the race for good next year.
9) Can Nico Rosberg step up?
For years Rosberg has been talked up as a driver capable of delivering something special, but has yet to trouble to title contenders. Last season was an especially poor one for the driver who once rejected the chance hold talks about a drive for McLaren. Rosberg will hope, like teammate Schumacher that the Mercedes car can be propelled to take the chequered flag, but failure to show promise this season could see him fall into the 'nearly-but-not-quite' Nick Heidfeld territory of drivers who aren't quite cut out for dominating the very top level.
10) Kimi Raikonnen is back- and Robert Kubica is not
Raikonnen's return is one to excite the fans who were turned off by last season's procession. The former World Champion took time off after being shunted out of the picture at Ferrari to accommodate Fernando Alonso and spent time racing as a rally driver. Now he returns for Lotus, formerly Renault, and he will be hoping they can be competitive. Given Ferrari's early struggles in testing, he will certainly be aiming to show them what they are missing. Robert Kubica on the other hand, a former Renault world title contender, is still unfit to drive after seriously injuring himself in a rally event prior to the start of last season.
What are you looking forward to the most this season?
image: © Kroiz