2006 Predictions review
With the qualifying for the first race of the 2007 season only hours away now I am pressed for time because I really wanted to get in a predictions posting before the start of the season. But I also wanted to take a look back at my 2006 predictions first.
My 2006 preview and predictions article can be found in the archives. I promise I have not edited it in any way since it was originally posted (even though I've noticed some howling typos and spelling mistakes reading it back just now).
I said "The R26 has been reliable straight out the box. It's the obvious thing to pick Renault to repeat their win of the constructors championship and the obvious thing is usually right." And I was right, but only just. If Michael Schumacher's engine hadn't blown in Japan it could all have been so different.
On McLaren I wrote "I expect McLaren to challenge for the championship if they stay reliable, but that's a big 'if'. Otherwise they could not only lose out to Renault again but could also drop down behind Honda." In the event, McLaren were not only unreliable but also off the pace in too many races. Add to that several seemingly unnecessary crashes and a mid-season departure for Montoya and a "can't be bothered with it any more" attitude from Raikkonen and it lead to the first winless season for McLaren in a long time. They still finished ahead of Honda though :)
On Ferrari I wrote "I think Ferrari are the most unknown quantity going into the 2006 season. They may surprise us and dominate like that have in seasons past, on the other hand, they could have another year to forget with their talisman, Schumacher retiring at the end." That was mostly how in panned out in the end. Ferrari had problems at the start of the season, but they really turned things around and looked almost certain to overtake Renault and win until that engine failure. Schumacher's retirement at the end of the season was a matter of huge speculation even before the 2006 season started, so although my year-old article does sound prescient now, it really wasn't.
"Honda look like they might win races this season at long last." Well they did with Jenson Button's victory in an unusually wet Hungarian Gran Prix, but it was a single happy event in what was otherwise a pretty forgetable season for the team. Touted as one of the "big 4" before the start of the season on the basis of testing pace, in the end they managed fourth in the constructors championship, but were some ways behind even a winless McLaren. Further down I wrote "I think Honda will be ahead of Ferrari this year and if McLaren are unreliable in the races, they may pass them to finish 2nd in the constructors once more." Obviously completely and utterly wrong.
Even the small amount of optimisim I allowed for Williams was misplaced: "Williams could win a race or two this year, but even if they surprise out of the box, they will find it difficult to keep pace with developments from the manufacturer teams throughout the season." They did surprise with their pace in the first race but still only managed 6 and 7th places. The season went downhill from there with poor reliability and a disgruntled Mark Webber left at the end of the year.
I didn't share the Toyota chairman's confidence about his Formula 1 team's chances in 2006: "Based on their testing times, and the much hyped, but ultimately unconvincing revised aero package for Bahrain, I don't expect them to improve on their 2005 form." In fact they performed worse in 2006 dropping from 4th in the constructor's with 88 point to 6th with 35 points. Additionally I wrote of their technical director: "There is a real possibility of the highly-rated Mike Gascoyne losing his job if Toyota slip back this year in my opinion." As we all know, Toyota didn't wait until the end of the season to sack Gascoyne.
Aside from predicting that Honda might finish 2nd in the constructor's, by biggest mistake concerned my analysis of BMW Sauber's chances. I said that BMW wouldn't improve on Sauber's efforts and the whole exercise would be an expensive disaster for the BMW company. In the end BMW Sauber finished 5th in the constructor's, one point ahead of Toyota. That compares very well to the 8th place (with only 7 points scoring races) Sauber managed in 2005.
Red Bull had a season to forget with their first new car (the 2005 effort was a legacy of the Jaguar days) and the expensive supply of Ferrari engines. It started with a dismal pre-season (that has been repeated this year worryingly for Webber fans). I wrote: "For 2006, I expect Red Bull to suffer early on in the season, rising to their former mid-field position from the middle of the season onwards." In fact things got worse as the season went on and the team concentrated all their efforts on the 2007 car. By the end of 2006 David Coulthard was complaining in interviews that their all-new car was worse than the old jag he drove in 2005. Harsh. I don't think it was actually true, but with no development during the season it seemed like they were slipping backwards all the time. They had a lucky podium finish in Monaco but finished the season in 7th place in the constructor's with only Williams and the three no-hopers behind them.
Toro Rosso managed with the hand-me-down Red Bulls (which were hand-me-down Jaguars before that) and de-tuned, restricted V10 engines. They only managed one point all season, but it was still enough for the old Minardi team to finish ahead of Midland and Super Aguri. Midland were to subject of constant take-over speculation before the season had even started and were sold to Dutch supercar manufacturer Spyker before the season was done. Nothing was done to improve their form during the season and even though they claimed to have invested in an all new car for 2006, it still looked as boxy and old-fashioned as the previous Jordan efforts. Super Aguri can be proud to have competed all 18 rounds of the 2006 season on what must have been the smallest budget by far. Their old Arrows chassis sported a surprisingly large number of modifications throughout the season but none of them seemed to make it go any faster. I predicted not much for these three teams and that's what they produced.
I did about as well in my predictions for the driver's championship. I predicted that Alonso, Raikkonen, Schumacher and Button would do the best for their teams. That was true. I also dismissed thoughts that Fisichella might benefit from Alonso pre-anouncing his move to McLaren a year in advance. Fisichella had a typically disappointing season.
On the other hand, I claimed that Montoya could be just as good as Raikkonen and he didn't even finish the season. I predicted that Button and Barrichello would be evenly matched in the Honda. They did finish next to each other in the driver's championship at the end of the season (6th and 7th), but Jenson claimed nearly double the points of Rubens (56 to 30), so they weren't too evenly matched.
By far my biggest error in my driver predictions was dismissing the impact that Felipe Massa woud have in the second Ferrari. Based on his performances for Sauber, the fact that Ferrari had used him as a test driver previously and the wealth of talent in the drivers market, I thought it was a mistake of Ferrari to replace Barrichello with Massa - I thought it was only a stop-gap measure and that Massa was selected so that Schumacher didn't feel threatened. How wrong could I be? By the end of the 2006 season, Massa had won two races and finished third in the driver's championship. The first of those wins was in Turkey and came at his teammate's expense (Schumacher having to queue behind Massa in the pitlane during a safety car period because he'd been out-qualified by Massa). The second win was a lights-to-flag victory on his own turf in Brazil - something Barrichello had failed to produce in so many seasons - and it completely overshadowed both Alonso winning the championship for a second time and the event of Schumacher's final race. So much for not being a threat to his teammate!
I think I got more right than wrong here. There were a couple of big blunders though (Massa and BMW). Hopefully I'll do a bit better with my 2007 season prictions coming up shortly.