Friend or foe? 2005 team mate battles 06 Mar 2005
Formula One racing has always created intense rivalries - but none more intense than those between team mates. It is easy to see why, of course. With equal machinery beneath them, both of a team's drivers should be perfectly matched. If one is consistently faster than the other it suggests that he is either doing a better job of setting up the car, or is - more simply - a faster driver.
Fortunately for Formula One fans, the 2005 entry list looks certain to throw up some spectacular in-team rivalries. Indeed, only two teams are starting the season with the same driver line-up as last year - Ferrari and BAR. Few would bet against seven-time world champion Schumacher failing to maintain his dominance of the Ferrari team - although BAR's Jenson Button is likely to find himself under increasing pressure from the undoubtedly fast Takuma Sato.
However, it is further down the pit lane that the real fireworks are likely to break out. Fernando Alonso got on famously well with previous team mate, Jarno Trulli. Now he'll have to deal with the more experienced, ultra-competitive Giancarlo Fisichella. At 31 years of age Fisichella is now one of the older drivers on the grid - and he'll be very keen to prove he's still worthy of a drive with a top team. It's a tough one to call, but few would be surprised if Fisichella quickly proves himself to be capable of dictating the team's pace.
It's all change at Williams, with two new drivers lining up to take the start in Australia. For Mark Webber it should be a massively popular homecoming, making it all the harder for team mate Nick Heidfeld to make his mark. Few would bet against Webber dominating the team in short order, but Heidfeld possesses undoubted pace and a cool racing head. After spending last season making an off-the-pace Jordan look far better than it should have at several races, the German will be keen to show what he can do.
At McLaren everybody seems to be expecting fireworks, although it's not yet clear whether the rivalry between Kimi Raikkonen and Juan Pablo Montoya will be a tactical masterstroke on Ron Dennis's part or a damp squib. Montoya's explosive pace has always been tempered by a tendency to make unforced errors - while Raikkonen's famed ice man calm came under massive pressure at various points in 2004 when faced with McLaren's poor reliability. If the MP4-20 isn't immediately on the pace then the Finns phlegmatic calm might be better at squeezing speed from it than the Colombian's fiery temperament.
Moving into the midfield teams and it gets, if anything, even more interesting. At Sauber 1997 world champion Jacques Villeneuve will be very keen to recapture some of the glory of the early part of his career. Now the third oldest man on the grid (after Michael Schumacher and David Coulthard), Villeneuve knows that he's racing on borrowed time. Unexceptional pace when he subbed for Jarno Trulli in the Renault at the end of last season means he's got plenty to prove. And in Felipe Massa the Canadian will find himself facing an ultra-competitive team mate. The young Brazilian still makes his fair share of mistakes, but there's no doubting his pace. Youth versus experience - Villeneuve will have to make his mark on the team quickly if he wants to ensure his return is adjudged worthwhile.
Jaguar Racing has been transformed into Red Bull, of course - with last year's star Mark Webber disappearing to Williams. Into his seat slides the ultra-experienced David Coulthard entering a new stage of his Formula One career after nine seasons at McLaren. Coulthard has always struggled with one-lap qualifying, meaning that team mate Christian Klien, carried-over from Jaguar Racing, could shade him for grid positions, though the Scot will surely prevail over a full-race distance. Klien knows he must put in a respectable showing against Coulthard as ultra-talented rookie Vitantonio Liuzzi is waiting in the wings, eager to step into the Austrians race seat at any time.
And at Toyota can either Jarno Trulli or Ralf Schumacher deliver the team the sharp-end results that the team's management crave? Both have proved themselves to be talented racers, Ralf having notched up six Grand Prix wins over the years and Trulli driving to a brilliant victory in Monaco last year. But both men have also fallen out with their team management in the past, Trulli leaving Renault after the Italian Grand Prix last year after a reported bust-up with team boss Flavio Briatore. If Toyota are not on the pace early in the season it will be interesting to see which, if either, of the two drivers provides the leadership necessary to improve the teams results.