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The 2007 Formula One Preview 09 Mar 2007

Fernando Alonso (ESP) McLaren MP4/22. Formula One Testing, Valencia, Spain, 30 January 2007. World © Hartley/Sutton Felipe Massa (BRA) Ferrari F2007. F1 Testing, Day Six, Bahrain International Circuit, Bahrain, Thursday, 1 March 2007. World © Hartley/Sutton Nick Heidfeld (GER) BMW Sauber F1.07 Formula One Testing, Day One, Bahrain International Circuit, Bahrain, 22 February 2007. World © Patching/Sutton Mark Webber (AUS) Red Bull Racing RB3. F1 Testing, Day Five, Bahrain International Circuit, Bahrain, Wednesday, 28 February 2007. World © Patching/Sutton Michael Schumacher (GER) Ferrari on the drivers parade.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 17, Japanese Grand Prix, Race Day, Suzuka, Japan, 8 October 2006

The wait is almost over - the 2007 season is finally upon us. Or perhaps we should refer to it as 2007 PS - Post-Schumacher. For the first time since Belgium 1991 (barring the races he missed in 1999), the great German’s presence will no longer influence the outcome of races and world championships.

Think about that. The king is gone, and whenever that has happened in the past there has always been a period in which the next great begins to make his presence felt. This time it may be that Fernando Alonso has already done that, having beaten Schumacher these past two seasons. But even when he was doing so, Michael was always the man he had to beat. Now it is likely that the mantle will rest on the Spaniard’s shoulders initially, but with other changes throughout the paddock it may not stay that way.

Will Kimi Raikkonen finally find at Ferrari the key he has been seeking to success ever since he rattled the establishment with his driving of a Sauber Petronas back in 2001? Will Felipe Massa, for so long underrated by those who looked no further than the top teams, become Ferrari’s pacesetter? Will Giancarlo Fisichella rise to the occasion at last for Renault?

Will Honda finally produce a car that can win regularly for Jenson Button and Rubens Barrichello? Can Nick Heidfeld and Robert Kubica surprise for BMW Sauber? Or will we see a rookie - either Lewis Hamilton at McLaren or Heikki Kovalainen at Renault - win a race in their first season in the big league? And what of Red Bull, and their Adrian Newey RB3 wonder car, on which so much rests? Will David Coulthard rise again? Will Mark Webber finally get the chance to define his quality?

This is always the time of year when anything is possible, which is all part of the fun. Formula One racing thrives on its annual period of rebirth, and what we have seen so far in 2007 does nothing to dissuade one from the view that we are in for a bumper season, in which several drivers could be in contention for victory and the world championship.

The real ‘New World’ lies a year hence, when customer cars, further regulation changes and a new Concorde Agreement arrive, but 2007, the first season for 15 years without Michael Schumacher, will begin to give shape to that bold future as the young tigers claw at the experienced veterans, and the rising marques slog it out wheel-to-wheel with the established giants of the sport.

So stay tuned - the fun is about to start. In the coming instalments of our season preview we will bring you an analysis of all 11 teams’ prospects, introduce you to three new drivers, and remind you of two more making long-awaited race returns. In the first part, however, we take a look at What’s New for 2007...

Also see:
2007 Preview - Team by Team
Niki Lauda’s 2007 Forecast
2007 Rookie Preview - Lewis Hamilton
2007 Rookie Preview - Heikki Kovalainen
2007 Rookie Preview - Adrian Sutil