Martin Brundle says he has rarely been more excited about a Formula 1 season than he is this year – even when he was racing. The former grand prix driver, who is now a commentator for BBC television, believes the high-quality field in F1, allied to the driver merry go-round, has set up the prospect of a truly classic campaign in 2010.
"There are years when I was actually driving that I wasn't looking forward to the season as much as I am now," Brundle said. "There are four World Champions on the grid now who can win a race or win the championship. We've got [Lewis] Hamilton versus [Michael] Schumacher which we thought we were going to be denied forever. We've got Michael Schumacher against Ferrari when we thought he was a lifer at Ferrari, and all of the younger guys can't wait to show that they are better than Michael Schumacher. There are so many fights. There is McLaren vs. Mercedes, too.
"It is going to be a year of intense rivalries and people making a point. There are new teams on the grid as well, so we could have a full 26-car grid for the first few races at least. We are not going to know which way to look next for stories in 2010."
Brundle, who is a former teammate of Schumacher, sees no reason why the seven-time champion will not be quick on his F1 return – but thinks he could face a wake-up call from the sport's new generation of drivers.
"He is not going to be any slower," said Brundle. "He has been a fit man since his teens, and you don't forget how to do this – it is like swimming or riding a bike.
"You lose the need; you don't lose the speed, as such. And Michael fell out of love with the whole package that was F1 and now he wants to drive. I admire and respect him for doing that. I think he has a depth and a quality of competition that he hasn't had before. In the main part of his first career, he usually had one man that he was fighting, and now I think he is not going to know where to look next.
"There are fast, committed young men who want to beat everybody, not just him, and you will have to get up early in the morning to beat Hamilton and [Fernando] Alonso and people like that. I think Michael has his work cut out, but I would not underestimate him and he will be there somewhere."
When asked how he viewed the outcome of the battle at McLaren between Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton, Brundle said: "I think there will be very little in it in terms of outright speed and performance.
"They have different skill sets in many respects, but Jenson has got to find his way in a new team, find his way with his new engineer and he hasn't got that team of guys around him that he has become used to. That is disruptive, whoever you are and however good you are, it takes time to build that rapport and it is such a personal relationship in the team. And learning where all the green buttons are to make things work in your team, so I think Jenson will more than give Lewis a run for his money but he has his work cut out to beat Hamilton in his own backyard.
"I think if it turns out that you need to mind your tires and brakes a little bit, I think Jenson has the better style to do that. But if there are phases of the grand prix where you have got to drive around problems because your tires have gone off, as the cars will be five seconds per lap slower at the beginning of the race than the end, so you have a completely different car at the end of the race because of the fuel load, then if you have to jockey it along and occasionally it is slipping and sliding around, my money would be on Lewis."