by Rob Wilkins.

All good things come to an end... and thus here's the third and final part of Mark's F1 season review.

Here, he looks ahead to the new season - and, granted, while it's not strictly a review of 2004, we just had to get his take on how things might go come the Australian Grand Prix in March. Yeah, the ink still hasn't dried on some of those contracts, and some teams have still to reveal who will be driving for them, but that's just part of the fun.

Mark also gives his thoughts on Max Mosley's latest plan for F1 - and he's not impressed...

Q:
Mark, people are already starting to think about the new season, what are your thoughts on it at this early stage?

Mark Blundell:
The new calendar is out and there are an interesting couple of changes there, with new countries to visit. But, at this point in time, I think the big question is still going to be can Ferrari pull it off again? Can Schumacher do it? And, of course, can Button win?

Q:
Currently, it looks like Friday will be solely for practice next year, with qualifying one on Saturday and qualifying two on Sunday, prior to the grand prix. What do you make of this?

MB:
Doesn't really do much for me, I must admit. I can't get my head around any time that we have to go to a race, and all we see is cars going around the circuit when it doesn't mean anything come the end of the session. I don't think there is any value to that whatsoever. If that is the case, we might as well just get them all to turn up and go testing Friday and not worry about it. It really should be a proper qualifying session. Whenever there is a F1 car around at a grand prix event, it must go out there and count towards something, because that is what we need, we need the competitive side of things.

Q:
The calendar is going to expand to 19-races in 2005. Do you think it could ever get to the stage there are 25 races or so, or is it just getting to big?

MB:
No, I don't think that will be the case. I don't think that it is feasible to make that happen - unless we probably cut all the testing out, and just purely have races, with a day's testing on Friday as part and parcel, because it is going to get unrealistic. Nineteen races is going to be heavy, on the travel side and the equipment. I think it will definitely take its toll, but we will have to wait and see.

Q:
What is you're reaction to the fact the British GP is going to be on the calendar?

MB:
Great, fantastic. It definitely needed it to be there, am I'm glad to see it is going to be around for a few more years. I'm looking forward to seeing Formula One cars at Silverstone as they should be and as they always have been since 1950.

Q:
There has been a lot of talk since the Brazilian GP about testing restrictions in 2005. All the teams seem to have agreed except Ferrari, who have since come up with their own idea. Do you think the Scuderia should put the greater good of the sport, before their own interests?

MB:
I think they might have to consider something in the scheme of things. F1 is in a changing environment at the moment and there's a lot to be associated with it - good and bad. Ultimately, outside of what goes on, associated with the business element, they need to make sure that the product is good on the circuit. If there is something to add value that if everybody does 'x, y, z' of testing, and everybody goes and makes sure that they stick to that, and that gives a better performance on Sunday afternoon, then they need to look at that. But, if they honestly feel that that's not going to enhance Sunday afternoon, then they are all entitled to their own opinion.

Q:
Driver line-up wise there has been a lot of change - for example, Mark Webber has gone to Williams, Ralf Schumacher and Jarno Trulli to Toyota, Juan Montoya to McLaren and Jacques Villeneuve to Sauber. What will they need to do at their new teams, and what advice would you give them to get off to the best possible start?

MB:
I don't think I have got any advice for those guys - they are all too long in the tooth for that! All the guys will know what they need to do. First, they need to beat their team-mate and, secondly, they need to turn in the results. The biggest situation we all need to look at for excitement is who is going to come out top out of Montoya and Raikkonen. I think that is going to be the interesting one come grand prix one of the 2005 season.

Q:
Following the ruling of the Contract Recognition Board, Jenson Button has to stay with BAR. Will his failed attempt to leave for Williams adversely affect his chances of success in 2005?

MB:
No. I think, come the end of this year, and by the time we get to the start of next season, that will all be gone and dusted. No-one will even be talking about it anymore - it's old news, and today's news is tomorrow's fish and chip paper. I don't think Jenson is worried about that, I don't think Williams will be too worried and BAR definitely won't be worried, so it's really not going to figure.

Q:
The rules are being changed for 2005 and 2006, some say drastically - engines are going to have to last longer [to complete two events], as are the tyres [one set for qualifying and the race], while aerodynamics are being modified to cut downforce [by around 20 per cent] to reduce speeds further, and 2.4 litre V8 engines are also being proposed for 2006. What's your take on Max Mosley's latest vision for F1?

MB:
In all honesty, I haven't really had a chance to digest it properly. I don't think some of the stuff that they are on about is in the vein of what F1 needs to be focusing on. I'm still of the opinion that you need to produce the quickest cars and get the quickest drivers in them. They can then display their skills and mobility to show the limits, bith of themselves and the cars that they are driving. I don't think we want to slow the things down. If they want to go slower, take the foot off the right pedal - that will make the difference! There are loads of things to be considered, and someone a lot clever than me needs to make the decisions. They are out there. But I am not sure some of the things they have done in the past, and some of the things they are itching to do in the future, are the right ones.

Q:
Moving away from F1 slightly, former F1 champion Mika Hakkinen is off to the DTM, and so is Allan McNish. They will link up with other former F1 drivers, such as Heinz-Harald Frentzen and Jean Alesi. What did you make of Hakkinen's decision? The DTM is looking good for next year, isn't it?

MB:
Obviously, Mika wanted to do something back behind the wheel. I'm not so sure the Formula One side of things was really where he wanted to go, with that pressure cooker environment and having to live up to the fact that another world champion had come back in but maybe not in a winning position. So I think what he has done with the DTM is a good move for him. It gets him in a competitive car, with a great manufacturer, with a winning manufacturer at that level, against some names that have been around. It's an enjoyable season for him coming up, and one where he has got potential to win races. And, at the end of the day, that is the more important thing. He wants to be able go somewhere where he can win, and it doesn't matter whether it's going to be go-kart racing or Formula One cars - all of us want to make sure we are in that position to win, and if we can, we will.

Q:
How is the Aston Martin/David Price Racing programme shaping up with Martin Brundle and yourself?

Q:
We are working away quite heavily and quite busily on trying to put more and more to bed on that one. The infrastructure is in place now and the shell of what we want to achieve is there. There is still huge amount of more work to be done, but, as I say, we are not out until 2006. So Christmas is first and then we will get to work again after Christmas and see what we can do by the end of that year.

Q:
Final thoughts, have you any messages for your fans for Christmas and the New Year?

MB:
I hope they have a great Christmas and a happy New Year, and I look forward to catching up with them on Crash.net in 2005.

Coming in 2005...: More thoughts from Mark, this time on the start of the 2005 F1 season.