The 2011 Formula One season is fast approaching and after last year’s thrilling championship, it has a tough act to follow. 2010 saw four drivers head into the final round at Abu Dhabi still within a chance of claiming motorsport’s ultimate prize. After a rollercoaster season it was Red Bull driver Sebastian Vettel who came out on top and in doing so he became F1’s youngest ever World Champion.
However, that is all in the past and the focus is on 2011 with the Australian Grand Prix kicking off procedures in just over three weeks time. The anticipation surrounding this year has been huge with radical rule changes set to spice things up and a ‘golden era’ of drivers challenging for championship glory. For some, the 2011 Formula One season can’t come soon enough. The fact that the start of the season has been delayed following the cancellation of the Bahrain Grand Prix has just added to the expectancy.
After last year’s dominance, it is expected that Red Bull will be the team to beat once again in 2011. The car has looked imperious in pre-season testing and insiders believe that it has yet to show its true pace. Reigning World Champion Sebastian Vettel will head into the season knowing that he is the man that everyone wants to beat while teammate Mark Webber will be just one of the drivers seeking to make life very difficult for the young German. One of last season’s highlight was the inter team rivalry at Red Bull and if Vettel and Webber are consistently fighting it out for victories again then expect more fireworks.
Ferrari seems to have built a car that could well match Red Bull this year. It has looked fantastic in testing and although it seems its qualifying pace is not quite on par with Red Bull’s, its race pace looks very impressive. Fernando Alonso will be as determined as ever to win the championship this season after falling at the last hurdle in 2010. It seems that he is the centre of the team and with team orders now allowed, it’s more than likely that he will be receiving support from teammate Felipe Massa. However the Brazilian will want to prove that he can match his more fancied teammate.
McLaren have struggled in testing and the team have played down winning in the early rounds. However, it will be sooner rather than later before they join Red Bull and Ferrari at the front. Both Lewis Hamilton and Jensen Button will be looking to add to their one title and will carry the hopes of Britain this year. Last season, they had a very good relationship but it will be interesting to see whether it can be maintained in 2011.
Lotus Renault has been tipped to be the dark horse this season after impressing in testing but will sorely miss Robert Kubica who is expected to miss the majority of the season following his horrific rallying incident in Italy last month. His replacement Nick Heidfeld will lead the team with Russian Vitaly Petrov on the other side of the garage. Mercedes will be looking to improve on last year’s performance and all eyes will be on Michael Schumacher who endured a torrid year last year when he was consistently outperformed by teammate Nico Rosberg.
Williams are feeling pretty confident this season with the team aiming for a top four finish in the constructor’s championship. Veteran Rubens Barrichello and last year’s GP2 champion Pastor Maldonado give the team a good mix of youth and experience. Sauber Ferrari head into the season with newcomer Sergio Perez joining exciting Japanese driver Kamui Kobayashi. Perez is backed by the world’s richest man Carlos Slim and by signing him, Sauber have secured some major Mexican sponsors. Scottish driver Paul Di Resta becomes the third Brit on the grid and will be partnering Adrian Sutil in the Force India team while Torro Rosso drivers Jaimie Alguersuari and Sebastian Buemi need good seasons to prevent a number of promising Red Bull junior drivers from taking their seats in 2012.
Team Lotus, Virgin Racing and Hispania Racing will be looking to score their first points in Formula One this year. Out of the three, Lotus looks to be in the best shape while Hispania still haven’t named their second driver!
My tip for the WDC: Fernado Alonso
The Spaniard obviously has a very competitive car but I believe that he will have an advantage over the Red Bull and McLaren drivers because he is clearly Ferrari’s No 1 meaning he will receive as much support as possible from Massa. In the other two teams, it’s more than likely that the teammates will be taking points off each other.