F1 Preview 2011
During the years of Michael Schumacher and Ferrari domination in the early part of the new millennium, fans turned away in their droves. Many felt that F1 simply lacked the excitement and unpredictability of the 1980s when drivers like Mansell, Prost and Senna diced wheel to wheel every other week. This was of course before people discovered that Mansell was rather dull and owns a Nissan Micra (check out his Money Supermarket commercial if you didn’t know).
However, F1 is now back at its best with no stand out performers with five different drivers champions in the past five years and four different winners of the constructors champions. Against the odds Sebastian Vettel emerged the winner from the four man final race shoot out in Abu Dhabi at the end of 2010, but what does 2011 hold with five world champions on the grid?
One of the changes which is likely to have the biggest bearing on the racing in 2011 is the change from Bridgestone to Pirelli tyres. Pirelli have done a remarkable job to create a tyre which is not too far off the performance of the Bridgestone, with the Bridgestone’s tendency to create under-steer having been reduced. This alone has answered the prayers of Michael Schumacher and Felipe Massa, both of whom struggled during the 2010 season due to problems with Bridgestone’s control rubber.
However, one thing which has been noted by a number of the drivers including Lewis Hamilton is that the Pirelli tyres degrade much quicker than the Bridgestone’s. This should mean more pit stops, more mistakes from drivers and ultimately more entertaining races.
KERS (Kinetic Energy Recovery System) makes a comeback in 2011 with all the teams having agreed to drop the devices for 2010 on cost grounds. The devices will remain largely unchanged from the ones used at the end of 2009, when Mercedes device led the way. This will be used by Mclaren, Mercedes Benz and Force India in 2011, so expect all these teams to have some remarkable starts in the New Year. Ferrari is the only other team to have mastered the use of KERS in 2009 with Kimi Raikkonen using the full potential of the device to win the Belgian Grand Prix that year. However, it was never quite in the same league as the Mclaren system and this status quo will likely remain in 2011.
Teams to have confirmed that they will not run KERS in 2011 are Virgin Racing and Team Lotus, with each focusing on closing the gap to the front running teams on pure performance before focusing on devices such as KERS which are only believed to be worth up to 3 tenths of a second per lap. However, these teams will have a weight advantage over the others as a result and it will be interesting to see whether or not this gives them a surprise advantage on certain occasions.
Another device being introduced for 2011 is the adjustable rear wing. This will allow drivers to reduce the amount of down-force being generated by the rear wing on the straights in order to benefit from a straight line speed improvement. However, this will only be allowed for overtaking attempts when they are under a second behind the car in front. The combination of KERS and the adjustable rear wing when overtaking will obviously make overtaking much easier, but will also create huge speed differentials between cars with this having been brought up as a safety concern by drivers such as Jarno Trulli who will be running a car without KERS (Team Lotus). It is also likely that each team will come up with a different solution to this issue which should mix up the order of the pack and in typical F1 fashion it is also likely to cause some controversy as teams squabble over whether or not the device used by the leading team is legal.
However, the adjustable front wings used in 2010 will now be banned. Jenson Button has commented that this will mean that drivers will be unable to increase grip levels when the tyres wear which will make cars harder to control and create more sliding, in other words more action for spectators. Another device banned in the ‘double diffuser’ which is far too complicated and boring to go into; suffice to say no one will notice any difference.
Driver and team changes
The combination of more degradable tyres and the KERS/Adjustable rear wing introduction creates the potential for some classic racing with a completely mixed up order. Twelve teams and twenty four drivers are set to return to action on the 13th March 2011 for the Bahrain GP ahead of a record twenty race season. Here is a brief summary of the runners and riders for 2011:
Red Bull Renault
- Constructor’s champions are likely to remain a force to be reckoned with in 2011. Lack of knowledge of KERS could hamper them though.
- 1. Sebastian Vettel
With championship under his belt he should be a calmer and therefore even stronger contender in 2011.
- 2. Mark Webber
Will be determined to make up for missed opportunity in 2010, but time is running out on his career. Will be difficult for him to replicate 2010 effort.
- Strong KERS and a lot of resources. However, question marks over design department after loss of key personnel and lack of development in later part of 2010 is a concern.
- 3. Jenson Button
Proved he is a brilliant tactical thinker in 2010. Ability to look after tyres is perfect match for the wear happy Pirelli’s. However, lost ability to adjust front wing will hurt his sensitive style.
- 4. Lewis Hamilton
Always fast but prone to errors. Expect more of the same from the exciting Hamilton in 2011. If anyone can make Mclaren win again its him.
- Improved dramatically in 2010 and with Mclaren’s former engineer Pat Fry now responsible for car development expect an even more competitive team in 2011.
- 5. Fernando Alonso
Came close to third title in 2010 only to be let down by team. However, he has established himself as team leader now which is how he likes it and this should make him the man to beat in 2011.
- 6. Felipe Massa
Make or break season for the Brazilian who was slaughtered by Alonso in 2010. Needs to prove he can find his form again after his 2009 accident or risk losing his seat at end of season to Kubica.
- 2010 was a bitter disappointment for the 2009 champions. However, resources have increased under Mercedes and attentions switched to the 2011 car early. With the best KERS system expect a stronger challenge in the new season.
- 7. Michael Schumacher
2010 was the worst season of Schumacher’s career as he struggled on his return to the sport. This was in part due to the Bridgestone tyres and Mercedes chassis which didn’t suit his style. However for 2011 Pirelli are in and the flaws of the 2010 Mercedes car should be eradicated. Schumacher could be about to re-find his mojo.
- 8. Nico Rosberg
The first man to ever out-perform Schumacher in the same equipment has high hopes for 2011. Has been identified by Bernie Ecclestone as one of the best and with an improved Mercedes package he could be a real contender for the championship in 2011.
- After a difficult 2009 winter, Renault were the revelation of 2010 taking three podiums with Kubica and chasing Mercedes GP hard for 4th until the flag. Lack of resources and loss of technical director Bob Bell could hinder development but the team did start work on 2011 car early. Should be set to at least remain where they finished 2010.
- 9. Robert Kubica
Kubica is a future champion in the eyes of many, which is why he is being chased by Ferrari. Without him it is doubtful that Renault would have come anywhere need the podium last year. Expect more of the same from the 2011 underdog as he challenges the leaders in a mid-grid car.
- 10. ?
• Vitaly Petrov
• Nick Heidfeld
• Nico Hulkenberg
• Adrian Sutil
Likelihood is that Petrov will be given another shot on account of his Russian sponsorship money. Solid contender who should improve in 2011 and be regular points finisher.
- Williams have lost a lot of sponsors recently and have therefore been forced to sack the promising Nico Hulkenberg and take on pay driver Pastor Maldonado. However, engineering staff are strong and Barrichello has talked of a radical car for 2011. Could Williams be about to return to the podium? They need to if they are going to be successful in persuading Porsche to partner them.
- 11. Rubens Barrichello
The ideal leader for the struggling Williams team in 2010 as he helped them to identify the flaws with their car. Barrichello experience should prove just as valuable in 2011 where he will be hoping to be a regular points challenger, with the odd podium not out of question in exceptional circumstances.
- 12. Pastor Maldonado
Has a reputation as being a serial crasher who won the GP2 championship on his fourth attempt last year. He is quick but was obliterated by the man he is replacing (Hulkenberg) when they were team-mates in GP2. Expect a lot of crashes and disappointments in 2011. Also expect a very strong showing in Monaco (Maldonado is a Monaco specialist and Williams traditionally goes well there).
Force India Mercedes
- Have lost a lot of good engineers over the last 12 months which should make there battle against the better financed teams even tougher. Don’t expect them to improve on 7th in 2011 despite the assistance of Mercedes KERS device.
• Adrian Sutil
• Nico Hulkenberg
• Nick Heidfeld
Seat will probably be taken by Sutil for the fifth year in a row after a generally impressive 2010. Should be set to continue his strong point scoring showings.
• Paul Di Resta
• Tonio Luizzi
Despite Luizzi having a contract, seat will probably be taken by Di Resta who won DTM title in 2010 as well as impressing the team as their test driver. Beat Vettel to F3 title in 2006 so should be fast.
- Barely survived the harsh winter of 2009 and on minimum resources they managed to fight back from a poor start to 2010 to be a regular points challenger. Have now gained sponsorship from Telmex meaning that funding is much improved which should be enough to allow former Force India engineer James Key to produce a solid car.
- 16. Kamui Kobayashi
Made an impact right from the start of his F1 career for Toyota at the end of 2009 (replacing Glock for two races) and continued that through to this year. Proved single hand that overtaking is still possible in F1 with the move on Alonso on the last lap in Valencia standing out. Expect similar in 2011 from the best driver to ever come out of Japan.
- 17. Sergio Perez
Strong challenger for the GP2 championship last year but arrives at Sauber due to his alliance with Telmex. However, he is not without talent and should be set to put in a few solid performances in 2011 even if he doesn’t set the world alight.
Toro Rosso Ferrari
- Things can only get worse for the small Italian team who are no longer allowed to use the same chassis as sister team Red Bull. On limited budget and with very little resources expect 2011 car to be a disappointment
- 18. Sebastian Buemi
- 19. Jaime Alguersari
Both Buemi and Alguersari have a ten race contract with Toro Rosso for 2011. With the team having recently announced that the highly rated Daniel Ricciardo will be there test driver for 2011 expect him to get one of the seats in time for the German grand prix. The driver dropped will be decided by Toro Rosso management with Alguersari currently believed to be rated higher by the team despite scoring fewer points than Buemi last year.
Team Lotus Renault
- Lotus is basically using a Red Bull back end for its car this year with this being accompanied by a championship winning Renault engine. This will be encased in a Mike Gascoyne chassis which he has had much more time to design than he had with the 2009 chassis. Expect a much improved Lotus in 2011.
- 20. Jarno Trulli
Reclaimed his title as the most unlucky driver on the grid last year with a huge number of retirements. Wasn’t as quick as normal in qualifying either but he did start to re-find his form towards the end of the year. 2011 will likely be his swansong year after a 14 season career.
- 21. Heikki Kovalainen
The best driver for the new teams in 2010 as he showed that he will always put up a fight and keep his head up no matter what odds are against him. Fits perfectly within the Lotus team where he at last feels comfortable after difficult spells at Mclaren and Renault. Expect him to pick up the teams first point in 2011
- Currently the team don’t have a car to use after Toyota withdrew their commitment to build one following claims of a failure for HRT to pay outstanding bills. If they make the grid it will be a miracle.
- 22. ?
- 23. ?
Possible unfortunate occupants:
• Pedro De La Rosa
• Bruno Senna
• Karun Chandok
• Davide Valsecchi
Will really depend on who can find enough money to buy a seat if the team actually managed to get something together in time for the season. De La Rosa is the favoured choice of the team due to his experience but he is struggling to find the money to fund the drive.
Murussia Virgin Cosworth
- Nick Wirth’s attempt at being the first person to design a car completely using CFD started off as a disaster but improved rapidly as the season developed. Expect the team to continue this upward trend this year but on a limited budget they are unlikely to challenge the points finishers often.
- 24. Timo Glock
Had a frustrating 2010 in the Virgin and at times he looked like he was regretting taking on the challenge of leading a new team. Nevertheless, he has remained committed for 2011 and is hoping that his loyalty won’t go unrewarded.
- 25. ?
• Jerome D’Ambrosio
• Giedo Van Der Garde
• Mikhail Aleshin
• Lucas Di Grassi
D’Ambrosio is the favourite as he was given the chance by the team to do a number of Friday practice sessions towards the end of 2010. Has to find enough money to buy the seat though