After the conclusion of testing in Barcelona, we now have only 12 days until the start of the 2011 F1 season in Melbourne. The cancellation of the Bahrain Grand Prix has given us more time to examine the new fleet of cars, and the season outlook varies drastically for some compared to others.
This is part 1 of a 3-part preview for the 2011 season.
Red Bull go into 2011 as firm favourites
Despite clashes between their drivers, reliability issues, and the odd spot of bad luck, Red Bull still deserved to take the title last year.
They move into the 2011 season with improvements to make, but with aerodynamics guru Adrian Newey on board, the RB7 looks as revolutionary as ever. Without the double diffuser, the Red Bull has lost a certain amount of rear grip, but most believe that it is a smaller loss compared to other teams.
In testing they have shown good pace throughout, and with less relaibility worries than expected. Most personnel are confident, with Mark Webber stating a week ago that the team were “ready to go” to Australia.
Tactical expertise shown last year should also help, with the new 2, 3 or even 4-stop races shaking up the formbook for the leading teams.
With world champion Vettel looking to continue his form, and Webber looking to put one over his team-mate, Red Bull are without a doubt the team to beat.
Just like with their 2009 car, McLaren may well struggle this year
All is not well in McLaren, and a brief look at the testing timesheets tells the story.
Having completed the least miles out of all the 2011 cars (excluding HRT), McLaren were already on the back foot. That, combined with reliability woes, and much less knowledge about their car compared to their rivals, the MP4-26 may well be another disaster for the team.
It’s happening unusually often for such a professional team. 2009, 2006 and 2004 saw the team enter the season with disastrously off-the-pace cars. A substansial re-design saved face in 2004 and 2009, but their radical designs do not seem to work as often as many would have hoped.
Having said that, several aspects may work to their advantage, particularly KERS. The McLaren unit was by far the most efficient of the 2009 season, and it should be the same in 2011.
Despite this, 2011 may well be another year of playing catch-up.
Ferrari look likely to rival Red Bull
Just like in 2008, Ferrari suffered a last-gasp loss at the season finale, with Fernando Alonso losing out to Vettel and Red Bull in Abu Dhabi. This year, testing form indicates that the Scuderia are on course to be battling with Vettel and Webber at the front once again.
A technical reshuffle over the winter has revitalised the team, as well as the additions of Pat Fry and Neil Marting, both from rival teams.
Fernando Alonso is clearly the team’s lead driver at the moment, commanding the team with a presence not seen since the glory days of Michael Schumacher. Stunning victories such as his one in Singapore prove he is on top form. Felipe Massa suffered a torrid 2010, being shunted out of a win by his own team, and losing momentum after that. This year, he hopes that the Pirelli tyres suit his driving style better.
A huge asset to the team has been the ridiculous amount of mileage they have completed so far this year. With over 6,000km in testing, Ferrari have already completed more than an entire season’s worth of laps. This, as well as bulletproof reliability, will bolster the team as they look to win their first championship trophy in 3 years.
Part 2 will be up soon.