Twitinions – Amazon Cloud Player

March 30, 2011

Amazon shocked everyone (especially Apple and Google) on Tuesday this week when they unveiled their Cloud Player, allowing anyone to upload their music to the player and playback anywhere in the world.

I’ve not had a chance to use this exciting tool yet (as sadly the player hasn’t launched in the UK at present), but luckily there’s been a massive hive of chatter about the subject on Twitter, so here’s some of your opinions on Amazon’s latest (and maybe greatest) move.

As always, these are the views of those credited and not myself, enjoy!

Most people are being extremely positive of the service from the outset

zacwest: I might bash its problems but the Amazon Cloud Player is pretty snazzy, and a great idea, assuming software support becomes pervasive.

allenrocks: Testing the new #amazon #cloud player and have to say I like it. Though its a deliberate attempt to thwart the #iPhone still like it a lot

hankville: Loving Amazon’s Cloud Player… pause music, no more fucking ads, no more lame “Are you still listening?” pop-ups… heaven…

JamesMurphyFTW: After a day with Amazon Cloud Player, I can safely say it is amazing and will change the way I listen to music forever.

l3wk: Amazon’s new cloud drive/cloud player for mp3s: you made exactly the thing I wanted for storing music. Shut up and take my money!

Many have been obviously contrasting the differences between the Cloud Player and similar services we already have

webdesignMCL: Is intrigued by cloud player. Could this be a new spottify?

Philbert260: Reading the buzz about Amazon’s Cloud Player, but for my money, Rhapsody has the better model.

kristen_maxwell: If someone could make a music player for iphone that combined Pandora, and Amazon Cloud, i would be totally set

DavidBuivid: No thanks to Amazon Cloud Player. I’m waiting for Spotify!

And the most obvious competitor to it (and the people left a bit red faced now), Apple:

joelhowe: Already using Amazon’s #Cloud #Player, syncing music OTA between phone, Xoom tablet, and PC. So easy and a HUGE threat to iTunes!

jackalopekid: I thought Apple would have beat Google to the cloud music player.

aaronarnold: Apple better come up with a product like Amazon Cloud Player… they are in danger of me never opening iTunes again…

tdelet: the amazon mp3 store & cloud player are a stunning reminder of what a piece of shit itunes is.

But the biggest debate still going on, is the threat by Sony and other record labels of action against the player… not that Amazon cares!

mad_house: Despite its value to customers, amazon’s cloud player will really get in the way of studios who seem to prefer a one-device license model.

flatrabbit: Sony Music needs to give it up, trying to convince everyone that Amazon’s Cloud Player needs a license is just idiotic.

cassandrastokes: Music labels are threatening to take legal action against Amazon over it’s Cloud Player service basically because they want more money!

agrinavich: I’m on Team Amazon as far as licensing for the cloud player situation goes. Unless I’m missing something, you’re streaming your own music.

But as always with the web, there’s several opinions and not everyone thinks it’s so great!

wytherwyskers: Uninstalled Cloud Player already. It’s rubbish.

Amazon’s cloud player is still a massive trending topic over on Twitter (due in no small part to the fact it’s being promoted right now), so why not go and weigh in your own opinions on the system. Thanks as always for sharing all your opinions on Twitter, it’s great to see what you all think.

As for me, I can’t wait for Cloud Player when it’s eventually brought to the UK and of course Apple’s inevitable alternative!

Pic of my Week – 28/03/2011

March 28, 2011

A more interesting week of pics than the first I hope you’ll agree! Here’s the Pic of my week.

myself and @NikkiH21 after our fantastic day at the 2011 opening of @alton_towers , good times!

Well, it was unlikely to be anything else!

Toothy smiles all round as we finished our day at Alton Towers grand opening for the 2011 season. I couldn’t wait to get back there and the day didn’t disappoint (even if our Sonic Spinball fastrack mysteriously went walkabout).

The park itself was much busier than last year’s Th13teen launch, which surprised me as the only new and notable thing about the park this year is some crabs which don’t really move.

But despite this, the park was on top form. Lots of repainting has been done, some lost effects have returned on some rides such as Duel, Oblivion has had a lot of work done to it (shame the track hasn’t been given a lick of paint though!) and the staff were all in very high spirits.

And this is what I love about opening days at the Towers, there’s always a great atmosphere, everyone’s always in a great mood and whatever the weather (which was decidedly overcast) and it’s just a great way to escape the horribleness of everyday life.

So well done again to Alton Towers for another fun packed day (and hopefully year). But here’s to 2013 when the park will be unleashing their most expensive ride ever, another worlds first no doubt – can’t wait!

The Fast Lane – Vettel continues where he left off in Australia

March 27, 2011

There’s been a lot of speculation over the winter break. People suggesting that Red Bull’s dominance may be at an end, that McLaren had slipped off the pace, that Ferrari and Alonso were on a level with Vettel. But Sebastien put all of this to rest earlier today with an absolutely stunning drive to victory in Melbourne.

In fact, was anyone else really in the race? The entire weekend was a complete whitewash for Vettel, a real credit to the current champion. Both him and the team have kept the form over the winter and have set off as they wish to continue. In fact rival Fernando Alonso, said Vettel was on another planet today and it was almost impossible to compete with him.

But it wasn’t a perfect race for the team. Australian Mark Webber only managed a fifth around his home track. I’m starting to wonder if Mark Webber’s heart is still in the right place for F1. He had his biggest chance for a title ever last year and since he lost it from so far ahead, I do wonder if he’s a little down hearted. He was certainly off the pace today and lucky not to slip any further down, a shame.

And they didn’t have complete dominance. Lewis Hamilton drove his heavily damaged McLaren to a comfortable2nd position. Not enough to compete with Vettel, but proof that McLaren are on the way up and a lot more competitive than was expected.

I would expect Ferrari to be quite disappointed with the day. Alonso was clearly driving the Ferrari well outside of it’s league, working very hard to get his car up to fourth. And Massa has sadly started the same way as last year… by going backwards. It’s a real shame, but I just feel the Brazillian has already passed his peak in racing.

The problem is, I fear today’s race (and potentially the whole season) has taken it’s eye of the acing and is more interested in rules and regulations.

It started with Button’s move on Massa. Now, there’s no denying that Button broke the rules by taking a shortcut and gaining an advantage. It’s also true that he should have given the position back. But I feel it was wrong for him to take the drive-thru penalty as it effectively ruined a promising race.

The problem it seems was the FIA’s delay in responding to McLaren’s queries on the issue. I therfore think that some new guidance needs to be prepared for the teams on this issue. The teams need to know to let a car back past immediately, if not then they’ll keep getting this OTT penalties which is only going to ruin the spectacle.

Next comes the new technology on the cars. KERS I do believe can be a good system, making the action more frequent and a more strategic plan every lap for the drivers (although it didn’t seem to affect Red Bull who didn’t use the system today).

However, I’m very unsure on the new DRS system. It seems very strange to me that the FIA should control when cars have a chance to overtake. Surely this system should be available throughout the race, once again adding a strategic element to the drivers throughout a lap.

But of course the main problem seems to be that the  DRS doesn’t really work. Only a couple of cars overtook using it and few others seemed to get any kind of advantage from it. The FIA are developing this throughout the season, but I’m unsure if it will be here next year.

And as if all this ‘politics’ wasn’t enough, the day has been marred further by the disqualification of the Sauber’s. Both Kamui Kobayashi and Sergio Perez have been taken out of the results due to the size of their rear-wing not adhering to regulations. The Sauber team have said this caused no performance advantage and will be appealing the decision.

I just feel it’s wrong for the result over the line, not to be the final result. Is there no way the FIA can vet these cars before the start so we don’t have these disappointing issues.

But aside from this, there have been some notable drives today. Perez drove fantastically on his rookie race and only pitting once (although of course that MAY have been due to that rear wing). Paul Di Resta also had an impressive fist race for Force India, certainly challenging his team-mate Sutil.

The stand out drive goes to Vitaly Petrov who proved the power of Lotus-Renault for 2011. A very strong third for the Russian and a second race in a row ahead of Fernando Alonso! I expect great things from this man who has already massively overshadowed Nick Heidfeld.

And that was the Australian Grand Prix. I have mixed feelings. It’s been great to see F1 back, but it wasn’t a very entertaining race and the rules are continuing to get in the way of the sport. The action continues in two weeks in Malaysia where we can hope that all the action will happen on the track and within the race!

Silverstone – Looking to the future

March 25, 2011

Tying in nicely with my ‘Fast Lane F1 Preview Week’, yesterday I visited the home of British motor racing – Silverstone. If you don’t believe me, see below!

Yep, my car outside Silverstone!

Silverstone is a track undergoing massive change at the moment to try and stay in contention with other international circuits paving the way when it comes to the facilities available at the track. To do this, it’s been going under a 2 year renovation. Last year saw the track layout change, controversially losing a large section of the final complex and Bridge corner.

I’m still in two minds about the change. I did like the new layout, it looks faster with more overtaking opportunities – but Bridge corner was legendary and part of the tricky complex wont be driven by an F1 car again. I find that sad.

And it’s sad to see the old complex now left all dusty with tyres stacked through bridge corner. Not the best thing to see when entering a ‘world class’ venue.

The second year of the transformation is the new facilities. Silverstone have built a new pit and paddock area on the old farm straight . I wasn’t allowed to near the construction, but you can see it’s striking roof in this picture.

But by building the new, it means the old has once again become rather deserted. The pit straight at Silverstone used to be a hive of activity with lots of stands and a close view of the action. But this area appears to have become a bit of a ghost town. The old pit stand with ‘Silverstone’ written on the seats has been dismantled and its currently laying on the outer path.

I believe that Silverstone are re-building this classic stand several meters back from the track. In fact the whole design of new Silverstone appears to be higher stands but further away from the action. As you can see from this shot, the gravel trap next to the old pit straight has been noticeably increased.

There are a lot of new stands though, all with roofs on the way – a welcome sight for anyone who’s watched a race in the rain before!

What’s very strange about the whole move is that the old pits and paddock will remain -they’ll be used for events like the touring cars, so we’re in a strange situation whereby Silverstone will have two sets of pits.

I am looking forward to the new Silverstone, the new paddock area does already look impressive, but it’s obvious from the state of the place that there’s a long way to go before the facility is ready. I just hope that it in time for the Grand Prix on 10th July.

But yesterday wasn’t just about Silverstone, it was about the BTCC. I was lucky enough to get into yesterday’s first test of the season. The grid is looking very big this year, hopefully leading to a close and exciting season. It’s great to see names like Plato and Neal remain in the series as well as many new names hoping to join the top dogs. Here’s a few pics from the day. Enjoy!

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F1 2011 – The Regulations and Controversy

March 25, 2011

Two things which for some make the sport and others cause it’s darkest days – regulations and controversy often shape the way F1 pans out over a season. They’re often applied after all the racing has finished and so it’s only fitting that my final article focuses on their possible impact in 2011.

Starting with the regulations, there have again been some big changes for 2011. One of the most notable is the re-introduction of KERS. The Kinetic-Energy-Recovery-System takes waste energy from braking and allows drivers to have an extra boost by pressing a button on the steering wheel – yes just like the video games!

KERS were of course trialled in 2009 with a rather small pick up and most ditching the system by the end of the season (as they found they went quicker without them!). It will be interesting to see if – with a couple of years more research behind them – the teams can make it work a bit better this time around.

I do like the idea of KERS, but I still think it should be a compulsory addition fro all teams, because when some teams use and some don’t I feel it kind of defeats the object of putting drivers at a more even level…

Another new addition is moveable rear-wings. Drivers will be able to use this at any time during practice and qualifying to get better downforce at certain points in the track. This will also be available during the race, but only when a driver is 1 second behind another driver. I like the idea of this, making a lap much more tactical, but I’m unsure how it can be fairly implemented at the 1 second point and how much of an actual difference it’ll make. We’ll have to wait and see.

Other new rules include the reintroduction of the 107% qualifying rule (drivers must be within this much of the pole time to qualify) hopefully tightening the field. There’s also a ban on the much over-used F-ducts and double diffusers of previous years meaning the likes of Ross Brawn and Adrian Newey  will have to come up with some new-fangled aerodynamic packages.

Gearboxes also now have to be more durable, lasting five races instead of four last year.

Perhaps the most controversial rule-change is the lifting of the ban on team-orders. After Ferrari’s Massa-Alonso swap last year, the FIA have decided that you can’t enforce this ban and so team orders will be openly present in 2011. I am disappointed about this to an extent. I know you can argue that it’s a team game, but I much prefer to see drivers battle for a position rather than being given it.

And that leads nicely to the controversy. There’s already been a fair bit before the season’s even started.

Firstly there’s been the ongoing war between Team Lotus (last years Lotus Racing team) and Lotus renault GP (last years Renault team). Both have claimed they have the rights to the name Lotus and have been battling all throughout the winter period as to who should carry the name in 2011.

The stupidest thing of all is that no-one cared to ask the actual person who sold the name to Tony Fernandez of the David Hunt. Ah F1, always does things the hard way!

Bernie Ecclestone’s been having  a few crazy ideas over the winter, the most notable being putting sprinklers on the tracks to provide a wet weather course at any time. Yep, a ridiculous idea by any stretch of the imagination, but one which Bernie recently brought up again claiming that it could work. I don’t know what you’re drinking Bernie but I want some!

Then of course more recently, we’ve had the threat of a mass drivers strike due to the amount of buttons on the steering wheel. Sebastien Vettel among others have claimed that this is a safety risk and we were left with a situation whereby the stars of the show could boycott the first race. At the time of writing, it’s not looking likely, but is still a possibility – I do hope we have a race this weekend!

Throw into that Bernie Ecclestone claiming that F1 doesn’t need Australia and a Bahrain GP that’s in doubt and you already have a controversy filled season.

Sorry haters, the two go hand in hand – there’s no F1 without controversy.

F1 2011 starts this weekend with the Australian GP. Enjoy!

F1 2011 – The Coverage

March 24, 2011

In my opinion the F1 coverage in the UK has been very much improved since it’s move back to the BBC two years ago. But this year will see a few new changes to put under the spotlight.

The first of these is the promotion of Martin Brundle and David Coulthard. Many people have been disappointed with Jonathan Legard’s commentary since he took over the TV coverage in 2009 and this year the BBC have reacted, removing Legard and giving the job to his co-commentator Martin Brundle.

David Coulthard has been moved to Brundle’s former role of co-commentator . At the same time as commentating, David will still be a pundit alongside Jake Humphrey and Eddie Jordan, leaving the pair shortly before the race to join Brundle in the commentary box.

I’m not entirely sure how I feel about this. Both Brundle and Coulthard have a wealth of experience in the sport and will no doubt bring a very knowledgeable commentary to the sport. But at the same time, I fear they wont have the enthusiasm and excitement in their presentation that is so needed for this kind of commentary. I’m also unsure how David will be able to interact with both Jake and Eddie and then move to a commentating role.

I suppose it has worked in other sports (notably football where it regularly happens), but it will be interesting to see how this new format and new pairing works.

I am, of course very happy to hear that both Jake and Eddie are staying. Jake has been the most competent, likeable and watchable presenter I have ever watched in F1 coverage and Eddie Jordan (love or hate him) brings excellent debate to the coverage (and an awful lot of laughter. Good call BBC.

The other big change this year – for broadcasters worldwide – is the announcement of HD coverage for F1. Right from this weekend the FOA will be providing an HD feed for every event.

Now I’m not a big fan of HD – I’m yet to see any major improvement in picture quality – but this is of course great news that the sport will be getting the quality it deserves. I can imagine it being quite awesome to see some of those super-slowmo shots in beautiful High Definition!

Bit despite the BBC still bringing us the quality we expect from their broadcast in 2011, there are doubts over it’s future. With the cuts the corporation is faced with and the lower-than-expected license fee agreement, the Beeb are trying to shed costs and if rumours are true sports such as Wimbledon and F1 could be under threat.

I think it would be an absolute travesty if the BBC did give up on sport in this way. It would all end up with Sky purchasing yet more of our valued sport (as I can’t see ITV or Five having the money or Channel 4 even caring).

The Beeb have the F1 on contract 2013, but are forced with cuts within sport by 2014 (and are apparently putting all their efforts behind football instead of diversifying like they should be 😦 ). I dearly hope that this rumour does not turn out to be true as I think it would set out a bleak future for F1 in this country.

And that sums up the F1 coverage – looking interesting and hopefully very good… for as long as it lasts.

Elbow at The Birmingham NIA – Review

March 23, 2011

Elbow have aways come across as quite a different band – it’s one of the things that attracted me to them a few years ago (that and the brilliant ‘One Day Like This’). I was therefore expecting a very different kind of gig when I set off for Birmingham yesterday to see the band for the first time.

And I was right to expect different. You get the idea from the moment you step into the arena and are greeted by a massive red curtain, a chandelier style light above it and several unusually shaped gold photo frames at the forefront. These frames would later house images of the band members (each moving slightly at random moments so that you felt as if you were in a Harry Potter film!) – good entertainment as we wait for the main attraction.

As the moment neared the lights dimmed as normal and the band left their photo frames to appear on stage. And this brilliant stage production continued thoughout the night in one of the most visually impressive shows I have ever witnessed – but more on that later.

The show opened – unsurprisingly – with the first song of the bands latest LP, ‘The Birds’ – a song I originally appreciated, but now absolutely adore after seeing the more rockier live version.

The band showcased mostly new songs from ‘Build a Rocket Boys’ all of which I felt took on a massively improved presence when played live. I mentioned a couple of weeks ago in my audio review of the album that I felt some songs were a little too samey and on the slow almost monotonous side. But this was not the case last night as each tune was brought alive in a much more powerful and effective way. I found myself really enjoying an LP I had previously seen as average.

Highlights from the new tracks have to be ‘Neat Little Rows’ which is a beast of a rock song when played live and ‘Open Arms’ which has incredible power and presence in the room. I defy you to raise a smile to this song!

The rest of the set list consisted mostly of tracks from ‘The Seldom Seen Kid’ – no bad thing for myself as I’m mostly familiar with these two albums, but I could see some older fans being a little disappointed with the lack of back-catalogue, ‘Leaders of the free world’ for example should have been included.

But none the less, those included were fantastic including a very powerful rendition of ‘The Loneliness of a Tower Crane Driver’ and the best finale ever from ‘One Day Like This’.

The musical arrangement was impeccably put together. There was a wide variety from the all out rock songs like ‘Grounds for Divorce’ to the acoustic and moving ‘Puncture Repair’ followed by the slow-starting-with-a-massive-crescendo (!) ‘Some Riot.

And to compliment the bad, there were musicians playing strings on stage which I was very pleased to see. It makes the whole performance seem so much bigger and complete. Orchestral instruments have become a must with Elbow.

Throughout the show, the presentation was some of the best I have seen. The lighting is not the biggest and best I have seen, but each song had a perfect mood set by the cleverly chosen lighting arrangements. Guy Garvey constantly moved between the inner stage and main stage to keep things very interesting.

The stage evolved over the show, ditching the photo frames early on and ending up with projections all over the back curtain – sometimes quick moving, sometimes more slow and serene – the lighting and creative teams really got this just right!

But perhaps the reason that this show came together so well and was very enjoyable, was the frontman Guy Garvey. Throughout, Guy brought in audience participation, banter and some sections which even felt like a stand-up comedy show (future career anyone). He was fantastic at keeping the atmosphere alive and high spirits throughout which only enhanced the music even more.

I did find the whole experience a little strange. It’s the first gig in ages where I haven’t stood up and the experience did seem a little odd at first. There’s also the fact that the whole show was very stop-start unlike most rock shows I’ve seen. Oh, and the rather random cocktail night put in the middle of it. But all of this made the night special and fun and a thoroughly enjoyable show.

When I decided to see Elbow, I thought ‘It will be nice to see them once’. Now I’m looking forward to the next time. They really do know how to put on a show and their musical genius has never sounded so damn awesome!

F1 2011 – The Tyres

March 23, 2011

After 4 years of being the sole supplier of tyres to Formula One, Bridgestone have left the sport to be replaced by Pirelli. Tyres are one of the most important factors in the modern sport, so how will this affect the teams and are the Pirelli’s up to the job?

Pirelli have been testing their new Formula One tyres since August 2010. The manufacturer is not new to the sport, but hasn’t been actively involved since 1991. They needed a lot of time to get up to speed with the quality and pressure that modern day F1 tyre has to go through.

And it seems that testing time has made a real difference. Several drivers including no other that Michael Schumacher have expressed their approval of the new tyres.

Nick Heidfeld is also likely to be very of of them as the Renault driver carried out most of the new tyres testing before being called up to replace Robert Kubica. It will be interesting to see how much of an advantage – if any – this will give the German.

In fact the Pirelli’s are looking potentially faster that the Bridgestone’s we have become accustomed to. Obviously different track conditions (and the level of focus the driver possesses) can also make a big difference. But the initial response from the drivers and teams is that the Pirelli tyre is a fast specimen.

However, if you have more speed, you have to lose something and that something appears to be the dependability of the tyre. At present the Pirelli’s have lasted notably less time that the Bridgestone’s. the problem is apparently so big that the FIA have granted teams an extra set of ‘prime’ tyres at Grand Prix events to help manage the load.

This is of course great news for the fans. It brings the chance of more pit stops, as the teams struggle to learn the best way to use this new tyre. But of course it could equally reward conservative drivers who can go that little bit longer. This still fairly unknown quantity is likely to give us a great mix of strategy’s which could (for the start of the season at least) dictate the way the races go.

There’s one more thing that Pirelli will be doing slightly differently. For the past few years, a green stripe has indicated a softer tyre and no stripe means a harder compound. Intermediate and wets were obvious from the grooves on the tyres. But Pirelli have taken this one step further with an all new – rainbow style – marking system.

So, from left to right – Orange is wet, light blue is intermediate, red stands for supersoft, yellow is your soft tyre, white for medium compound and silver for the hard tyre. And to be fair this will make spotting which tyre is which a lot easier… once we’ve all learnt the colour codes!

So Pirelli will make their proper F1 return in 2 days time for Friday practice. It’s a development in progress which could make a big difference as the season plays out.

F1 2011 Preview – The Teams

March 22, 2011

Arguably the only thing more important than the drivers in F1 is the teams. You could be the best driver in the sport, but without a good car and team behind you, you’ll be no-where. In this article I’ll have a look at how the teams are shaping up for 2011.

The top three teams from last year – Red Bull, Ferrari and McLaren – are keeping the exact same driver line up as the previous season and have to be the favourites going into this year.

And they seem to be in a similar situation to how they ended 2010. In pre-season testing, Red Bull have been fastest in 5 sessions, Ferrari in 3 and McLaren in none. In fact McLaren haven’t really had a very long amount of testing with their new car and could be the ones at a slight disadvantage from the off this weekend.

But the top teams are fairly obvious, it’s the best of the rest that could be in for a big shake up.

Mercedes had a rather lacklustre season in 2010 following the massive success of Brawn the year before, but it looks like 2011 could change all that. Michael Schumacher has been on very strong form during testing and set the fastest time for sessions at both Jerez and most recently at Catalunya. Nico Rosbeg has also commented on how the Mercedes car is on the way up and has managed to set a fastest time in Spain as well. Without doubt Schumacher and Rosberg could have been contenders last year with the right car and it looks like the W02 could give them an outside shout at the title.

Renault are also looking strong. Both Kubica (before his accident) and Heidfeld have set impressive times in the new car. Ever since Alonso’s last world championship with the team, Renault have bee threatening to get back to winning form and never quite making it. They’ll be hoping that 2011 is the year that changes.

And while were on the topic of teams with varied results, Williams have the complete range of drivers again this year with most experienced man in the sport Rubens Barrichello and new recruit from GP2, Pastor Maldonado. It’s been a bit disappointing for Williams since the BMW deal came to an end, but since floating on the stock market last year, the team seem to have grown in strength and are looking very racy for the 2011 season.

I see all six of these teams capable of winning races in 2011 and really shaking things up. They all seem on similar levels and could cause some shocks for the championship.

Towards the other end of the grid Force India keep established driver Adrian Sutil and welcome DTM star Paul Di Resta. Vijay Malia’s team have come a long way since he took charge 2007 and are heading back to the competitive position the Jordan team had when they were in charge of the team. I expect more great things from Force India in 2011.

BMW Sauber have been a bit disappointing of late (but then again, it did look like they wouldn’t be in the sport not so long ago). It will be interesting to see what new signing Sergio Perez can do. He came 2nd in last years GP2 and has already set a fastest session time in pre-season testing. Alongside the reckless, but talented Kobayashi, this could be an interesting team to watch progress.

Toro Rosso remain unchanged and I expect a similar performance from them in 2011. Both Algesuari and Buemi have proved they are competent F1 drivers, Id like to see if they can push that any further and get some serious points. But with better teams out there and the Toro Rosso seemingly lacking in power, I wouldn’t expect much more from them.

Th interesting battle is at the back of the Field. Team Lotus, Marussia Virgin Racing and Hispania have all had a season in the sport now and it’s time to get out of their ‘mini-league’ at the back of the field and compete with the more established teams. Lotus must surely be the most likely to do this. With Kovalainen and Trulli, they have the most experienced drivers and judging by their 2010 pace at the end of the season, they’ve almost caught up with Toro Rosso and Sauber.

Virgin Racing also look fairly strong, but I do worry for Hispania. The team are yet to test and it could be another season of making up the numbers for them.

But from looking at testing (which is never the best indicator) the teams are looking even closer than in 2010 and this can only be a good thing. But despite this, it’s the same teams – Red Bull, Ferrari and McLaren that have the edge. Lets hope for some surprises though, I’d say they’re fairly likely.


F1 2011 Preview – The Drivers

March 21, 2011

Two weeks later than planned, it’s finally time to get the 2011 Formula 1 season underway this weekend in Australia. All this week, I’ll be posting articles previewing the upcoming season which is already looking like it could be a lot closer than last years. I’ll start with the drivers.

Last year saw a thrilling 5 way battle for the title, it was great to see so many contenders and we can only presume that we’ll have the same tight battle this year. The five involved – Sebastien Vettel, Fernando Alonso, Mark Webber, Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button – are staying at their respective teams and so will likely be in a great position to challenge for the top spot. And of course a shared podium, means a closer battle. It would be fantastic to have another season going straight down to the wire and these five aren’t likely to give anyone else an easy time.

But at the same time, there’s a potential contender from the tope teams who seems to be forgotten. I really hope that this year is the ear that Felipe Massa can get back up to speed and really challenge for some race victories again, hopefully showing his team mate Alonso a few things! Since his accident in 2009, The Brazillian has never really got back to his old self which I think is a great shame. Before the incident there was clearly a champion in there which seems to have been lost in the last year. Felipe’s a great guy and I really hope 2011 could be the season he bounces back instead of staying in Alonso’s shadow. If not, it could be his last real chance.

Someone who’s had his last chance and is on the way back into the sport is Michael Schumacher. Last year was seen by many as a disappointment for the 7 time world champion. He didn’t even make it onto the podium with his best race position being 4th in Spain and Korea. However, Michael has remained upbeat throughout and after some positive testing with the new Mercedes in the past few weeks, it looks like Schumacher could be coming back into contention. I don’t see him winning the championship, but expect some podiums and maybe a race victory. Having the German back in the mix will certainly have interesting knock on effects for those in contention for the title.

And don’t rule out Schumacher’s team mate. Nico Rosberg grew a lot last year and easily outshone his more famous colleague. If the Mercedes is as good as it looks, he could be one to watch in 2011.

There are a few new drivers joining the grid this year. Pastor Maldonado has taken Nico Hulkenberg’s seat at the rejuvinated Williams F1 Team. The Venezuelan is the current GP2 champion winning six races in last years series.

His main competitor from GP2 has also made the leap to F1. Sergio Perez from Italy will be joining the BMW Sauber F1 Team alongside Kamui Kobayashi who’s bound to give us another year of ridiculous kamikaze racing. He who dares wins!

Narain Karthikeyan will be making his return to the sport – after a 6 year break – with Hispania this year which has an entirely new line-up with Vitantonia Liuzzi joining the team as well.

Another driver making a welcome return is Nick Heidfeld. The German was left without a drive last year, but due to Robert Kubica’s horrific crash in February he’s making a return to the sport with Renault (or should I say Lotus Renault?). And Heidfeld’s progress will be particularly interesting as he has spend more time with the new Pirelli tyres than any other driver.

There’s a couple more new appointments, DTM star Paul Di Resta joins the vastly improving Force India and Jerome d’Ambrosio replace Lucas di Grassi at Virgin Racing. See the full line up of 2011’s grid here.

But the big question is: who is shaping up to be the best in 2011. For me it has to be Alonso again. He was the best driver of 2010 in my opinion (by a sliver) and lost out to Vettel due to bad luck. With Ferrari concentrating heavily on 2011 and some pretty good testing times, I think Fernando goes into this the favourite. But Vettel’s not far behind and those McLaren boys will also be fighting hard for a second title. It looks like more could be in contention than ever and that will hopefully give us a spectacular season.

Come back tomorrow for my take on the Teams of the 2011 F1 season.