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.