Countdown To F1 2011: Teams And Drivers


Many will agree that 2010 was a fantastic year for motor sport in general, and brilliant for Formula 1 in particular. You can relive the 2010 season in our huge four part review, but it must now be time also to look ahead to what 2011 offers.

Pre-season testing begins in less than a month – Tuesday 1st February, at the Ricardo Tormo Circuit, Valencia – and the driver line-up is almost complete. There are a few pieces of the jigsaw to fall into place but, as we recover from our New Year celebrations, now seems like as good a time as any to assess which teams have chosen wisely and where there is potential for fireworks.

Red Bull Racing-Renault

Car #1: Sebastian Vettel (DEU)

2: Mark Webber (AUS)

Vettel will be looking to defend his maiden championship next year and, if Adrian Newey car develop a car as good as the RB6, he will be favourite to take the 2011 title. It will be interesting to see if Webber can bounce back from his 2010 disappointment in what could be his last season at the Milton Keynes-based outfit. The Australian only has a contract for one more year and, at 34, will need to impress again this season if he is to remain with the champion constructor. Red Bull will no doubt refuse to issue team orders again in 2011, which could see renewed tensions between team-mates.

McLaren-Mercedes

3: Lewis Hamilton (GBR)

4: Jenson Button (GBR)

Hamilton remained in the championship hunt up until the final race of last season, even though the MP4/25 was rarely the fastest car on the grid. If McLaren can get their act together and produce a car as good as their 2007 and 2008 models, then Hamilton should take his second title. Button impressed last season by winning two of the opening four races, but was often slower than his team-mate in the latter stages of 2010. He will need to show that, now he is settled into the McLaren environment, he is as fast as Hamilton.

Ferrari

5: Fernando Alonso (ESP)

6: Felipe Massa (BRA)

Massa signed a new contract last year which will keep him at Ferrari until the end of 2012, much to the surprise of onlookers, who thought that the Scuderia may try and attract someone like Robert Kubica to partner their double world champion. Alonso established himself as a clear number one driver in his first season at Ferrari and, despite senior team personnel saying otherwise, one suspects that he will continue to be the top driver at the team in 2011. The Spaniard is sure to be there or thereabouts as the championship battle reaches its climax in November.

Mercedes

7: Michael Schumacher (DEU)

8: Nico Rosberg (DEU)

Most people acknowledge that Schumacher's performance in his comeback season was rather underwhelming, and this year he can have no excuses. The new Pirelli tyres will level the playing-field and the seven-time world champion will have had much more input into this season's car, which should now be better adapted to his driving style. If Mercedes have designed a car capable of challenging for the 2011 title, then we should see both Schumacher and Rosberg taking race victories.

Lotus Renault (aka Renault)

9: Robert Kubica (POL)

10: Vitaly Petrov (RUS)

Last year's Renault team have now been rebranded Lotus Renault after Malaysian car company Proton became title sponsor and part-owner of the Enstone-based team. They announced last month that Vitaly Petrov had signed a contract for the next two-years, and the Russian will need to show that he can live with the extraordinary pace of team-mate Robert Kubica.

Williams-Cosworth

11: Rubens Barrichello (BRA)

12: Pastor Maldonado (VEN)

Williams were very happy with Barrichello in 2010 and rewarded the Brazilian veteran with a drive for 2011. Nico Hulkenberg has been dropped, despite being the most impressive rookie of 2010, and is replaced by GP2 champion Pastor Maldonado. The team insist that this move is based purely on driver talent and that it is not a financial decision, although sceptics insist that the Venezuelan brings a lot of sponsorship money with him, making him a more appealing choice than Hulkenberg.

Force India-Mercedes

14: TBA (probable choice: Adrian Sutil (DEU); rumoured: Nico Hulkenberg (DEU))

15: TBA (possibilities: Paul di Resta (GBR); Tonio Liuzzi (ITA))

Force India has not yet confirmed their drivers for 2011, although it is believed that both Sutil and Liuzzi still have contracts for next season. Sutil is too good not be in Formula 1, despite his tendency to be involved in the odd accident. The German was rumoured to be heading to Renault, and was even linked with Ferrari at one point, but will probably remain in Vijay Mallya's team as there is now nowhere else for him to go. It is thought that Paul di Resta, the 2010 DTM champion, will replace Tonio Liuzzi for 2011, stepping up from his role as test and reserve driver. Hulkenberg is thought to be heading to the team as the new reserve driver, although a team source has been reported to suggest that Sutil may be dropped.

Sauber-Ferrari

16: Kamui Kobayashi (JPN)

17: Sergio Perez Mendoza (MEX)

Kobayashi starts his second full season in Formula 1 as leader of the Sauber team. Nick Heidfeld, who raced for the team for the final five races of 2010, was dropped in favour of Sergio Perez, who is backed by Mexican telecoms company Telmex, and brings some much needed sponsorship to the Swiss team.

STR-Ferrari

18: Sebastien Buemi (SUI)

19: Jaime Alguersuari (ESP)

Toro Rosso chose not to name any drivers' on the FIA entry list for 2011, but confirmed that Buemi and Alguersuari would remain as their race drivers when they announced that Daniel Riccardo would be their test and reserve driver this season. Last year, both drivers put in solid, if unspectacular performances, although Alguersuari did show good improvement, and that he was adjusting to life in F1. If 2011 is to be Mark Webber's last season with Red Bull, then his successor at the Toro Rosso sister team is likely to come from this pairing, so they will need to impress this year.

Lotus-Renault (aka Team Lotus, 1Malaysia)

20: Jarno Trulli (ITA)

21: Heikki Kovalainen (FIN)

To avoid the confusion of having two teams called 'Lotus Renault' on next season's grid, Tony Fernandes is hoping to use the Team Lotus name, which he claims to have purchased the rights to. If not, the team from Hingham, Norfolk, may have to revert to the name 1Malaysia. They keep the same driver line-up of race winners Jarno Trulli and Heikki Kovalainen as they look to challenge the more established teams in 2011

HRT-Cosworth

22/23: Confirmed: Narain Karthikeyan (IND)

Second driver:Who knows? The selection could include anyone from Christian Klien, Lucas di Grassi, Nick Heidfeld, Pedro de la Rosa, Sakon Yamamoto or it could be a completely different pair of drivers.

Narain Karthikeyan, who drove for Jordan in 2005, makes a surprise return to F1 in 2011 with Hispania. The first Indian to compete in the sport will, all being well, participate in the inaugural Indian Grand Prix in October. For the second half of 2010, it was difficult to predict which two drivers Hispania would be using at the next grand prix, and so guessing who will partner Karthikeyan in 2011 is nigh on impossible. Owner Jose Ramon Carabante said, before the confirmation of their first driver, that the team are talking to 'five or six' drivers about their 2011 line-up. The BBC have reported that it is unlikely that either Karun Chandhok or Bruno Senna will remain with the team.

Virgin-Cosworth

24: Timo Glock (DEU)

25: Jerome D'Ambrosio (BEL)

Experienced driver Timo Glock remains with Virgin Racing for 2011 and will be joined by Belgian rookie Jerome D'Ambrosio, who replaces Lucas di Grassi. The team seem less well-equipped than (Norfolk) Lotus to challenge the established teams, but should still be comfortably ahead of Hispania on pace.