F1 2011: Team-by-Team Preview


Red Bull

Drivers: 01 Sebastian Vettel (DEU)
02 Mark Webber (AUS)
Car: RB7 Engine: Renault
Laps Completed in Pre-Season Testing: 1419

 

Testing Summary

Red Bull have been the class of the field in winter testing, frequently setting the fastest times daily, and demonstrated good reliability throughout. Only Ferrari have completed more laps over the 15 days of pre-season running allowed to each team.

What they say:

Sebastian Vettel: “The preparation has been good. It was a long winter and we did a lot of kilometres, I think more than we ever have done before during testing, which is positive. Now we are just looking forward to Melbourne. If you ask me about performance, all I can say is I think we are there or thereabouts… Am I in a positive mood? Yeah, I think I am!”

Ian Morgan, Red Bull Director of Race Engineering: “We have a reliable car, that has been good out of the box, and the performance looks good too.”

Chances in 2011

Adrian Newey seems to have worked his magic again when designing the RB7. Vettel has shown his confidence in Red Bull by commiting to the team until the end of 2014, and with his first world title under his belt, the German could be unstoppable this season. Mark Webber has the right mental attitude to ensure that he doesn’t get left behind but, although he will undoubtedly win some races, he may struggle to beat his team-mate to the title.

Drivers’ Championship Predictions: Vettel – 1st; Webber – 3rd

 

McLaren

Drivers: 03 Lewis Hamilton (GBR)
04 Jenson Button (GBR)
Car: MP4-26 Engine: Mercedes
Laps Completed in Pre-Season Testing: 1064 (includes 279 laps completed in last year’s car)


Testing Summary

It is fair to say that McLaren have had a mediocre testing period. The first test in Valencia was completed using an interim car, and with the MP4-26 the team have averaged just over 65 laps a day in these test sessions, whereas Ferrari have averaged over 100 a day with their new model.

In fact, eight teams have clocked up more mileage than the Woking-based outfit over the 15 days of testing. This might not have been so much of a problem if the new car was fast out of the box, but both drivers have indicated that they will be struggling to keep up with the front-runners as the season gets underway.

What they say:

Jenson Button (speaking to BBC Sport): “It’s going to be a tricky weekend [in Australia] but if anyone can pull back after tough testing it’s McLaren”

Lewis Hamilton: “I'm excited – we've got a long season ahead of us. We've got a lot of work to do, but we have more updates coming for Melbourne. The championship is open, and we don't know what to expect. Our whole team will be pushing very, very hard.”

Chances in 2011

McLaren could well be playing catch-up as 2011 gets underway, both in terms of performance and reliability. However, if anyone can develop their way out of trouble, it is this team. Hamilton is still one of the best drivers on the grid, and he will win races this season, if not straight away. Button should find that the fragile Pirelli tyres suit his smooth driving style more than his team-mate’s, and may have an advantage over his team-mate in the early races.

Drivers’ Championship Predictions: Hamilton – 4th; Button – 7th

 

Ferrari

 

Drivers: 05 Fernando Alonso (ESP)
06 Felipe Massa (BRA)
Car: F150° Italia Engine: Ferrari
Laps Completed in Pre-Season Testing: 1563


Testing Summary

Ferrari were the first car to launch their new car, and this model comes with the trademark reliability of previous models. The Italian team completed over 100 laps more than any other team in pre-season testing, and were consistently in the upper-echelons of the timesheets with both drivers. Last Friday, the final dry day in Barcelona, Alonso managed a huge 141 laps, and only Michael Schumacher managed a faster time.

What They Say:

Fernando Alonso: “Overall, I think we will arrive in Melbourne in a hundred percent state of readiness, but whether or not that will be enough to win, we will not know until we are there in Australia. I feel confident, just as I did last year going into the start of the season. We are in good shape, even if we know we are not racing alone out there.”

Chances in 2011

Testing form suggests that Ferrari will be the closest to Red Bull as the season begins. Fernando Alonso will be more determined than ever to claim his third world championship after narrowly missing out at the end of last season. Felipe Massa will hopefully arrive in Australia with increased levels of confidence after a difficult 2010. The Brazilian will know that he has to start the season well if he wants equal status within the team this year.

Drivers’ Championship Predictions: Alonso – 2nd; Massa – 8th

 

Mercedes GP

 

Drivers: 07 Michael Schumacher (DEU)
08 Nico Rosberg (DEU)
Car: MGP-W02 Engine: Mercedes
Laps Completed in Pre-Season Testing: 1286


Testing Summary

Michael Schumacher can boast the fastest lap time recorded at the Circuit de Catalunya throughout the entire pre-season test programme. Upgrade introduced at the final test session seem to have got Mercedes performance levels back, although Red Bull and Ferrari would probably both beat them in a straight fight. The team have had no major reliability issues over the last six weeks.

What They Say:

Nico Rosberg: “We are on the up for sure, and all credit to the team for getting the upgrades on the car and, most importantly, to see that they are working as expected.”

Michael Schumacher: “We're certainly happy with our position going into the first race of the season.”

Ross Brawn: “We are happy with the structure that we applied to our pre-season testing programme, culminating in a good quantity of miles, and the car that we wanted to produce by the end of this test.”

Chances in 2011

Will this be the season where Michael Schumacher gets back to somewhere near his previous best? Mercedes look to have provided him with a decent car, unlike last season, and confidence within the team is on the up. Rosberg proved himself against Schumacher last season but, provided the car is good enough, needs to claim his first victory this season. Schumacher may well get his 92nd, especially if Vettel, Webber and Alonso are compromised by any unforeseen incidents. I may be sticking my neck out slightly with the prediction below, but it could happen…

Drivers’ Championship Predictions: Schumacher – 5th; Rosberg – 6th

 

Renault

 

Drivers: 09 Nick Heidfeld (DEU)
10 Vitaly Petrov (RUS)
Car: R31 Engine: Renault
Laps Completed in Pre-Season Testing: 1126


Testing Summary

Robert Kubica left Valencia with the fastest lap of the test to his name, but just days later was in a coma in an Italian hospital as doctors fought to save his right hand. Luckily the Pole is now recovering from his rally accident, but it left Renault with a race seat to fill for most, if not all, of 2011. They chose the out-of-work Nick Heidfeld to partner Vitaly Petrov in his second season of F1.

The R31 has looked promising throughout the pre-season test, and Renault could be one of the dark horses this year. All eyes were on their innovative exhaust design, which goes forward, past the driver, and exits over the floor of the car. This design should replace some of the downforce lost from the banning of the double diffuser, and could be copied by other teams as the season progresses.

Chances in 2011

The loss of Robert Kubica is a huge blow to the team. Renault now have two drivers without a race win between them, but Heidfeld is a consistent driver who does not generally make mistakes, and he will extract a reasonable level of performance from the car. Petrov was erratic last season, but he should have ironed out some of the mistakes for his second season.

Drivers’ Championship Predictions: Heidfeld – 9th; Petrov – 14th

 

Williams

 

Drivers: 11 Rubens Barrichello (BRA)
12 Pastor Maldonado (VEN)
Car: FW33 Engine: Cosworth
Laps Completed in Pre-Season Testing: 1117


Testing Summary

Williams mechanics will be sick of the mention of KERS after the winter tests, with the power-boost device seemingly responsible for many long hours tinkering in the garages rather than getting the FW33 out on track. The team disabled KERS for the final Barcelona test, although they insist that a working system will be utilised in Australia.

The team have, however, produced an innovative car which apparently ‘pushes boundaries’. When reliable, it has shown decent pace over the winter, with the team citing Rubens Barrichello as a key player in the development of the FW33.

What They Say:

Sam Michael, Williams Technical Director: “The FW33 has been a good car from the beginning, but in terms of performance we will have to wait until the racing to really see where it stands.”

Rubens Barrichello: “There is still a question mark about where we stand I know that we have improved but there are teams either side of us. I know how optimistic I am and I know how much I would love to say that we will do really well [in Australia], but what I will say is that I want to be in Q3 and to score points, and I think that is achievable.”

Chances in 2011

Although the KERS problem should be fixed as the season gets underway, there is still a question mark about reliability hanging over the team, and there could be mechanical retirements in the early races. It is hard to see Williams challenging for race wins, despite the alleged improvements in performance from last year’s FW32. Hopefully there will be podium finished from the Grove-based outfit, but the wait for the next victory is likely to continue.

Drivers’ Championship Predictions: Barrichello – 11th; Maldonado – 15th

 

Force India

 

Drivers: 14 Adrian Sutil (DEU)
15 Paul di Resta (GBR)
Car: VJM04 Engine: Mercedes
Laps Completed in Pre-Season Testing: 1226 (327 of these in last year’s car)

 

Testing Summary

Force India haven’t exactly been pulling up trees throughout winter testing – they haven’t stolen the headlines by sticking a light car at the top of the timesheets – but have instead been quietly accumulating mileage and settling with laptimes that put them somewhere in the midfield.

What they Say:

Dominic Harlow, Force India Circuit Engineering Director: “We head to Australia with over 5,500km covered during the pre-season testing. As ever there is more to do to improve the performance of the car and there will be some further developments for the first race. Our reliability over the race distances here has been good and we’ve collected a lot of data on the tyre performance that we feel will be useful as we prepare our race strategies at the coming events.”

Chances in 2011

Since their debut in 2007, Force India have been steadily improving year on year. However, with the field predicted to be more competitive than ever this season, the Silverstone-based team will find it difficult to continue this trend in 2011. Paul di Resta comes into the team after winning last seasons’ DTM championship and could well be the best performing rookie. However, Nico Hulkenberg waits in the wings as test and reserve driver if either the Scot or team-mate Adrian Sutil are deemed to be under-performing.

Drivers’ Championship Predictions: Sutil – 10th; Di Resta – 12th

 

Sauber

 

Drivers: 16 Kamui Kobayashi (JPN)
17 Sergio Perez (MEX)
Car: C30 Engine: Ferrari
Laps Completed in Pre-Season Testing: 1316

 

Testing Summary

Only Ferrari and Red Bull completed more laps than Sauber in pre-season testing, and the Hinwil-based team stole some headlines as Sergio Perez set the fastest lap on Day Three in Barcelona (Wednesday 9th March), albeit on super-soft Pirelli tyres and low fuel. Sauber were guilty of ‘showboating’ in pre-season testing last season, in an attempt to attract sponsors, but are not under such pressures this season, and insist that their testing performances reflect the true pace of the C30.

What They Say:

James Key, Sauber Technical Director: “We have only had one repetitive problem and other minor issues, which occasionally pop up in testing anyway, as well as certain things that can be easily dealt with. Fundamentally the car has been reliable and there hasn't been any great need for major re-designs or re-thinks in certain areas.”

Chances in 2011

The C30 is the first Sauber to be designed and built under the watchful eye of technical director James Key, and should be an improvement on last year’s effort. Kamui Kobayashi steps up to the role of team leader in just his second full season in F1, but the Japanese driver is an exciting prospect and consistently scored points last season once the team got into their stride. Sergio Perez is a bit of an unknown quantity as an F1 driver, but the 2010 GP2 runner-up is apparently adapting well to his new job, and it should be interesting watching his development.

Drivers’ Championship Predictions: Kobayashi – 13th; Perez – 19th

 

Toro Rosso

 

Drivers: 18 Sebastien Buemi (SUI)
19 Jaime Alguersuari (ESP)
Car: STR6 Engine: Ferrari
Laps Completed in Pre-Season Testing: 1152

 

Testing Summary

The Red Bull sister team covered a reasonable amount of mileage over the pre-season testing period and, for what its worth, have shown reasonable pace on a number of occasions.

What They Say:

Jaime Alguersuari: “I would sum up all of the pre-season testing as reasonably positive for our team … I think we have a good car, which shows potential. However, we still need to improve a lot and that will involve plenty of hard work in the coming weeks.”

Chances in 2011

With Williams and Sauber seemingly making big advances on their cars compared to last year, Toro Rosso will need to make sure that they do not get left behind, or dragged into battle with the newer teams. Both Buemi and Alguersuari need to impress this season, as the highly-rated Daniel Ricciardo is next in line in the Red Bull Young Drivers Programme. If the pair can’t convince themselves worthy of a Red Bull race seat, they are likely to be cast out onto the same scrapheap as Sebastien Bourdais and Scott Speed were to make room for more emerging talent.

Drivers’ Championship Predictions: Buemi – 20th; Alguersuari – 18th

 

Team Lotus

 

Drivers: 20 Jarno Trulli (ITA)
21 Heikki Kovalainen (FIN)
Car: T128 Engine: Renault
Laps Completed in Pre-Season Testing: 907

 

Testing Summary

As the number of laps completed above suggests, Team Lotus haven’t had things all their own way with reliability over the last few weeks. Jarno Trulli seemed to be recipient of most of the bad luck, including managing only 6 laps on Day Three of the final test. However, Kovalainen ensured that the team finished pre-season testing on a high as he completed 138 laps on the last day.

What They Say:

Heikki Kovalainen: “It’s too early to make predictions but I think we’ll go to Melbourne and have a good chance to taking the step forward we want to.”

Mike Gascoyne, Team Lotus Chief Technical Officer: “It is clear that compared to this time last year we have made a huge step forward so … now we can look forward to the action in Melbourne.”

Chances in 2011

Team Lotus are promising a big improvement this season. They want to be challenging for points at the end of the year and, based on testing form, they will be on the pace of the likes of Toro Rosso and Sauber. The Team Lotus vs. Lotus Renault battle should be resolved on Monday 21st March before the contest resumes on the track.

Drivers’ Championship Predictions: Trulli – 17th; Kovalainen – 16th

 

Hispania Racing

 

Drivers: 22 Narain Karthikeyan (IND)
23 Tonio Liuzzi (ITA)
Car: F111 Engine: Cosworth
Laps Completed in Pre-Season Testing: 445 (All laps competed in last year’s car)

 

Testing Summary

Hispania continue to be difficult to take seriously after they completed just five of the allowed fifteen days of pre-season testing, and didn’t even run the new F111. They unveiled their new car in the Barcelona pit lane but couldn’t run it on track as crucial parts were held up in customs. Admittedly, the 445 laps they completed is 445 more than they managed before the first race of last season.

Chances in 2011

With a car that has not yet completed a single lap, it is hard for even the most optimistic person to predict that Hispania will be firmly rooted to the back of the grid in Melbourne. This season they have two reasonably experienced drivers – although Narain Karthikeyan has not driven an F1 car since 2005 – which is an improvement on the situation last season when there were two rookies in the car. However, money may be a limiting factor for the team, and development on the F111 might again be non-existent. Furthermore, with the team’s record on driver rotation, who knows who will be in the car at the end of the season?

Drivers’ Championship Predictions: Karthikeyan – 24th; Liuzzi – 23rd

 

Virgin Racing

 

Drivers: 24 Timo Glock (DEU)
25 D’Ambrosio (BEL)
Car: MVR-02 Engine: Cosworth
Laps Completed in Pre-Season Testing: 1027

 

Testing Summary

Timo Glock missed out on the final test in Barcelona as he recovered from appendicitis, so new driver Jerome D’Ambrosio got four consecutive days in the car. The team’s pace hasn’t really impressed much, but they have completed more laps than Team Lotus and Hispania, and if attrition is high amongst their rivals, they could pick up some decent finishing positions if they can show decent reliability on race days.

What They Say:

John Booth, Virgin Racing Team Principal: “We head to Australia in good spirits and eager to see where we stand with the usual barometer of outright performance that Friday Free Practice at the opening race typically provides.”

Jerome D’Ambrosio: “Over the course of the past four tests we have achieved a great deal of mileage, learned a lot about the new car and how to get the best from the current package and how we can develop it from here through the early part of the season.”

Chances in 2011

The team feel that they have made good progress and in Timo Glock they have a very competent driver. Whether this is enough to help them challenge the midfield teams, only time will tell. Jerome D’Ambrosio makes the move from GP2 (and Renault test driver) but it could be difficult for him to make much of an impression if the car is as far off the general pace as it was last season.

Drivers’ Championship Predictions: Glock – 21st; D’Ambrosio – 22nd

 

  • TheCheckeredFlag will be providing in-depth previews, reports, analysis and opinions throughout the 2011 Formula 1 season, covering events both on and off the track.