Formula One 2011 - Teams and drivers - Part II

Formula One 2011 - Teams and drivers - Part II

By: Max Davies, F1 Correspondent

Introduction

The winter tests at Valencia, Jerez and the two sessions run in Barcelona - following the cancellation of the planned Bahrain test, have brought with them new car designs, innovation, new liveries and new drivers.

As ever, judging who is setting the pace during winter testing is a thankless task with all competitors running various fuel loads and set up evaluation runs throughout the entire winter. Of course, some sense of who has got their sums right and who has emphatically not, is possible, but the clearest indication will not be known until the morning of first practice in Australia.

The Lotus Renault GP team - Nick Heidfeld replaces Robert Kubica
The Lotus Renault GP team - Nick Heidfeld replaces Robert Kubica

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Lotus Renault GP

In the wake of the unfortunate rallying crash their talisman driver Robert Kubica suffered, panic set in at the Enstone-based outfit. The rumour mill went into immediate action with many replacements proffered yet with Kubica set for a long lay off, the team needed an experienced hand to help guide and develop the R21 – complete with innovative forward-facing exhaust system, into a race winner. Nick Heidfeld was the perfect choice and his subsequent performances complete with consistent and fast lap times, have seen the German blend in with the fabric of the team better than anyone believed. 2011 was supposed to be a breakthrough year for the team and all the evidence suggests their drivers will enjoy a productive year.

Predicted Constructors Championship finish: 5th

Nick Heidfeld
Nick Heidfeld

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Nick Heidfeld

For some reason, ‘Quick Nick’ has always been overlooked by the established frontrunners in Formula One yet in 2011, he has the chance to prove his worth in what should be a car capable of regular points finishes. In the absence of Kubica, he is the one Renault are now looking to for direction and as a result, he has to galvanize the team into believing in his capabilities while developing the car into a potential race winner. If he can do that, there is no reason to think he won’t be retained beyond his current deal, especially if his team mate under performs for a second consecutive year.

Predicted championship finish: 9th

Vitaly Petrov

Petrov is, all things considered, lucky to be still in Formula One in 2011. Last year was a disappointment as he underperformed alongside Kubica in what was his debut season and arguably, only kept his place in the team due to his Russian financial backing. A much-improved contribution from the Russian is required this year otherwise; his newly acquired and allegedly firm 2-year deal may prove to be as water tight as a sponge.

Predicted championship finish: Outside top 10

Williams

The Williams FW-33
The Williams FW-33

Photo by: LAT Photographic

It is hard to believe that this once mighty race team is seemingly consigned to another year of running in the midfield. Fourteen years have passed since they last tasted the spoils of winning a championship at Grove – courtesy of Jacques Villeneuve, but in 2011, there is quiet optimism that they are nearer to their rivals than for some time. During winter testing, Rubens Barrichello has occasionally put in some turning laps yet one has to wonder if it was down to genuine pace, or merely a tactical ruse to garner interest prior to the team’s recent floatation on the Frankfurt Stock Exchange.

Rubens Barrichello
Rubens Barrichello

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Whatever, the car is an improvement over last year’s challenger and there is no reason to think the team won’t be on the coattails of Renault and McLaren at the start of the campaign. Whether they can remain there for the duration of the year is another question.

Predicted Constructors Championship finish: 6th

Rubens Barrichello

Arguably the most popular driver in the paddock, the Brazilian is entering a staggering 19th season and shows no signs of slowing down. Having seen off the challenge of the young hot shoe Nico Hulkenberg last year – now the test and reserve driver at Force India, the 38-year old is poised for another year of contending for regular points finished providing the car is reliable. Will it be his swansong year? Probably but if you’re fast enough, you’re young enough; just ask one of the Mercedes drivers…

Predicted championship finish: 11th

Pastor Maldonado

While the hierarchy at Williams will state otherwise, there can be little doubt that the appointment off the Venezuelan has more to do with the size of his wallet rather than his talent regardless of the fact he is the reigning GP2 champion. The team are in dire need of financing and the 25 year-old has brought with him substantial backing. Will he provide much of a challenge to Barrichello? On occasion he probably will but Formula One is a tough sport and no one is more experienced than his South American team mate.

Predicted championship finish: Outside top 10

Scuderia Toro Rosso

Scuderia Toro Rosso team - Jaime Alguersuari and Sebastien Buemi
Scuderia Toro Rosso team - Jaime Alguersuari and Sebastien Buemi

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On the evidence so far, the new challenger from Red Bull’s stepchild seems to be a big step forward from their 2010 car. The team will be looking for more points than the mere 13 they collected on their way to ninth in the constructors championship last year. A lot will depend on both drivers showing a marked improvement on their respective contributions, especially if they are to be retained beyond 2011.

Predicted Constructors Championship finish: 8th

Sebastian Buemi

The Swiss driver showed sporadic pace in 2010 and scored 8 points but largely failed to impress. Accidents and collisions with his contemporaries were moments of immaturity and these will need to be addressed if he is to ensure his ability remains attractive to team bosses.

Predicted championship finish: Outside top 10

Jaime Alguersuari

Like his team mate, the young Spaniard has much to do this year if he is to be retained beyond his current contract. With only 5 points on the board for his entire effort last year, a demonstrable improvement will be the order of the day in 2011 if the 20-year old is to lay any potential claim to a future in the sport.

Predicted championship finish: Outside top 10

Force India

The Force India VJM04
The Force India VJM04

Despite the financial backing of billionaire businessmen and team owners Vijay Mallya and Michiel Mol, the Silverstone based team seem consigned to another year in the mid field. In Adrian Sutil and new British sensation Paul di Resta, the team have a strong driver line up capable of bagging points but only if the car is an improvement over last years VJM-03 car. Winter testing has been indifferent and the likelihood is that the team will spend the 2011 season battling with the likes of Williams, Sauber and Lotus Renault once more.

Predicted Constructors Championship finish: 7th

Adrian Sutil

Entering his fourth year with the team, the German is regarded by close friend Hamilton as a potential world champion and will be determined to gain he upper hand over his new team mate as early as possible. Strong performances last year resulted in rumours that he was being lined up to replace the then-underperforming Schumacher last year at Mercedes GP. Going into 2011, there is much to suggest that with Schumacher’s seat far but assured for next year, all eyes from Mercedes will be on the 28 year-old once more and with them, comes expectations to deliver.

Predicted championship finish: Outside top 10

Paul di Resta

The reigning DTM touring car champion has been threatening to break into the sport as an official race driver for a while and though he is undoubtedly fast, going up against Sutil will not be easy. Winter testing has been reasonable and courtesy of his role as Friday test driver for the team last year, he knows most of the tracks. The signs are there that di Resta will challenge Sutil closely throughout the year but uppermost in the mind of the young Scot will ensuring he keeps the drive beyond a single season.

Predicted championship finish: Outside top 10

Sauber

The Sauber team - Kamui Kobayashi and Sergio Perez
The Sauber team - Kamui Kobayashi and Sergio Perez

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Despite a solid winter test programme, Sauber will likely spend 2011 among the midfield once more. Since the departure of BMW at the end of 2009 and Peter Sauber’s emergence once more as a team boss, the recent past has been a period of rebuilding. Gone are the days of a bank-roll app[roach to racing and in its place, a quest for the millions of commercial partners and sponsorship. 2010 was a steady season by Sauber terms and for the coming year, regular fighting for a place into the second half of Saturday qualifying will be the order of the day.

Predicted Constructors Championship finish: 9th

Kamui Kobayashi

Since his debut for Toyota at Interlagos in 2009, Kobayashi has become one of the most supported drivers in the field. His kamikaze way of going racing is as entertaining as it is calamitous at times yet there does lurk much raw speed within the 24 year-old. Channeling his abilities into controlled aggression should enable the former GP2 Asia Series champion to challenge fellow midfield runners for occasional points.

Predicted championship finish: Outside top 10

Sergio Perez

Despite racing for four years in GP2 and only claiming 5 wins, the 21 year-old is unlikely to succeed in Formula One and there can be no doubt that the signature of Perez was orchestrated due to the amount of money he brings from his native Mexico. Not much is expected of him and in all honesty, none is likely from the 21 year-old.

Predicted championship finish: Outside top 10

Team Lotus

Team Lotus - Jarno Trulli, Tony Fernandes and Heikki Kovalianen
Team Lotus - Jarno Trulli, Tony Fernandes and Heikki Kovalianen

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Tony Fernandes is confident his team will join the midfield runners in 2011. Electing to abandon development of their 2010 challenger, chief designer Mike Gascoyne and his team of engineers and designers are hopeful such a gap to those ahead has been breached. Both Jarno Trulli and Heikki Kovalainen have declared the car to be a dramatic improvement during winter testing but reliability is a concern within the team. The resources are there to move the Norfolk-based team out of the bottom three and hope is high that a genuine collection of points is possible as they enter their second season.

Predicted Constructors Championship finish: 10th

Jarno Trulli

Once fancied as a potential world champion, the popular Italian has flattered to deceive throughout his career and there is much to suggest that if he feels he has been given another poor car, he will take his leave from the team and probably the sport too at the end of the season.

Predicted championship finish: Outside top 10

Heikki Kovalainen

The Finnish driver has been warmly received within the squad since leaving McLaren at the end of 2009 and was signed with the future in mind. Last season was a trying one for all yet the 29 year-old never wavered in his belief that the team would overcome the niggling issues that plagued its debut campaign in 2010. He is fast, if occasionally erratic and providing the car underneath him is an improvement in terms of drivability and reliability, there is no reason not to expect him to feature in Q2 more frequently on a Saturday afternoon.

Predicted championship finish: Outside top 10

The Marussia Virgin team - Timo Glock and Jerome d’Ambrosio
The Marussia Virgin team - Timo Glock and Jerome d’Ambrosio

Photo by: xpb.cc

Marussia Virgin Racing

For team boss John Booth, 2010 was a trying year and despite initial optimism at the launch of the new MVR-02 in February, there is much to suggest 2011 will be more of the same. Chief designer Nick Wirth was keen to unveil his latest CFD-designed challenger to the world; confident the three-second gap to the more established teams had been bridged. Winter testing however, has highlighted numerous problems with the car and all the signs suggest that they are going to struggle to beat fellow 2010 debutants Team Lotus, and may on occasion, qualify outside the new 107% rule on a Saturday afternoon.

Predicted Constructors Championship finish: 11th

Timo Glock

The German is set for another frustrating year in 2011 and there is much to suggest he will leave the team at the end of the season. During his time with Toyota, Glock impressed many within the paddock yet was overlooked by the established teams for 2010 after the Japanese car giant announced it was quitting the sport. Moving to a new outfit such as Virgin last year was a gamble for the German and there is little doubt that in 2011, he will need to perform minor miracles. Otherwise, his once prosperous career may come to a shuddering halt.

Predicted championship finish: Outside top 10

Jerome d’Ambrosio

The likable Belgian enters his debut season in optimistic frame of mind declaring himself ready to take on the challenge of beating Glock at the start of the year. Keeping the seat he has been given will be of paramount importance to the 25 year-old if he is to establish himself as a grand prix driver and there is no better way of doing that than beating a more experienced team mate.

Predicted championship finish: Outside top 10

Hispania Racing

HRT - Narain Karthikeyan, Jose Ramon Carabante and Vitantonio Liuzzi
HRT - Narain Karthikeyan, Jose Ramon Carabante and Vitantonio Liuzzi

Photo by: xpb.cc

Last season, this Spanish-based team demonstrated that the rigours of Formula One can be drastically underestimated. Massively under-financed and offering little in the way of developments to the drivers, 2010 was a tough year and perhaps more disconcerting is that in 2011, this shambolic effort are set for another year of hardship. Two new drivers, a new car that has not turned a wheel in anger, the team will be heading to Australia with more questions than answers. Expectations will be firstly to ensure they complete a race distance but really, is there any place for such an outfit in Formula One?

Predicted Constructors Championship finish: 12th

Vitantonio Luizzi

The Italian was shoehorned out of Force India late last year and spent the winter desperately searching for a drive. With no other offers on the table, the 29 year-old has opted for Hispania and if the realisation of his mistake hasn’t set in yet, it soon will.

Predicted championship finish: Outside top 10

Narain Karthikeyan

The likeable Indian makes a welcome return to the sport in 2011 courtesy of the millions from his corporate sponsor. The 34 year-old will struggle to impress those outside the team in a car that is unlikely to offer much in terms of grip or power so the onus will be on beating his team mate. Demonstrating that will present the chance to possibly prolong his career beyond the current season, providing the team are able to offer the guarantee that they too will still be around.

Predicted championship finish: Outside top 10

See also Part I of this Preview

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About this article
Series General , Formula 1
Drivers Jarno Trulli , Rubens Barrichello , Jacques Villeneuve , Nick Heidfeld , Narain Karthikeyan , Peter Sauber , Heikki Kovalainen , Vitantonio Liuzzi , Paul di Resta , Robert Kubica , Timo Glock , Mike Gascoyne , Pastor Maldonado , Kamui Kobayashi , Adrian Sutil , Sébastien Buemi , Vitaly Petrov , Nico Hulkenberg , Sergio Perez , John Booth , Jaime Alguersuari
Teams Team Lotus , Sauber , Force India , Toro Rosso , Williams , Virgin Racing
Tags drivers, prediction, teams