It’s February people! And it’s 1 month away before the first 2011 Formula 1 GP campaign begins! This is also the month when teams meet in Valencia, Spain, where they launch and test their new cars for the 2011 season.
Just for your info, the 2011 season will be the longest season ever with 20 races around the globe. As for the cars, the F-duct has been banned and adjustable rear wings will be included into the 2011 cars. Tyre maker Pirelli will replace Bridgestone as the tyre supplier and the optional KERS system will also make a comeback. 107% qualifying rule also returns for the 2011 season, in which means if a car finished 7secs or more slower than the lead car, that car will not be qualified for the Sunday’s race.
Here are the summary of team launches for their 2011 campaign.
Scuderia Ferrari became the first team to launch their 2011 contender by unleashing their new F150. With painful memories from Abu Dhabi still in mind, the restructured team has bigger plans for 2011, which is to win the drivers and constructor’s championship. Just if you didn’t noticed, the Marlboro logos are well hidden in the team’s logo as well (FYI, tobacco sponsorship is banned in F1).
The car looks magnificently beautiful, moreover without the dreaded looking F-duct fins from the 2010 car. Driver lineup is retained with Fernando Alonso as 1st driver and Felippe Massa as the 2nd driver. Not sure if there’s a button in Massa’s car to allow Alonso to pass though.
2. Team Lotus
Tony Fernandes’s squad has also launched their contender for 2011, codenamed T128. The best of the new teams in 2010, and obtained the Team Lotus name despite an ugly dispute between Group Lotus and Proton, Team Lotus chances for 2010 does look promising. With engine supplies from Renault and gearbox from Team Red Bull, and obtained many talents from other teams, Team Lotus is expected to challenge into the mid positions, challenging Sauber, Torro Rosso and quite possibility Williams as well.
Last year’s drivers Heikki Kovalainen and Jarno Trulli are retained as well. Moreover, the team’s expectations to score 8th position in the constructor’s championship and targeted to embarrass traditional teams like Williams did raise some eyebrows to see if Team Lotus is challenging Dany Bahar’s Group Lotus in the ambitious competition among Lotuses.
3. Lotus Renault (aka Group Lotus)
February 1st was a very busy day in F1 with the launches of 6 teams. Renault, which is Group Lotus’s sponsorship team did cause a stir recently, has launched the R31 for their 2011 campaign. With claims that the R31 uses 92% new parts over last year’s car and the black and gold livery to match Lotus’s John Player special livery back in the 70’s, the car is seriously stunning. With innovations like KERBS, unique exhaust concept – which sees the exhausts exit at the leading edge of the sidepods, perhaps we won’t be surprised if they can obtain podium positions.
Robert Kubica and Vitaly Petrov will be running the 2011 driver’s lineup together with 5 other reserve/test driver for Renault’s own driver developer program. That includes former Lotus Racing’s Malaysian driver Fairuz Fauzy and HRT’s Bruno Senna, nephew of the legend the late Aryton Senna. Still there plenty of replacement drivers should Petrov screw up like what he did in 2010.
The former BMW team has had an eventful year for 2010, started with no sponsors and lots of retirements. But 2010 marked as a good year for them with points finish and blazing banzai driving from Kamui Kobayashi provides solid entertainment in F1. Having secured Mexican companies backing and sponsorship after signing GP2 runner up Sergio Pérez, and with the help from Ferrari for engines and KERBs, expect Sauber to perform decently well in the mid table this season.
Williams has launched the FW33 for 2011. Although the car they bought is not the final version due to it’s empty and pale livery. Technical innovations including the FW33′s 7-speed transmission which is believed to be the smallest gearbox developed for an F1 car. Driver lineup is consist of South American drivers like Rubens Barrichello and GP2 champion Pastor Maldonado.
On the unrelated note, Williams has been listed into the Frankfurt stock exchange, prompting the 1st ever team to be inside the stock exchange. For those regular joes who can show off they own an F1 team, this could be their golden opportunity.
6. Mercedes GP
2010 has been a disappointing year for Mercedes, as the team finished 4th in the constructors and Michael Schumacher comeback has been dismal, and made worse as Nico Rosberg performed better than him. Anyhow they have move on for 2011 to release the W02 car. Still same drivers from last year, Schumacher expects 2011 will be his year to obtain his 8th driver’s title, so let us see if the W02 is up to expectations. The good thing about this car is the wordings of Malaysia oil giant “Petronas” is more visible on the W02.
7. Toro Rosso
The former Minardi squad has been in a much better shape after been bought over by Red Bull and for 2011, Sébastien Buemi and Jaime Alguersuari will be piloting the STR6. This year, they might have to fight off grid positions from Tony’s Team Lotus and the emerging Virgin team as well.
8. Red Bull Racing
Torro Rosso’s bigger brother and 2010 constructor’s champion, Red Bull Racing has launched the RB7. With Mark Webber and current F1 driver’s champion Sebastian Vettel retained for the 2011 season, we might see this year’s championship will be a battle hard fought between Red Bull and the usual power weights like Ferrari and Mclaren.
Most recently after this week testing at Valencia using the 2010 car, Mclaren has launched their 2011 contender with the MP4-26 in Berlin. As always, the silver arrows is a beauty and the new McLaren features some interesting concepts – including a long flat high nose, radical, high L-shaped sidepods, and airbox tweaks. The drivers, Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton shared a good and healthy rivalry (think 2010 Turkey and Red Bull) and expect the duo combo should do great for the Mclaren team.
As for now, only Force India, Marusia Virgin and HRT has yet to launch their cars. With February as testing season for F1 and the 1st GP of the year begins at Bahrain on March 13, 2011 should be a hot and sizzling year for F1.
Will Justin BieberSebastian Vettel fend off Mark Webber or will they crash again like in Turkey 2010? Will Button give in to Hamilton? Will Massa allow everyone Alonso to pass him? Will Schumacher get his 8th title or get embarrassed by Rosberg again? Who will win the best of Lotus? Will the new GP of India be a potential flop like Commonwealth 2010? Will the Malaysians hear their national anthem on podium?
Whatever it is, F1 2011 season, bring it on!