In the 2010 season, there were three teams that throughout the season were in constant battle. These were Mclaren, Ferrari and the eventual winners Red Bull Racing. In 2011, it is thought that these three will be again the ones that are really pushing at the front so here is a little preview for each team for the 2011 Formula 1 season.
After a break of a few years of being truly competitive, Mika Hakkinen galvanised Mclaren and ever since 1998, Mclaren have been up there nearly ever season competing for the titles. This brought back memories of Senna, Prost and the domination they had back then. They have had the odd offseason, but for the most part they have always been consistently at the front.
Before winter testing you would have put money on Mclaren being a force to be reckoned with once again in 2011. Even after the first rounds of winter testing you still wouldn't bet against them from pulling off something great in 2011.
Sadly the early evidence doesn't look good. The car has been consistently off the pace so far and unless some pretty large changes occur before the start of the season I would be surprised to see them as competitive early on. The car has been well of the pace of Ferrari, Red Bull and even some of the other teams.
You never know it could be a trick, but somehow, I doubt it.
The drivers have even admitted that they are worried about the cars lack of pace in testing. To have the drivers admit they are concerned is rare and would suggest something is quite seriously wrong. It could mean that some big packages are needed to bring the car fully up to speed. The problem is rushing to put big packages on the car, can lead to mechanical issues.
However, they do have a strong driver line up that is nicely balanced. You have the charger in Lewis Hamilton, who is probably the quicker but is also more prone to making a mistake. Then you have the consistent pace of Jenson Button, who is fancied by some this year due to his smooth driving style.
Reports about the Pirelli tyres are suggesting high levels of degradation so the smooth style of Button should make the tyres last longer and result in him needing less pit stops. Having to make less pit stops could really play to Button's advantage.
For me, though, I cant see them finishing higher than third with the current car. In fact, unless improvements are made they could be challenged by Lotus-Renault or maybe Mercedes, depending on how good the Mercedes actually is. At the moment no one seems to know.
The team that should have won the drivers championship last year are desperate for success in 2011. Ever since Raikkonen's title win back in 2007 they have always just fallen short of the mark. They would have won last year had it not been for the howler made at Abu Dhabi. This year they have to succeed. If not, heads will roll.....
The good news from their point of view is early testing has looked promising. The car looks like a good base line and if the car is developed properly. The early gremlins with reliability do seem to have been fixed and the car has been consistently near the top of the testing time sheets. The car does seem like a fairly conservative design, but if it does the business it wont matter.
Driver wise they are probably the most unbalanced out of the each teams pair of drivers on 2010 form. Massa was very poor in 2010 only having a few races where he seemed to be really like we know he can do.
Only in Germany did he really look like his old self. But by that point the team were 100 percent behind Fernando and we all know what happened next. If Felipe has another bad season then he could be in serious problems. There are plenty of talented drivers out there and he can't think he is safe.
Fernando Alonso was his usual self performing well for most of the season with only a couple of slip ups, with the one at Spa being the most memorable. Alonso isn't popular with many people, particularly here in Britain, but you have to respect his ability.
It looks like a strong car and with Alonso in particular at the wheel, I expect a strong challenge to Red Bull this year. Massa I expect less from, but I do expect an improvement.
Do I think they can do it? Yes
Do I think they will do it? On current evidence, no.
The team that made last year's titles very hard for themselves will go in as favourites for the 2011 season. They could have made things so much easier for themselves last year without the in fighting which wasn't what was needed.
On the other hand you have to admire the commitment to fair play, not favouring either driver when things got tight at the end. Their 2010 car was epic with aerodynamic wizardry especially at the back of the car making it incredibly fast.
From testing evidence it looks like more of the same with Red Bull being at the very top on nearly every occasion. The reliability seems good as well, so as a machine, this looks like the one to beat once more.
As for the drivers, this is a strong, if not always harmonious, pairing with experience coming from Webber and youthful energy from Vettel. Last year, Vettel pipped everyone at the post with a brilliant last few races.
Vettel is a naturally talented driver but does still have some areas of weakness. The main one of these being overtaking. At Spa and Istanbul where he needlessly threw points away. Once he is at the front though, he dominates, and catching him is very difficult. The 2010 world title will be the first of many I suspect for Sebastien.
Mark Webber felt hard done by, by the team resulting in the in famous message sent at the end of the British Grand Prix. In the end, he did falter and was third in the title race in 2010. There is a view held by some that Mark has missed his big chance and that now he will not win the title.
I personally don't think things are that simple but he did miss a good chance. He is getting towards the latter stages of his career but I think there is a bit more life in Mark yet.
The 2011 season will start with Red Bull as strong favourites.
Lotus-Renualt could dethrone one of the big teams. Strong in testing and with Heidfeld they have a strong consistent driver. I am not sure about Petrov though and he could be the weak link.
Mercedes is a team of mystery at the moment. Testing times have been all over the place and no one knows what to expect. The team seems confident and then not confident at all on consecutive days. I would like to think Schumacher and Rosberg will be strong in 2011.
On early evidence its going to be hard for anyone to catch the rampaging Red Bull.