In 2010, the three newest additions to the grid, Lotus, Hispania and Virgin, were at the back having their own private feud. They never really quite got up to the pace of the rest of the grid, despite their best efforts.
The Lotus was a conservative car (when first released it had the down force of a 2003 Minardi), the Virgin car had a fuel tank that was too small had the CFD design that wasn't as revolutionary as they hoped and the Hispania car couldn't be developed due to their lack of money.
Lotus won the 2010 battle with Hispania (amazingly) coming in second and Virgin Racing got the wooden spoon. None of them managed to get in the points at any point throughout the season though.
They now have a year's experience under their belts, and it's time for them to move up, reducing the gap of the rest of the grid and begin to fight their way up. The new season is just a couple of weeks away, so what can we expect from them in 2011?
The Tony Fernandes-run Lotus team was by far the best of the new teams in 2010 and will be looking to keep this progress going in 2011. They were able to be close to the pace of the rest of the grid, and on race days they did try to fight with the cars ahead of them.
In Trulli and Kovaleinen, they have an experienced, but unspectacular driver lineup; considering where the team is currently though, that is no bad thing.
The 2010 car, as I said earlier, was a conservative design, but it was nicely developed and did show improvement over the season. For this year, they are looking to launch themselves up the grid.
The new T128 has shown promise in testing and has shown good pace. Kovaleinen has shown some real enthusiasm for the car and the team in general. The new car is a lot more aggressive in design than the old one, and that will hopefully lead to better results when the season begins.
Being more financially stable than those other new teams, plus the extra money they got for finishing 10th in last year's constructors, has allowed them to really work on this year's car. They began work on the T128 quite early last year and only developed the 2010 car enough to ensure they did secure that 10th place in the constructors.
Retaining the same drivers is also good, showing faith in their abilities and not needing to resort to pay drivers.
They aren't going to be regular point-scorers, but they should be able to get the occasional 10th place, and with some luck, they may get even higher than that.
Their place as the best of the newer teams should remain.
Hispania was the weakest of all the teams during the 2010 season.
The car wasn't developed at all and was identical from the first race to the last race. The team's main problem was the lack of funds, which meant improving things on the track was nearly impossible.
They had to resort to using Sakon Yamamoto as a driver, who was bringing in millions of Yen to the team, but as a driver, Sakon isn't up to it. Senna tried his best, and on many occasions, he was guilty of trying too hard. Klien showed he is still up to it in the three races he was given, and Chandok demonstrated talent in his races as well.
The lack of funds still plagues the team, but they have built their 2011 car. Their 2010 car was one of the best looking on the grid, but sadly this act hasn't been repeated. The 2011 car isn't the best-looking, but if it is quicker, then it won't matter.
Sadly, I have no idea whether it will be any quicker, as the car hasn't been at any of the test sessions that have happened so far.
The driver lineup is yet to be completed as well, with one seat going to Narain Karthikeyan, but so far the other seat is yet to be filled. The favorite for the second seat so far is currently Vitantonio Liuzzi after he was sacked by Force India.
If this is their other driver lineup, I am a little worried for them. Karthikeyan hasn't been in Formula 1 for years, and whether he can adapt to the cars is unknown. Schumacher showed it isn't easy to come back after a layoff, so Narain could be in for a real struggle.
Narain is bringing a large amount of money with him from Tata, so this may at least mean that Hispania is able to begin developing the new F111.
Liuzzi is someone who has something to prove after his poor 2010 season. He was, in my view, the worst driver last year, and if he does get the Hispania seat, he has to show more quality drives than he did last year.
I expect them to fill the role previously held by Minardi a few years ago: at the back struggling against financial adversity.
Virgin racing has had substantial investment from Russian sports car company Marussia over the winter, hence the change of name.
This has given the team a big financial boost and has allowed an increase in their CFD department, which is responsible for all the cars' aerodynamics. Hopefully, this will result in a quicker and more competitive car in 2011. This gives the team some stability and the chance to really concentrate on the racing.
It also means that, like Lotus, they can choose drivers more on ability than wallet size.
In 2010, they gave a good account of themselves (except the fuel tank mess up), managing to challenge Lotus on a few occasions (and sometimes beating them). Glock was good, but Di Grassi sadly wasn't really up to it. Instead of pushing the Lotuses, he ended up fighting and sometimes losing to the Hispania cars.
The times in testing have suggested that even though the car may be an improvement, it isn't a huge step forward. They have had the odd session where they have been pushing further up the leaderboard, but more often than not, they have been one of the slower cars.
The car has also been dogged with gearbox issues throughout testing, so it's not looking like the new car is very reliable yet either. I wonder if the fuel tank is big enough...
For their drivers, they have sacked Di Grassi, who was totally anonymous last year and replaced by Jerome d'Ambrosio. I hope to see Jerome do well, and I do expect him to at least be more noticeable than Di Grassi was.
They have stuck with Timo Glock in the other car, and after his appendix surgery, he should be ready for the start of the 2011 season. Timo is a fine driver and managed to get last year's car competing with the Lotus machines on a regular basis.
I am not expecting miracles from Marussia-Virgin this year, but I think we may see a small improvement from them. If there is a race of high attrition, then they may even nick a point or two. But on outright pace at the moment, points seem just out of reach.
I do expect them to beat Hispania in the constructors title this year though.
I wish all three of these teams the best of luck and hope we will see them become more competitive.
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