Formula One 2011: Has Newey Produced Another Title Winner or Is It Up-For-Grabs?
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As we see out the last couple of days before the opening race of the 2011 season, the usual conversations are likely to have been thrashed to death. Who's looking strong? Who are the possible outsider's? Who has the best car? Who's looked the best in testing?
But what I want to know the answer to is whether Adrian Newey, with his deep reservoir of F1 design experience, has become unstoppable?
He has an absolutely gleaming CV, one that is unique in that he is the only technical director to have lead three different teams to the title, and it seems that at Red Bull, he is likely to continue his run of form.
Whilst Ferrari have looked strong during their out-season sessions, it is not without keeping a nervous eye on the drinks giant. It is no secret that the Italian super team had a crack at trying to woo Newey to the Marinello based outfit during 2010.
Luckily for Red Bull, he could not be swayed and is clearly a man of honour and loyalty and not just about the chasing a place on the Ferrari pay role, sadly a feeling that I don't believe his No. 1 driver shares.
We all know that Newey produced a near perfect car last year, something which I'm sure he has no intention of steering away from (excuse the pun), and with an unlimited source of funding and support, could Red Bull run away with things early doors?
Who is going to win the 2011 drivers championship?
If there was ever a driver that has the desire and ability to push a second title in a row, Sebastian Vettel, in theory, has the minerals. Coupled with the design expertise and team support, he already looks like the favourite.
But then Lewis and Jenson failed in the quest for the same goal. It's all going to come down to his composure and whether he can prevent the number of silly mistakes he made last year.
At this stage Seb's biggest threat will be third title chaser Fernando Alonso who naturally raring to go. You can tell this from his press contact over the last 24 hours, as well as delivering in free practice.
I have no doubt that once again he has the full support of the team, and it is clear that the villain of F1 has no intention of taking any prisoners this term. All this can be confirmed by the relatively low key mood around the Massa camp, coupled with the fact that the Brazilian was nearly a second of the pace during practice.
This is definitely a man in a similar situation to the perceived Red Bull second driver Mark Webber. Dispite being a Mclaren/Jenson fan, I have no doubt I will find myself rooting for both of them.
Unsurprisingly Alonso is more than behind the decision to lift the ban on team orders, it will be interested to see how that new rule is exploited throughout the season.
Before today's practice sessions in Melbourne I had an anxious feeling that last year's four-team battle (Ferrari, Mclaren, Red Bull & Mercedes) at the front of the grid already looked like a two dog fight between Ferrari and Red Bull.
Mercedes didn't seem to have themselves together, despite Schumacher promising big things, although he did look quick during P2 today.
Mclaren made no secret of the fact that their car just wasn't ready, but with the announcement of some risky upgrades before they made their way down under, both cars topped the time sheet during this mornings second session. Red Bull were naturally quick, finishing the free practice sessions in the top five.
Whilst the practice results have historically had little similarity to the overall race results, it is definitely good to see that the all important look competitive. Coupled with some likely surprises from some good looking Renault and Torro Rosso pace, this season is set up to be another belter.
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