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Team prospects for 2011 Formula One season

Last updated on: March 25, 2011 16:28 IST

RED BULL

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1-Sebastian Vettel (Germany), 2-Mark Webber (Australia)

The champions and team to beat. Red Bull won nine races, took 15 pole positions, four one-two finishes and both titles last year.The signs from pre-season testing are that Adrian Newey has designed another winner.

Vettel, still only 23, will be even more confident now that he is the sport's youngest champion and looks a good bet to become the youngest double winner as well. Webber, so close last year, can expect to add to his tally of race victories but the number two on his car may also reflect his status.


Image: Sebastian Vettel
Photographs: Getty Images
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MCLAREN

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3-Lewis Hamilton (Britain), 4-Jenson Button (Britain)

The car has been described as a 'dud' and a 'mess' by critics. In testing, the team have looked slow. Button was 13th out of 14 on the penultimate day in Barcelona last week, Hamilton said the car was way off being a race winner. It has also looked unreliable, with both drivers heading for Australia without doing a race distance in it.

On the plus side, McLaren can never be written off and are experts in making rapid progress. The new tyres, which degrade quickly, could suit Button's smooth style more than Hamilton's.


Image: Lewis Hamilton

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FERRARI

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5-Fernando Alonso (Spain), 6-Felipe Massa (Brazil)

Looking quick and reliable, with the team doing more laps in testing than any other. Going into Melbourne, they appear to be Red Bull's closest rivals, and may even have the edge on pace. Alonso is determined to claim the third title that he could have won last season but for a strategic error by the team.

Massa, ever the object of speculation about his future after ending 2010 as the only driver from the three top teams not to win a race, needs to raise his game. Otherwise he will again be on the wrong end of team orders, now legal.


Image: Fernando Alonso

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MERCEDES

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7-Michael Schumacher (Germany), 8-Nico Rosberg (Germany)

Mercedes reckoned they were about a second off the pace going into the final pre-season test in Barcelona but they seem to have clawed some of that back with a new package that saw Schumacher lap fastest.

The older German needs this car to be good if he is to add to his record tally of 91 wins, let alone hope for an eighth title. Rosberg will grow in stature and confidence once he has that breakthrough first victory. Schumacher will again have his work cut out to beat the youngster, whose talent is sometimes underestimated. The engine and KERS (Kinetic Energy Recovery System) are strong.


Image: Michael Schumacher

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RENAULT

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9-Nick Heidfeld (Germany), 10-Vitaly Petrov (Russia)

The injured Robert Kubica's absence hangs heavily over the former champions, who are now Renault in name only and more closely associated with title sponsors Lotus.

The Pole, who needed surgery after crashing in a minor rally in Italy last month, might have challenged for wins and podiums in a car with an innovative exhaust system that looks a good step up on 2010. Heidfeld is a solid replacement but, after 172 starts, still not a race winner and this could be his last chance. Petrov should be more consistent after his rookie season but still has much to learn.


Image: Nick Heidfeld

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WILLIAMS

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11-Rubens Barrichello (Brazil), 12-Pastor Maldonado (Venezuela)

Barrichello has more races under his belt than any other driver in the history of the sport. His technical expertise will be invaluable for former champions who last won in 2004, and whose other driver is a rookie who looks quick but a bit rough around the edges.

The car is innovative, with the smallest gearbox the team have ever built creating a very tidy and compact rear end. If they can nail the reliability, particularly with the KERS system, and avoid silly mistakes then Williams could be looking far more competitive.


Image: Rubens Barrichello

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FORCE INDIA

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14-Adrian Sutil (Germany), 15-Paul di Resta (Britain)

A solid line-up with strong links to McLaren, with whom they have a technical agreement. Sutil is Lewis Hamilton's oldest and closest friend in the paddock, while Di Resta is managed by Hamilton's father Anthony and looks a good early bet for rookie of the year.

Whether they have the resources to take on the big boys is doubtful but they could challenge for the occasional podium, particularly in the wet. Doing well in the inaugural Indian GP will be a priority, given their ownership.


Image: Adrian Sutil

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SAUBER

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16-Kamui Kobayashi (Japan), 17-Sergio Perez (Mexico)

Kobayashi finds himself as effective team leader after just one full season, with Perez making his debut. Expect to hear Hector Rebaque alluded to a few times, as Perez is the first Mexican to race since the ex-Lotus and Brabham driver in 1981.

With new Mexican backers, Sauber are a serious team and now on a sounder footing. The car has looked promising in testing, suggesting regular points are possible.


Image: Kamui Kobayashi

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TORO ROSSO

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18-Sebastien Buemi (Switzerland), 19-Jaime Alguersuari (Spain)

Could be the surprise package of the season, providing the drivers also raise their game, with a car that looks far more competitive. Highly-rated Australian Daniel Ricciardo has been brought on board as reserve and will keep the race regulars on their toes.

Alguersuari now has a full season under his belt and knows the circuits. The team hope to be challenging Sauber and Force India at the very least.


Image: Sebastien Buemi

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TEAM LOTUS

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20-Jarno Trulli (Italy), 21-Heikki Kovalainen (Finland)

The best of the new teams last year and almost certainly the best again this season. They are now looking to move into the midfield, taking on the likes of Sauber and Force India, and winning their first points.

The car is an improvement, with a Red Bull gearbox and Renault engine, and both drivers are previous race winners. Reliability could be the Achilles heel.


Image: Jarno Trulli

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HRT

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22-Narain Karthikeyan (India), 23-Vitantonio Liuzzi (Italy)

Due to arrive in Melbourne with a completely untested car, and one driver (Karthikeyan) who last raced in F1 in 2005. Liuzzi is quick, if erratic, but can expect to be back among the tail-enders if he finishes.

The car should be quicker than last year's but that is not saying much. Many wrote off their chances of survival last year but team boss Colin Kolles is a tireless fighter. Resources and reliability are the key.


Image: Narain Karthikeyan

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VIRGIN RACING

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24-Timo Glock (Germany), 25-Jerome d'Ambrosio (Belgium)

Now with new Russian backing from sportscar maker Marussia, and racing under a Russian licence, Virgin are on a sounder financial footing and chasing their first point. It will be tough.

The car is designed entirely by computer, without the aid of a wind tunnel, and the budget is probably the second smallest in F1 after HRT. Glock has the experience, d'Ambrosio is on a steep learning curve as a rookie. Belgian fans will be delighted to have a driver to follow after 17 years without.


Image: Timo Glock

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