January 09, 2011

F1 Silly Season Almost Over Already!

While we weren't watching, it seems that the F1 teams have pretty much locked down their driver lineups for the 2011 season.  Let's take a look, shall we?

RED BULL: Seb Vettel, Mark Webber.  No surprises here, though the drama continues behind the scenes in the Red Bull camp.  A few days ago, Webber in an interview pretty much came out and said he knows he's not going to get any help.  "You think there's a camaraderie, but in the end you know you're on your own," said the Aussie.  He also said that he drove the last four races of the season with a broken shoulder, suffered in a mountain bike accident... and he didn't tell the team.

MCLAREN:  Lewis Hamilton, Jenson Button.  Again, no surprises.  What, you expected the team to fire one of their champions?  I don't think I'd take any team's lineup over these two.

FERRARI: HWMNBN, Felipe Massa.  Massa's job is on the line.  First Ferrari President Luca di Montezemelo said that Felipe drove "like his brother" in 2010.  Then di Montezemelo confirmed that, while the rules on Team Orders have been removed in 2011, both drivers will start on equal footing.  "I don't want to have a person that is frustrated from the first race because he knows he has less power.  I want two drivers in a condition to win."  He's not talking about HWMNBN, by the way.

MERCEDES GP: Nico Rosberg, Slappy Schumacher.  Once again, no surprises.  Rosberg is a coming young talent, Slappy's an old talent who improved as the season went on.  If this team doesn't win a few races in 2011, I'll be very surprised. 

LOTUS RENAULT GP: Robert Kubica, Vitaly Petrov.  Big surprise here, in that Petrov was just bad last year.  He did have a heckuva drive in Abu Dhabi which might have shown his true ability level, but all in all I'd've let some other team find it.  His Russian financial backers must have coughed up a lot of cash, and to be fair he'll be quite the draw when the Russian Grand Prix goes off in 2014.  Maybe by then he'll be good.

WILLIAMS: Rubens Barrichello, Pastor Maldonado.  Maldonado, the reigning GP2 champion, replaces Nico Hulkenberg.  The team swears up and down that the Venezuelan isn't a pay driver; the financial backing he brings is just a bonus, I guess.  To be fair, he is supposed to be quite skilled.  Barrichello, of course, is the most experienced driver in F1 history, but the only race he won last year was against The Stig.

FORCE INDIA: TBA, TBA.  Vitantonio Liuzzi has a contract through the 2011 season. Rumors have Scotsman Paul di Resta, the team's 2010 test driver, taking his seat however, with Nico Hulkenberg in the test driver's seat.  With Adrian Sutil almost certain to be returning to the team, that leaves Liuzzi out in the cold.  Without an announcement from the team though, we have no idea what's going on.

SAUBER: Gandalf Kobayasahi, Sergio Perez.  Perez comes to F1 via GP2, where he finished second to Pastor Maldonado in 2010.  A native of Mexico, he comes bearing financial backing from Telmex and Carlos Slim (aka 'The Richest Man In The World').  If it came down to pure skill, I suspect that Nico Hulkenberg would deserve this seat more, but money always plays a part.

TORO ROSSO: Seb Buemi, NKOTT.  No changes here, and no reason to.  Both drivers fall into the category of 'useful', and the Red Bull junior team is hardly hurting for cash.

TEAM LOTUS: Jarno Trulli, Heikki Kovaleinninninninninninnie.  At the end of the 2010 season, reports surfaced that Lotus wanted to jettison Trulli.  The Italian's contract supposedly contained a clause that read (in effect) that the team had to let him know by... I think it was Singapore... that they weren't going to bring him back, and they forgot about that.  So we've got a team with a driver that they don't want.  That can't be good for team chemistry, and it's not like the Malaysian team is swimming in money to buy him out.

HRT: Narain Kittylitter, TBA.  I'm quite enthused about the return of Kittylitter, F1's first Indian driver.  He drove for Team Jordan (which became MF1/Midland, Spyker F1, then Force India) in 2005, in which season he finished as high as 4th place (though it was in the US Grand Prix, contested by six cars).  Since then, he's driven in A1GP, the European LeMans series, SuperLeague Formula, and in 2010, the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series.  Amazingly, he won the "most popular driver" award, as voted by the fans, in the Truck Series.  He did pretty darn well there, though he didn't win a race.  Not bad for a guy used to open-wheel cars that literally weigh less than half of what a NASCAR truck does.  He comes with the backing of the TATA Group, the Indian auto manufacturer... perfect, since we'll have the first Indian Grand Prix this season.

VIRGIN RACING: Timo Glock, Jerome d'Ambrosio.  Glock is exactly what a newbie team needs, and I think he's one of the most underrated drivers on the grid.  Belgian d'Ambrosio was Renault's third driver for the 2010 season so he has some skill, but his racing career is hardly distinguished.  He finished 2nd in the GP2 Asia 2008-2009 season, but that's about it.  We'll see.

So three slots technically remain open for the 2011 season... will Nico Hulkenberg, who really deserves a seat, be offered one of them?  And, considering that the two Force India seats probably aren't really open, would he even accept a drive with HRT?  Or will he become a third driver?  Only time will tell, and as soon as we know, I'll let you know!

Posted by: Wonderduck at 09:08 PM | Comments (4) | Add Comment
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1 What happened to Force India? Name change? Out of the game?

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at January 09, 2011 10:09 PM (+rSRq)

2 never mind. I can't see.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at January 09, 2011 10:09 PM (+rSRq)

3 The sooner the season starts the better!  Thanks for the run down of the teams.  :-)

Posted by: Mallory at January 10, 2011 07:21 AM (WJ2qy)

4 Bernie has got to be dancing tonight. HRT has broken w/FOTA, something Bernie has been angling for years to happen. It'll also be fun watching Ferrari this year as the engineering staff has undergone a huge change. I hope the coming season will be just as good as 2010 so see you after Bahrain.

Posted by: Tony von Krag at January 10, 2011 09:14 PM (VGXAE)

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