24 drivers, 5 champions and 6,000km of racing

2011 F1 season preview

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Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull, Barcelona, 2011

Heading into 2011 the F1 rules have had the usual off-season overhaul.

But there have been few changes to the driver line-up. Had a rally crash not ended Robert Kubica’s season before it had started, the top five teams of last year would all be heading into 2011 with the same drivers.

That consistency could prove vital in a year when the teams face some formidable technical challenges. For 2011 cars feature the radical and controversial Drag Reduction System and the return of Kinetic Energy Recovery Systems.

The change of tyre supplier to Pirelli may seem rather undramatic by comparison. But the importance of this change cannot be understated. The chemistry that takes place between the rubber and the road is fundamental to a car’s performance.

The brief given to Pirelli was to supply tyres that wear out quickly. Their aim is to create more races like last year’s thrilling Canadian Grand Prix – voted the best race of the season by F1 Fanatic readers.

The evidence from testing so far indicates that life has become much more difficult for the drivers. Yesterday world champion Sebastian Vettel talked about drivers needing three or even four stops for tyres in each race.

The team that cracks the tyre model quickest, and the drivers who can make them last the longest, will be the ones who claim the big prize in eight monthss time.

Assuming the Bahrain Grand Prix is put back on the calendar, the 24 drivers will do battle over a season of record length, covering almost 6,000km.

Among their number are five champions, the most ever seen in a single season, led by reigning title holder Vettel.

Fernando Alonso is already being tipped as the man most likely to usurp Vettel, having come so close to winning a third title last year.

After a disappointing comeback season in 2010, much attention will be focussed on the efforts of Michael Schumacher and Mercedes to recapture their former glories.

For the second year in a row McLaren boast a pair of world champions in Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button. But it remains to be seen whether the radical design of their MP4-26 will pay off.

And then there’s the question of whether Renault can carry the momentum they built up last year into the new season – despite having lost their lead driver.

These are just a few of the fascinating storylines that will unfold out over a season which will hopefully prove every bit as exciting as last year’s.

F1 Fanatic’s 2011 season preview starts here and will run up to the start of the season in Melbourne.

2011 F1 season preview

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Image © Red Bull/Getty images

Author information

Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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53 comments on “24 drivers, 5 champions and 6,000km of racing”

  1. P1 : ) hope merc got mix up

  2. How many stops will there be in Montreal this year? ANd more importantly, how long will the soft tyres last?

    1. supper softs 6 – 10 laps, but they will be changed before they are used. The are not being used in the first races.

      1. The softs seem to hold for about 12-15 laps before having a severe drop off in speed. Taking in account qualifying, that might mean about 10 laps left for the race.

        I am looking forward to that race!

      2. Wow! If your 6-10 figure is correct the drop off must be huge! Considering a pit stop will cost ~30 seconds!

        1. The super softs as they were a few weeks back will probably never be raced, they will be changed before they are.

        2. Such a sudden drop off might just add to the interest. Assuming the super softs are worth a second a lap for 10 laps, that gains you 10s, but you lose 20 in the pit stop, so you rejoin 10s back into the pack. The top teams won’t want that.
          But such is the advantage in qualifying, I think we can expect to see the likes of Williams, Force India etc putting them on in Q3, and turning up on pole (or at least in the mix near the top).
          In the end the top teams will all tend to the fastest strategy, and the effect will be cancelled.

  3. “F1 Fanatic’s 2011 season preview starts here and will run up to the start of the season in Melbourne.”

    – that line just hyped me up so much! not long now

    1. Me too! Bring it on :-)

      1. eternalsunshine
        3rd March 2011, 9:48

        21 more days to go! :)

        1. That’s so far away……

  4. “The team that cracks the tyre model quickest, and the drivers who can make them last the longest, will be the ones who claim the big prize in eight monthss time.”

    Without a shadow of doubt.

  5. nice article Keith. I think this is true GRAND PRIX stand for.. for go racing with the best driver, best team n resource, around the globe with the best venue to prouf they are the best.. just artic then the only continent we not go racing.. can we go racing there? haha. i just imagine F1 not only race on sweet tarmac but also.. hard sand, ice, gravel with extreme weather condition vanue, so no one had doubt this is thebest GP

  6. UKfanatic (@)
    3rd March 2011, 9:53

    Ferrari F150th Italia 1,205 laps 5,302.02 km impressive to see that a car runs almost a full season of racing before it starts racing anyway i more looking forward to racing than practice

    1. Does put into perspecive, just how “little” testing they do, doesn’t it?
      And we still have the last 4 days of testing to go.

      1. Yes, this is my argument. It’s basically ridiculous that teams should be allocated 15,000km of testing when they race less than half that distance across the whole season. We don’t need more testing.

        1. I suppose the race drivers don’t need more, but “test drivers” should certanly be allowed to drive the car. An extra 3 or 4 days with test drivers only would be good, in my opinion.

          1. Some teams choose to let test drivers take a ride in their car, as McLaren, Force India etc. Some teams, as Ferrari and Red Bull, don’t.

          2. Very good point.

  7. The title of this article grabbed me like a hungry mountain lion! Good work!

  8. Thing is, I really dislike this part of the year; it’s a real false dawn. The cars all come out but the racing is still ages away, so there’s a sense of fatigue.

    I say: forget pre-season testing. Send them straight to the first race. By compromise, every race that doesn’t have another following one week later holds a Monday test for teams to do development work in. Think of how mixed-up it would all be for the fly-away races at the start, many complain the cars are too reliable, ket’s have some early-season mania.

    1. Got to disagree Itchyes. On two counts;

      1. I think the pre-season testing adds to the hype and encourages speculation eg. How will the likes of McLaren, Renault/Lotus/thingy, Williams fair with their radical designs. And,
      2. I don’t think lack of reliability adds anything to the racing. I’ve never got excited about a car failure mixing things up (except maybe when Senna broke down before the line and Mansell gave him a lift, that was pretty cool but surely an exception :)

      1. That”s my point. It all starts and I’m excited, but a month later I’m just begging for the season to start, and not out of excitement.

        Unreliability would of course make things more interesting. Plus if someone has a dominant car, the last thing we want is for them to have 15 days to hone it and make it reliable.

        1. I agree with you this year…… it seems ages since the car launches.


  10. Think Tyre issues/degration will be da thing to look for as ALONSO $ VETTEL already predicted.

  11. F1 Fanatic’s 2011 season preview starts here and will run up to the start of the season in Melbourne.


  12. I think the prospect of someone gambling on an extra stop will depend on the performance advantage in maxing out the harder tyre compared to leaning them out, as opposed to the difference between the soft and hard tyre as we’ve seen the softs won’t give that extra performance for long enough to outweigh the pit-stop penalty

  13. I’m just not excited by creating false racing with tyres that degrade in 6-10 laps ie before a driver can even get into a decent rythmn. Personally, the fact that everyone seems to be talking about tyre preservation and being “easy on the tyres” really disappoints me. I don’t watxh F1 to see who’s the best driver in the world at preserving tyres. I want to see racers going for it lap after lap. I fear it will sway the pedulum towards the conservative driver, not the attacking driver and that worries me.

    1. Isn’t that the point of the new rules? No-one will be able to make a set of primes last the whole race, so some might nurse two sets and some blitz around on three.

      1. So where’s the fun in that? Drivers racing on different parts of the track against the stopclock rather than wheel-to-wheel…I want to see racing on the track, not cars pounding around on there own or trying to overtake slower cars in front.

  14. somerandomguy
    3rd March 2011, 11:45

    im going to melbourne. ive never been to an f1 race before, but now i have to go because its the last race in my country!

  15. Harry Palmer
    3rd March 2011, 12:01

    I never used to follow testing particularly but last year was so gripping I have been following every bit of news and gossip I can over this off-season. I only found this website a few weeks ago and I’m really impressed by it. I can’t wait for Australia I’ll be checking here each day to keep up with all the build up and in-depth analysis.

    1. Do that, Harry. It’s the most informative F1 source by far.

      Keith is king.

      I have a small picture of him in one corner of my room with some candles burning 24/7.


      1. Slightly scared…

        1. It’s when he starts sticking pins in the doll he’s got of you that you really need to worry.

        2. I’m imagining the scene out of Alan Partridge where he goes back to the house of his biggest fan, then discovers the “Alan Wall”.

          A collage of pictures glued to the wall :-)

    2. Definitely Harry, a recent joiner myself since summer last year.

      By far the most balanced coverage, the comments page page goes from the sublime to the ridicilous (sp?) with the love/hate of drivers or teams though but its just funny to see anyway.

      The live Twitter page is brilliant over testing and practice days, always have on a secondary tab.

  16. i hope HRT come with their new car as scheduled. i hope it has forward exhaust near side pots, double floor like STR06, U sidepots like Mclaren. And i hoep it’s blinding quick like RBR!

  17. Looking forward to this so much. Year on year i’m finding new things to enjoy and get my teeth into!

    Disappointed it’s not starting this weeked. But waiting is half the fun I guess!

    I’ll be paying a visit to Monza which should be incredible and hopefully Silverstone.

    From a drivers point of view my eyes will be focussing on the guys at Mercedes. I expect Schumacher to be more competitive and more podiums from Rosberg, especially if the rumours of a dodgy MP4-26 come to fruition, tightening up the gap between the top few teams.

    From a technical point of view, DRS will be interesting to watch develop and of course the Pirelli’s should provide some brilliant races.

  18. This is what Bernie said in an interview : In the life of every successful Formula One driver comes the moment when he wants to sit in a Ferrari.

    This just shows which team is the most revered and popular team in the sport.

    1. They are the Manchester Utd. of motorsport.

  19. Once again, someone praises Vettel and forgets to list Webber as a contender. What does the guy have to do to get some respect?

    1. I think the article is referring to past champions, of which Webber is not.

    2. Once again, someone praises Vettel


      and forgets to list Webber

      I didn’t forget anything. You’ll also notice Massa and Rosberg aren’t mentioned. And about a dozen other drivers for that matter.

      That’s because this is a brief introduction to the season preview, not a line-by-line analysis of every single driver and team’s chances this year.

  20. Keith

    I was surprised to see the different coverage of Mercedes and McLaren in Autosport this week.

    Front page and leading article state a massive issue for Mercedes, and crisis point because they are too slow.

    McLaren on the other hand, have been handed a great opportunity to improve the handling and speed of their car before the season opener in Australia.

    As a McLaren fan it made me chuckle a little, but being objective I didnt really see the difference.

    Both teams have issues and a lack of pace. Of course the MP4-26 has had less running (l test less), but I didnt see the difference.

    Your thoughts?

    1. Totally agree. I guess the only difference is that McLaren are still talking up their car’s potential whereas Mercedes have been less optimistic.

      1. I would prefer McLaren to do their talking on the track. :-)

        When was the last time we had the fastest car being a McLaren.

  21. The 6000km of racing got me thinking. Has anyone ever put together who took the shortested time to do the race distances. IE who did the most and who did what they did the fastest?

  22. ‘The important of this change cannot be understated’


    The importance of this change cannot be overstated ?

    nit-pickers unite !



    1. Fixed, thanks.

  23. time for ferrari

  24. @ Keith Collantine
    i must say hats off for your work,
    Im following F1 from Srilanka.All the indepth analysis im getting isd thru you and ur site.

    /Images uploaded somly awsome.

    Great job.keep it up.

    Cant wait till AUSTRALIAN GP. i really miss the Sound of a FULL trottle F1 engine.

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