As some of you may know, the 2011 Formula One season is starting up again. All of the teams have released their season contenders, and the first pre-season test has already gone underway. There are some very interesting designs and concepts, which I thought I would take you through today. First, I’ll talk about the general rule changes for this season. The most important ones are the new Pirelli tires, after Bridgestone left the sport last season. Whichever team will be able to gain the most from the tires will probably win the championship, as the tires are the most important part of the car. The engineers and tire experts of the team have been running strenuous tests on the tires and the chassis to make sure that they can get heat into the tire easily, and also make the tires last for the whole race distance. The next important change is the moveable rear wing. The team can now shift the main upper plate of the rear wing to decrease drag on the main straights, which should increase overtaking. Other important aerodynamic updates include the banning of double diffusers and f-ducts, so teams have been looking toward the front and rear wing systems to give them better downforce, rather than the floor of the car. Also, Kinetic Energy Recovery Systems (KERS) have been brought back into play and are optional for teams. The KERS system uses energy created from the massive stopping force of the breaks and stores energy in a battery-type device that is connected to the engine, so that the driver can use a button that gives them a boost of about 80 horsepower for several seconds, which should help overtaking.
Ferrari F150 –
This is Ferrari’s 2011 contender, and I have one immediate problem which is the name. Now I am not a Ferrari fan and I am trying not to be biased, but I think this is honestly a stupid name. They’ve called it the F150, to celebrate 150 years of Italian independence. Now, it sounds okay on the surface but Ferrari is nearly a religion in Italy, and what they’ve done is named a car on basically “national pride.” Now I’m not saying that Ferrari is going to lose, but they are putting their necks out a bit there because it would be highly embarrassing to have the Italian racer, named after Italy’s greatness, lose to a car company (Mercedes or Renault), or even worse, and quite likely, the Red Bull energy drinks car.
Anyway, Ferrari were the first to unveil their car this year. I must say it looks quite good. They have gone with the trendy high nose, and a clean side-pod and engine cover. They have a fantastic Italian flag design on the back of the wing, making this car one of the most attractive this year. Interestingly, the actual side-pod air intakes are quite compact, due to their new cooling system. The car will be piloted by Fernando Alonso, who narrowly missed out on the championship last year, and Felipe Massa. They have a promising lineup of drivers, but they worked hard at the end of the year last year to try to secure the drivers championship, so I fear that they have not spent as much time as they should have designing this year’s car.
Team Lotus –
This is the Lotus T128, and as you can see from this picture it features a very high, wide nose. It has the classic Lotus green and yellow livery. Although it will be driven by Heikki Kovaleinen and Jarno Trulli, who are both incredibly experienced drivers, I do not have high hopes for Lotus this season. They were a new team last year, and they finished first out of the three new teams. This year they hope to step up into the midfield and compete with Scuderia Torro Rosso, BMW Sauber F1, and possibly Williams F1. However, I think that they do not have the resources, the technology, and the backing that they need to accomplish that feat. It will take a few years before the team gains enough experience to run with the rest of the pack. That said, I think they are much better off than the other newcomers from last year, HRT and Virgin Racing.
Lotus Renault –
This, I think, is one of the best looking F1 cars that I have ever seen. This is the 2011 Lotus Renault R31 contender. The black and gold livery echos championship winning Lotuses in the 1970’s and 80’s, being driven by legends like Jim Clark, Ayrton Senna, and Alain Prost. The gold wheels match perfectly with the black and yellow Pirelly P-Zero tires, and the gold strips against the strong black are absolutely beautiful. Renault is uses their own engine and KERS system, which has proven to be a very reliable unit, and is used by the Red Bull Racing team. Renault has a high, straight, slender nose that is very narrow until the side-pods. It has a very innovative exhaust system which releases exhaust gas before the side-pods, rather than after it. As some of you may know, hot air works to boost the aerodynamics, so many teams last year developed exhausts that blew hot air onto the bottom of the car to get the diffuser to work. Renault has taken a gander that putting the hot gasses out before the side-pods will give the whole floor an advantage, rather than just the back. I expect that other teams are now trying to design this system for their cars, in the case that Renault experiences success from this experiment. The Renault was planned to be piloted by Robert Kubica and Vitaly Petrov. Unfortunately, Robert Kubica (who was the ace driver) was injured this weekend in a horrible rally accident. He was lucky to make it out of the accident. He crashed into a church wall at high speeds, and a guard rail pierced the whole car, catching Robert’s hand as it passed through the car. Robert was lucky that it was only his hand, but it could threaten his F1 career. It took an hour for the fire crew to cut Kubica from the car, and thought at first that they would have to amputate part of his arm to save his live, but luckily that was not necessary. In a nearby hospital, he was operated on for seven hour by seven expert surgeons, as they raced to reconnect the veins in his arm so he would be able to have muscular activity in his hand. He still has fractures in his forearm, his left foot, his left leg, and his elbow, so a full recovery before the end of this season is unlikely. I wish Robert a speedy recovery, and I hope to see him back in a cockpit soon. Vitaly Petrov, on the other hand, was a promising rookie last year. Although he had consistency problems, he had a few great races under his great belt, and was even able to keep the great Fernando Alonso behind him at the season finale in Abu Dhabi. Hopefully we will see Petrov getting a couple of podiums this year, and gaining reputation as a strong driver in the Renault system. Lotus-Renault are looking for a temporary replacement for Kubica, but they have not announced any names yet. Romain Grosjean and Bruno Senna are two possible substitutes.
Sauber F1 –
Sauber F1 never fails to introduce a fresh looking car. This year is no exception with a nice new red and black paintjob, a high nose, and a unique roll hoop design. Sauber has 2nd year driver Kamui Kobayashi onboard, alongside F1 newcomer Sergio Perez. It is possible that a lack of overall experience may hurt them in the long run, but Sergio Perez is very promising, while Kamui Kobayashi has proven to be extremely brave and talented, overtaking Jenson Button, Mark Webber, and Fernando Alonso in his first every Formula 1 race. He is not afraid to put his car in a risky situation, and often comes out on the long end of the stick when it comes to overtakes. Sergio Perez has always been a subject of interest for many F1 teams, and Sauber finally scooped him up this year to drive their car during the races. Sauber has been a good midfield runner for the past couple of years, and they hope to advance toward the top of the standings soon, and are probably capable of doing it. Being Mexican, Sergio Perez has raised Mexican interest in the sport, and has also brought along companies like Tel Mex to sponsor the team, which gives Sauber a financial boost and will hopefully help them achieve their goal.
Red Bull –
Red Bull Racing has no excuses to not win races this year. Because they were so dominant last year, and the rule changes (KERS and rear wing aside) are not so extreme. This is why many cars look similar to how they did last year. Teams now have an evolutional system, where the basic chassis is the same, but the aero, engine, and suspension units have been improved. Red Bull has team manager Christian Horner instructing the team, and Adrian Newey in charge of aerodynamics. Newey is possibly the most valuable man in Formula 1 at the moment, and is capable of extraordinary feats when it comes to using the rules and regulations to his advantage. This year, he has designed an extended engine cover, and a taller and cleaner nose. Red Bull are using the Renault engine and KERS system, which has proved to be successful. Driving for the team is reigning champion Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber, who are both extremely talented. Together, they secured 15 out of 19 pole positions last year, which is one of the most dominant qualifying performances for any team in the history of F1, and is almost as successful as the famous Alain Prost- Ayrton Senna Mclaren duo. One can expect to see this car (or perhaps two) parked at the podium spots in parc-ferme multiple times this year.
Mercedes GP –
This car is an extremely attractive evolution of the Mercedes GP W01 brought out last year. Mercedes was not as successful as they had hoped they would be last year, so they have spent extra time designing this car to be more successful in 2011. Although Nico Rosberg saw the podium a couple of times in 2010, Michael Schumacher struggled with the car, and they were both well off pace in the qualifying sessions. The new car features a clean, high, shaped nose, a unique front wing system, massive intakes on the side-pods. This car is expected to be much quicker this year than last, and designed more toward Michael Schumacher’s liking, so that they have two consistent drivers rather than one. The car looks fantastic. It looks aggressive, like it wants to set lap records for pole position, and overtake others. With an update of last year’s engine, hopefully Mercedes will be able to make this car come alive and act like the monster that it appears to be.
Marussia Virgin Racing –
This is the MVR-02, which is Virgin Racing’s entry into the 2011 season. It will be powered by a Cosworth engine, and piloted by drivers Timo Glock and J’erome Ambrosio. What is unique about Virgin Racing is that they do not use wind tunnels to design their aerodynamic components. Their car was designed completely by using Computer Fluid Dynamics, or CDF, which is a computer program that simulates airflow over the car. This is, in essence, a digitally created car. It is the first in history, and unfortunately, has not brought Virgin Racing much success so far. They finished at the back of the pack last year, without having secured a single point. Hopefully, with backing from Russian car company Marussia, improved computing power, fresh talent on the team, and a go-faster livery scheme, Virgin Racing will be able to obtain some points in the 2011 season.
Scuderia Torro Rosso-
Scuderia Torro Rosso is also owned by Red Bull (team name is Italian for “Team Red Bull”), but it is a junior team to the more senior Red Bull Racing team. STR have been in the sport for six years, and have only won a single race. And to be brutally honest, I find this years car a little bit boring. This is the STR06. It is not innovative in any major way like any of the other teams, in fact is basically last year’s car with aerodynamic improvements. Torro Rosso seems as if they forget that they are the farm system for Red Bull Racing. The current pilots, Sebastian Buemi and Jaime Alguesari will probably end up driving for Red Bull Racing one day, and be winning races. They must be prepared to be at the top of the top, and Torro Rosso just does not seem up to the job. They have poor strategies during the races, and they are very slow in developing their car, and putting performance packages onto the car during the season. They secured very few points last year, and they were not helped by reliability and inconsistency issues. I hope that this year the team is more serious about their driving and can keep up with the midfield. I’m not sure if it is an issue of financing, and that Red Bull is giving more attention to the Red Bull Racing team, but Scuderia Torro Rosso is quickly losing it’s reputation as a competitive, middle of the pack team. Some advantages that they have over other small teams, though, is the Red Bull support. They get to use brake, suspension, and gearbox systems from the Red Bull team, and are also supported by Renault engines. This helps the team because the other small teams have to start from scratch, and design systems that aren’t as competitive as the established ones. Maybe this year STR will turn their downward slide into a climb back up the mountain.
This is the Force India VJM04. Force India is a team that I am very interested in. It has only been in the sport for four years, and has been extremely successful. They consistently score points, and have developed amazingly since their start at the 2008 season. On the surface, the VJM04 looks quite similar to last year’s VJM03. However, some interesting changes have been made, such as a new side blade arrangement, a blade style roll hoop designed to maximize aerodynamic efficiency while also increasing engine cooling, and a unique under-body aero system that can be seen in between the front tires. Force India seems to have pushed the envelope and been very brave in their design of this car, which makes for exciting racing. Force India also has one of the best driver lineups in the sport. They have the experienced and consistent Adrian Sutil, who never fails to impress for any situation he is in. They also have Paul di Resta, who was DTM champion of 2010. He has tested cars for Force India before, and has shown the pace needed to compete at the top level. Force India are using Mercedes engines and KERS systems, which will give them a strong shot at putting themselves on the podium this year. I hope the best for Scotsman di Resta, and I wish him a smooth entry into the top flight.
McLaren has impressed me the most on a technical level. Just look at the design of this MP4-26. It’s absolutely radical and brilliant. Their design is so compact toward the back of the car, and so different than anything ever designed before. Those U-shaped side-pods, the unique roll hoop, the high nose, and the incredibly sophisticated front wing are not only beautiful, but also some of the most advanced aerodynamic constructions in the world. It has been a few years since McLaren has won their last championship (2008), and they are so hungry to get back to the top. For such a legendary name, they have had a rough past couple of years. They worked incredibly hard designing this car. The U-shaped side-pods are designed to allow clean air to pass over the engine, and go straight to the rear wing, which shows that McLaren has extreme confidence in their rear wing system. Not only do they have an incredible car this year, but they have arguably the best team mates in the whole sport. They have 2008 champion Lewis Hamilton racing alongside 2009 champion Jenson Button. Not only are these drivers clearly accomplished racers, but they are excellent team mates. They work extremely hard with the engineers and the designers to tell them exactly how they want their car. Jenson and Lewis are also great friends, which helps the whole team chemistry. A happy team is a fast team in Formula 1, because extra stress in the paddock is the last thing that a team needs. A classic example is in 2007 is when Lewis Hamilton was partnered with Fernando Alonso, who is notorious for having no care for his team mates. During an argument in the paddock, someone made an error on Lewis’ car, which meant that he lost a wheel at 150 miles per hour and speared into a wall. A minimal-stress environment is absolutely crucial for a successful Formula 1 team. Lewis and Jenson have such a great contrast as well. Lewis is incredibly aggressive, and although he makes more errors than Jenson, he is great at overtaking, out-braking, and out-qualifying his opponents. Jenson on the other hand, is more reserved, and extremely consistent. He rarely ever makes a mistake, and he is also incredibly at making his tires last extremely long, which gives the team a flexibility advantage in terms of pit stop planning. I think that with this incredible car and team chemistry, McLaren have a great chance of winning not only the constructors championship, but the drivers championship as well.
Williams F1 has an incredibly history, and I’m afraid that this year must be a low point in the history of the legendary team. Last year, they had a relatively successful season, competing at the front of the midfield. However, they have barely made any changes to the car for this year. Williams is having trouble with financing, and have sold out. Last year, they had a driver Nico Hulkenburg who was constantly outracing legend Rubens Barichello (who is still onboard for 2011). He even secured pole position in Brazil by over a second faster than any other driver, which is unheard of for a rookie, especially in a middle of the pack car. He was thoroughly impressive, but Williams have dropped him because they can have Pastor Maldonado (GP2 star) pilot the car for less money. They left Nico Hulkenburg in the dry, and he was lucky to find a testing roll with Force India. This looks very bad on the team’s part, and many people are upset with the company. Anyway, Pastor Maldonado is a skilled driver, who should show promising pace as he has had experience with F1 cars before. Rubens is also a fantastic driver. He is the most experienced driver in F1 history, and is extremely consistent and constantly scores points for the teams. One interesting thing about Williams F1 this year is that they are going to go ahead with a stock market flotation plan this year, meaning that the public will be able to buy stock in Williams F1. They hope to get extra financing this way, so they can develop their car further. I hope that Williams can return to it’s great, winning history in the near future.
Hispania Racing Team-
Now, this is a team that I feel a bit sorry for. Hispania Racing Team, or HRT, has had an incredibly hard time since their entry into F1 last year. They barely have any money to develop their car, and their drivers pay the team in order to drive for them. The drivers make money from endorsements, and give a fraction of it to the team. It is a very sad situation, because the team is trying very hard to get recognition and sponsorship. As you can see form the above picture, the empty spots on the car where sponsor’s logos usually go say “your logo goes here,” or “this could be you” in an attempt to persuade people into sponsoring the team for advertisement. Also, I doubt that they have changed the car performance wise from last year. The car has an entirely different paint-job, but I have the sneaking suspicion that this is an attempt to mask the fact that the car itself looks quite similar to last year, meaning that the team has not been able to get much work done. HRT have not yet confirmed their driver lineup for 2011 yet, most likely for financial reasons. It really is depressing to see such determined young team mates and managers try so hard, yet fall so far behind the rest of the pack. Last year, HRT was up to five seconds A LAP off the pace of the front runners. This is an absolutely massive gap, and I highly doubt that that gap will shrink this year, especially if they can not hire top line drivers. If I had the money, HRT, I would support you in your effort to succeed in the pinnacle of motorsport!
So, those are all of the contenders for F1 2011. I think that this season is going to be fantastic. There are five world champions racing on the grid at the same time (Lewis Hamilton, Sebastian Vettel, Michael Schumacher, Jenson Button, and Fernando Alonso), and extremely competitive teams that are coming up with extremely advanced packages and systems that are pushing the envelope of what is aerodynamically possible. This championship will probably boil down to who can get the most from the tires, and also who has the most efficient KERS and rear wing system, to help with overtaking. Please comment on the blog if you are interested in the sport, have questions about the sport, or just like some of the cars :).
My absolute best goes to Robert Kubica. I hope he has a speedy recovery, and that we will see one of the most talented drivers in Formula One return this year! Good Luck!