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James Allen: What 2011 holds for F1

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James Allen: What 2011 holds for F1

Wednesday, 05 January 2011 18:04


The engrossing 2010 season means the sport has a lot to live up to this year but James Allen reckons the ingredients are already looking good for the new campaign.

Our expert columnist takes a look at how the 2010 story may well evolve, and what impact a number of intriguing technical changes and new tyre supplier will have on the racing.


I always get excited at this time of year when I look ahead to the new Formula 1 season.

The 2011 campaign will be the longest in F1 history with 20 races on the calendar, including a new one in India, which I believe will develop into a huge success.

It’s my 22nd season working in F1, and as always there are changes to keep things interesting.

We have some rule changes to consider, a few new drivers on the grid, a new tyre supplier, and another very close season of racing in prospect in my view.

Unless one of the top teams has found a magic bullet in the form of an aerodynamic device no one else has thought of, then I see the Red Bull, McLaren and Ferrari battle being very close indeed once again.

Mercedes should join in with them after a season in their wake with an unadventurous car.

They stopped development early on the 2010 car to focus on 2011, but I wonder whether they can close the gap on Red Bull quite that easily. I still see them being a few tenths off the Red Bull at the start of the year.

The world champions ought to pick up where they left off in 2010 with the fastest car. It’s a very stable engineering group, which is brimming with confidence at the moment.

They will take on board the rule changes such as the adjustable rear wing and the banning of the F-duct and double diffuser.

Like all the others they’ll be looking for the magic device which gives a performance advantage – and which is built into the chassis so the opposition can’t really copy it as you can’t adapt your chassis once built.

All eyes will be on the Vettel vs Webber battle. I really hope Mark can rise to the level he did last year again, but I have a hunch that Vettel will have gone up a gear by winning the title.

He has a natural advantage over Webber by virtue of his lower weight, which means he can place ballast in the car and get better weight distribution, which is probably worth the one-tenth of a second that usually separates them in qualifying.

Ferrari have made changes to their engineering management with ex-McLaren engineer Pat Fry coming in to take up much of what Ross Brawn used to do in terms of overseeing chassis, design and development and leading the strategy team at the races.

Under him is Neil Martin, who was strategist at McLaren and then Red Bull, while they have demoted Chris Dyer, the Australian engineer who was blamed for the decision to pit Fernando Alonso early in Abu Dhabi, which cost the Spaniard the world championship.

I see Ferrari being strong this year; they had a good car last year which they developed impressively and there’s no reason for them not to be there or thereabouts.

I see Alonso picking up where he left off in 2010, but Felipe Massa has a huge job to pick himself up mentally from the drubbing he got from Alonso last season.

If he doesn’t Ferrari will drop him, simple as that – probably for Robert Kubica, who may be wondering what’s going on long-term at Renault now that the Lotus connection has opened up.

Ferrari owe Alonso one from last year and he will want to remain clear number one as he finished last season, so it leaves Massa fighting an uphill battle.

McLaren disappointed in the second half of last year, not developing their car as effectively as in previous years. It’s always been one of their greatest qualities.

They will no doubt have a good car at the start of the season, but it’s whether they rediscover their magic touch in development that counts.

I thought Jenson Button fitted in brilliantly with Lewis Hamilton and they look like the most stable driver pairing among the top teams, so they should have a shot at the constructors’ championship again.

It’s too early to make many predictions as the cars haven’t turned a wheel in testing yet.

I’ll write some more on this in February when we have a clearer picture of what’s going on.

The racing will be different from 2010 in several ways.

First we have KERS back, which means that there will be some teams who have a straight-line speed advantage – although in reality this time it will only be the smaller teams who do not use it, so it should be the same for all the quick guys.

Second, the adjustable rear wing will improve overtaking but I fear it will make it harder for fans to understand the skill level of the driver in making a pass. I think there will be a few more collisions as a result of more passes being attempted.

Third, all the cars will be on Pirelli tyres and they are likely to be more on the edge than the Bridgestones – so the race strategy department will be on its toes more and you’ll see more pit stops and more variation.

I’m pleased about that as the strategy side of grand prix racing is very important, in my view.

It’s way too early to predict a champion. I had the right instinct last year and my hunch says Vettel again this year, but until we see the cars testing it’s too early to put the neck on the line.
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post #2 of 2 (permalink) Old 01-10-2011, 09:26 AM
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Nice write-up!
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