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Formula One Season Preview

With barely a week to go before the lights go out in Melbourne for the first Grand Prix, where exactly are we in the run up to the 2011 Formula One season, who’s hot to trot and who’s not going anywhere fast? Pre-season testing has been eventful, especially with the hastily re scheduled Barcelona test replacing the final test that was to have been held in Bahrain. It has also been confirmed that with matters worsening in Bahrain a full state of emergency has been declared meaning that there is very little chance of the Bahrain Grand Prix being held this year. This is a great shame for the tiny Gulf state as it has become one of the more popular of the new venues that Formula One visit, however with ever increasing protests and violent clashes Bahrain is best left to sort out their internal issues before the F1 circus visits in 2012. Back to the testing though, we all know that testing is testing and the bull­__t stops when the qualifying begins in Melbourne but it seems that Red Bull and Ferrari remain the teams to beat, however worryingly though McLaren are experiencing a nightmare in the run up to the first race. In an attempt to produce a car that satisfies the smooth style of Jenson Button and the aggressive style of Lewis Hamilton, the McLaren design team have come up with a car that suits neither, although they were getting closer to the bar at the end of the final test. Mercedes GP, while admitting defeat early in the season last year to concentrate on the 2011 car and hoping to be very much in the mix for victories this year is also suffering, their testing pace has been woeful but a last minute update for the final Barcelona test may have saved their blushes, although the proof of the pudding remains to be seen in Melbourne, at present we’d put them in the leading group of teams but hanging on by their fingernails. The midfield runners look to be similar to last year with Renault heading up the fight, followed by Williams, Sauber, Force India and Toro Rosso, however it seems that Lotus may be joining the midfield group based on their impressive testing performances. There will undoubtedly be a titanic battle in the mid field between the two Lotus branded teams, however we’re all hoping that they can resolve their differences before too long otherwise the commentary will get a little confusing with both teams running Renault engines and named Lotus, let’s hope common sense prevails. The tail end teams are now down to two, as long as Lotus can convert their testing pace into points and prizes, the hapless Hispania Racing Team (HRT) launched their car only last week and were unable to run any laps due to parts being held up at customs. The Virgin team are in better shape than they were this time last year, however they should be a lot further ahead given the fact they’ve completed a full season and in theory experienced the growing pains of Formula One, but something tells us that they’ll be in exactly the same place as they were last year which is a great shame considering the effort that they’re putting in and the good team of people they’re now employing, lets hope they’ll prove us wrong. The other variables to consider this year which should make 2011 another classic F1 season or a complete disaster are the new technical regulations and of course Pirelli who have replaced Bridgestone as the official F1 tyre supplier. Pre-season testing so far has exposed Pirelli tyres to be less durable than their predecessors from Bridgestone, all F1 drivers stating there’ll be a minimum of two or even three stops per race and that’s before Bernie starts to sprinkle water on the track. Heaven knows how many stops they’ll make when it’s a dry/wet/dry race, time will tell but we’re sure it’ll spice up the F1 show. The technical regulations have provided us with similar looking cars to last year’s, high front noses, slim and sleek rear ends with a large rear wing, but a moveable one that in theory will make overtaking easier. There’s also the re-introduction of KERS (Kinetic Energy Recovery System) but not all teams will be using this from the start of the season and there is a great deal of disparity between each team’s KERS systems, it remains to be seen who will have the most effective. The moveable wing will in theory make overtaking far easier and could make races extremely exciting however it does seem that the Formula One technical working group and the FIA are having second thoughts, lets hope they make the right decision, F1 is supposed to be the pinnacle of motor racing not Wacky Races! Stay tuned to F1.co.uk for your 2011 F1 coverage, we’ll have all the latest news, results and pictures from each of the Grands Prix, plus gossip, comment and competitions.

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