Tuesday, 22 March 2011

2011 Preview: The 'Bottom Half' Teams

Part two of our 2011 preview focuses on the bottom three of the established teams.

Admittedly all of these teams have only existed in their current guises for a few years, and have had much to learn in a short space of time, but all of them will be looking to improve and try and break into the top half of the table.

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The first team to consider is Scuderia Toro Rosso. Classified ninth in 2010, this Ferrari-powered team are regarded as the feeder team for current World Champions, Red Bull Racing (Toro Rosso is Italian for Red Bull). The team have had success in the past - they were very quick in their first season, as they were the only team allowed to run V10 engines as part of an agreement made between the FIA and the struggling Minardi team, who Toro Rosso replaced.
The cars were initially designed by master Red Bull designer Adrian Newey, but legislation introduced for the 2010 season has meant that the teams must be separated, and Newey no longer has direct input into the building of the car.
It is worth remembering, however, that Toro Rosso acheived their first Grand Prix victory before Red Bull did, courtesy of a faultless Sebastian Vettel drive in Monza, 2008.

The team's number one is the young Swiss driver, Sebastien Buemi. Buemi acheived the team's highest position in 2010, eighth place in the Canadian Grand Prix, although as the season progressed, his performances began to be matched by his less experienced team mate, Alguersuari.

2010 was Jaime Alguersuari's first full season, after replacing Sebastien Bourdais part-way through 2009. The keen DJ (who is due to release a single later in the year) did not have the greatest introduction to Formula One, suffering several accidents - although this is not overly surprising, as due to the restrictions on mid-season testing, Alguersuari entered his first race weekend with virtually no prior experience of the car.
He showed visible signs of improvement in 2010 as the season progressed.

Both Buemi and Alguersuari must continue to improve during 2011, as the team have previously shown that they are not adverse to replacing drivers mid-season, with replacement Daniel Ricciardo having already proven in an earlier winter test that he is a very capable driver.
The 2011 car does look very competitive, with Lewis Hamilton commenting following one pre-season test "the Toro Rosso looks ridiculously fast".

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The second team to assess is the Sauber F1 Team. Finishing eight last season, this team, like Toro Rosso, are also powered by Ferrari engines.
The team was branded as BMW Sauber for the 2009 season, but because BMW withdrew from the sport very shortly before the commencement of the 2010 season, it was too late for the team to formerly change their name. Therefore they also ran in 2010 as BMW Sauber Ferrari, despite BMW having nothing to do with the team.

Sauber's first driver is the very exciting Kamui Kobayashi. The young Japanese driver made his first appearance in a Formula One car as a replacement for Toyota's injured Timo Glock for the final few races of the 2009 season. Kobayashi quickly gained lots of attention due to his very aggressive driving style and apparent lack of fear, as he overtook several much more experience drivers and refused to yield to anyone! Kobayashi will be the least experienced number one driver on the grid this season, so he will have to support his rookie team mate whilst still learning himself.

Sergio Perez is the team's new recruit. The Mexican driver is known to have brought sponsorship with him from his home Country, including famous tequila brand Jose Cuervo, but Perez will want to show that he has the talent to establish a long career in the sport.

Sauber have confirmed that their cars in Australia will feature a message of support for the Japanese people, following the Country's devastating events of recent weeks.

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Finally, Force India. Finishing seventh last season, eventually losing a hard-fought battle with the Williams team for sixth place, it is easy to forget that 2011 will be only the Mercedes-Benz engined team's fourth season in the sport.
The previous three seasons have seen mixed fortunes for the Silverstone-based team, with the highlight surely being Giancarlo Fisichella's magnificent pole position at Spa-Francorchamps in 2009.
The team will certainly be looking to improve and acheive a top six finish this season.

The team's number one driver, Adrian Sutil, has driven for the team in all of their seasons in Formula One. Rumours emerged during the 2010 season that the German driver was looking to move away from the team, but despite this he has been re-signed for 2011.
2010 also saw Sutil's relationship with team mate Vitantonio Liuzzi stretched, with the pair seemingly unable to see eye-to-eye on occassions, including near-misses and holding each other up on qualifying laps.
It will be interesting to see how Sutil copes with his new team mate, who has looked quick in pre-season testing.
Sutil, however, has admitted that the team seem to lack pace compared to some of their rivals, and may face a struggle at the beginning of the season.

Force India's second driver for the new season is another rookie, Scotland's Paul di Resta, who spent last season as a test driver for the team, but also participated in - and won - the DTM Championship.
Di Resta (cousin of star United States-based drivers Dario and Marino Franchitti) talks a good talk, and is happy to remind Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel that he has beaten them both in the past in lower formulas. Whether this ability will be shown in 2011 will remain to be seen, but Di Resta's initial aim will be try to match the pace of his experienced team mate.

Like Toro Rosso, Force India have a proven test driver in the form of Nico Hulkenberg, who qualified on pole in the 2010 Brazilian Grand Prix for Williams.

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It will be interesting to see whether any of these teams can break into the top six this season. Especially considering the three new teams behind them look to be slowly reeling in the rest of the field.

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