F1 Forecast 2011

F1 Forecast 2011

The 2011 ‘silly season’ kicked off some 5 weeks ago when it was discovered that Kimi Raikkonen’s management had contacted Renault enquiring about their line-up for next year. Sadly there was no interest from the Finn, just a media frenzy borne out of a simple discussion between camps with no substantive story behind it. I was mightily disappointed.

However, as far as 2011 goes, it got the ball rolling and there are many team principals/owners now considering their options.

Ferrari has found their icon; though Fernando may have made more errors this year than at any time in his career, he’s still fighting for the title, very much a competitor in the Schumacher mould. He’s mauled Massa for the majority of the season and despite the Brazilian’s vociferous protestations of ‘not being the number 2 driver’ we all know he emphatically is.

Felipe shouldn’t be occupying a seat at the Scarlet Colossus that privilege should belong to Robert Kubica. The Pole would aid development, be a genuine World title contender and not bend as much Italian carbon-fibre as the 2008 runner-up. I’m just not sure if Alonso would enjoy the competition…

Speaking of Renault, assuming Kubica remains, who slots into the second car? Petrov’s below-par performance at Suzuka and distinctly average first season means he remains under pressure from Eric Boullier to improve. He can’t be bringing enough money in to justify every smashed component of the R30 attributed to his erratic driving. His only hope is the confirmation of a Russian GP in 2014 doling out more sponsorship.

If Petrov is out of luck, Adrian Sutil would be a strong candidate to partner Kubica. Though to my mind a touch inconsistent, he has shown potential and is respected by peers and pundits alike. Brundle in particular speaks highly of the young German.

The Red Bulls seem to be set for next year. If Webber wins the championship I can foresee Vettel dominating him next season before he retires. If Seb snatches the 2010 crown, then Mark will be sure to consider the option of carrying on.

There won’t be any changes at McLaren unless something dramatic occurs. Lewis will be there until Doomsday and it’s fairly certain Jenson will see out his contract. Martin Whitmarsh has already said he’d pursue Vettel if/when he becomes available, so look for Bunsen to relinquish his seat near that time.

Of the 3 teams in the ‘B’ championship, well, is anybody fussed? When they become remotely competitive I think we may take an interest. Oh, except for Chandhok. If he doesn’t find his way into Force India, then let’s hope he can take the seat of Jonathan Legard. I’ve enjoyed his Five Live input and occasional BBC cameos and I reckon that guy can party.

On a serious note, if Legard is to be replaced then David Croft must be overwhelming favourite. When he and Anthony Davidson gatecrashed Japan, the joie du vivre was injected back into the race, making the ideal soundtrack to Kobayashi’s borderline-insane antics.

KK will be continuing with new driver Sergio Perez, a former GP2 standout, as teammate. The unofficial F1 ‘junior series’ produced Lewis Hamilton, but then it’s also produced Romain Grosjean, so the jury’s out. You have to feel for Nick Heidfeld. He left his testing role at Pirelli only to be given a handful of races with Sauber and he’s far more talented than a good portion of the grid. ‘Quick’ should be a target for any of the F1 minnows.

And finally in spite of the rumours, Schuey looks almost guaranteed to partner Rosberg next year. His last performance was encouraging and assuming Mercedes can provide the wicked turn-in he so badly needs then he can win again. Roll on 2011…