ON THE GRID: Team-by-team guide to this season's line-ups
Published 20/03/2011 | 05:00
Sebastian Vettel (Ger) Last Year 1st
Mark Webber (Aus) 3rd
In pre-season testing, Red Bull revealed the true pace of Adrian Newey's latest masterpiece. Certainly it looks as if the world champions have hit the ground running with their car and assuming the race weekend decision-making matches it, they have a great chance of defending the constructors' title. As for the drivers, the smart money is on Vettel (pictured) to edge it again. The Australian's tenacity is exemplary but Vettel is young and just getting into his career stride while the Queanbeyan man may have peaked.
Lewis Hamilton (GB) 4th
Jenson Button (GB) 5th
McLaren's amazing ability to recover from disastrous starts is nicely matched by their tendency to roll slow cars out of the garage every January. Hamilton put reigning champion Button away last year but as in '09 he finds himself playing catch-up to the others. They'll get there but it could take a few races. For his part, Button will be hoping his reputation for being kind to his tyres will offset the slight pace deficit to his compatriot. Good team harmony will be a strength this year.
Fernando Alonso (Spa) 2nd
Felipe Massa (Bra) 6th
Having gone within a dodgy pit call of pinching the drivers' title from under the noses of the Red Bull duo last year, Alonso's stock is high at Maranello and winter testing suggests he's ready to take the battle to them again. Good pace and decent reliability looks like a strong platform and the Spaniard's ability to read and manage a race should pay dividends with the multi-stop strategies required by the new Pirelli tyres. After a very average 2010, Massa needs to step up as Ferrari considers the future of its growing stable of eager sub-F1 driving talent.
Nico Rosberg (Ger) 7th
Michael Schumacher (Ger) 9th
The silver arrows missed their target last year and this year's must-win machine looked decidedly sluggish until an upgrade package at the last test in Barcelona. Schumacher believes his team can contend for wins, if not in Melbourne then later in the season. To do that, he'll have to get past team-mate Rosberg first, the latter proving to be very swift last year. Schumacher needs this year's Pirelli tyres to suit him.
Nick Heidfeld (Ger) 18th
Vitaly Petrov (Ger) 13th
Renault in name only, and not for much longer if a court case against Tony Fernandez's Lotus team over naming rights is won. The team was devastated when star driver Robert Kubica was badly injured in a rally car. Heidfeld was the obvious choice to replace his former team-mate but has a big task to lift the team. Petrov showed signs of improvement towards the end of 2010 but there's little evidence yet that the Russian is a world champion in waiting.
Rubens Barrichello (Bra) 10th
Pastor Maldonado (Ven) Debut
F1's perennial survivor Frank Williams is still at the reins of what might be described as the ultimate 'racing' team. It's all about making racing cars in Grove, not brand image. Barrichello's enduring speed and infectious enthusiasm is a tonic for the Grove troops who appear to have a decent car, albeit one with a fragile KERS system. Rookie Maldonado brings much needed cash from Venezuela but he will take time to get fully up to speed and Williams will be hoping he doesn't crash too often while he's doing it.
Adrian Sutil (Ger) 11th
Paul di Resta (GB) Debut
Vijay Mallya has balanced the books and kept his small but talented technical staff. Sutil is back for his sixth season at the team. He's a solid performer but his career needs a boost. Scotland's Di Resta gets his F1 chance courtesy of engine supplier Mercedes, who powered the car he took to victory in last year's DTM series. With Brazilian GP pole winner Nico Hulkenberg also on the roster, Force India have the drivers but pre-season testing suggests they don't yet have the car.
Kamui Kobayashi (Jap) 12th
Sergio Perez (Mex) Debut
Sauber's pre-season testing form has been a revelation but then the same could have been said last year and it turned out to be a tough year for the Hinwil squad. Kobayashi is a doughty determined driver, dispatching Pedro de la Rosa and Nick Heidfeld with ease last year. Wealthy GP2 graduate Perez ought to play second fiddle but then the same was expected of Kobayashi when he stepped up to the plate.
Sebastian Buemi (Swi) 16th
Jaime Alguersuari (Spa) 19th
Red Bull's second team produces its own car these days and looks -- if test form can be accurately assessed -- as if it's come up with a corker. The Faenza-based team had to pick up its skirts to make sure it didn't drop into the clutches of the new teams last year but this time round should be able to scrap for points from the start. There were signs at the end of last year that Alguersuari was starting to put it up to Buemi.
Heikki Kovalainen (Fin) 20th
Jarno Trulli (Ita) 21st
Last year's best rookie team have reasonable funding and high hopes of putting one of the established teams behind them this year. Abysmal pre-season testing reliability points to a tough Melbourne and it remains to be seen if the Mike Gascoyne-led technical team can turn it around. Trulli and Kovalainen are experienced, quick team players. The naming-rights lawsuit could be a distraction as the team has built everything around the name Lotus.
Vitantonio Liuzzi (Ita) 15th
Narain Karthikeyan (Ind) Last raced in '05
Liuzzi gets another chance in F1 with last year's tail-end-charlies, who badly need a financial injection to establish themselves at the top table. With a race in India this year, Karthikeyan gets another chance at F1 after underwhelming in a Jordan in the past. The team's best asset is its technical director Geoff Willis.
Timo Glock (Ger) 25th
Jerome d'Ambrosio (Bel) Debut
Vital investment from Russian Sportscar manufacturer Marussia, could provide much needed stability, but the team have a challenging season ahead of them. They have a solid performer in Glock in their ranks but, while d'Ambrosio tested well for the team, he was an inconsistent performer in GP2.
Sunday Indo Sport