Crystal ball gazing to predict 2011 F1 season 23 March, 2011 Mar.23 (Daniel Chalmers) Its crystal ball time and Daniel Chalmers has volunteered to gaze into the crystal and does a brave job to predict the unpredictable. At the end of the season we will return to this post and tally up… maybe we have ourselves an F1 Nostradamus on our team. Fernando Alonso will be 2011 World Champion Will Fernando Alonso be 2011 F1 World Champion? Many have Sebastian Vettel as favourite for the title, which is understandable given Red Bull are the reigning champions. However for me Alonso is the man to beat. In the second half of last season his form was incredible. He didn’t have the fastest car by a long shot but still won brilliantly in Monza, Singapore, and Korea. He did extremely well to come back into the hunt after being nearly 50 points down on the championship leader. He was the star of the second half of 2010 reaching new heights. I think in his second year with Ferrari we are going to see that type of performance from him right from the start. If that turns out to be the case, and Ferrari can keep up with Red Bull all season, there is only one man that will win this title. In 2010 he was a whisker away from the championship in a car sometimes a large margin off Red Bull’s pace. It begs the question of what he could do with a car consistently on even terms with Red Bull? The answer is potentially devastating for his rivals. Furthermore with McLaren currently struggling, Alonso has potentially lost two of his most dangerous opponents (Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button). Alonso will hope that McLaren don’t recover quickly enough. Michael Schumacher is another challenger who could emerge, but Alonso is one of the very few who beat him when he was at his best. Sebastian Vettel to challenge strongly Sebastian Vettel makes a point Vettel may have the raw pace to challenge but Alonso is the better all-round driver. His experience will also give him the advantage when it comes to taming the Pirelli tyres, which will be key to the outcome of races this season. Singapore 2010 was strong evidence that Alonso is the better driver of the pair. In a fist to fist fight with a slower car, Alonso beat Vettel in both qualifying and the race, and set the fastest race lap too. Another key factor to consider is that Mark Webber is likely to take more points off Vettel, than Felipe Massa is off Alonso. Although Massa should improve in 2011, Ferrari will still revolve around the Spaniard. Ferrari will be constructor’s champion Will Ferrari fans be celebrating come November 2011? Ferrari is looking in extremely strong shape at the moment. I think they are in the best shape they have ever been in since the dream quartet of: Jean Todt, Michael Schumacher , Ross Brawn and Rory Bryne left the team in the mid 2000s. Since then they have always remained competitive, but weaknesses emerged in the aftermath. Heading into 2011 these look to be ironed out. They lacked the superstar driver who led and pushed the team to the limit. They have now well and truly filled that hole by hiring Alonso, who some in Ferrari rate even higher than Schumacher. They have struggled with strategy ever since Brawn left. This hole has now been filled by Red Bull’s Neil Martin. The experienced Pat Fry, hired from McLaren will bring calm and level headedness that has sometimes been lacking. It also looks like that Ferrari has understood the demands of the Pirelli tyres best out of everyone. Having a car that is easy on the tyres is critical in 2011, and Ferrari’s race pace has looked extremely impressive. Ferrari has rightly been focusing on this area. Red Bull clearly have the raw pace, but reckon Ferrari will be able outdo them in race pace and tyre strategy, which will be just as critical (if not more) as having the pure speed to lockout pole position. Felipe Massa’s form will be key but after declaring himself happy with the Pirelli tyres, there is every chance he can contribute much more than he did last season. Ferrari could well be about to embark on another golden era. All the pieces of the jigsaw are now falling back into place. Sauber F1 Team to be the surprise package Will Sauber be the surprise package of the 2011 season? This isn’t an easy question, as many of the midfield teams have the potential to surprise. Overall Sauber is most likely to spring the biggest shock. They have now got the funds and the people to make full use of their amazing wind tunnel and CFD facilities. As soon as BMW bought into the team in 2006 the deficit to the frontrunners was immediately halved. Just goes to show how much further this can team can go, when they have the money to make better use of what they have at their disposal. We could see a similar story emerge in 2011 with this Mexican money. It’s possible that they may not start the season as the best midfield team (Williams are likely to start with that honour) but because of their improved financial situation, they have the capacity to develop the C31 very quickly. They could seriously challenge the frontrunners at races later on in the year and get some podiums. Looking at just the top teams for a moment, Mercedes are likely to be the biggest surprise. They are now far more competitive than they were at the beginning of winter testing. They are now in touching distance of Red Bull and Ferrari, which nobody would have thought possible just a few weeks ago. Force India will be the biggest disappointment Force India to disappoint? Ultimately I think Force India will have a poor season. We have become used to them providing the surprises recently. There were the two front row starts in 2009, and then the team was scoring consistent points last season. These were great achievements on a very limited budget. However the loss of James Key (Sauber) and Mark Smith (Team Lotus) is going to be huge for the team (as well as benefiting two of their rivals). Plus the likes of Sauber, Williams and Toro Rosso have all made bigger strides forward during the winter. The team want fifth in the championship this season, but at the moment it’s difficult to see them matching 2010’s points total. Some may question why I haven’t said McLaren given their difficult winter. They are likely to start the season off the pace, but I do believe they will recover and win races. Although probably too late to win the title. Rubens Barrichello will have a few surprises up his sleeve Rubens Barrichello veteran to surprise? Rubens has the potential for a fine season. Williams look in promising shape at the moment with their unique rear end, and will be at the front of the midfield in Melbourne. Rubens’ long runs in particular have looked extremely strong and consistent even with the fragile Pirelli tyres. Despite not getting any younger Rubens is still more than capable of delivering the results, if you give the car to be able to do so. Plus the Pirelli tyres should suit him thanks to his experience. He will know exactly when he needs to pit for new tyres, and keep them in good shape for as long as possible. This could give him a sizeable advantage over many drivers on the grid. I reckon there is a strong chance of him upsetting the form book in the early races, whilst everyone is still adapting to the changes. Let’s hope Williams can stay competitive for the whole season, and he can make a nuisance of himself all season. Nico Rosberg to disappoint Is Nico Rosberg in for an ass kicking? Rosberg had a solid season last year and was very consistent. However I feel Michael Schumacher’s struggles might have flattered him a bit. At the end of last season Schumacher started to feel more comfortable with the car, and delivered a couple of strong performances edging ahead of Nico in the process. With the new car and Pirelli tyres I can see this trend carrying over into 2011 and Rosberg starting to struggle against Michael. This is what the majority were probably expecting last year. Nico won’t have a terrible season, but I just can’t see him stepping up to the next level. If Mercedes are going to win races this year I sense Schumacher is more likely to get them. Will the season be affected by politics? Political storms in 2011? One of the reasons why 2010 was so enjoyable was because it wasn’t ruined by politics like 2009 was. Unfortunately I fear that will all be about to change in 2011 – already we have had the Bahrain cancellation. We have seen the politics in action already with the Lotus naming rights now. Furthermore we have the Team Lotus Vs Force India legal battle to look forward to as well. The biggest political story this year though will no doubt be the new Concorde agreement. I am afraid this could end up getting very nasty indeed. All the teams will want a bigger percentage of the sport’s revenue, and that’s unlikely to happen without a fight from Bernie Ecclestone and FOM. You can expect that this will drag on for a long time, and all parties involved will air their dirty laundry in the public eye. I also wouldn’t rule out more threats of a breakaway series. Let’s hope not. Are drivers right to complain about workload in the cockpit? What's the big fuss about steering wheels? This is all an absolute load of nonsense! Yes the drivers will have more buttons to press this year, but they are meant to be the best drivers in the world. F1 is motorsport’s premier racing series. It’s supposed to be extremely difficult and test drivers to the absolute limit. In my opinion the driver’s 2011 workload is safer than it was last year. The adjustable rear wing is easier to operate than the F-duct. The adjustable rear wing is controlled by just a button. To operate the F-duct some drivers were having to take a hand completely off the steering wheel. We even saw drivers doing this whilst negotiating Eau Rouge and Blanchimont at Spa. Surely that is much more dangerous than pressing a button. Will Pirelli tyres make races more exciting? United Colours of Pirelli This will undoubtedly make races in 2011 very different. In 2010 the Bridgestone tyres were so durable that everybody did the same thing. You knew that most drivers would make their one pit stop between laps 12 and 18 and run until the end of the race. This year, because the tyres are so fragile we are likely to see most drivers stop three times or maybe even four times. For the drivers it’s going to be much harder to keep the tyres in decent shape. Furthermore if the driver doesn’t pit as soon as the tyres start going off, then they could suddenly drop-off the edge of cliff, and lose the driver an awful amount of time. The tyre drop-off rates will vary from car to car, and from driver to driver. This will result in teams all adopting different strategies which will make the racing very exciting, and most importantly unpredictable. We could end up with the scenario where in the closing stages of a race the lead driver has trashed his tyres, and is having to defend from a rival who has kept his in better shape. Above all the drivers, strategists and team mechanics will have to work harder to earn their money. That’s what we all want to see. Note: These are the opinions of the author and not necessarily those of YallaF1.com You can follow Daniel Chalmers on twitter Geoffrey Hunton Well thought out views for the season. I agree with you on Sauber being able to turn a few heads. Alonso as World Champion, very possible. Ferrari as constructors champions? That one is a bit of a reach until they can demonstrate the ability to beat Red Bull. http://www.formel1siden.dk Rikke Very interesting aspect on this season. We most wait an see.