Moto Magazine

And the Winner Is...

By Franz Burgmann

2011 World Championship Contenders

I already talked about the pecking order in Formula 1 in regard to the teams. After the winter tests there can be little doubt that the usual suspects in the likes of Red Bull, Ferrari and Mercdes are to be expected at the front of the pack. While some already write off McLaren for at least the start of the season, I would not be surprised if the Woking-based team was in for a podium finish in Melbourne.

So four teams should stick out of the rest of the pack in terms of performance: Red Bull, Ferrari, Mercedes and McLaren. From the eight drivers in these teams I see seven real contenders for the 2011 driver's championship, ruling out Felipe Massa, who I simply do not see in a position within the team to challenge his teammate Fernando Alonso. The following list is one with increasing probability, i.e., I start with the unlikeliest candidate, the seventh and last being the one with the greatest title chances. 

7. Mark Webber

And the Winner Is...The Australian came very close to winning the 2010 driver's championship. Webber proved that he can be as quick as Vettel, given the right circumstances. The said includes a team that really supports him. Even though the Red Bull team has not got tired yet of declaring that they support both drivers equally, I have not seen that happen so far, an example being Silverstone 2010, when the front wing of his car was taken away from him to be put on Vettel's car. Also Webber's repeated complaints over the course of the 2010 season tell a different story. Therefore, I cannot see Mark Webber becoming world champion unless the team earns and gains Mark Webber's unconditional trust.

6. Jenson Button

And the Winner Is...

Due to his smooth driving style, Jenson Button is said to be the driver who saves his tyres the most in comparison to other Formula 1 drivers. In contrast to last year, when the Bridgestone tyres lasted for almost an entire race, the Pirelli tyres for 2011 have been designed to fall apart after only 15-17 laps. Tyre preservation could turn out to be the core topic in 2011 Formula 1 racing and if so, Jenson Button could be very much in the title hunt.

5. Lewis Hamilton

And the Winner Is...The Briton has shown his raw pace in countless situations since he started his Formula 1 career in 2007, but Lewis Hamilton sometimes tends to override his car depriving himself of otherwise well earned podium finishes. On the other hand does his driving style provide attractive racing from the spectator's point of view. Having won the driver's title in 2008 and having lost out on two more championships by only a small margin (2007, 2010), he was in the very title hunt in four out of five seasons. That alone makes him a strong title contender, even though winter tests have shown that McLaren currently seems to be off the pace. McLaren has recovered from similar situations and come back strongly before, so there is no reason yet to rule out Lewis Hamilton for 2011.

4. Nico Rosberg

And the Winner Is...

Can Nico Rosberg outperform
his teammate again in 2011?

Even though Michael Schumacher might not have been at his best in 2010, Nico Rosberg was capable of outperforming the seven time champion quite regularly. If he keeps up his game and the Mercedes is as quick a car as the last winter tests in Barcelona have indicated, he could become the underdog to watch out for in 2011.

3. Michael Schumacher

And the Winner Is...

Will the combination Schumacher - Brawn
be up front once more?

Michael Schumacher had a dismal start in his second career with many Formula 1 fans and experts having written him off already. I think Michael Schumacher will prove these people wrong in 2011. Should the Mercedes car turn out to be at eye level with Red Bull and Ferrari, I see Michael Schumacher fighting for victories as well as the world championship.

2. Fernando Alonso

And the Winner Is...

Alonso's questionable overtaking manoeuvre
in the pit lane at the 2010 Chinese Grand Prix

It goes without saying that no report about title contenders for 2011 would be complete without featuring Fernando Alonso. In 2007, when he was driving for McLaren, he was not able to get it his way, but it took him only a few races with Ferrari to get the team behind him and at the same time to dominate his teammate Felipe Massa. As Ferrari have proven again and again, they accept or even favour such a dominat behaviour, which at times makes being the second driver an unrewarding task, as seen at the 2010 German Grand Prix, when Alonso kept complaining over the radio until Ferrari forced Massa to let Alonso overtake him. This de facto number one status enables Alonso to instrumetalize his teammate for his own benefit and that definitely increases his title chances.

1. Sebastian Vettel

And the Winner Is...

Sebastian Vettel has all the backing in his Red Bull team.
Here with team owner Dietrich Mateschitz.

Even though Jackie Stewart would often say that it is more difficult to win the second championship compared to the first one, for me Vettel is the title contender number one. Not only was he indisputably one of the fastest drivers over the course of the 2009 and 2010 season, but he also seems to have a very quick, if not the quickest, car in 2011. This combination might turn out to be very difficult to beat.

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