Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull, Barcelona, 2011

24 drivers, 5 champions and 6,000km of racing

2011 F1 season previewPosted on | Author Keith Collantine

Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull, Barcelona, 2011
Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull, Barcelona, 2011

Heading into 2011 the F1 rules have had the usual off-season overhaul.

But there have been few changes to the driver line-up. Had a rally crash not ended Robert Kubica’s season before it had started, the top five teams of last year would all be heading into 2011 with the same drivers.

That consistency could prove vital in a year when the teams face some formidable technical challenges. For 2011 cars feature the radical and controversial Drag Reduction System and the return of Kinetic Energy Recovery Systems.

The change of tyre supplier to Pirelli may seem rather undramatic by comparison. But the importance of this change cannot be understated. The chemistry that takes place between the rubber and the road is fundamental to a car’s performance.

The brief given to Pirelli was to supply tyres that wear out quickly. Their aim is to create more races like last year’s thrilling Canadian Grand Prix – voted the best race of the season by F1 Fanatic readers.

The evidence from testing so far indicates that life has become much more difficult for the drivers. Yesterday world champion Sebastian Vettel talked about drivers needing three or even four stops for tyres in each race.

The team that cracks the tyre model quickest, and the drivers who can make them last the longest, will be the ones who claim the big prize in eight monthss time.

Assuming the Bahrain Grand Prix is put back on the calendar, the 24 drivers will do battle over a season of record length, covering almost 6,000km.

Among their number are five champions, the most ever seen in a single season, led by reigning title holder Vettel.

Fernando Alonso is already being tipped as the man most likely to usurp Vettel, having come so close to winning a third title last year.

After a disappointing comeback season in 2010, much attention will be focussed on the efforts of Michael Schumacher and Mercedes to recapture their former glories.

For the second year in a row McLaren boast a pair of world champions in Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button. But it remains to be seen whether the radical design of their MP4-26 will pay off.

And then there’s the question of whether Renault can carry the momentum they built up last year into the new season – despite having lost their lead driver.

These are just a few of the fascinating storylines that will unfold out over a season which will hopefully prove every bit as exciting as last year’s.

F1 Fanatic’s 2011 season preview starts here and will run up to the start of the season in Melbourne.

2011 F1 season preview

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Image ?? Red Bull/Getty images