2011 F1 season preview
Not since 2006 has a driver successfully retained their championship title. Can Sebastian Vettel buck the trend this year?
Fernando Alonso won back-to-back trophies in 2005 and 2006. But he couldn’t retain his title in 2007 following a turbulent season alongside Lewis Hamilton.
The following year Kimi Räikkönen failed to carry his championship-winning momentum into 2008 and let his crown slip. Hamilton’s title defence in 2009 was scuppered by an uncompetitive car.
And last year Jenson Button was beaten by Hamilton – and Red Bull – when he came to defend his title.
There are two compelling reason why Vettel stands a better chance of scoring back-to-back title wins than these drivers did.
He has the vital advantage of continuity. And – no less important – he will be driving what should be the fastest car in the sport once again.
In the Red Bull RB5, RB6 and RB7, Adrian Newey appears to have hit the same form he did with the Williams FW14s and FW15 and McLaren MP4-13 to MP4-15.
While Vettel’s fundamental pace is exceptional, key weaknesses in his game were apparent last year. Particularly when it came to overtaking, which led to disastrous errors in Istanbul and Spa.
The new Drag Reduction System may prove just the ticket for a driver who is no Hamilton or Kobayashi when it comes to overtaking.
Vettel was rock-solid over the final four races of last year and would have won all of them but for an engine failure in Korea. If he can string together a full season of races like that he will be hard to beat.
Team mate Mark Webber, however, saw his title hopes crumble as Vettel dominated him in the final fly-away races.
Webber will do more than just keep Vettel honest this year. He had a strong middle part of the season last year and was a dependable points-scorer – something which is more important than ever in F1 at the moment.
Having referred to himself as a “number two driver” during one of his rows with the team last year, Webber’s defeat means he now has the number painted on his car.
Red Bull have pledged they will continue to support both drivers on equal terms. But with the team orders ban scrapped, and rivals such as Ferrari clearly happy to use such tactics, Red Bull may find themselves under even greater pressure to choose one driver over the other in 2011.
Compare Vettel and Webber’s form in 2010
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