We can now tell who was sandbagging and who wasn’t in winter testing. We all knew that whether they were sandbagging or not…
*Red Bull*, were going to have a mighty quick car this year, even if it’s not as innovative as others. They had the quickest car for most of the races last season, and it appears it may be a common trend this season. Although race trim and reliability woes seem to be reoccurring.
*McLaren*, who last year had a great car on low-downforce circuits such as Canada and Spa, despite still not as downforce-efficient as the MK boys and girls, have brought forward a car which complies very well with the new regulations.
*Ferrari*, who very nearly won the driver’s title with Alonso, did, at some points in the season have a faster car than the Red Bulls on race pace, Germany being one example. It appears that in this early stage Alonso is having problems conserving his tyres, whereas Felipe is able to bring more out of the car, which in pre-season testing seemed very strong, but is perhaps lacking ultimate race pace.
*Mercedes*, who also looked very strong in pre-season testing, and were drastically off the pace last season in comparison to the top 3 teams appeared as if it was going to be a repeat after Australia, but that’s not the case. A combination of a stronger car, which we saw in pre-season testing but looked weak in Australia, a very, very fast qualifying Nico Rosberg, and Michael Schumacher starting to find some of his older form have thrown them right in the mix.
*Renault*, with their side-pod exhaust system thingy definitely seem more competitive as oppose to 2010. 2 podiums in the first 3 races and some high grid slots, despite losing Robert have pretty much confirmed them as a top team this season. We just wait for the first win now.
*Williams*, oh dear… A strong end to last season, beating Force India to 6th by just a point, and a car that has looked quick in testing, and where are they after 3 races? Behind Lotus in the championship with a 13th and a very poor 18th (behind Kovalainen) thanks to perhaps one of the most disappointing rookie performances by a driver that I can remember from Maldonado. It’s not looking good after the strong end to 2010.
*Force India*, after a fairly mediocre end to 2010, have brought a car capable of fighting for best of the rest with Sauber, due to their two very quick drivers and good reliability, as well as a very strong race pace.
*Sauber*, should have many more points than they do, but a DSQ for both cars in Oz prevented that. Both Kobayashi and Perez should be fighting for points this season, and should take 6th in the standings at the end of the year at this rate.
*Toro Rosso*, had a very strong car in testing, but in race trim appear to be just behind Force India, and being closed upon by Lotus.
*Lotus*, have finally joined in the midfield battle. Although there’s still work to be done, they are now on the tail-end of the 6th-10th fight in the middle.
*Hispania*, have gone from being 11 seconds off the pace, to about 5 seconds off the pace, to not qualifying, to being 7 seconds off the pace in qualifying, but having a VERY good race car. Both their cars finished only 2 laps down in China. A massive achievement.
*Virgin*, have been caught up by Hispania. It should be a good battle for 11th place.