Harried and Random 2011 F1 Season Predictions – PART I
Not to be braggadocious, but I’ve accurately predicted many an F1 happening over the last 10 years. I selected Michael Schumacher to win the world title from year 2001 to 2004; a bold prediction at the time. I also have an 87% success rate of describing the Ferrari livery before their car is even launched. Spooky.
But for all my successes, there have been an equal amount of failures. For example, I picked Hakkinen for the driver’s title in 2000. I also thought he’d come off his hiatus one day. Damn. I also recall the time I predicted that I would see Jacques Villeneuve win another F1 race in my lifetime. Shame. I really thought Raikkonen would win a world title before the end of his McLaren days. Pity.
Well for this 2011 F1 season, which looks to be a real classic, I have resolved to make what’s usually wrong sometimes right. And with that I present to you, my harried and random 2011 F1 season predictions…
1. Neither HRT will score a point
Sure, maybe that’s not exactly a long shot, but I don’t want to be completely wrong this season. I do love an underdog, but then HRT driver Bruno Senna retired from 9 races in just the ones he actually participated in last year. With no sign yet of HRT’s 2011 challenger, I don’t think they’ll improve in the reliability department.
2. The McLaren drivers will be even more evenly matched and will tangle… on track
As many others have either speculated or hoped, I too believe that degrading Pirelli rubber will help Jenson Button get on even closer terms with his lightning fast teammate Lewis Hamilton. One can take from this that we’re likely to see them battle more on track this year as they’ll likely be running closer together in races, and with varied usage of the Pirelli tyres, possibly we’ll also see them on much different tire strategies than last year.
What I don’t see, is the impending fallout between McLaren teammates that seemingly every F1 media outlet is hoping for. I feel that F1 in its pure form gives plenty of drama without the need to fabricate a bit of it. And I think there will be plenty of dramatic intra-McLaren wheel banging this coming season.
3. Pirelli will be the savior of the season
I really do feel Pirelli in general is going to make this season exciting by forcing the use of clever strategy and quick improvisation back into the pit wall. The only people really complaining are the drivers, and the teams with cars that aren’t kind to their tires.
And to that point, I really am sick of hearing the negative side of the Pirellis from some teams and drivers. Tires that rapidly deteriorate and differ greatly between compounds are a no-brainer win-win for us fans, and you’re all getting the same tires! Sure, it’s a deficit for the teams that chew their tires up, but you need to engineer your way around that problem just like every other team. It’s F1, remember?
4. Sebastian Vettel will not defend his world title
OK, before I get a bunch of hate mail, let me explain myself. It’s not that I don’t feel like the RB7 won’t indeed be the quickest car out of the gate this season. Nor is it because I somehow think Vettel’s skills or mental state will decline rather than improve this coming year. I don’t believe either. The problem is going to be that both his competition, and perhaps even his teammate will close the gap this season. It’s hard to read much at all into testing, particularly this season, but something tells me that some of Red Bull’s rival teams have already closed part of the gap, while others are poised to do it in the first few races. While some are doubtful (including the drivers) of the new McLaren MP4-26, no other team seems to get on with development throughout the season like the Woking squad. And in a season where driver technical smarts instead of pure race craft may prevail, Fernando Alonso won’t be looking to repeat the few costly mistakes of the 2010 season. Vettel’s competition will come in all forms this year, and I don’t see another miracle, last-gasp victory for him again this season.
5. We will see “legal” team orders this season, but they won’t be as brazen as when they were “illegal”
For the 2003 Formula One Season, team orders were banned. This was brought on after the 2002 Austrian Grand Prix in which Rubens Barrichello let Ferrari teammate Michael Schumacher’s car pass him quite intentionally just meters from the finish line on orders from the Ferrari pit wall. Mind you, team orders were technically legal at this time (the only penalty was for the breach in podium conduct), but nobody at Ferrari or the FIA took a firm stand at the time and said “hey, this is legal and within the rules of our sport”. Instead, a new (and unenforceable) rule banning team orders was introduced for the following season. Fast-forward to the German round of the 2010 season, and “Alonso is faster than you,” and “I’m sorry lad” dominated headlines and meme sites. What some considered a “coded message”, I felt like was a blatant order. And the irony of it all is that this year, team orders which manipulate a race result are perfectly legal, but I am very doubtful that we’ll ever hear this exchange on the radio:
“Felipe baby, we’re implementing Team Order Blue — make way for Alonso and let him pass. Again, this is a legal team order for you to yield to your teammate. Let him pass. Can you confirm you understood this message?”
If Rob Smedley gets on the radio and says that this season, I’ll eat my shoes.
Stay on the lookout for Harried and Random 2011 F1 Season Predictions – Part II