It’s hard writing eleven-point lists. I’ve been a fan of 11points for a long time, and this blog is named F11 because of that. However, I’m not someone who’s always gonna do these lists; just sometimes, I might decide to. Here’s the first. But as I say, it’s not easy. Sometimes you can’t find enough points, sometimes you have too many and need to get rid of one. Sam Greenspan of 11points is amazing because he does three of these most weeks. He has my total and utter respect.
So here we go. My first F11 list. These are the top eleven drivers to look out for in 2011. I ended up choosing one from each team that has already declared their drivers, and adding one (Force India and Hispania not declared as of writing this). I chose drivers who have potential more than drivers who did well in 2010; there’s a nice mix of rookies, ex-rookies and experienced drivers.
11. Mark Webber – We all know Seb Vettel’s an amazing driver, but so is Mark. He has come so close the last two seasons to winning the title, that he will be pushing even harder this year. We all know the RB7 is likely to be amazing, so watch out for Mark Webber’s amazing driving.
10. Lewis Hamilton – I had to choose one McLaren driver, and it was Lewis. He may have done better than Jenson in 2010, but he claims his driving was only 6/10 out of the season due to problems in his personal life. He even fired his father as his manager. So Lewis is the one to watch, because if his driving can improve from 2010 then he should be a serious challenger for the title.
9. Pastor Maldonado – Having replaced Nico Hulkenberg, there’s a lot of pressure on Maldonado to prove that he deserves his place in Williams. He’s going to need to get into it quickly, otherwise support for Williams is going to plummet rapidly. Williams claim that they didn’t just take him because he brings in sponsor money, so he needs to prove it.
8. Jerome D’Ambrosio – He’s a newbie for Virgin, having had a few test sessions in 2010, and replaces Lucas Di Grassi. He’s the first Belgian driver for 15 years. At first, don’t expect him to be doing more than getting used to things, but later he will need to show that he can compete against Timo Glock in order to retain his position.
7. Felipe Massa – If it hadn’t been for his accident in 2009, he could have shone for Ferrari. In 2010 he began with a good comeback, even leading the championship at one point. But Ferrari made it clear who their backing was behind, and his performance dipped after Hockenheim. 2011 is a chance for him to push back, and show that he can be better than Fernando Alonso (which he can).
6. Michael Schumacher – He’s had his one season of getting back into F1. 2011 is the decider. Luckily, the 42-year-old (the oldest current driver) has Ross Brawn as his team principal. He’s always done well with Brawn around – seven championships. Many say that he should have stayed retired, but Felipe Massa’s accident in Hungary in 2009 changed the German’s mind. Though he didn’t end up driving for Ferrari again, he is in a top team and has a chance to become one of the top-ten oldest polesitters or winners. Will he do it, though?
5. Rubens Barrichello – He is Schumacher’s rival, and will always be compared with his old Ferrari team mate (usually, he’ll be the one who’s preferred!). He’s put himself out there recently with his comments on the new Williams. What’s more, last year he showed he was faster than Top Gear’s Stig (henceforth referred to as ‘evil Stig’). As F1’s most experienced driver, who claims he is at his peak despite his age, he will certainly be one to watch out for. But will his ability match his belief in himself?
4. Jarno Trulli – 2010 was a disappointment for the Lotus driver. He was faced with a lot of bad luck in the reliability stakes, with team mate Heikki Kovalainen’s car lasting much better. Lotus should have an improved car for 2011, even without the benefit of a wind tunnel, because they have a Renault engine and Red Bull parts. They won’t be up to the standards of Red Bull, but hopefully Trulli will really be able to perform in a good car and show us what he’s got.
3. Jaime Alguersuari – By the end of 2010, he was consistently outperforming Sebastien Buemi. This was his first full season, having replaced Sebastien Bourdais mid-way through 2009. Disappointingly, this means I can’t play him in F1 2009 on the Wii. In 2011, both he and Buemi will have to make sure they do well to avoid replacement by Daniel Ricciardo. But I think Jamie Alguersuari is the Toro Rosso driver to watch out for this season.
2. Vitaly Petrov – He’s lucky to have a place with such a good team (okay, I can admit they’re good even if I’m not impressed by Group Lotus), and he finished his rookie year in style. Now, he needs to show improvement and compete with Robert Kubica, instead of following him.
1. Kamui Kobayashi – With only a couple of races under his belt, Kamui Kobayashi was a rookie in 2010. But he proved that he really deserved a place in 2011 for Sauber, outperforming his more-experienced team mates by a long distance. He showed he had the raw ability, and this season he needs show he can learn from his mistakes from last year and last as an experienced driver.