Formula 1 is getting more attention now than ever before, especially here in Malaysia. This movement towards the acceptance of the world’s most expensive sport is thanks to Petronas’ multi million dollar sponsorship of Mercedes GP and of course the ‘two’ Lotus-branded Formula 1 teams. The first to bring the Lotus brand back into Formula 1 was a squad led by Tony Fernandes, known as Lotus Racing last season and Team Lotus this season, for now that is until a British High Court says otherwise.

Then it was Group Lotus, which is of course owned by our national car maker Proton which has severed ties with Fernandes’ team late last year. Group Lotus then partnered with Genii Capital which ran the Renault Formula 1 team. This new partnership has given birth to the name Lotus Renault GP. Before we move on into the 2011 season, lets have a quick recap on the 2010 season.

It started off with the rather controversial refueling ban and many thought the races would turn out to be boring. It was anything but. It was also the season when three new teams joined the circus and they were all powered by Cosworth powerplants. These included Virgin and HRT, apart from Lotus Racing which emerged on top of the new comers.

It looked as though Ferrari dominated at first, and before we knew it McLaren and Red Bull joined the fun and these three teams traded spaces. It was definitely an interesting year. 7-times World Champion Michael Schumacher also made a highly talked about come back, bringing total competing World Champions in 2010 to four (Fernando Alonso, Jenson Button, Lewis Hamilton). When Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso failed to clinch the championship at the season finale, Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel came into the limelight and has brought up the total competing World Champions to five for this season.

Following Ferrari’s defeat and Red Bull’s very respectable victory, the Formula 1 fraternity focused on building their 2011 machines and at this point of time, these machines are being tested in Valencia, Spain, before moving to Jerez, Barcelona and finally Bahrain. After which, they will come back to Bahrain for the season opening race on 13th March.

There are several changes in terms of rules for the cars this year. Some of them will run with manually-operated moveable rear wings, something many drivers don’t really fancy. They find it hard to work on many things while driving. There is also a change in the rubber department as Pirelli takes over from Bridgestone.

However the tires from the new supplier seem to be degrading quicker that the Bridgestones and this may cause more pit stops to take place. KERS is also making a come back this year. Teams that have opted for the energy regeneration system include Red Bull, Ferrari, Mercedes, Williams as well as Sauber.

In terms of engines, all teams are using the same suppliers as they did last year, except for Team Lotus which dropped Cosworth for Renault. Most of the teams, except for a few have unveiled their 2011 contenders. Many have returned this year with bigger goals. Mercedes and Lotus Renault aim to return to the front end of the grid, while Team Lotus plans to score points and become a mid fielder.

Drivers wise, top teams have maintained their driver line-up while there are some new faces further down the field. Venezuelan driver Pastor Maldonado (25) took over duties from Nico Hulkenberg in Williams. He was crowned as GP2 Series Champion in 2010 and at the same time he also performed tests for HRT and Williams.

Next up is Paul di Resta (24) who won the DTM title with Mercedes last year. The Brit will race for Force India after replacing Vitantonio Liuzzi. 2010 GP2 runner-up Sergio Perez (21) will race alongside Kamui Kobayashi in Sauber. The Mexican took over from Nick Heidfeld who filled in for Pedro de la Rosa. There is also Narain Karthikeyan (34) who now drives for HRT. The Indian driver isn’t new to Formula 1 as he competed before with Jordan in 2005.

This was then followed by a test driver role in Williams and a race driver role in A1GP in both 2007 and 2008. He then raced in the Le Mans Series in 2009 before taking part in NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and Superleague the following year.

He took over driving duties from fellow Indian driver Karun Chandhok, Bruno Senna and Sakon Yamamoto, who acted as a filler driver. Belgian Jerome d’Ambrosio (25) fills up the final rookie spot with Virgin, replacing Lucas di Grassi. He finished twelfth overall in GP2 last season. He did carry out testing for both Renault and Virgin.

Overall, you can expect the top teams including Red Bull, Ferrari and McLaren to battle out each other once again but don’t rule out Mercedes and Lotus Renault, with the former’s lead driver having a lot to prove. It would also be interesting to see Team Lotus’ position on the grid as it will compete with a car that was designed better and is now powered by Renault. You may also want to look out the British High Court’s decision on the Lotus fiasco. Trial begins on 21st March.

Continue reading to check out the 2011 team and driver line-up list followed by the full championship calendar.

    2011 Teams and Drivers

  • Red Bull – Sebastian Vettel | Mark Webber
  • McLaren – Lewis Hamilton | Jenson Button
  • Ferrari – Fernando Alonso | Felipe Massa
  • Mercedes – Michael Schumacher | Nico Rosberg
  • Lotus Renault – Robert Kubica | Vitaly Petrov
  • Williams – Rubens Barrichello | Pastor Maldonado
  • Force India – Adrian Sutil | Paul di Resta
  • Sauber – Kamui Kobayashi | Sergio Perez
  • Toro Rosso – Sebastien Buemi | Jaime Alguersuari
  • Team Lotus – Jarno Trulli | Heikki Kovalainen
  • HRT – Narain Karthikeyan | unknown
  • Virgin – Timo Glock | Jerome d’Ambrosio

2011 Race Schedule

  • 13 March – Bahrain Grand Prix
  • 27 March – Australian Grand Prix
  • 10 April – Malaysian Grand Prix
  • 17 April – Chinese Grand Prix
  • 8 May – Turkish Grand Prix
  • 22 May – Spanish Grand Prix
  • 29 May – Monaco Grand Prix
  • 12 June – Canadian Grand Prix
  • 26 June – European Grand Prix (Valencia Street Circuit)
  • 10 July – British Grand Prix
  • 24 July – German Grand Prix
  • 31 July – Hungarian Grand Prix
  • 28 August – Belgian Grand Prix
  • 11 September – Italian Grand Prix
  • 25 September – Singapore Grand Prix
  • 9 October – Japanese Grand Prix
  • 16 October – Korean Grand Pix
  • 30 October – Indian Grand Prix
  • 13 November – Abu Dhabi Grand Prix
  • 27 November – Brazilian Grand Prix