The F1 line up also includes:
Caterham-formerly Lotus (Vitaly Petrov, Heikki Kovalainen)
Widely praised as the best team of the newcomers to 2010 but they rarely threatened to go far beyond that. Swapping veteran Italian Trulli for Petrov is an aggressive and positive mood, the Russian has an uncompromising style and is used to mixing far higher up the grid. If the car has pace he is likely to use it though his aggressive style may prove to be problematic if Mike Gascoigne can’t find him a quicker car than last years. Kovalainen was able to assert himself last year despite reliability issues and is another driver who will maximise a car – he has beaten both Schumacher and Vettel in the Race of Champions.
Williams (Pastor Maldonado, Bruno Senna)
The remarkably unsuccessful Williams team of last year has been revamped with a new chief engineer, aerodynamicist and technical director which the team hope will allow them to put the worst season in history behind them. Maldonado has survived to carry the burden in 2012 but Barrichello has been replaced by Bruno Senna who was racing with Lotus-Renault last year. They are a feisty but young pairing and the decisions have been swayed by the funding that both can bring to the Williams programme. Frank Williams will step down from the team board next month but he will be hoping that his drivers raw pace will be able to revive the fortunes of his team.
Toro Rosso (Daniel Ricciardo, Jean-Eric Vergne)
Another young pairing, Ricciardo is seen as a future Red Bull driver but Vergne had some decent pace in pre-season tests. Vergne has worked his way up through single-seater racing and has enjoyed a long affiliation with the Red Bull company. While testing is not the same as race-day performance both of these drivers have the ability to trouble the top teams and will be in the battle for podium finishes.
Sauber (Kamui Kobayashi, Sergio Perez)
Sauber have stuck with the same driver pairing from last year which saw some strong tactics, bold manoeuvres and good endurance abilities. This season the emphasis is on continuing that trend but combining it with speed. Both drivers have been able to top pre-season testing leaderboards and overall the strategy of developing the car from last year looks to have been successful. Both drivers have good race experience and will be looking to use that to assert themselves. Saubers form last year, however, was variable depending on the track and they will be hoping to have consistent pace at their disposal.
Force India (Paul di Resta, Nico Hulkenberg)
Force India will be an interesting team to watch. Paul di Resta showed some real pace and the ability to fight against faster cars last year whereas Hulkenberg was rarely given the opportunity to shine within the Williams set up. At Force India he has been posting similar lap times to his Scottish team mate and this year may be a real opportunity for the team. They have looked like the best midfield runner and may be in with a chance to challenge the big teams though they have had some reliability issues which they will want to iron out before qualifying begins.
Lotus (Kimi Raikkonen, Roman Grosjean)
Mouth devoted a whole article to Renault when it confirmed its driving partnership and the team expects a lot from this season. Raikkonen’s cool experience with the talent of Grosjean should prove to be a competitive combination. Eric Boullier – team principal – is not expecting miracles but wants to assert his team as the best of the mid-ranked teams by achieving a comfortable fourth place in the constructor’s championship. It will be a tough battle but Lotus has high hopes as it moves into the new season and both drivers have fulfilled some stunning lap times in testing.