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If I were to mention the subject of battles between teammates for the 2011 F1 season, you might think of Vettel/Webber, Hamilton/Button, Alonso/Massa or maybe Schumacher/Rosberg. You probably wouldn't think of Buemi/Alguersuari, yet this battle has the potential to be the most decisive.

The reason for this is that it could make or break their careers. As the pair fought over 17th place in qualifying in Abu Dhabi, there was more than just a place in Q2 at stake. While one of them will probably take Webber's seat at Red Bull Racing when the Australian leaves, the other could be dropped by Toro Rosso and consigned to the F1 scrap heap.

For Red Bull (the company) it makes sense to replace Webber with either the Spainard or the Swiss driver. There is no point in ploughing money into a second team if you are not going to use it to develop talent for the senior team. Webber is under contract for next year, but with Vettel now World Champion at 23, Webber, 34, will find the going tough at the team in 2011, particularly after throwing away his own chances by being off the pace at the season finale.

If he does not impress, he will be dropped for 2012. They will promote the Toro Rosso driver that has shown the most potential to become a future World Champion for the team. This is why so much is at steak between Alguersuari and Buemi.

If one of them does not perform sufficiently at the start of the season, they could find themselves dropped quicker than they can say 'Scott Speed'. The reason is that Daniel Ricciardo is ready for a shot at F1. While Webber was winning the 2010 Monaco Grand Prix, Ricciardo, also Australian, was winning the Formula Renault 3.5 support race, in the colours of Red Bull. Today he topped the timesheets in the Young Driver Test at Abu Dhabi, by some way.

Having finished second in the FR3.5 standings, Ricciardo, the 2009 British F3 champion, is now ready for a seat in F1 as soon a one becomes available. Even if one of the current STR drivers is promoted to RBR (vacating an STR seat for Ricciardo), the other could come under threat from the next driver on Dr Helmut Marko's production line - Jean-Eric Vergne. The Frenchman won British F3 this year, and is already winning in FR3.5 before he has even joined the series full-time. He tested for STR in Abu Dhabi today.

Buemi impressed in his debut season in 2009, but Alguersuari grew during 2010 after being thrown in when he was not yet ready during last season. Despite Buemi scoring eight points to Alguersuari's five, the Spainiard ended the season as the faster driver, scoring better results than his teammate in four of the final five races. 2 years younger than Buemi, Alguersuari appears to be showing the greater potential.

Providing Red Bull don't make any changes prior to 2011, expect the battle between the Toro Rosso teammates to be a great fight next year.
 
 
As F1 has reached its summer break, I thought I would take a first look at how the driver market is shaping up for 2011. After the widespread merry-go-round of last winter, we can expect fewer changes for next year. However, there are still many drivers who will need to impress in the latter stages of 2010 in order to retain their drive next year. Furthermore, there are a few young drivers on form and looking to join the grid next year.

Let's start at the top. McLaren will retain their pairing of Lewis and Jenson, while Red Bull have both Vettel and Webber under contract, so it will take another favouritism row to make Webber up sticks and look elsewhere. Ferrari meanwhile took the paddock by surprise by resigning Felipe Massa despite being generally slower than his teammate Alonso. At Mercedes, Nico Rosberg has impressed and is set to remain with the team. Michael Schumacher has another two seasons on his contract with the team, but questions have been asked about whether he should continue with his comeback. Mercedes reserve Nick Heidfeld is a man who has a lot of experience of getting podium finishes out of unworthy cars from his years with Sauber and Williams, and would most likely step into any void left by Schumacher.

Renault have managed to resign Robert Kubica, while the pressure is on Vitaly Petrov to retain his seat alongside the Pole. Like most of us, the team have been satisfied with the rookie's performance, but are aiming high and are exploring their options. Heidfeld, who Renault turned down in favour of Petrov back in February, and Force India's Adrian Sutil are both options for them, while they have also been linked to another German Timo Glock, despite him being under contract with Virgin. The new team are unlikely to offer much resistence though if Glock wanted to leave the team.

At Williams, Rubens Barrichello intends to stick around with the team for his 19th season in F1, while Nico Hulkenberg has started to put in some consistent performances after a disappointing start to his first season.

While Force India would want to hold on to Sutil, he could well be tempted to move to a bigger team like Renault. Tonio Liuzzi is under threat from Paul di Resta for the second seat, while Karun Chandhok could prove a popular signing in the team's 'home' country with the first Indian GP coming in 2011.

Sauber are still without any major sponsors and this could put pressure on both Kamui Kobayashi and, in particular, the ageing Pedro de la Rosa. The two drivers heading the GP2 standings, Pastor Maldonado and Sergio Perez, are both backed by companies from their home nations Venezuela and Mexico. Both PDVSA and Telmex are known in Europe for their willingness to back drivers from the two countries. Furthermore, Mexican Esteban Gutierrez is a Sauber development driver, and he too is backed by Telmex.

Toro Rosso look set to retain both Sebastien Buemi and Jaime Alguersuari, although Buemi could yet be tempted by a move to a bigger team and has been linked with Renault. Tester Daniel Ricciardo is next in line from the Red Bull Junior scheme.

Lotus have both Jarno Trulli and Heikki Kovalainen under contract next year, while Virgin have Timo Glock, and have been impressed with Lucas di Grassi's performances so far this season.

Hispania's future is in doubt, and would be looking for the right mix of talent and funding for their drivers.

A 13th team is set to gain entry for 2011. The three teams we know to be in the running are Stefan GP (who signed Kazuki Nakajima as part of their optimistic attempt to join the grid for 2010), Villeneuve-Durango (for whom Jacques himself will driver) and Epsilon Euskadi. Maldonado and Perez's mix of talent and money could prove useful for all of these team
 
 
I can totally understand why Ferrari would have wanted Fernando Alonso to win ahead of Felipe Massa in the German Grand Prix. Having seen what happened to Red Bull in Turkey, and with Alonso quickly chasing Massa down, they simply wanted Fernando to pass Massa in a way that would not have seen them coming together and wrecking their race.

See the second of the World Touring Car Championship races at Brands Hatch last weekend. Augusto Farfus was leading BMW teammate Andy Priaulx, who is in a much better position in the championship, rather like Alonso at Ferrari. At the Druids hairpin, Farfus left the door open for Priaulx. Nobody minded this. Nobody claimed 'team orders'.

Ferrari would have wanted a similar situation today. All they wanted was Massa not to defend if Alonso attempted to overtake him for the lead. However, Massa did not do this, instead blatently lifting off the accelerator on the straight to let Alonso through. Had this happened, nobody would really have complained. This was a botched manoeuvre. Massa did not do what his team wanted him to do. As Ferrari have said since the race, it was Massa's decision to do what he did.

Do not get me wrong, I am not saying Felipe is to blame for this situation. However, an agreement should be in place for them to make such a manoeuvre in a way that would not be so blatent.
 
 
Mark Webber will start from pole position for the third consecutive race in the Turkish Grand Prix tomorrow. Here are the main stories from the qualifying session.

Senna outqualifies Di Grassi on raw pace
Up until now, the HRT cars of Bruno Senna and Karun Chandhok have qualified at the back of the grid, except when others have suffered problems. However, Senna qualified 22nd today, one place ahead of Virgin's Lucas di Grassi. HRT announced this week they were splitting from chassis builder Dallara, who had not supplied any aerodynamic updates since the beginning of the season. The fact that they have managed to close the gap to Virgin, who have been developing their cars, shows the work that Colin Kolles, Geoff Willis and the drivers have put into keeping the team competitive. Furthermore, the team looks stronger behind the scenes following the announcement of new board members joining owner Jose Ramon Carabante.

Liuzzi exits in Q1 again
Force India chose not to run reserve Paul di Resta in Turkey to allow their race drivers to develop new parts on the car. However, another poor performance by Liuzzi today puts futher pressure on the Italian. Matching teammate Adrian Sutil's pace at the end of last season was unlikely due to the testing restrictions, but that should have been the target for this season. However, it looks as though he is struggling and the door could open for di Resta before the season is out.

Williams look to be losing the development race once again
It seems that in every one of the last few seasons, Williams' season has begun in promising fashion, but then slipped behind as their rivals develop their cars. In 2010, this appears to have happened again. The team had already lost ground to Renault and Force India since the season began, but at Istanbul the team looks to be behind Toro Rosso and Sauber.

Alonso and Ferrari struggle for pace
Following Fernando Alonso's win on his Ferrari debut in Bahrain, it looked as though his rivals may struggle to keep up with him this season. However, following his practice accident in Monaco, Alonso messed up his qualifying effort today, going out in Q2 and will start tomorrow 12th. Furthermore, teammate Felipe Massa will only start 8th, on a circuit that he has won on three times in a row. All this on Ferrari's 800th GP. Once again, questions will be asked of the team by Luca di Montezemolo.

McLaren find qualifying pace
Since the start of the current McLaren era in 2007, the team has often struggled for pace in qualifying compared to their strong race speeds. Again, it looked as though this would be a problem in 2010, having not yet started on the front row. However, today Lewis Hamilton separated the two Red Bulls in second place, while Jenson Button was not too far off in fourth place. If the team can keep this up, they can challenge Red Bull for the titles.

A good track, but where are the fans?
Istanbul Park is regarded by the drivers as one of the best tracks on the calendar, and certainly the best of the Hermann Tilke-designed modern circuits. Turn 8 appears to be gaining a reputation as one of the best corners in F1. The race's contract is up after this weekend, and on the back of that praise, you'd expect it to get renewed easily. However, take a look at the grandstands in tomorrow's race and you will understand the problem - the fans, or the lack of them. This is something that must be solved if the race is to continue.
 
 
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The third and final part of the F1 season preview looks at the three new teams that will make it to the grid in Bahrain.

Lotus Racing
Lotus were the last of the new teams to get an entry, yet thanks to some experienced personnel and strong management they look like they will be the quickest of the new teams.

18. Jarno Trulli
After moving from Toyota, Trulli's experience will be of great help to Lotus, as will his qualifying pace, as they attempt to mix it with the rest of the field. Expect occasional points later in the season. Prediction: 19th

19. Heikki Kovalainen
Heikki joins Lotus from McLaren, where he was in the shadow of Lewis Hamilton. An interesting battle could form between Kovalainen and Trulli while they try to develop the T127. Prediction: 20th

HRT F1 Team
Campos team was saved at the last minute by its majority shareholder and renamed HRT F1. The car won't run until free practice in Bahrain, but it is built by Dallara and has a driver pairing wanting to impress.

20. Karun Chandhok
Has a bit of F1 mileage from a Red Bull test in 2007, but otherwise 2010 will be very much a learning year for the Indian. If he impresses he could be a prospect for a bigger team as F1 goes to India in 2011. Prediction: 24th

21. Bruno Senna
Will want to show he deserves to be in F1 on talent alone, but it will be very difficult to prove himself in a car that will be at the back of the field. He will be pleased just to be on the grid having been racing in sportscars in 2009. Prediction: 23rd

Virgin Racing
The team has had reliability issues in testing, and a lot has been made of its CFD-designed car, but the team has pedigree from Manor Motorsport. They also have a strong driver lineup who will aid development.

24. Timo Glock
He took the decision to move to a new team rather than an established one for 2010, but can do a good job of leading the team as they develop during their first year. Prediction: 21st

25. Lucas di Grassi
He was a regular frontrunner in GP2, despite not winning the series. He has good F1 mileage from his days testing with Renault and has worked with team principal John Booth before in F3. Prediction: 22nd

Stay tuned to the Front of the Grid and its Twitter page throughout the season for news, opinion and analysis.

Photo Credits: LestaBruno Senna and Slitz
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Continuing our season preview, part two takes a look at the five teams set to battle in the midfield in F1 in 2010.

AT&T Williams
Williams made an improvement last year, and will aim to continue this into 2010, with a new engine partner and driver lineup. They should score podium finishes and could challenge for wins later in the year.

9. Rubens Barrichello
Rubens showed last year that he can still drive at this level, having been on the brink of leaving the sport. Provides Williams with some experience to help them move forward. Prediction: 9th

10. Nico Hulkenberg
The German gets his break in F1, and no rookie has had as much potential as Hulkenberg since Lewis Hamilton in 2007. He will begin the season learning, but could be outpacing Barrichello near the end. Prediction: 11th

Renault F1
It's all change at Renault with a new ownership structure, team principal and driver lineup, as they attempt to climb back to their former glory after a terrible 2009. There will be no ambitous targets for 2010, as they look to build for the future.

11. Robert Kubica
Kubica moves from BMW to step into the gap vacated by Alonso's departure. He was hot property until BMW lost their way last year, but will struggle to get podium finishes, certainly to begin with. Prediction: 10th

12. Vitaly Petrov
Russian steps up from GP2, where he was runner-up. He must show that he has  talent as well as money, particularly having beaten drivers like Nick Heidfeld to the seat. Prediction: 17th

Force India
The team made huge improvements last year, taking pole position at Spa. They must become more consistent in 2010, and testing has shown promise that they can mix it with the likes of Renault on a regular basis.

14. Adrian Sutil
Sutil moves into his fourth season with the Silverstone-based team, and should score regular points in 2010. He needs to be more consistent, as he is prone to getting caught up in more than his fair share of incidents. Prediction: 12th

15. Vitantonio Liuzzi
Liuzzi was given the chance to return to F1 during 2009. He must show in 2010 that he can match Sutil for speed, with young Scot Paul di Resta snapping at his heels as reserve driver. Prediction: 16th

Toro Rosso
The team must build its own car this year rather than relying on Red Bull. Its young drivers still need to build up some experience before it can challenge. Expect them to beat the new teams, but nobody else.

16. Sebastien Buemi
Buemi showed promise on occasions in 2009, and will hope to perform more regularly in 2010 and become more of a force in the midfield, although much will depend on the car. Prediction: 15th

17. Jaime Alguersuari
Thrown in at the deep end mid-season, Alguersuari proved he can keep up with the rest of the field. With more mileage under his belt he will be expected to up his game in 2010. Prediction: 18th

BMW Sauber
Despite the name, BMW has sold up, leaving Sauber to run as an independent, using BMW's money. Testing has showed that they have a fast car, but a lack of funds could see them lose the development race during the season.

22. Pedro de la Rosa
A surprise signing considering drivers like Heidfeld were available, but de la Rosa will put the team first and use his experience to help them to develop during 2010. He is getting on now though, so it will be interesting to see how quick he is. Prediction: 13th

23. Kamui Kobayashi
Kobayashi burst onto the scene at the end of 2009, showing you can be quick in F1 even if you don't crack GP2. Some of the previous Japanese drivers have been very erratic in the rookie seasons, expect the same from Kobayashi. Prediction: 14th

The third and final part of the season preview looks at the new teams.

Photo Credit: Slitz
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Until very recently, the English Football Premier League has been dominated by 'the big four', Man Utd, Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool. It now seems that Formula One, for 2010 at least, will be led by four frontrunning teams. In the first of a three-part season preview, we take a look at the drivers competing for the title.

Vodafone McLaren Mercedes
McLaren will be looking to return to their former glory after a difficult 2009 season. It recovered well from a nightmare start. The team has looked more promising in testing, and has brought in world champion Jenson Button to replace Heikki Kovalainen.

1. Jenson Button
In order to retain his crown, Jenson will have to beat his teammate, which won't be easy seeing as he is the newcomer into the team. He will be consistent, but could lack the outright speed to keep his title. Prediction: 4th

2. Lewis Hamilon
Lewis was proud of the way he and the team bounced back from the poor start to 2009 to take two victories before the end of the season, and will have improved as a driver as a result. The fact that Lewis is settled in at McLaren will give him an advantage. Prediction: 1st

Mercedes GP Petronas
Mercedes has bought last year's championship winning team Brawn GP, giving it the much needed investment to proceed. Theoretically there should be no reason why it can't retain its titles, despite a change of drivers, but the competition has raised the bar.

3. Michael Schumacher
What do I say? As much as it's nice to see Schumacher back, he will have to work hard to return to his winning ways, with the level of competition having improved considerably since his retirement. Prediction: 5th

4. Nico Rosberg
Rosberg has always been expected to replace Barrichello at Brawn, but wouldn't have expected to be overshadowed by a fellow German. Nonetheless, it is a step up from Williams and has the opportunity to fulfill his potential. Prediction: 8th

Red Bull Racing
The team made great strides last year, being the only team to consistently challenge Brawn. This year, Red Bull will be looking to take the championship crown and cement their position as a leading team. They are the only team with an unchanged driver line-up from this time last year.

5. Sebastian Vettel
The young German showed last year that he is one of the best drivers out there. This year the target from the start will be to win the title. He has gained experience and should be right there at the end of the season. Prediction: 3rd

6. Mark Webber
Webber finally won races last year, but this year he must make a quick start or risk becoming support for his younger teammate. Is he on the same level as the Alonsos, Hamiltons and Massas? Prediction: 7th

Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro
Ferrari gave up on 2009 after a poor start, in order to gain an advantage for 2010, and so it must show this on the track and win races from the off. People will be looking to see how the Alonso-Massa pairing will work.

7. Felipe Massa
Felipe showed himself to be faster than his old teammate Raikkonen in 2008 and the start of 2009, before he was taken out of action by his Hungary accident. His primary concern at the start of the season will be getting the better of his new teammate. Prediction: 5th

8. Fernando Alonso
The man considered by many to be the best driver on the grid makes a return to a competitive car after two years spent mostly in the midfield with Renault. It looks like he has already settled well into the team. Prediction: 2nd

Part Two of the season preview will take a look at the midfield battle.

Picture Credit: Slitz
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The new HRT F1 car was presented in Murcia today
The Campos Meta team has been renamed HRT (Hispania Racing Team) following its takeover by Jose Ramon Carabante, and has signed Indian Karun Chandhok to partner Bruno Senna. The pair raced together at iSport in GP2 in 2008.

The team was launched today at an event in Murcia, with the Dallara-built car also being shown for the first time. The first time that the car will run will be in free practice at Bahrain next Friday.

Chandhok, who has spent the last three years in GP2, will be the second Indian to race in F1, after Narain Karthikeyan raced for Jordan in 2005. He had been widely tipped as a future driver for Force India. It is unclear why Chandhok had not been signed by Force India, particulalry as he must bring money in order to be signed by HRT. Having Chandhok as part of the team would give Force India added exposure back home, ahead of the first Indian GP in 2011. Team owner Vijay Mallya had previously said that he did not feel there was an Indian driver ready for F1.

It will be hard to see HRT as being anything other than backmarkers in 2010 due to their lack of testing, but Dallara are an experienced single-seater constructor and team principal Colin Kolles has good experience of running a team at the lower end of the grid.

Photo Credit: Bruno Senna
 
 
The FIA published the final entry list for the 2010 season yesterday, with both failed entrant US F1 Team and aspiring team Stefan GP absent from the list, meaning neither will compete in 2010.

According to team boss Ken Anderson, US F1 was on schedule with the building of its car mid-January, when a sponsor failed with payment. They have applied with the FIA to have its entry deferred to 2011. Gaining an automatic entry for 2011 is an unlikely prospect having broken their promises that they would make it for 2010. They will apply for an entry for 2011, although thinking they will be accepted will be very optimistic, unless there is a major change in their entry.

Stefan had cars ready and would have been ready for Bahrain. However, the FIA was right not to let them race, having dismissed their entry back in June. Allowing them an entry at this late stage would set a nasty precedent, where aspiring teams would build cars and gather a team ready to race, despite not having been accepted an entry. They will no doubt enter for 2011, and will be ready to go with their cars needing only a few modifications. Provided they can secure a tyre supply in the meantime, they can go testing throughout 2010.

Anderson confirmed that US F1 were in talks with Stefan about trying to get to Bahrain. In the short term a merger between the two outfits, the team with an entry and the team with a car, would have been great for both parties, as it would have seen them on the grid, in whatever state, in Bahrain. There would have been conflicts in the future, for example when deciding where to build the 2011 car. Both have now been left without an entry, and in the case of US F1, it looks highly unlikely they will ever get one.
 
 
Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo
Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo
Ferrari has once again attacked the FIA and outgoing president Max Mosley in a column on its website.

The piece attacks the FIA's policy of encouraging new teams into the sport, following the struggles of Campos Meta and US F1 to make the starting grid in Bahrain on March 14. It also refers to hopeful entrants Stefan GP as 'Serbian vultures', who 'picked the bones of Toyota on its death bed'.

It criticises Mosley, saying the situation 'is the legacy of the holy war waged by the former FIA president'. "The cause in question was to allow smaller teams to get into Formula 1". The piece mentions the loss of BMW and Toyota, and the change of ownership at Renault.

I still struggle to understand the logic of Ferrari blaming Mosley for the departure of manufacturers, who cited the economic downturn for their withdrawal. Mosley tried to limit the damage done by the financial crisis by proposing a budget cap. Whether this was introduced in the correct manner or not is another matter.

The reason BMW and Toyota left was because Formula 1 was too expensive for them. New teams were invited to cushion the blow of manufacturers leaving, to ensure that grids kept their depth. Mosley tried to stop manufacturers leaving, but the team's association ignored his efforts, which led to the exit of BMW and Toyota.

The struggles of Campos and US F1 do highlight flaws in the selection process of new teams that allowed them to gain an entry without the necessary funding in place.

This is not the first time Ferrari have criticised Mosley's actions over the past year. However, every time, they fail to explain what exactly he did wrong. I would love to see what Luca di Montezemolo would have done differently, and whether he would have been able to do the impossible task of keeping underperforming car manufacturers, both on track and in the road car market, in the sport.

Photo credit: MEDEF