Motorsports Mondial

Men and Machine

Photo: Ferrari/Getty Images

A Look at the 2011 F1 Title Contenders

This is the Ferrari F150th Italia.

The name game.

The red machine is not to be confused with a pick-up truck offered by the Blue Oval. The Ford vs. Ferrari history goes back to glory days of Le Mans, where the intense rivalry produced some of the most beautiful looking racing cars to ever roar into action and produced high drama finishes.

Even Billy Bob working in the oil fields of Bartlesville, OK, will not confuse a Ford F-150, with or without a crew cab, with an F1 machine. Sometimes even the lawyers have to work overtime to resolve such disputes arising from naming a Formula 1 car, to be used in only one season!

The graceful F150th Italia, named in celebration of 150 years of Italian unification, will run on rubber of another great Italian industrial giant, Pirelli. The friendly folks who bring you “Heavenly Bodies” in their beautiful calendar.

The car looks fast and has gone fast in testing.

Now the men who will be steering it.

Fernando Alonso. The “hombre” who toppled Michael Schumacher to become at the time the youngest world champion, and the following season the youngest double world champion, is still regarded as the best complete package. But it has become increasingly frustrating for the Oviedo Ace to deliver the third title.

He could have gone three-in-a-row in 2007 but any hopes he had were drowned by the Danube following his and teammate’s shenanigans at the Hungarian Grand Prix weekend.

In the season finale at Abu Dhabi last year a strategic blunder by the team and Vitaly Petrov’s in-ability to crash or crack under pressure left Alonso, who came to the race leading the championship, without the much sought after third championship.

In the minds of racing public Montezemolo has made Alonso what Briatore always thought of Nando, “numero uno”. This comfort zone is required by some top drivers to deliver their best. He started his Ferrari tenure with a debut win in Bahrain last year and there is no doubt he will bring them a title before his lease is up in Maranello.

Felipe Massa. This will be his sixth season with Ferrari and he must sense it is now or never. Massa won races with Schumacher as teammate and would have been Brazil’s first world champion since Ayrton Senna in 1991 had the engine lasted a few more laps in the 2008 Hungarian Grand Prix.

Well liked and always a gentleman Massa has come back strong after a serious head injury in a freak accident, again in Hungary in ’09. He was, like fellow Brazilian Rubens Barrichello in Austria ’02, the moral winner of the German Grand Prix last year. Now he understands his position in the team, let alone a single race.

Massa will win races but to win the championship he must climb a mountain. And Alonso is no Sugar Loaf.

— Nasir Hameed

Greetings and F150 racing regards. Keep on truckin!

Part 2 of Men and Machine will feature Red Bull and their riders.