With Formula 1 pre-season testing now well underway in Spain, all the teams have unveiled their new cars, so let’s take a peek at what will be one of the most eagerly anticipated seasons of racing since, well, last year.

First up, the champs. Red Bull Racing have retained the services of Mark Webber and world champion Sebastian Vettel, and the new RB7 is an Adrian Newey-penned evolution of the last year’s rather quick RB6. Changes include a higher nose and a taller engine cover, as well as a revised rear wing to take in the 2011 rule changes allowing moveable aero at the back.

McLaren unveiled a fairly radical new design with its MP4-26, most notably with the L-shaped sidepods. It too has a high nose, and the team is also retaining its 2010 driver pairing of Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton.

Ferrari has already shown its new car to be quick, with Fernando Alonso posting the fastest time on day two of the first test in Valencia. The car has another high nose, but the name hasn’t impressed Ford. The threat of a lawsuit forced the Scuderia to change the name from the F150 to the F150th Italia to avoid the same moniker as the Blue Oval’s famous pick up truck. The Ferrari name reflects 150 years of the reunification of Italy and the team retains the services of Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa.

Mercedes hopes to put a disappointing debut season behind it with the MGP W02. All eyes will be on seven-time world champion Michael Schumacher to see if he can shake off his decidedly average comeback season in 2010, but team mate Nico Rosberg will be no doubt hoping to repeat last year’s dominance. Schumacher showed his intent with the fastest time of day two during testing in Jerez. Subtle visual changes to the car’s design include a higher nose and revised airbox and sidepods.

Renault has had a tumultuous pre-season already. Its R31 has a distinctive new livery as a result of title sponsorship from the Lotus Group – the black and gold paint job echoes the JPS tobacco sponsorship of Team Lotus cars in the early 80s – but said sponsorship has created its own headlines because of the naming rights battle between Lotus Group and Tony Fernandes, the boss of Team Lotus. Number one driver Robert Kubica is likely to be out for the majority of the season after an horrific rally crash, leaving Renault looking for a replacement to join Vitaly Petrov. The front runner at the time of writing is Nick Heidfeld, who posted the quickest time on day three of testing in Jerez, but Bruno Senna has also tested the car (top), evoking memories of his uncle Ayrton, who piloted the JPS-liveried Lotus.

Williams has retained veteran Rubens Barrichello for 2011, but jettisoned Nico Hulkenberg in favour of GP2 champion Pastor Maldonado, who brings with him considerable financial backing from his native Venezuela. The new FW33 is notable for its tiny gearbox at the rear and has so far only been seen in its navy blue test livery.

Force India has brought in the services of Scottish DTM champion Paul di Resta for 2011, in place of Vitantonio Liuzzi, while retaining Adrian Sutil. The VJM04 sports a blade-like design in front of the air intake and a complex front wing, along with high sidepod intakes.

Sauber’s Ferrari-powered C30 will carry Kamui Kobayashi and Mexican newcomer Sergio Perez this year. The car features a slimmed-down rear end and hopefully a bit more reliability than 2010’s C29. The team has finally jettisoned the BMW name that lingered with it following the German carmakers departure from F1 at the end of 2009.

Toro Rosso’s pair of Sebastien Buemi and Jaime Alguersuari stays on for 2011, despite a fairly invisible season last year. The Red Bull trainer team’s STR6 is the second car to be built entirely in house in Italy, and will be powered once again by a Ferrari engine.

Lotus was the fastest of the rookie teams in 2010 and for the new year takes a new name – Team Lotus – and a new engine from Renault, replacing the old Cosworth unit. Tony Fernandes’ outfit is mired in a legal battle with Lotus Group over its name, but the new T128 car carries ambitions that look to have avoided the backroom distractions. Jarno Trulli and Heikki Kovalainen keep their seats and have been posting times in testing thatĀ indicate a big leap forward for the team since last year. The Lotus, like the Force India, boasts a blade-like roll hoop in front of the airbox.

Virgin racing has stuck with its policy of computer-only design for the new MVR-02, eschewing wind-tunnel use for aerodynamic development. Unlike other teams in the 2011 paddock, the car has a higher nose, but the team has slimmed down the rear end compared to last year’s car. The team will be hoping to avoid reliability issues andĀ embarrassingĀ problems, such as the 2010 fuel tank, which proved too small for some races and had to be hastily redesigned. Timo Glock remains in the team line-up, but Lucas di Grassi has been replaced with Jerome D’Ambrosio.

After a troubled rookie year, Hispania has defied its critics that wondered if it would last through the off-season by revealing the F111, although it has yet to appear at any of the pre-season tests. The cash-strapped Spanish team has picked up sponsorship from Tata Motors, courtesy of its new Indian driver Narain Karthikeyan, but is also looking for more – witness the slightly bizarre livery below, which features such epithets as Your Logo Here on the front wing endplates. Hispania’s second driver has not yet been announced.

source: crankandpiston.com