Despite suggestions that reigning F1 world champions Red Bull Racing may have been 'sandbagging' through the first two F1 group tests, a recent survey has tipped Ferrari's Fernando Alonso to go one better than in 2010 and land a third title this season.
Readers of revered British magazine Motor Sport
have responded to several questions attempting to predict the coming season - the longest in F1 history - and nearly half backed Alonso to add a first crown with Ferrari to the two he won with Renault in the mid-1990s. The Spaniard appeared to be out of the running as he ended the British GP some 47 points adrift of leader Mark Webber, by a string of strong results in the second half of the season not only sent him to Abu Dhabi in with a shout of the title, but as favourite courtesy of an eight-point advantage over the Australian.
It wasn't to be for Alonso, however, as a strategic gaffe by the Scuderia saw him cover the ailing Webber's every move and failed to take into account the second RBR entry of Sebastian Vettel, which duly won the race and the title. A reshuffle among Ferrari top brass, plus promising testing performances from the Scuderia's latest car in both Valencia and Jerez, have resulted in Alonso once again featuring among the championship favourites, with 46 per cent picking the Asturian to come out on top.
Not that everything will go against Red Bull this year, however, as the Milton Keynes team - which, like Ferrari boasts a strong and unchanged line-up - the fans' favourite to return as constructors championship, despite what could be increased competition, not only from the likes of the Scuderia and McLaren, but also from Mercedes GP, which emerged on top of the poll to find the most improved team of the year.
With a lot of unchanged pairings at the front of the field, there will be fewer new faces in 2011, but Force India recruit Paul di Resta has comfortably taken the nod to be crowned as most impressive rookie. The Scot, who enters F1 on the back of claiming last year's DTM touring car title, partners Adrian Sutil at Force India, and 'only' has Virgin's Jerome d'Ambrosio, Sauber's Sergio Perez, Williams' Pastor Maldonado - the reigning GP champion - and, potentially, the as yet unnamed second Hispania driver to overcome to secure the honour.
The poll results remain pending with one last day of voting, which will see the outcome fixed as Motor Sport
prepares to unveil the second batch of inductees to its new Hall of Fame.
Many of the sports most famous faces will attend a ceremony at the Roundhouse in Camden on Tuesday [15 February], where four new members will be added to the Hall in recognition of their achievements. The inaugural Motor Sport
Hall of Fame event was held last February, when eight founding inductees and a further four inductees were named to the alumni.