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Brace yourself, F1 is here!

The 61st Formula One season will flag off in Bahrain on March 14, with exciting new variations

Mark the date on your calendars, if you must! The 61st Formula One season begins on March 14 in Bahrain. All you F1 fanatics can come out of the winter hibernation and brace yourselves, because this year promises to be one helluva of a ride as your favourite race dons a new look.
From sponsors, teams and drivers to circuits, rules and new technology, the F1 junkies have been busy in the off season, tracking each change and understanding what it means. But casual observers fret not, we’re here to make things simpler:

NEW TEAMS
This is the biggest change of this year. It’s the end of the manufacture era where teams spent more than 400 million dollars (Rs 549 crore approximately) a year competing with each other. Honda went home crying last year, leaving Brawn to win both the championships using their car and their people (stupid, so stupid!). Then followed BMW, which has also had a management buyout by its former owner Peter Sauber, while Toyota simply shut shop and looked the other way.
Thanks to the proposed budget cap, the big guns have been replaced by newcomers like Richard Branson’s Virgin Racing, the American team USF1 and the Spanish team Hispania F1(earlier Campos Meta), but due to difficulties in financing the latter two haven’t even released their cars yet, and may not even be ready for the first few races!

Even Ross Brawn sold his team to Mercedes (who also partly owned McLaren), while Scuderia Toro Rosso too has had changes, as they now have built their own car as per new rules instead of borrowing big brother Red Bull’s used clothes.

THE MEN BEHIND THE WHEEL
Two-time champion Fernando Alonso has joined Ferrari and will partner Felipe Massa, who has come out of injury and will be waiting to prove himself on the track. Former World champion Kimi Raikkonen’s contract at Ferrari was bought over and the “Iceman” decided to leave F1 to pursue his other favourite sport, World Rallying. World Champion Jenson Button has left Brawn, with whom he spent 7 whole years, to join up with Lewis Hamilton at McLaren to make a kickass British line-up. Red Bull will continue to have Mark Webber and youngster Sebastian Vettel, who will look forward to winning more this year after impressing the whole world with his skills. Barrichello moves to Williams alongside German rookie Nico Hulkenburg, who is touted to be a future champion. Mercedes GP took Nico Rosberg from Williams and then promptly stole the headlines of the year.
Force India is one of the few teams to have everything unchanged. People laughed at Vijay Mallya when he said he wanted his team to reach the podium by 2011. Bet nobody’s laughing now after we almost won the Belgian Grand Prix! India’s Karun Chandhok is racing for Hispania F1, so that is yet another Indian representation. Let’s hope our desi team continues to make us proud.

SCHUMI’S BACK! The seven-time world champion found retirement too boring and also briefly flirted with Ferrari after Massa’s injury. But the temptation to join Ross Brawn at Mercedes proved too much and he’ll be looking forward to adding more to his trophy cabinet.

FILL ‘ER UP? NOT!
In-race refuelling has been banned from now onwards and that means no more waiting for the pit-stops to make your move. Now drivers will have to race on track, which means more mouth watering wheel-to-wheel racing for us!

POINTS, POINTS BABY!
Even the points system has changed with points awarded to the top ten which makes sense, since we now have 26 cars instead of 20. So the winner now gets 25 with second place getting just 18.

So, gone are the days when just one man and one team set up camp at the top of the podium. We’ve had four different World Champions in the past four years and this year has some of the best drivers in some of the fastest cars on grid. Red Bull, Mercedes, McLaren and Ferrari are the favourites right now, but there are many who can
spring surprises.

Will Alonso finally meet his dream team in Ferrari? Will 41-year-old Schumi show everyone he’s still the best?
Will Hamilton regain his crown or will Vettel or Massa finally win their first championship?

There’s only one way to find out!

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