The adjustable wing effectively replaces the F-duct, pioneered by McLaren last year, which allowed the driver to stall the rear wing by covering a hole in the cockpit with his leg, altering the airflow. Banning this cuts into McLaren's advantage, as it optimized the system last year, but that is counterbalanced by the return of KERS as McLaren and Ferrari are the only teams to have won races using the hybrid system.
Outlawed last season by team agreement, the hybrid technology returns this year and all but a few of the smallest teams will run it. As in 2009, it offers an 80hp boost for 6.7sec per lap at the driver's request and creates major packaging difficulties – although the vast majority have chosen to locate their battery and motors below and behind the driver, cutting into the area where the fuel tank is located. All the frontrunners have KERS, so it's unlikely that it will have any major influence in passing.
Outside of the cars, Formula 1 visits another new country in 2011 with a new track outside capital city Delhi. India is big news in F1 right now as, although the popular Karun Chandhok, who raced for the Hispania team last season, won't be on the grid for the whole season (as RACER went to press he was still hoping for occasional race outings), compatriot Narain Karthikeyan will. He last appeared in 2005 for Jordan and will race for HRT.
With the top seats sewn up, the leading newcomers will be in the midfield this year. Sergio Perez becomes the first Mexican to race in F1 in almost 30 years after joining Sauber, bringing with him sponsorship from Telmex, while Venezuelan GP2 champion Pastor Maldonado joins Williams. Both owe their seats to cash, but both are good enough to earn a place on the F1 grid. Joining them in the unofficial fight for top rookie honors is Paul di Resta, who is promoted to a race seat with Force India after appearing in Friday practice occasionally last year. The fourth rookie is Belgian Jerome d'Ambrosio, a race winner in GP2, who will compete alongside Timo Glock at Virgin Racing.
So, if you thought last year was intriguing and exciting, you shouldn't be disappointed by the season ahead. As F1 fans, we retain one simple demand: that the on-track action is always the biggest talking point – and we honestly believe there's a strong chance of that in 2011.
COMING TOMORROW: Part 2 of our Formula 1 season preview, in which we pick the year's likely leaders and followers.
• For the full version of this feature article, plus much more, check out the March 2011 issue of RACER magazine. CLICK HERE to subscribe.