Other drivers to watch in Formula One

Updated: March 9, 2006, 11:00 AM ET
By Dan Knutson | Special to ESPN.com

MANAMA, Bahrain -- Besides the top three teams from 2005 -- Renault, McLaren Mercedes and Ferrari -- and guys such as Fernando Alonso and Michael Schumacher, there are plenty of other teams and drivers to watch out for this season.

Scott Speed
Clive Mason/Getty ImagesScott Speed brings the American banner back to Formula One after a long absence.

Scott Speed and Toro Rosso

For F1 fans in the U.S., of course, one driver to keep a special eye on this year will be Californian Scott Speed, who is the first American F1 driver since Michael Andretti in 1993.

Speed drives for Scuderia Toro Rosso, which is the former Minardi team now owned by Red Bull.

"There's a ton of excitement and, as well, a lot of nerves," Speed said before his Grand Prix debut. "I'm trying to tell myself that I'm not really expected to do much with my lack of experience and everything else. But at the same time, I'm a racing driver, and I want to do really well performancewise. I'm just really trying to keep my head down and keep focused and hope it's a good weekend."

When Speed races in the U.S. Grand Prix at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on July 2, it will mark the first time an American has competed in his home Grand Prix since Eddie Cheever drove in the 1989 F1 race in Phoenix.

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Honda

Honda now owns 100 percent of the former BAR team, making this the first all-Honda F1 team since 1968. Jenson Button, back for a fifth season with the team, has 100 Grand Prix starts but has yet to win. His new teammate is former Ferrari driver and nine-time winner Rubens Barrichello.

The speed and reliability of the Honda have been impressive in winter testing. In all, the Honda drivers racked up nearly 17,000 miles of testing, and reserve driver Anthony Davidson set an unofficial lap record at Spain's Valencia circuit, where many of the teams test.

BAR, which entered F1 in 1999 and has had Honda engines since 2000, has yet to win a Grand Prix. That winless streak should end this year, as should Button's.

Toyota

In its fifth F1 season, Toyota is another team due for its first Grand Prix win. The driver lineup of Ralf Schumacher and Jarno Trulli stays the same this year. Toyota ran its 2006 car way back in November and has tested it (a total of 12,618 miles on two cars) and updated it extensively before the opening race.

"We aim to improve on last year's performance and to take a further step forward," Trulli said. "We have to believe in this and live it. The team is always developing, fighting, and sharing the same feeling that we do our best and hope to win a race."

Toyota switched from Michelin to Bridgestone tires this year, and it has taken the team awhile to adapt to the new rubber.

Williams

Williams is going it alone this year after splitting with BMW. With its supply of free engines gone, Williams has to pay Cosworth for its V-8s this season. Cosworth does not have the resources of the big auto companies involved in F1, but its 2006 V-8 engine looked solid in preseason testing.

The question is whether Cosworth can sustain the development pace of the major engine suppliers throughout the season.

Mark Webber, looking for his first win, returns to Williams for a second season. His teammate is impressive rookie Nico Rosberg, who is the son of 1982 world champion Keke Rosberg.

BMW Sauber

Having decided it wanted complete control of its own F1 team, BMW ended its relationship with Williams and bought the privateer Sauber team. BMW already has pumped a lot of resources into the team. The car has been improved, but BMW Motorsport Director Mario Theissen said: "We aren't expecting any miracles to happen; we just want to make the most of our possibilities and advance step by step."

Veteran Jacques Villeneuve is in the final year of his contract with the team and will have to work very hard to keep his job in 2007. His teammate is former Williams driver Nick Heidfeld, who has signed a three-year deal with BMW.

Red Bull

After buying the team from Ford/Jaguar at the end of 2004, Red Bull did a very respectable job last year. This year, the team has Ferrari engines in place of the Cosworths and highly touted technical director Adrian Newey has left McLaren to join Red Bull. David Coulthard and Christian Klien are the team's drivers again.

MF1 Racing

Alex Shnaider, a Russian-born Canadian citizen and billionaire businessman, bought the Jordan team a year ago. This year, the team -- run under the umbrella of Shnaider's Midland Group -- has a new name and a new look. It's now MF1 Racing, and the Jordan yellow paint scheme has been replaced with a red, gray and white livery.

Tiago Monteiro, last year's F1 rookie of the year, is back with the team. Christijan Albers, who drove for Minardi in 2005, joins him.

Super Aguri

The Super Aguri F1 Team enters this year to bring the team count up to 11. Former F1 driver and current IRL team entrant Aguri Suzuki put together his new F1 team in just a few months. Power comes from Honda, and the chassis actually are updated 2002 Arrows cars.

Takuma Sato, who has 51 Grand Prix starts under his belt, and rookie Yuji Ide give the team an all-Japanese driver lineup.

Dan Knutson covers Formula One for National Speed Sport News and ESPN.com.