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Mark Webber is really letting loose now that he's announced he's retiring at the end of this Formula One season. The Australian offered a few scathing remarks about his soon-to-be-former teammate on the latest episode of Top Gear (set to air on Monday, August 12 in the US), and now the outspoken driver is arguing that the quality of the grid has dropped significantly since his first race in 2002.

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The off-season in Formula 1 is not without its typical game of musical chairs: this driver moves there, that one is axed in favor of another, and some are left without a seat when the music starts again. But typically once the cars are launched, the contracts are signed and that's that. So when Caterham beat its rivals to the punch by unveiling its new car, we figured we'd heard the last of the driver shuffles for the season. But that wasn't to be the case.

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When the music stops, there are always a few Formula One drivers left without seats. That's not because the field is getting smaller, it's because there are always more drivers looking for rides than there are rides to go around. And that's certainly the case this season. With only one race seat still yet to be confirmed at the perennial backmarker Hispania Racing Team (HRT), several drivers were dumped by the teams they drove for last season.

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Consistency is paramount in racing, but sometimes a thorough shake-up is called for. And that's what's taking place at the Lotus Renault GP team next season.

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Jerome d'Ambrosio (above left) and Vitaly Petrov (above right) the latest drivers to be confirmed for 2011

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Imagine you're running an F1 team. You're spending millions to shave precious pounds off the car's weight. And then you hire a driver who's carrying an extra few pounds around the middle, and the advantage is lost.

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Renault R30 F1 car – click above for high-res image gallery

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Renault R30 F1 challenger - Click above for high-res image gallery. Follow the jump to watch video.

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A few weeks back, Toyota announced its departure from Formula One, and it looked like Renault could follow. The team had lost its drivers, its team leaders, its sponsors and its reputation. The French automaker's board convened in France to discuss the matter, but no announcement followed, leaving everyone scratching their heads. Well if the latest rumors hold any truth, we could have our reason.

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