FORMULA 1® SEASON 2013 PREVIEW
If the 2012 season was high on drama and excitement; with seven different winners in the first seven races and a nail-biting climax in which Sebastian Vettel recovered from a first lap spin in Brazil, to secure his third FIA Formula One Drivers’ World Championship; then 2013 should be even closer.
On paper this should be one of the most competitive seasons ever, as this is the final year of the current technical regulations before a new formula in 2014, which includes a major change from 2.4 litre V8 engines to 1.6 litre V6 turbos.
This means that in the constant race to develop their cars, the teams will be faced with diminishing gains as most of the key performance areas have already been exploited.
Red Bull is the team everyone wants to beat. The Milton Keynes-based outfit won its third consecutive drivers’ and constructors’ championship last season and has stability on both the engineering and driver sides with Vettel and Mark Webber paired for the fifth year.
Red Bull technical director Adrian Newey has admitted that with rules staying largely unchanged, a competitive edge will be tough find, but all teams will have an anxious eye on his car at the first race to see if he’s once again thought of something they have not.
It was only because of the relentless brilliance of Fernando Alonso that Ferrari had any chance of taking the drivers’ title battle down to the final race in 2012. The car was well off the pace at the start of the season with the team struggling to develop the aerodynamics efficiently due to problems with its wind-tunnel.
Things look more encouraging for 2013; the new car was entirely developed using the Toyota windtunnel in Cologne, while Alonso’s team-mate Felipe Massa has rediscovered his form and will support Alonso as they contend for both titles.
The most significant driver change of the new season is Lewis Hamilton’s move away from McLaren, the team he had been with since he was 13, to join Mercedes, in place of Michael Schumacher.
The 2008 world champion, who might have won the title again last season had it not been for a host of reliability and operational failures, faces the biggest challenge of his career as he arrives at a team which started 2012 with a victory for Nico Rosberg in the 2012 FORMULA 1 UBS CHINESE GRAND PRIX, but ended it struggling to get points. Mercedes looks like it is channeling its resources into an assault on the 2014 championship under the new formula, but will be looking to compete more consistently this year as well.
Over at McLaren, Mexican Sergio Perez steps into Hamilton’s vacant seat alongside Jenson Button who stays on for his fourth season.
McLaren had the fastest car last year, winning the first and last races, so if they can pick up this season where they left off and improve reliability then Button has a real shot at winning his second world championship.
The new generation Pirelli tyres may play into his hands as they are designed to warm up more quickly for qualifying; failing to do this was Button’s Achilles Heel last year.
Lotus were arguably the most consistent team in 2012, scoring regular podiums and even taking a win in Abu Dhabi with Kimi Raikkonen, who finished third in the drivers’ championship. The signs are that they have improved their car and will be consistent front-runners this season. Romain Grosjean has been retained for another season, despite being banned for one race last year by FIA Stewards for causing accidents.
The key to Lotus’ season will be improving the car’s one lap pace in qualifying, so they can consistently start races from the front two rows of the grid.
As for the rest, Sauber could be the ones to watch with Nico Hulkenberg joining from Force India alongside rookie Esteban Gutierrez who is promoted from reserve driver. Sauber has one of the best wind-tunnels in F1 and scored four podiums last season. They will be close once again.
Williams will want to build on their FORMULA 1 GRAN PREMIO DE ESPAÑA SANTANDER 2012 victory of 2012, with Pastor Maldonado staying for another year and Finnish driver Valtteri Bottas, moving up from reserve driver to a full time race seat.
Force India showed promise at the end of last season, even leading a large chunk of the Brazilian race with Hulkenberg, but, like all the midfield teams, they will perhaps find it harder to score points this year as the leading teams look so strong.
This applies also to Toro Rosso, which has strengthened its technical team with the arrival of James Key from Sauber. The team appears to have built a solid car while both Jean-Eric Vergne and Daniel Ricciardo, in their second full seasons, will be desperate to impress or face being dropped by the Red Bull driver programme as others have been at this stage in the past.
While there’s stability at the sharp end of the grid, further back things look rather different. The HRT F1 team has gone; the Spanish team closing their doors just before Christmas.
Caterham and Marussia continue, but it’s all change for their driver line-ups as they struggle for funding. Charles Pic moved from Marussia to Caterham, where he will be joined by Dutch rookie Guido van der Garde.
Timo Glock left Marussia, shortly before the new season, when the team said they could no longer afford to pay their drivers, with rookies Max Chilton and Luiz Razia both bringing sponsorship with them.
The 2013 calendar has been a big talking point over the winter, too, with the much-anticipated New Jersey race postponed to 2014 because of a problem with funding. There is no replacement race, but with 19 Grands Prix confirmed and 11 teams hungry for success of which four or five have a real chance of winning races, 2013 has all the ingredients to be a classic.
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