Google+ Jack Leslie F1: 2013 Season Preview

7 March 2013

2013 Season Preview

Can Formula 1 get any better right now?

(c) Vodafone McLaren Mercedes and Sky Sports F1

2012 was most definitely a season to remember. We had seven different winners in the first seven races, a close title fight, plenty of stunning overtakes, questionable moves and drama both on and off track. All ingredients for the perfect season, but can 2013 top it?

We will have to find out. For now,testing is over, teams are hard at work and we now look on to Australia.  Here’s my preview of the 2013 season.

The Tracks

  1. Australian Grand Prix  Melbourne  15-17th March
  2. Malaysian Grand Prix  Sepang        22-24th March
  3. Chinese Grand Prix      Shanghai     12-14th April
  4. Bahrain Grand Prix      Sakhir          19-21st April
  5. Spanish Grand Prix      Barcelona     10-12th May
  6. Monaco Grand Prix      Monaco       24-26th May
  7. Canadian Grand Prix    Montreal      7-9th June
  8. British Grand Prix        Silverstone   28-30th June
  9. German Grand Prix      Nurburgring  5-7th July
  10. Hungarian Grand Prix  Hungaroring 26-28th July
  11. Belgian Grand Prix Spa-Francorchamps 23-25th August
  12. Italian Grand Prix        Monza            6-8th September
  13. Singapore Grand Prix  Singapore       20-22nd September
  14. Korean Grand Prix       Yeongam       4-6th October
  15. Japanese Grand Prix     Suzuka           11-13th October
  16. Indian Grand Prix         New Dheli      25-27th October
  17. Abu Dhabi Grand Prix Yas Marina     1-3 November
  18. United States Grand Prix  Austin        15-17th November
  19. Brazilian Grand Prix      Interlagos      22-24th November

There are a few changes to the Formula 1 calendar in comparison to 2012. One of the most notable is the absence of the European Grand Prix on the Valencia Street Circuit. The Spanish Grand Prix will now alternate between Valencia and Barcelona.

Other changes are the Nurburgring hosting the German Grand Prix, alternating with Hockenheim. There were some doubts over whether the track could afford to host the race but they were resolved.

There were also plans for the Grand Prix of America to be held in 2013 on a Street Track in New Jersey but those plans have been postponed to 2014, leaving a 19 race calendar.

The Teams and Drivers

The Formula 1 Teams have been whittled down to 11 in 2012, due to the demise of the HRT F1 Team.

Red Bull took the championship double last season and hence this is where I will start. They have acquired a new title sponsor for 2013. This means they are now officially known as Infiniti Red Bull Racing, due to their tie up with luxury car brand Infiniti. They are going for another title with triple world champion Sebastian Vettel and Australian, experienced driver Mark Webber. Scuderia Ferrari are searching for their first constructors title since 2008 and drivers since 2007, hoping Fernando Alonso can go one step further than 2012 where he ended up runner up. Their hopes of a competitive season will also ride on Alonso’s team-mate Felipe Massa.

Vodafone McLaren Mercedes have lost one of their biggest assets, Lewis Hamilton, and gained one that needs time to develop and improve. Sergio Perez moves from Sauber to the Woking based team for 2013 alongside the most experienced driver on the grid, Jenson Button. Lotus maintains their line up with 2007 champ Kimi Raikkonen and 2012 podium finisher Romain Grosjean.

(c) Mercedes AMG F1 Team

What’s one team’s loss is another’s gain. The Mercedes AMG F1 Team hired Lewis Hamilton to replace departing Michael Schumacher and will line up alongside Nico Rosberg. Sauber have a brand new driver line up, the Swiss team appointing Nico Hulkenberg and Esteban Gutierrez as their race drivers. The Sahara F1 Team took their time deciding upon their second driver for 2013, eventually hiring Adrian Sutil for the job. Paul Di Resta will stay with the team after missing out on a top drive.

The Williams F1 Team has had a big inner-team change but has maintained Pastor Maldonado and his funding from Venezuela. They have also promoted 2012 reserve driver Valtteri Bottas to replace sports car bound Bruno Senna. Toro Rosso has maintained driver stability for 2013 with Daniel Ricciardo and Jean-Eric Vergne.

Caterham also have an all new line up for this season, ditching Kovalainen and Petrov in favour of Pic and rookie Giedo van der Garde. Marussia have also ditched both their 2013 racers, appointing two rookies to replace Glock and Pic. Max Chilton will make his debut in Australia, as will team-mate Jules Bianchi who was a late replacement for investment troubled Luiz Razia.

Plenty of driver changes for 2013, with some fresh faces replacing household names. It will be extremely interesting to see how they all fare, particularly the inter-team rivalries which look to be very close.

The Rule Changes

In comparison to past seasons, the rules and regulations for 2013 are fairly stable. There are however a few changes that could shake up the proceedings.

One big rule change is the reduction in the use of DRS over a race weekend. Whereas it had only been restricted to one or two zones in the race, it will now be restricted during qualifying and practice as well. This is something the drivers have wanted since its inception.

(c) Sky Sports F1

Elsewhere one visual difference is the “vanity panel” used on some of the nose cones. This is optional so not everyone has used it, whilst some have created their own vanity panel like Sauber with the ridged sides or Red Bull who have positioned a small vanity panel to aid airflow. Elsewhere the new Pirelli tyres have meant the maximum weight of the car has increased to 642kg, an increase of 2kg.

The tests that cars have to go through before the season starts have also had a shakeup. The front wing tests have become stricter and more strenuous to prevent them from flexing. The amount of flex has decreased from 20mm to 10mm and the 100kg load will be applied to two different points.

Crash and load tests have also become more severe, as have survival cells which mean the teams must test every chassis instead of just one example.

Elsewhere with HRT leaving the F1 grid and Marussia using KERS for the first time in the sport, the full grid will all have the power boost to use. The mid-season test has also been scrapped; curfew hours have been extended from not being at the circuit six hours before the first session of the day to eight, with two exceptions rather than four.

The FIA have also removed the “force majeure” rule to clarify scrutineering procedures. As of 2013 it will no longer be recognised as a valid reason for stopping the car, race stewards will now measure the amount of fuel remaining in the car in question and compare it to the minimum amount set forward in the rules. Then they will calculate any penalty based on the difference between the two
The Test’s

Strangely enough, just a few teams came forward and showed their true pace at the final test in Barcelona. Expectations of a final qualifying run that would give us a sneak peak at the running order failed and we have been left in the dark, which makes it even more exciting.

Testing kicked off in Jerez with dry weather. Numerous teams experienced technical issues over the four days, Mercedes suffering the most. Rosberg ground to a halt on day one and Hamilton crashed out on day two with brake problems. Red Bull and Force India looked reliable whilst McLaren looked to be finding their feet in the “radically” different car. Towards the back, Marussia made good progress and looked to be closing in on Caterham.

The second test at the Circuit de Catalunya was a tale of two halves. The first few days of running were dry and bright, but some niggles meant most teams did not complete all of their daily programmes. However rain arrived for the final two days which curtailed any hope of getting in some dry running, it did give vital experience on the Wet and Intermediate Pirelli tyres though. The overall consensus was that the running order was close but far from being known, the cold conditions were playing havoc with the tyres. McLaren were struggling to set-up the MP4-28, Mercedes were catching up fast, Lotus were ironing out problems whilst Ferrari and Red Bull looked consistent and possibly heavier on fuel.

(c) Vodafone McLaren Mercedes

Barcelona hosted the third and final test, with rain welcoming teams back to the Circuit de Catalunya after a few busy days of working. Most teams brought new parts and updates to trial, with some Melbourne –spec parts arriving for the final two days. The wet running halted any early hope of some dry running but the conditions soon moved back to that expected of Spain, sunny with warmer temperatures. Rosberg ended up on top over the whole test, Mercedes showing their hand but being one of the only teams to do so. Most looked to be either running on high fuel or concentrating on other things. Red Bull and Ferrari looked consistent and reliable, McLaren were improving and Lotus suffered yet more reliability woes, along with a rather ill Kimi Raikkonen. The midfield looks closer than ever with Williams showing some radical changes and strong pace. Marussia look to be overtaking Caterham but of course we will have to wait until Melbourne to really see what they all bring.

The Expectation

So after a rather inconclusive twelve days of testing, we are still out in the open as to what the running order is.

I do think Red Bull and Ferrari will still be at the front, with McLaren and Lotus close behind. Mercedes will definitely catch up with that group, whether the two drivers say so or not, and the midfield will be incredibly close.

(c) Sky Sports F1

I reckon Marussia will be ahead of Caterham, with interesting inter-team rivalries there. Bottas will be close on the tail of Maldonado, whilst Force India slip behind Williams. Toro Rosso looks okay, nothing special and possibly not making the step forward they want to.

My Prediction? Alonso for the Drivers Title, Red Bull for the Constructors.

Of course we have a long way to go. Come race day in Melbourne we will all have a clue into the true running order and who will be at the front but it can all change. It looks to be a really exciting season that can rival 2012 as one of the closest and best ever.

Bring it on.

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