Tuesday, 19 February 2013

2013 Here We Come

So, it's been quite a while since I last wrote a post. I don't have many excuses to be honest, just a shed load of university work and frankly, not really that much happening in the world of F1. However, today the final 2013 contender was unveiled, and now I'm taking the opportune moment to catch up on blogging with a 2013 season preview, and a bit of a recap on 2012.

The end of the year brought Vettel his third world championship, and Red Bull their third constructor's championship. Throughout 2012, Red Bull had their fair share of ups and downs - despite the popular claim the Vettel only won because he had the best car. Reliability issues that were all but absent in 2011 came to Red Bull in the races held in hot climates, and at the start of the season there was none of the 2011 dominance that we were so used to. However, Vettel's mastery of the Asian tracks and the genius of Adrian Newey pulled their season around, and ultimately the team and driver triumphed once more - despite Vettel driving through the back of the field more times than I care to mention!

The runner up to Vettel was Fernando Alonso. His spate of good luck came much earlier in the season, and many believed that for some time it was Alonso's to lose. However, it transpired that Ferrari had no answer to Red Bull towards the end of the year, and Alonso lost out by three points only.

With 2012 proving a close season with some of the best races I've ever seen (Brazil 2012 will be a classic F1 race I'm sure, and one which I still watch from behind the sofa!), 2013 has a lot to live up to. Pre-season testing is underway in Barcelona this week, two weeks after the initial test in Jerez. For those of you new to the sport this year, let me warn you now that pre-season testing tells us NOTHING of what will occur through the rest of the season. While we still see times being posted, these actually reveal very little about any particular car's performance - at least for the fans. For the teams, pre-season testing is a great opportunity to learn about the car; how it feels, its potential and sorting out the tiny issues which could make or break a race when the time comes.

In addition to learning about the car, testing gives teams the chance to test out their drivers too. Usually at this time of year we know our driver line-up. However, this year it seems to have taken a lot longer, and we're still waiting on the final driver for Force India - presumably this will either be Adrian Sutil, their previous contender, or Jules Bianchi, their third driver. Both are driving in Barcelona this week, and so with any luck soon the entire field will be lining up ready to race.

One thing that you will notice in 2013 is the lack of two cars. Hispania unfortunately pulled out of F1, owing to the huge financial pressures of the sport. This year I'm also noticing that good drivers are being dropped in favour of drivers who bring sponsorship. The issue of 'pay drivers' is a thorny one among fans. Personally, I take no issue with those who bring sponsorship, providing that they are capable drivers with a lot of potential. One such driver is Marussia's Luiz Razia. He replaced Timo Glock this year, even after Glock had obtained a contract. Luiz is, however, an amazing driver. The runner up in GP2 last year, he has been an incredibly talented and entertaining racer - someone who actually made the Valencia circuit interesting. I'm thrilled that he has the drive, and expect him to do well next year.

Other than the chopping and changing of drivers, F1 2013 has remained much like F1 2012. There are small, but hopefully significant, changes to the appearance of the cars, however these changes are miniscule compared to the changes we will presumably see in 2014. Stepped noses (a source of yet more division among fans) are here to stay, although teams are permitted to cover the step with a plate - called a modesty plate, vanity plate, the list goes on. Lots of the cars also seem to have been designed with a ruler - the Ferrari in particular looks incredibly nice because of this. Whether these changes will make much difference in terms of performance will only be seen in the inaugral race in Australia.

So, with 23 days to go, the teams and drivers look like this (*denotes a newcomer to F1, +denotes new member of the team):

  • Red Bull Racing
    • Sebastian Vettel
    • Mark Webber
  • Ferrari
    • Fernando Alonso
    • Felipe Massa
  • McLaren
    • Jenson Button
    • Sergio Perez+
  • Lotus
    • Kimi Raikkonen
    • Romain Grosjean
  • Mercedes
    • Nico Rosberg
    • Lewis Hamilton+
  • Sauber
    • Nico Hulkenberg+
    • Esteban Gutierrez*
  • Force India
    • Paul Di Resta
    • TBA (Probably Adrian Sutil or Jules Bianchi)
  • Williams
    • Pastor Maldonado
    • Valtteri Bottas*
  • Toro Rosso
    • Jean-Eric Vergne
    • Daniel Ricciardo
  • Caterham
    • Charles Pic+
    • Giedo van der Garde*
  • Marussia
    • Max Chilton*
    • Luiz Razia*
With five new drivers in F1 (potentially six depending on the Force India driver), and four change of teams, it will be interesting to see how everyone gets on this year. The countdown begins...

Race Calendar

Australia - 17th March
Malaysia - 24th March
China - 14th April
Bahrain - 21st April
Spain 12th May
Monaco - 26th May
Canada - 9th June
Britian - 30th June
Germany - 7th July
TBA - 21st July
Hungary - 28th July
Belgium - 25th August
Italy - 8th September
Singapore - 22nd September
Korea - 6th October
Japan - 13th October
India - 27th October
Abu Dhabi - 3rd November
America - 17th November
Brazil - 24th November