With a new Formula 1 season on the horizon, it is impossible to predict how the teams will fare. Last year was one of the better seasons in recent memory with numerous drivers competing for the number one spot for the majority of the season. This is no less evident than the opening races from last year. After seven races, there were seven different winners and the championship was wide open for two thirds of the season.
There have been plenty of new rules implemented in recent months, but I’ve decided to focus more on the drivers and teams. Here is a run down of the changes and news from numerous teams going into the 2013 season.
Right from the off McLaren seems to be in for an uphill battle. Jenson Button has expressed concern with McLaren’s new car in pre season practicing. Although, just last week Button has stated he will commit to McLaren, and has said he is ready to stay for the rest of his career.
With Hamilton starting a new season with a new team, McLaren have brought in Sergio Perez as the number two driver. Quite a torch to carry for the young Mexican, with just two years Formula 1 racing experience. There was speculation that Paul Di Resta would be their new driver, but McLaren will not be holding onto their all-British driver line up this year.
Mercedes AMG Petronas
Things aren’t looking much better at Mercedes however. Since returning in 2010 the team has made little impression. Michael Schumacher's retirement gave way to Lewis Hamilton signing for the team who has already been involved in an accident after a brake failure in practicing last month.
Hamilton attempts to achieve exactly what Button did with Brawn GP in 2009. Where the underdog team takes the championship by complete surprise. Based on pre-season practice figures, this seems like wishful thinking. Team principal Ross Brawn has welcomed Hamilton's criticism, although he is still confident in the team, seeing this as a good foundation to build upon going into the first race.
Red Bull Racing
Red Bull, as is customary these days, faces the prospect of retaining the championship. It wasn't until Singapore that Red Bull began to pull out a lead over McLaren and Ferrari, followed by three consecutive wins there after to help Vettel pull out a significant lead. This was coupled with two outstanding drives from Vettel in the later races, coming from last position to finish third and sixth respectably.
This was aided by an upgrade from Adrian Newey (chief technical officer and winner of nine constructors championships): The double DRS system distributed the air down the inside of the endplate and out of the lower end of the rear wing, creating more down force and less drag. No doubt every team has applied this to every car this season. We saw a similar situation with Brawn GP’s double diffuser in 2009. Red Bull boss Christian Horner has said they deliberately waited until the back end of the season to keep the ratings up and if true, they definitely aren’t lacking confidence.
Ferrari on the other hand are extremely eager to hit the track for the new season. Consistent practicing in pre season has seen improvements to handling and acceleration. The underwhelming start last season meant Fernando Alonso narrowly missed out on the championship.
But Alonso has been quoted as saying Ferrari are '200 times better' than twelve months previously. Felipe Massa has also confirmed the strength of Ferrari’s new car, and is still under contract until the end of this season. Current figures however suggest Ferrari are not the quickest on the grid, but Alonso says the potential for the car is there.
One team I am personally looking forward to seeing this season is Lotus. After Renault pulled out of the sport last year Lotus was quick to hire the engineers from the defunct team. In a move coupled with the return of 2007 world champion Kimi Raikkonen, Lotus were the first to unveil their new car in late January. Unfortunately, little is known about practice figures.
Hopefully Kimi can keep up his form this season, managing to achieve more points in his first race last year than Lotus did in the entire 2011 season. He finished a surprising third overall – ahead of Red Bull's Marc Webber and both McLaren drivers. Roman Grosjean will also return for Lotus after a less than stellar 2012 season.
Lower down the grid sees numerous driver changes for Sauber, Williams and Marussia:
Sauber’s reserve driver Esteban Gutierrez has been selected as their number two driver for the season. He won the BMW European championship at the ripe old age of 17, making him the youngest Mexican driver to win an international race competition. He joins Nico Hulkenberg after being transferred from Force India – giving Sauber an all-new driver line up. Kobayashi failed to accumulate enough sponsorship for Sauber and he will be racing elsewhere this year and intends to return for 2014.
Williams F1 hold onto Maldonado after a chaotic 2012. Ayrton Senna's nephew Bruno Senna has unfortunately been dropped for reserve Valterri Bottas, who helped with practice sessions in 2012, giving him a good knowledge of this year’s track line-up. Marussia F1 has chosen Max Chilton for the new season with this being his first time behind the wheel of an F1 car.
There’s been plenty of news and reports regarding concerns and how teams will fare in the new season. The championship looks set to be as wide open as it was last year. If 2013 is anything like last years opening legs then there should be plenty to look forward to over the coming months.