The 2013 F1 season starts just hours away with the Australian GP. Before the race starts (and before the resumption of the interrupted qualifying session), here are a few thoughts about the upcoming season.
As well as reading this, do listen to the Sidepodcast Season Preview Megamix. I joined several other listeners in submitting voicemails/recordings with predictions for the season ahead!
The new tech regs come in next season and that means 2013′s cars are much like 2012′s cars. Therefore I don’t see a big change in performance compared to last year. There might be a team that assigned more of a priority to this season than another team. Obviously there will be differences as there are from year to year anyway, it isn’t like they are carrying over the same car (in most cases) so there is scope for a bit of a shuffling.
I think the Championship will ultimately settle down to another contest between Vettel and Alonso. The Ferrari seems better sorted so far this year than it was a year ago. Alonso is my tip for the Championship.
Among the teams, I am convinced Red Bull will again win the Constructor’s title, Seb will undoubtedly score bundles of points but the difference will come from the other seat. Webber vs Perez vs Massa should result in Webber winning that little battle but it obviously depends on what mood they are in (especially Massa) and the performance of the cars.
I thought Button should be up there but after his complaints from Friday practice that may not turn out to be the case. Perhaps they are just ‘managing expectations’. In any event, even if they are back a bit, McLaren are the best team at developing from a poor situation and by the midseason they should be scoring podium finishes and wins – unfortunately for them this seems to now be a recurring theme, certainly over the last few years.
The burning questions are whether Mercedes, Lotus, Sauber or Force India will take a step forward or are they regrouping for 2014? From the early running in Melbourne it looks like Mercedes have made a nice step, at least in wet conditions! Will they still be there in the dry? Perhaps. Fast but maybe a bit fragile. I reckon Hamilton will get a win or two, Rosberg may also bag one too. It’ll be more competitive than last year.
Sam Collins of Racecar Engineering is adamant the Lotus is a car to watch. I am not so sure, I’ve not seen it tearing up the racetracks so far but I’d like them to do well. I do think they’ll score at least one win and it’ll be Kimi that does it. The Sauber is also a very tidy car and last year’s could’ve won a race or two with more experienced or faster drivers – if they’ve produced another fast car could Nico H. be the man to take a win? I think he can.
I’m not sure we’ll see a big change from Force India. The car looks no different and what’s going on with the money? Will it dry up? They could be looking at next year.
The other interesting thing about the midfield is their choices about when to ditch 2013 and look forward. With completely new rules there is a great chance to move forward, so if you are underperforming this year you will reach a point when you feel it is better to abandon it, do what you can with this car and throw the kitchen sink at the next one.
Williams should stay ahead of Toro Rosso, but they’ll be vying with each other to stay out of the Q1 drop zone alongside the two slow teams. I’d like to wish Williams would improve but I don’t think it’ll be this year.
At The Back
Marussia and Caterham will again be at the back and it seems by just as big a margin as before, which is a surprise. Perhaps they are just treading water with another bad car while they put a concerted effort into the 2014 cars. That’s potentially what I would do in their position, but they have to be careful to make a car good enough to beat the 107% qualifying rule.
I like the look of Bianchi. He got screwed out of the Force India seat when Mr Sutil turned up with bags of money, something Jules didn’t really deserve. These teams have four seats and three of them are filled with rookies, which is a terrible idea. You always want one experienced driver to work with. Pic should use his year of experience to beat them but he’ll be up against Bianchi. The other two will be nowhere.
Much like last year we’ll see some fantastic races, some mediocre races, and some absolutely terrible ‘races’ where we wonder what the point is (hello Korea). With any luck some of the good ones will be in surprising places – last year nobody expected Valencia or Abu Dhabi to be worth watching but they turned out to be among the best of the season!
Last year wasn’t a classic season (as some F1 media seem to claim) but neither was it a terrible season (as others seem to claim, particularly among sportscar media). I think we’ll see much the same this year. A mixed year of good races and bad, fortunes changing as the year goes on. That’s fine. That’s perfectly normal and I don’t think anyone can be unhappy with that. If it develops into a genuine classic then so much the better!
I’m really looking forward to it.