With the 2013 Formula One season fast approaching, I felt it an appropriate time to evaluate what each team needs to accomplish across the upcoming 19, maybe 20, races. Here are my views regarding the first four teams.
Red Bull are a team which thrives on a combination of passion for the sport and a Mclaren-like level of precision and perfection in their operations. They have one of the best drivers in the world in their car, and another driver, who, on his day can run with the best of them.
Red Bull’s technical prowess staggers most teams up and down the grid. One can only marvel at the fact that in a time of economic uncertainty and technological advancement, this one team has managed to dominate since the latter half of the 2009 season. Even more mind-boggling is the fact that they have managed to maintain a decent working relationship between the two drivers.
Mark Webber has been with the team for quite some time now, building relationships with the people of Milton Keynes. One relationship which has turned rather sour is that of the one between Mark and Helmut Marko.
A man who has garnered the hatred of many in the F1 world, Helmut Marko recently said that he expects Webber to play a supporting role to Vettel in the upcoming season. While this may seem like old news to avid followers of the sport, it is also known that Mark still thinks he has what it takes to win the World Championship. Conflicting views, then.
If Red Bull can keep relationships under control, there is no reason why they shouldn’t run away with both championships in 2013.
With Lewis Hamilton taking the plunge into the Mercedes F1 team, Mclaren signed up Mexican Sergio Perez to fill his seat. Perez is highly regarded in the F1 community on the whole, but many question his ability to be consistent and fast every time he steps into the car. His qualifying performances over the course of the 2012 season justify these concerns. At Mclaren, Sergio won’t be able to rely on clever tire strategy to move him up the field during a race. He will be expected to fight for pole position at every race.
Jenson Button on the other hand, is a very reliable ,if not blindingly fast over one lap, driver who has proven that he can fight for the championship if the car allows him to. Struggling to find the right set up throughout the season will not be allowed in 2013 as, had Jenson not experienced so many handling difficulties last season, he might have been in the championship fight.
What Mclaren need to do is provide their drivers with a car that is not only easy to develop, but reliable and fast. If so, maybe Mclaren could be fighting up there with Red Bull, though I personally doubt it this year.
What can I say? It is fairly obvious what Ferrari need to do for the 2013 season: build a fast car. The F2012 was very reliable, but was never the fastest car on any weekend. While I feel that the car was perfectly fine in terms of pace by the end of the season and that too big of a deal was made over the subject, it is clear that Ferrari have issues to solve. Not since 2008 have Ferrari had a car that could consistently fight for wins. 2010 wasn’t a bad year for the team, but even then, the car was only third fastest.
Ferrari will not doubt be focussing on fixing their simulator and wind tunnel issues to ensure that whatever development parts the team wants to run on the car, they actually do what they suggest they will.
Felipe Massa is also an important topic of discussion. He is no doubt a great driver, but what we and Ferrari still don’t know is can if he back Fernando Alonso up in a championship fight. He did a commendable job in the latter third of last season, but the first two thirds didn’t even suggest that he deserved his seat in F1. Felipe’s performance in 2013 will be just as integral to Ferrari’s success or downfall in 2013 as Fernando’s.
What a fantastic year this team had in 2012! After the utter disappointment of 2011, Lotus were keen to prove to new hire, Kimi Raikkonen, that his choice to drive for the team was the right one.
They couldn’t have proved this point better. Fans of F1 knew all along that even if Lotus built a race winning car, they wouldn’t be in the championship fight at the end of the season. The fans were right. What I’m sure the fans didn’t expect, though, was for Kimi Raikkonen to be in the Drivers’ Championship fight until the third to last race, a race in which he won. Kimi’s remarkable comeback to the sport will be the type of performance the team and the fans will be expecting again in 2013.
Kimi’s teammate, however, has a lot to be worried about. Crashing out of 7 races (not all his fault) in 2012 was not the way the Romain Grosjean wanted to begin his first full season in F1. Labeled a “first lap nutcase” by Mark Webber, Romain needs to make sure that he is both cautious and quick in 2013. If he isn’t, I’m afraid that the F1 door will close early for the Frenchman.
In the next edition of “Team Expectations in 2013” I will be discussing Mercedes, Sauber, Force India, Williams and Torro Rosso.