Previewing the 2013 F1 Season
The first F1 race of the 2013 season is just over a month away, and new info and pictures from the teams are slowly leaking out as the March 17 Australian Grand Prix approaches. Here’s what we know about the teams, drivers, and cars so far:
Vodafone McLaren Mercedes. Drivers: Jensen Button and Sergio Perez. Car: MP4-28. Former Sauber driver Perez replaces Lewis Hamilton, who moves to Mercedes after racing at McLaren for his entire F1 career; this is Perez’s first time racing for a top-tier Formula 1 team. Despite a fuel pump failure, Button set the fastest lap time on the first day of F1 testing earlier last week at the Circuito de Jerez in Spain and seventh on Thursday. Perez placed seventh on Wednesday and Friday.
Infiniti Red Bull. Drivers: Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber. Car: RB9. The 1-2 punch of Vettel and Webber returns this year under the Red Bull banner. Vettel narrowly beat Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso as the 2012 champion, although Red Bull handily placed first in the constructors’ championship. Both drivers placed no less than fourth across all days of practice in Spain last week.
From the Red Bull Twitter account
Mercedes AMG. Drivers: Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg. Car: W04. The big news in the 2013 preseason was Lewis Hamilton’s switch from McLaren to Mercedes; he replaces repeat retiree Michael Schumacher. Day one of testing was tough for Hamilton, who crashed after 15 laps due to failure in the rear brakes. Teammate Rosberg also suffered from technical difficulties on the first day, as an electrical problem forced him off the track early. Rosberg fared far better on the third day of testing, when he set the second-highest lap time of the day. On both days of Hamilton’s practice laps, he finished in the middle of the pack at sixth place.
Scuderia Ferrari. Drivers: Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa. Car: F138. Like Red Bull, Ferrari continues this season with the same duo from last year: Alonso and Massa, two of the best drivers in F1. Aslonso lost the drivers’ championship to Red Bull’s Vettel by only three points, and Massa set the record time during last week’s F1 practice in Spain. This was all despite the fact that reserve driver Pedro de la Rosa’s F138 was engulfed in flames on the final day of testing.
Lotus. Drivers: Kimi Räikkönen and Romain Grosjean. Car: E21. Last year, Räikkönen took third in the drivers’ championship with Grosjean taking eighth; it was good enough for Lotus to take fourth in the constructors’. Both team members are stellar drivers, providing that Grosjean doesn’t wreck the car during the race. Throughout practice laps last week, both Räikkönen and Grosjean finished in the top third on all four days. Lotus, along with Caterham, retains the hideous stepped nose look of last year’s car. Lotus believes the extra cover adds unnecessary weight. We’ll see if the strategy pays off as the season progresses.
Williams. Drivers: Pastor Maldonado and Valtteri Bottas. Car: FW35. Maldonado returns to Williams for a third season, while former Williams test driver Bottas replaces Bruno Senna. The car will again be powered by Renault, and hopefully no fires break out in the garage again and damage the cars. Maldonado can be a good driver, providing he doesn’t spend the race crashing into other cars as he is wont to do. Both Maldonado and Bottas finished near the bottom of the standings in the practice sessions last week.
Scuderia Torro Rosso. Drivers: Jean-Éric Vergne and Daniel Ricciardo. Car: STR8. Torro Rosso is basically the seed team for big brother Red Bull, who uses a Renault engine compared to TR’s Ferrari. Both Vergne and Ricciardo return from a tepid 2012 season that saw both drivers in the bottom third of the standings. Practice laps from Spain peg both drivers in the top 5 on all days, so this could be the year Red Bull has two teams in the top half of constructors’.
From the Torro Rosso Twitter account
Force India. Drivers: Paul di Resta and TBA (Testers Jules Bianchi and James Rossiter have been practicing with di Resta). Car: VJM06. A replacement for Nico Hülkenberg (now racing for Sauber) has not yet been named, with only 5 weeks left before the inaugural 2013 GP. Bianchi and former Force India racer Adrian Sutil are rumored to be the front runners. Di Resta finished 4th in the first day of testing in Jerez.
Sauber. Drivers: Nico Hülkenberg and Esteban Gutiérrez. Car: C32. The Swiss team has consistently run in the middle to back of the pack for years, and starts with a fresh batch of racers this season. Test driver Gutiérrez replaces Kamui Kobayashi, while the vacancy left by Sergio Perez when he left for McLaren has been filled by ex-Force India driver Hülkenberg. Sauber’s F1 car is again powered by a Ferrari engine.
Caterham. Drivers: Charles Pic and Giedo van der Garde. Car: CT03. Caterham is one of two teams to retain the much-maligned stepped nose look from last year’s F1 cars, something that the rest of the teams have changed for aesthetic preferences. It is unclear whether this was a conscious decision or if Caterham wasn’t mailed a new rulebook. The CT03 is designed by Mark Smith, who in the past has been the technical director for Red Bull as well as Force India. 2012’s reserve driver van der Garde moves up to the big leagues, joined by Charles Pic, who raced for Marussia last year. Pic is the lowest ranked driver in 2012 returning for the 2013 season. During practice this week, Pic and van der Garde placed in the bottom three all four days.
Marussia. Drivers: Luiz Razia and Max Chilton. Car: MR02. Somebody has to be in last, and that somebody is usually Marussia or Caterham. Chilton graduates from Marussia reserve driver to racer, and Razia moves from the GP2 class to F1 for the first time as a full-fledged team member. Both members of Marussia stayed in the bottom of the standings during the first practice session of the season in Jerez. Marussia raced without the KERS system last year, which severely hurt its chances of staying remotely competitive; a two year-old system was purchased from Williams for the 2013 season.
From the Marussia F1 Twitter account
This year, almost all F1 teams have eschewed the “step”” nose from last year that made the front end look so awkward and ungainly. Differences between the 2012 and 2013 are modest, as the 2014 season will see the most changes on the grid, when regulations will force the teams to move away from 2.4L V8s to 1.6L turbocharged V6s. As usual, look for Red Bull, Ferrari, and McLaren to dominate, although Lotus may end up giving the big three a run for their money this year; Räikkönen is consistently strong and was the only driver to not DNF in a race last year, and Grosjean is great when he isn’t crashing.