Text: Alex Yoong / Photos: | posted March 14, 2013 14:57
Who will win the 2013 championship?
Well, the 2013 season is almost upon us and with all the pre-season testing, you would think that it would be possible to see who is going to be strong heading into this years Formula 1 season. But the truth is, it's been very hard to get any idea on who is strong as teams run on different fuel loads and have been quick at different times. What is for sure, is that this year should be as close as last year, maybe even closer.
There are a few certainties we can gather from the testing, heading into the first race in Melbourne this weekend. One, Ferrari is not in as bad a shape as this time last year. While one suspects they won't be on pole, they will certainly be up near the sharp end of the grid and capable of fighting for the podium. Alonso has said that they need to improve on their braking and traction. This unfortunately for them is what you need to go strong at Melboutne. Secondly, the midfield is still very close to the leading group comprising of RedBull, Ferrari, Mclaren and Mercedes. I'll also include Lotus in that group, because they have been consistently been quick in all conditions in testing. The only thing that worries me a bit is that Lotus have not recorded as much milage as the other top teams, which suggests some reliability worries going into the first round, although the team still remain confident that they will not have a problem. Compare that with Mercedes who have done the most milage in testing of all the teams (about a 1000km more than Lotus).
Another thing to note is that Its a little sad that Caterham and Marussia have not closed the gap to the midfield teams and looks like they will be in a race of their own ala last year. Without the company of HRT of course who sadly went into liquidation over the winter. They will be desperate to close the gap to the other teams if they are going to be taken seriously. It's now year 4 of their programs and they know they need to and are expected to be a lot closer. Lets see how their updates come along, once the season gets back to Europe to see if they can close the gap to the other teams for the year, or if its going to be another year of frustration for them.
Really, with the regulations hardly changing from last year, the best predictor has to be to look at how they finished last year. With Redbull on top, Ferrari and Mclaren close behind. I do think that Mercedes and Lotus have closed the gap though and it will be very close at the top. With grid positions being decided not just by hundreds of a second, but thousands. Mclaren have also been making some interesting statements, which suggest that all is not quite well with them. Despite some blistering pace shown on some days, there have been others where they have been no where. It seems the new pull rod suspension they are running is confusing them and leading to some setup issues in getting the car in the sweet spot. Not surprising, because Ferrari were also having some similar issues last year when they pioneered the pull rod system at the front. In fact the first team to do it since my Minardi in 2001.
As for Redbull, they will be up there I'm sure despite Vettel complaining of inconsistency with the tyres. This was an interesting statement to make, because going around the paddock last year, you kept hearing these problems about the tyres, but no one had complained about them publicly. This was because the Inconsistency made the racing exciting and a bit of a lottery. At the end of the year, you got the sense that the tyres were a bit more predictable but with slightly new specs for the rubber again this year, it means that there would have been a bit of a rush to make them, which can sometimes lead to variance between sets of tyres. I do not think the problem with consistency should be as bad once the racing starts but it will still be there a bit, and its got some of the teams worried as they try to factor this into their strategies. Don't be surprised to see a midfield team get the sweet spot better than their rivals and suddenly go very strong in Melbourne.
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