The 2013 F1 season fast approaches – and it hasn’t seemed that long since the dust settled on 2012. Here, forumula1.com’s Hugh Podmore assesses the teams and drivers entering this year’s championship, and predicts their final placings.
Can anything stop them from a fourth year of glory? More silverware certainly looks possible. There have been minimal rule changes for this season, so – unlike last year where Adrian Newey by his own admission had to basically rebuild the rear end of the car – that won’t be an obstacle. Christian Horner has already begun to psyche out his opponents, saying that the squad could turn up with the RB8 from 2012 and be competitive.
Will there be any internecine strife? Hard to see, with Vettel riding a tsunami of confidence and Mark Webber playing his final hand. The German’s fourth title looks perhaps a safer bet than any of his other three.
Prediction: Constructors’: 1st. WDC: 1st (Vettel), 3rd (Webber)
Any chance of the Italians building a super fast, reliable car this year? Not much. Alonso is already on record saying that whatever Maranello produces this year he will be happy with, considering that it has to be an improvement on 2012. Complex mind games they may be, but it is hard to imagine a red machine beating the blue and yellow one straight out of the box.
So Alonso will have to rely on attrition if he wants to win the championship? Yes, but not only his rivals’ failures. He is wily, cunning and consistent, and will be at the maximum of the car’s potential at all times. Despite a 2012 late season renaissance, Massa will probably leave the scorers in peace.
Prediction: Constructors’: 3rd. WDC: 2nd (Alonso), 9th (Massa)
Will McLaren challenge for the championship in 2013? Yes, they will, but probably fall short. Quite how much of a loss Lewis Hamilton will prove is an unknown, but they are less strong without him on balance. In this, their 50th year, it would be nice to see them atop the podium frequently.
How will the new driver pairing work out? Button will drive skilfully on occasion and anonymously sometimes; Perez will drive recklessly on occasion and dynamically sometimes. Neither seems to be a catalyst for consistent glory, but they probably won’t be on the same piece of tarmac much, which should do wonders for inter-team harmony.
Prediction: Constructors’: 2nd. WDC: 4th (Button), 7th (Perez)
Just developing the car this year, aren’t they? So they would have us believe. The car should be a regular challenger for podiums and even rainy or attritional wins. Of potentially more concern is the management structure – Niki Lauda, Ross Brawn, Nick Fry, Toto Wolff; all theoretically team principals. Too many cooks, perhaps?
But Lewis is focused on 2014, isn’t he? Maybe, but he will want to prove he still merits categorisation with Vettel and Alonso. He’ll hustle the car on track, and shade Rosberg, but politics could weigh heavy on his shoulders.
Prediction: Constructors’: 5th. WDC: 5th (Hamilton), 8th (Rosberg)
Is a real frontrunning breakthrough on the cards at Enstone? It’s possible, especially if James Allison and his team have thought of something the others have missed. It’s a looker, the E21. Sadly I think it’s more likely that 2012 was a flash in the pan as far as wins go, but with Raikkonen at the wheel hope springs eternal.
But they’ll continue to be the most â€˜bang for your buck’ driver pairing? You’d think so. Raikkonen is a legend in every sense of the word, and this could be the year Grosjean stops crashing and starts utilising his not inconsiderable talent and speed.
Prediction: Constructors’: 4th. WDC: 6th (Raikkonen), 10th (Grosjean)
More trooping around the midfield for this lot, or are there signs of life? Well, as long as Dr Vijay Mallya’s rumoured money problems don’t affect the team, there’s every chance they could up their game and challenge the big five. F1 needs teams like Force India and so let’s hope they do well.
Paul di Resta and…? We don’t know just yet, but there are a few hats in the ring. On speed alone, it should go to Jaime Alguersuari or Jules Bianchi, but in this era it’s common knowledge that there are other factors in play. Di Resta must outshine whoever it be, though, to keep his name on the top teams’ lips.
Prediction: Constructors’: 6th. WDC 10th (di Resta).
Any chance of a repeat win in 2013? Sadly not a whole lot. Last year’s machine from Grove was a half-decent madam who flounced rapidly on occasion. Consistency has not been their hallmark in recent years and another win seems a way off.
But their drivers are interesting, aren’t they? Yes. Maldonado will always entertain and will become more reliable a proposition in time. Bottas, the Finn, is very exciting from the word in the paddock, and although that doesn’t always translate to success in F1, this line-up is one of the more intriguing on the grid.
Prediction: Constructors’: 7th. WDC 12th (Maldonado), 11th (Bottas)
Another year like 2012 in the offing in Hinwil? Probably not. Despite the estimable Monisha Kaltenborn and the uncanny ability of this team to keep turning up like a bad penny, they’ve lost their best driver and chucked another extremely good one.
So you don’t think Hulkenberg and Gutierrez will do a job? Hulkenberg is competent in the extreme and will do well, but Gutierrez is untried at the top level and the chances of his being another Perez are small. Kobayashi’s absence is a loss for F1.
Prediction: Constructors’: 8th. WDC 13th (Hulkenberg), 16th (Gutierrez)
Scuderia Toro Rosso
What can be hoped for from the Faenza-based outfit this year? The addition of James Key to the technical department is a worthy one, although an outsider may find it difficult to comprehend how much input a technical wizard can have when so much of the intellectual property may be Red Bull’s.
But the drivers are very cool and speedy, aren’t they? Yes, grandad, they are – that them both. Vergne is a candidate for Webber’s seat if he passes this audition, so expect him to beat Ricciardo, even though that won’t be easy.
Prediction: Constructors’: 9th. WDC 14th (Vergne), 15th (Ricciardo)
Any chance of Caterham moving up the grid this year? Not much, and in their loss of Mike Gascoyne their big name has gone. In all honesty they’ll be tooling around at the back, but with a decent drive and some luck they can score points.
Why did Pic jump seats..and where has Kovalainen gone? Money talks, these days, my boy. But van der Garde has impressed in GP2, so we’ll see how he goes.
Prediction: Constructors’: 11th WDC 19th (Pic), 20th (van der Garde).
Any chance of their jumping up to compete with the Williamses and Saubers of this world? Little, I think. They markedly improved in 2012 to pip the Caterhams, but realistically 2013 looks like another development year for John Booth and the team. Plucky Brits at the back, they may be, but we applaud them.
This Chilton fellow is only in because of his money/connections, right? Well, possibly, but he’s no slouch, and comes from a racing family (brother Tom is in tin tops). It will be interesting to see if he can make any inroads.
Prediction: Constructors’: 10th. WDC 17th (Chilton), 18th (Bianchi)