The final installment of the official preview is here and with only a few days to go before the first race of the season, it´s about time too!
I do apologize for the lack of a preview, but work has been mental the last few weeks. I will try to find the time to get you some good updates here and there, throughout the season, so we´ll see what will happen.
In the second preview article, I predicted that Mercedes, Lotus, Sauber and Force India to stay pretty much where they ended 2012, with only minor changes. The reason behind this logic, is that the teams is not bringing anything revolutionary to the table this year, because next year will be a completely new set of rules, with the new V6 turbo engines and what not. Therefor, as we saw in 2012, a discreet evolution of the cars with the usual updates along the season, is what can be expected.
Still, that said, it´s time to see if the last four teams on the grid will move up or down. Remember that places 1-7 have already been occupied, so for now it´s a matter of finding out who will be the best of the rest.
I am still struggling to find a solid argument for having the team on the grid. Sure they are a developing team, grooming young drivers, but the drivers isn´t promoted to Red Bull, which was the entire reason to establish Toro Rosso in the first place. Only man to get the nod, was Sebastian Vettel, and though he has done ok, irony might occur, the talent is either lacking or Red Bull is not interested in the team after all. There is this “let´s just see what happens with it” attitude about Toro Rosso from time to time, and then suddenly one of their drivers does something extraordinary and we fall right back in love again.
So how will they do?
Toro Rosso is not really moving anywhere. The results are clear: From the formation in 2006 when Minardi was bought, up until today, their best season was 2008, when Vettel won the Italian GP in soaking wet conditions, a staggering result for the team who was used to fill up the slots from the mid-field and down. Since then, not much have happened in terms of development, or should I say grooming. Not a single driver has been marked for greatness, except Vettel of course, and no driver has been performing so well, that other teams have had good use of his experience. No, Liuzzi doesn´t count, since he couldn´t do much at Force India. And ending his career at HRT, was….well, nuff said.
Toro Rosso might improve a bit. The team has secured the continued services of Jean-Eric Vergne and Daniel Ricciardo and these drivers should be able to move the team forward a bit, being second seasoners and all. But other than the pure talent of the drivers, I don´t think Toro Rosso will be anything else but mediocre this season.
I think a move from 9th last year to 8th might be realistic. I will expect fewer non-scoring finishes and fewer retirements, and paired with two drivers who began their duties last season, they could throw up a few, minor surprises.
The Williams team is the last true private team left on the grid and I have always had a soft spot for them. They have had some pretty serious ups and downs in the last 10 years or so, from finishing 3rd in 2001, then 2nd in 2002 and 2003, to suddenly see their performance curve slide down and down, to 4th, then 5th, 8th, then back to 4th. Then a series of seasons with disappointing results, where they resorted to their old ways, by way of never having a team of drivers, and dropped drivers by a whim. I know, I know, it´s not really that nice to Heidfeld, or Rosberg, or even Barrichello for that matter. Sure, Wurz´s3rd place in Canada was a great boost for the team, but it took a year almost to replicate that, when Rosberg scored 3rd in Melbourne. And then, not a single podium for 76 straight races. Then Maldonado won in Spain last year, and many believed that Williams are back. So are they?
So how will they do?
Yes, how will they do indeed. And are they back? Yes and no. Williams have ditched Bruno Senna in favour of test driver Valtteri Bottas. And yes, he is Finnish. There is an old saying in F1: If you want to win, get the Finn. So the season starts with Maldonado as a team captain, and hopefully with a more relaxed approach to climbing through the ranks, instead of his sometimes accidental/lucky ways he can escape by the hair on his teeth. He is close to becoming a good driver, but still to many mistakes. Bottas is a good driver, in tests that is, but I think we could be in for some good performances.
A new driver, again, for Williams and I honestly don´t think Maldonado can cut the mustard. I just don´t think he has the talent or even the stature to be able to help the team forward. I think he is driving for himself and then the team be damned. Bottas is the new guy, so he will try his hardest. Despite some good performances, I fear Williams will drop to 10th in the standings.
The Team Formerly Known As…Oh give me a fecking break here. No one understands why Tony Fernandes went all the way to cling on to the Lotus name, only to then be perfectly happy to drop it, having Renault now driving under the name. His team is now known as Caterham and the results? Not impressive. Ok, so yes a new team will need time to form their identity, their way of dealing with difficult situations. I get that. But They got rid of Heikki Kovalainen, a true talented driver, who actually made a very good impression last year. Especially when he 1) made it into Q2 in Bahrain, 2) achieved 13th in Monaco, best in the season, 3) again making it into Q2 in Valencia and weas absolutely instrumental in helping the team to secure 10th in the standings. For this season, they have hired Charles Pic from Marussia for “multiple seasons” and Giedo van der Garde, who has been promoted from test driver. He has never raced a F1 car. Never. Besides 2012, his last appearance in F1, was when he was test driver for Force India in 2008.
So how will they do?
This is a team we have a hard time figuring out. Every time it seems they are on track, they do something unexplainable. And when it looks like an uphill battle, they pull through. I am hard pressed to find anything positive about them in 2013, but I do think that getting fresh blood in, especially after Vitaly Petrov turned out to be so-so, might be a good idea.
I am going out on a limb here. I think that Caterham could be the surprise of the year, taking some good points from Toro Rosso and Williams. 9th for Caterham.
Now that HRT is no longer with us – serious have you ever seen anyone being sorry about that fact, besides the people directly involved in the team? – Marussia now bears the heavy burden of being the last and slowest team on the grid. There is no way they can evolve so much in just one season, this one, to jump several places forward, since development is almost non-existent.
The team has had a large switch in drivers for the 2013 season. Timo Glock was originally under a three-year contract, making 2013 his second season, but he left the team “for financial reasons”. It is unclear what this means, but some say he left because his salary was high, in order to let the team develop. Aww…so sweet. Others of course, believe that the team wasn´t impressed and kicked him.
Luiz Razia was actually meant to race for the team this year, but a conflict with the sponsor package meant he was not able to secure the necessary funds and the contract was terminated. Instead the team will use Jules Bianchi and Max Chilton as their drivers.
So how will they do?
Pretty good, actually. I know, since all the other positions are taken, they will inevitable end 2013 in last place, but they will end the year on a high. Why? Because Jules Bianchi is the 2007 French Formula Renault 2.0 champion, the 2008 Formula 3 Euro Series champion, the 3rd place finisher in the 2010 GP2 series, as well as the runner-up in the GP 2 Asia series. He is the 2012 Formula Renault 3.5 series runner-up and oh…in 2011 he was test driver for Ferrari, on loan to Force India for 2012 and was considered as Felipe Massa´s replacement during the Brazilian´s absense.
Max Chilton is the son of Grahame Chilton, the proprietor of Carlin Motorsport, and comes from a family of racing enthusiasts. Brother Tom Chilton is a seasoned BTCC driver, with 10 seasons under his belt and something has to rub off, right?
As mentioned I think Marussia will finish dead last, but not without giving us some good moments. I do believe that if things work out, Bianchi might be able to prove that he is the next big thing, well Ferrari like to think so, and though Chilton is a rather blank page, he could throw in some surprises.
That´s it. The preview is done and I hope you have enjoyed reading it. And remember that nothing is chiseled in stone until the last race, but what a season we have waiting for us!