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Andy Hollis

Formula 1 Friday: 2013 Season Preview

Roll up, roll up, the circus is back in town this weekend and with an array of talent and delight that may even trump last season's twists and turns. 2013 could be the most unpredictable and exciting season ever…, it falls to me to try and untangle a few of the finer details in this, your Frontstretch F1 Season Preview. Feel free to point and laugh as precisely none of these predictions come to pass…. *Rules and Regs* Technically for 2013 it’s pretty much ‘more of the same’, so expect the main titles (driver and constructor) to be fought out between the big players – McLaren, Red Bull, Ferrari and, to a lesser extent, Mercedes and Lotus. What’s interesting though is how much development effort will be afforded to this year's cars through the season. Whereas in years past, teams challenging for the title would change, add, remove and tweak for as long as they could afford to do so, before concentrating on the car for the following year (usually when they realized that the championships were gone), this time round the BIG challenge for all the competitors is developing the new turbo V6 formula for 2014. As a result, the cars are evolutions of the 2012 cars rather than revolutions. But how long will teams risk tweaking before the attention shifts to 2014? That factor could shape the destiny of both this and next year's titles….. *Tires* One thing that will have changed a little this season is the Pirelli tires. The French company have been asked to firstly increase the performance gap between the compounds of its new range of tires (remember, a team needs to use both types of dry compound brought to a race). Hence the softer tire is expected to be worth around half a second over the harder tire. But, of course, the amount of sets a team can use over a weekend is limited. There’s also talk of 4 to 5 pit stops per race as the new tires degrade at a greater rate this season. So, in essence, we have a situation where ‘lesser’ teams might rattle through a few new tires in order to achieve a good grid slot on the Saturday, leaving some of the faster cars, on fresher race tires, mid-grid. What does that equal for Sunday? That’s right, good racing. <div style=\"float:right; width:250px; margin: 20px; border: black solid 1px; padding: 3px;\"><img src=\"\" width=\"250\" height=\"283\"/><p style=\"margin: 3px; text-align: left; font-weight:bold;\">Lewis Hamilton moves to the Mercedes this season and already has the car looking surprisingly fast.</p></div> *Form Guide* The vagaries of pre-season testing have always been a pitfall for those of us who like to speculate. Or indeed those of us tasked with writing season previews. What though have we learnt from the two main tests at Jerez and Barcelona? Well, other than that it’s not always sunny in Spain, as has been mentioned, we can expect a more competitive Ferrari from day one, a quick (as ever) Red Bull and a McLaren with masses of potential (the McLaren is without doubt the most experimental car this year), but that hasn’t been unlocked from the car as yet. Interestingly though, the Mercedes, particularly in the hands of Lewis Hamilton is looking stunningly quick in qualifying trim (here’s betting tip number one – a couple of your American dollars on Lewis for pole in Australia) and the Lotus once again looks a strong contender. *Runners And Riders* *The Big Four -* *Red Bull – Sebastian Vettel/Mark Webber* The one time ‘fun team’ of the paddock has started to take itself seriously and as a result has won three championships in a row. They start again as favourites for that very reason and with the design genius that is Adrian Newey behind them, you’d be slightly deranged to put a big bet against them. Vettel may not be the most complete, or the fastest driver on the grid, but he’s probably number 2 in both those categories, and given the quickest car, that should be enough to take him to a fourth consecutive world title…..this year though, I don’t think it will. Mark Webber has recently come in from some fairly stern in-team criticism by Helmut Marko, RBR’s motorsport chief. However he retains the support of boss Deiter Mateschitz and if there’s anyone that can turn criticism into determination, it’s the feisty Aussie. Frontstetch Prediction – Another constructors title, but Vettel beaten into second by a generously-eyebrowed Spaniard. *Ferrari – Fernando Alonso/Felipe Massa* Ferrari started the 2012 season with an absolute dog of a car which, in all honesty, although they improved, it never really got that close in pure pace to the Red Bull, or even the McLaren/Lotus. However, the metronomically brilliant Fernando Alonso still got within an ace and a seemingly indestructible exhaust away from winning the title. Testing and the noises from the team this year would suggest that this year’s contender is starting from a far, far better place. Basic math would then suggest that Alonso should walk away with the silverware, and I’d tend to agree with that theory…. Alonso is much the most complete driver on the grid and has a Schumacher (Mk 1) like way of grinding out the very best performance possible race after race. He deserves more than his two titles, and very few would begrudge him a third in 2013. Felipe Massa upped his game last year just in time to secure his position in the team for 2013. He may sneak a race win, but don’t expect him to trouble Alonso too much, and don’t expect him in the team in 2014. Frontstretch Prediction – Alonso is driver champion. Ferrari second in constructors. ... Read More »