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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…..so, 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=\"http://www.frontstretch.com/images/12502.jpg\" 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. *McLaren – Jenson Button/Sergio Perez* Make no mistake, the loss of Lewis Hamilton has seriously hurt McLaren’s driver line-up, but it will mean they have had the opportunity to sculpt the new car more to Jenson Button’s style, which in his previous years in the team they haven’t. The car itself is the bravest and riskiest development of the main runners. Blisteringly fast on the first day of testing, McLaren have lost their way a little bit in terms of understanding what in the car made it that quick. Once they get that back, expect race wins…..but how long will that take? Jenson Button, on his day and in the right machine, can give anyone a run for their money. However, unlike Hamilton he’s not about outright speed and you wonder how much he’ll get pushed by Perez in the sister car. He’ll realise, however, that as team leader this will be a big chance for him. Speaking of big chances, here’s the biggest one of Sergio Perez’s career. There’s been a strange sea-change in terms of the perception of Perez recently – people seem to think he ‘lucked-in’ with his podiums in the Sauber last year. Certainly his potential is yet to be fully understood, and rumours of an overweight driver in pre-season doesn’t sound a lot like a McLaren man….. Frontstretch Prediction – Button wins races, but comes up short in an unpredictable car. Perez flatters to deceive and is replaced by Bottas for 2014. *Mercedes – Nico Rosberg/Lewis Hamilton* It might be a stretch to say that they’ve been a revelation in pre-season testing, but the Silver Arrows have certainly been quicker than predicted. The arrival of Hamilton, the out-and-out quickest driver on the grid, will galvanise the team, but the top heavy management structure will cause internal strife. Lewis Hamilton took a huge risk in walking away from McLaren, but sometimes to become a man you need to break away from ‘parental’ control. It could actually work. The fact he’s just bought a private jet, painted it red, but says he wants to go about his work unnoticed, will tell Mercedes that they’ve employed a ‘complicated’ character…. We’ll finally find out just how fast Nico Rosberg really is this year. Yes, he beat a fading Schumacher fairly simply, but Hamilton is a different prospect entirely. Frontstretch Prediction – Hamilton to take pole in first race, and surprise with some early race wins. Mercedes fade in pace as the season progresses however. Ones to watch in 2014. *Lotus – Kimi Raikkonen/Romain Grosjean* The new “Red Bull†in the sense that they’ve tried to take the (rather painful) mantle of the fun team in the paddock. Perhaps if they threw that away and concentrated more on the matter at hand, then their potential could be better realized. Kimi Raikkonen’s return to the grid last year was massively impressive. His racecraft showed no sign of rustiness and his consistency was remarkable. Again a dark horse for the title. Romain Grosjean is quick, if he can tame his accident prone nature. The jury is still out as to whether he can. Frontstretch Prediction – a win or two for Kimi and another consistent season. Grosjean tempers his wildness but as a result loses some speed to follow Kimi home. *The Chasing Pack (in Frontstretch Prediction order!)* *Williams – Pastor Maldonado/Vateri Bottas* Another pleasant surprise in testing, the new Williams could be nudging the top four once again. They’ve also replaced the average Bruno Senna with the exciting new Finnish rookie, Bottas. *Sauber – Esteban Gutierrez/Nico Hulkenburg* The small team it’s easy to like, Hulkenburg is an excellent driver and just seems to be waiting for Massa’s Ferrari seat to be vacated. Gutierrez impressed to an extent in the GP2 series, but his Mexican sponsorship package likely impressed the Swiss team more. *Force India – Paul Di Resta/Adrian Sutil* Two drivers with something to prove – Di Resta needs to show he’s worth consideration from a big team (in the car that is – out of the car he’s still eye wateringly boring to listen to) and Sutil needs to prove he deserves to be back in the sport. Just don’t argue with him if there’s bottles on the table…. *Toro Rosso – Jean-Eric Vergne/Daniel Ricciardo* A tough team to really understand – unlikely to threaten much and hard to see if either driver really has what it takes to make the step up to the Red Bull senior team. Expect another season of mediocrity. *Caterham – Charles Pic/Guido Van Der Garde* Rather than looking forward as Tony Fernandes’ team would have hoped, it’s more likely the perennial backmarkers will be looking over their shoulder at Marussia. A real mistake to let Kovalainen go. *Marussia – Jules Bianchi/Max Chilton* Should be closer to Caterham, and may in fact beat them this year. However, don’t expect either to be worrying the rest of the grid, other than when they’re getting lapped. So that’s it – feel free to come and laugh at my predictions from Monday morning, but either way, I look forward to spending the season with you! *Connect with Andy!* <a href=\"http://www.twitter.com/74Promotions\"><img src=\"http://www.frontstretch.com/images/6502.jpg\"></a><br> \"Contact Andy Hollis\":http://www.frontstretch.com/contact/37997/ Read More »

Formula 1 Friday: The Prof

Formula 1 Friday: The Prof

_“There’s only one real hero in the F1 paddock. Sid Watkins”_ – Mika Hakkinen As we touched on briefly a fortnight ago, motor sport on both sides of the ocean lost one of it’s true legends recently. A man to whom our sport will forever be in debt – Professor Eric Sidney Watkins. His huge personality and irreverent sense of humour will be missed around the world, but his legacy will live on, not only within motor sport, but within the medical world as a whole. Read More »

Formula 1 Friday: The Madness of King Lewis/Tribute to a Legend

Formula 1 Friday: The Madness of King Lewis/Tribute to a Legend

I’ve been thinking all week about the content of this Friday’s column, and my continuing frustration at a certain Lewis Hamilton (despite his magnificent win last Sunday at Monza, the home of Ferrari) when something far more important happened in the motor sports world and we lost someone who I would consider a legend. So putting the rather misguided behavior of a frustrating talent aside (but we’ll get back to that), excuse me if I take a moment to celebrate the incredible work of Professor Sid Watkins, who so sadly passed away on Wednesday. Read More »

Formula 1 Friday: Back on Track … Finally

Formula 1 Friday: Back on Track … Finally

*Praise be…..F1 is back!* After what has seemed a quite interminably long break which has been filled with lots of running, jumping, throwing and a fair haul of gold, it gives me enormous pleasure to tell you that once again this weekend the Formula One circus rises again from its mid-season slumber at my personal favourite track, Beligium’s fearsome Spa Francorchamps. The first half of the season has been thrilling so far and there’s no reason to suspect that the second half won’t be equally as unpredictable. Read More »

Formula 1 Friday: The Brits – Part 2

Formula 1 Friday: The Brits – Part 2

There’s nothing more infuriating for an F1 fanatic then the seemingly interminable mid-season break. It somehow feels longer and more dragged out even than the off-season. At least then you have a year of racing behind you, and sometimes you’re glad of the break, ready to come back afresh in March…this though…oh this is tiresome. Roll on the end of August and my favourite race, Spa Francorchamps. In the interim you may have noticed that we here in Great Britain have been hosting another rather significant major sporting event, and rather well too, if I may be so bold. I say “may have noticed” as all reports from this side of the pond indicate NBC didn’t do a terribly good job of showing it to you guys, but take my word for it, the whole event was spectacular, uplifting and joyous – so we’re clinging on to that proud to be British feeling right now – which leads me beautifully on to part 2 of the 10 British World Champs... Read More »

Formula 1 Friday: Mid-Season Grades

Formula 1 Friday: Mid-Season Grades

Yes, I know that I promised to write the second installment of the “Great Brits” this week, but with it being the school holidays and the “mid-season break” in F1, I thought it would make more sense to write up a half term report for the teams / drivers thus far. So in true British boarding-school style (and apologies for likely squeezing the last drop out of the metaphor) I present you with the good, the bad and the…..well……rather indifferent... Read More »

Formula 1 Friday: Celebrating Britishness!

Formula 1 Friday: Celebrating Britishness!

It was just the other day I was talking to a friend about the negativity surrounding our forthcoming Olympic Games in London and we fell to conversation about how we Brits are so categorically miserable when it comes to celebrating our nation. One of the things I greatly admire about you American ladies and gents is your unashamed joy in the positive things about your country. We could learn a lesson or two when it comes to melting away some of that British cynicism._ _So, with you having celebrated Independence Day recently, I thought I’d celebrate one thing we’re really rather good at – Formula One World Champions. In fact, so overcome with patriotism that, barring significant incident at this weekend's German Grand Prix, I’ll be splitting this column across the next two Friday’s to make sure it’s being given the requisite attention by me. Currently Britain has produced 10 Driver’s Championship winners – with Brazil and Finland trailing far behind in second place with three each. So please excuse an unlikely bout of patriotic fervor as I unfurl the bunting and present you with the 10 Brits who have done us proud in the sport by carrying home the ultimate trophy..._ Read More »

Formula 1 Friday: The Shadow of Danger Looms Large Once Again…

Formula 1 Friday: The Shadow of Danger Looms Large Once Again…

There are no finer exponents of finding that critical performance edge across the sport’s history than the McLaren team, but this season the line between finding the extra few tenths of a second and embarrassing failure has also been most awkwardly exposed in their pit stops. With much talk of how Ferrari have seemingly developed a wheel gun that takes one less turn to attach a wheel, allowing them an advantage, it was to McLaren’s great delight that they managed to turn around a four wheel change in the quickest time recorded at Valencia – the car was stationary for 2.6 seconds. Flushed with success, Hamilton’s subsequent stop showed the flip side of the coin as the new swivel jack failed, dropping him from 3rd position to 6th. Such are the fine margins between success and failure in this sport – and such are the very things that keep this sport the domain of the brave. Read More »

Formula 1 Friday: Tracks of My Years

Formula 1 Friday: Tracks of My Years

After an enthralling Canadian Grand Prix on a track in Montreal that always serves up thrills and spills, we flip the coin and travel with the circus to what’s commonly referred to in these parts as a “Mickey Mouse” track in Valencia. Much as the Spanish Tourist Board might like to push the venue as their version of Monaco, the fact of the matter is the track is…well…boring. So it got me to thinking, what and where are the best tracks that F1 visits and has visited in the past. Here’s my top ten in NO PARTICULAR ORDER!… Read More »