As the 2013 Formula One Season kicks off this weekend in Melbourne, the four month racing drought ends and we find out who’s new cars are fastest. The teams have spent the Winter developing their new cars, using last year’s experience and a lot of competitor analysis to try to develop a race (and championship) winning car.
Serious F1 fans will have watched the pre-season tests in Jerez and Barcelona in the hope that their favourite driver and team have come up with a fast, grippy, well-balanced car. The trouble is that until the drivers head out for qualifying on Saturday, we really don’t know which cars will feature at the top of the time sheets.
The official winter tests provide motorsport journalists with a few headlines – such as Lewis Hamilton recording the overall fastest laptime in the Mercedes – but no-one knows what fuel load or settings the cars were running or what developments the teams have come up with since. Some teams are suspected to be sandbagging and hiding their true performance before the season whilst others may be running very light fuel loads to try to impress potential sponsors with their pace.
The rules governing the cars this year are hardly changed since last year and 2013 is the final year of a fairly lengthy period of rule stability in F1 terms. Next year we see new engines and new rules regarding energy harvesting and conservation but this year the designers are able to use everything they have tried before and anything they have admired on their competitors’ 2012 cars.
British F1 fans will be very keen to see how Lewis Hamilton fares with his new team and how competitive the Mercedes car is after Hamilton’s successes with McLaren and Schumacher’s lack of success with Mercedes. Hamilton is known to be very quick, his qualifying results were always outstanding even when the car wasn’t the quickest in the race.
Similarly McLaren fans will be keen to see how Perez fits in to the McLaren. He was very quick in the improving Sauber last year but will the McLaren suit him. His team are already playing down their own hopes for the opening race. Martin Whitmarsh has been quoted as saying that scoring points will be seen as a good result – ie top 10 finishes for Button and/or Perez.
The new Ferrari looks good too. Alonso looked both quick AND happy at the tests in Spain. Considering the poor performance of the Ferrari at the start of last year and his outstanding results over the first half of the season, he must be considered a favourite for the championship.
Meanwhile in Milton Keynes, Red Bull Racing have won pretty much everything for the last couple of years, but they didn’t look that competitive or settled pre-season – but maybe they are the best at playing down expectations. Last year they frequently failed to qualify well but their race pace was usually the best on the Sunday.
Qualifying is on Saturday and the Race on Sunday, with coverage starting just before 6am. I am aiming to watch the race and then dash down to Daytona Sandown Park to run Round 2 of the Vodafone Dmax Championship – and we will need to avoid talking about the F1 results in case some of our championship drivers have recorded the race to watch later!