It is fair to say that 2012 was a thrilling season in Formula One; but what awaits us in the next eleven months can make 2013 event more exciting.
2014 Rule Changes
Ironically, the changes in regulations for the following season will have an impact on how the teams prepare for and participate in races this year. The requirement for a new 1.6 litre turbocharged V6 engine, substituting the current 2.4 litre V8 one, will be the teams’ main investment which will put a huge strain on their budgets; so much so that some of the smaller teams – the likes of Marussia and HRT – might not be able to finance the change and will subsequently exit the Championship altogether.
Keeping one eye on 2014, the teams will think twice about any new designs and modifications to the cars for 2013 – the resulting struggles in their pursuit for victory will only add spice to this season.
Pirelli Strike Again
The soft compounds proved to be a challenge for the teams at the start of last year, and were blamed for the unpredictability of the season resulting from seven different winners from the first seven Grands Prix.
As for 2013, Pirelli have developed a compound that is even softer. The company, having recognised teams’ last year’s struggles, believes the added challenge will make the next season more engaging for the fans.
“What we would like to do in 2013 is to come back to be a little bit more aggressive in our compound choice in order to introduce more pitstops and strategy for the teams,” Pirelli chief technical officer Maurizio Boicchi told Autosport.
The softer compound is expected to provide higher speeds on the track – and therefore more excitement. The teams have already tested the tyres during practice in Brazil; but it will surely take them some time still to get the hang of the new rubber. It will be interesting to see how long…
Following weeks of speculations, Lewis Hamilton confirmed later last year his move to Mercedes. The announcement came before the Silver Arrows’ star, Michael Schumacher, decided whether he would be extending his contract with the team. Team principal Ross Brawn repeatedly claimed that the seat belonged to the seven time World Champion unless he decided to retire; however, after Hamilton’s announcement, Schuey could only have hoped for a drive for another team, as his team-mate Nico Rosberg’s contract runs throughout 2013, in which case the most titled driver in Formula One history terminated his career in Sao Paulo 2012.
Of course, that was not the only repercussion of Hamilon’s move. The Brit is now leaving McLaren, his childhood dream-team, with which he spent nearly 14 years training and winning Grands Prix. McLaren team principal, Martin Whitmarsh, after expressing his gratitude to Lewis and grief to see him go, afterward said the 2008 Champion would already be regretting his decision.
Things were not going so well for McLaren in 2012, with several technical issues and pit-stop disasters, which might have swayed Hamilton’s decision to finally cut family ties. However, it is difficult to point out other reasons that would tempt the Brit to make the move. Despite a rocky season, McLaren were in the Constructor’s title fight until the end and more often than not had the fastest car on the circuit; on the other hand, Mercedes’ only major achievement last year was Rosberg’s win in China – the first Mercedes marque win since Juan Manuel Fangio’s in 1955.
Will Hamilton be the team’s golden ticket into the higher level of competition? It will surely be interesting to watch what the Brit can do in a Silver Arrow.
This transfer would have meant a vacant McLaren seat – if the news did not actually come after McLaren announced Sauber’s Sergio Perez signing as their second driver alongside Jenson Button. The relationship between the two Brits had been tense by the end of it, often sparked by Hamilton’s Twitter outbursts, including posting a photo of the team’s telemetry details or unjustly accusing his team-mate of “unfollowing him” on the social microsite. Nevertheless, Button believed Lewis’ place belonged to McLaren, and no wonder – the team had more chances of success with two Champions in the ranks, than just one – plus an inconsistent rookie. Jenson said he would not play the part of an “older brother” to the young Mexican in the team, but it looks like it is inevitable to some extent. McLaren will have to work even harder – both on their car, pit-stops and race strategies – to stay in contention for the title.
To the delight of the young Frenchman and woes of some veteran drivers, Romain Grosjean kept his Lotus seat for 2013. The rookie was a cause of a few major accidents last year, most notably the four-car pile up on first lap of the Belgian Grand Prix, after which he was handed a one-race ban – first such penalty since Schumacher’s in 1994. However, he has also contributed significantly to Lotus’ fourth place in the Constructors’ Championship, having taken a few podiums of his own alongside the 2007 title holder, Kimi Raikkonen. Team principal, Eric Boullier, believes that Lotus will finish 2013 on the podium, which, considering the McLaren transfers, is a possibility.
Another team that keeps it’s squad for the next season is Ferrari. The potential driver cover for under-performing Felipe Massa was the talk of the first half of 2012, until the Brazilian pulled his weight and found his sparkle back at the Italian Grand Prix, narrowly missing out on a place in the top three, and then in Japan when he stood on the podium for the first time in nearly two years. The third place on his home soil in Sao Paulo was a cherry on top for the now veteran driver who was so close to departing from Ferrari – currently his most likely chance of ever winning a title. That recent bounce back to form and Ferrari’s legendary elitist approach to the topic of staffing has probably swayed it for Massa this time; although the notion that the Brazilian’s poor performance in the fist half of the season might have cost the Prancing Horse its first Constructor’s title since 2008 must have been a bitter pill to swallow for team principal, Stefano Domenicali.
Yes, the young German driver is a good enough reason on his own to make 2013 an enticing spectacle. Having already made history by becoming the youngest hat-trick Champion, he is en route of repeating Michael Schumacher’s achievement of five consecutive title wins. He is German, he is ambitious and he is driving for arguably the best adjusting team, equipped in an OBE (Officer of Order of the British Empire) holder for services to motorsport – chief engineer for Red Bull, Adrian Newey.
With Vettel there already is a post-2013 story in the making, with teams such as Ferrari signalling an interest in the driver whose Red Bull contract will run out by the end of this season. Vettel’s price-tag might be increasing in the upcoming months, and he is more likely than anyone to steal all the spotlight this season.
And frankly, it is down to “Seb” to make 2013 another exciting Formula One year.