F1 2013

2013 – Was it better than 2012?

Back in January, I made some predictions about the year to come and the possibilities 2013 could prove even more entertaining than 2012.

Eleven months down the line, and with the season now at an end, it’s time to revisit those predictions and hopes and decide whether or not Sebastian Vettel’s record season matched up to the excitement and suspense of his 2012 battle with Alonso.

My first prediction was 2013 would get off to a good note if Lewis Hamilton, Nico Rosberg and Mercedes are in the Championship fight.

If you were to analyse the first half of the season then yes, the hope was fulfilled and Mercedes fielded a potent weapon in the form of the F1W04. Hamilton and Rosberg took eight poles in the first eleven races against Vettel’s tally of three, demonstrating an apparent ability to take on and beat the Red Bull team at their own, very favourite game. Race wins were harder to come by until Rosberg broke the duck in Monaco, and both men were in the frame for victory at Silverstone with Rosberg emerging on top thanks to Hamilton’s now infamous tyre failure. The Briton did finally reach the top step in Hungary, only for his hopes of mounting a title challenge to be quashed by Vettel’s consecutive run of nine victories. He eventually fell out of title contention in Japan with four races remaining, while mechanical woes put paid to Rosberg’s efforts. Pre-Belgium the prediction appeared to have gravitas, but fell from reality as the season drew to a close. Nevertheless, Mercedes secured 2nd in the constructor’s championship standings and look set for an even stronger assault on Red Bull in 2014.

Mercedes leap-frogged Ferrari to challenge Red Bull in 2013

Mercedes leap-frogged Ferrari to challenge Red Bull in 2013

I also expressed a hope in January that Fernando Alonso has a Prancing Horse not a limping donkey.

If anything, 2013’s F138 ended up with an even worse reputation than its predecessor, failing to secure a single pole position and only visiting the top step of the podium twice with Alonso’s efforts in China and Spain. The Spaniard was crippled by his machinery, but remained in contention to take the crown until Vettel’s charge got underway at the half way mark of the year. It wasn’t until India that he eventually lost all mathematical hope of beating the German, but realistically he had given up at least a month before. The F138 never looked like the fastest car at any single race weekend. There’s a sense that Maranello rely too heavily on the Spaniard’s ability to bring big results from mediocre cars, but 2014 really is the crunch time – no more lame ducks will be tolerated.

January failed to bring the hoped for news that HRT are saved from the brink.

Despite being the smallest, poorest and least technically sound of the three new outfits that arrived on the grid in 2010, HRT provided a third-party in the intriguing battle for 10th in the constructor’s championship. It had been known for some time that money was in desperately short supply, and despite their best efforts to secure funding, the team failed to make the grid in Melbourne. It served to end the short-lived career of Narain Karthikeyan and to deprive F1 of a team that embodied the spirit of the F1 paddock – HRT mechanics were among the first to wade into the furnace of the Williams garage after the 2012 Spanish Grand Prix to assist their rivals and colleagues.

I predicted 2013 would be a better year if Romain Grosjean stops crashing into people.

I can categorically say I was right, while surreptitiously wiping my brow! The Frenchman moved to a higher level of operation in 2013, starting on a low key note and not making the podium until Bahrain. Monaco proved a relapse as he crashed into four different drivers, but my money was saved as he drove in rejuvenated form from Singapore onwards. A string of 3rd places, a 2nd in the USA and his attacking drives ensured he was the ony threat to Red Bull at the end of the season and marked out his place as a contender of the future. Undoubtedly many Vettel-dominated events were enlivened by his presence, most notably in Japan.

2013 would be great if Sebastian Vettel gets better.

I said in January I didn’t mean this in terms of speed and results, because ‘that would be silly’.

Sitting here in November the German has proven exactly how ‘silly’ he is and broken yet another record that has stood for half a century. Circumstances conspired to suit him and his all-conquering RB9, turning him into an unstoppable and irresistible force of glory that bestrode the F1 globe from Belgium to Brazil.

My original hope was he would demonstrate even greater maturity than that he developed between 2010 and 2012. My expectations were quashed at the second race of the season when he defied team orders and overtook team-mate Mark Webber to win the Malaysian Grand Prix. Irrespective of the hunger for victory and how commendable that might be, the cold fact is he disobeyed team orders and defied the men who pay his salary. No mature worker would ever do so without good reason, and Vettel will not forget that betrayal of trust in a hurry – nobody will let him. ‘Multi-21’ is a sign that there is still some way to go before the German can be relied on.

Eyes on the prize - at the expense of all else. Sebastian Vettel did little to heal the rift with team-mate Webber in Malaysia.

Eyes on the prize – at the expense of all else. Sebastian Vettel did little to heal the rift with team-mate Webber in Malaysia.

No more Podium interviews.

It’s a hope I shared with a great many people pre-season, and one I continue to hold. Unfortunately they survive, as they were bound to do and while the design of the rostrum provides the space-age elegance that Bernie was looking for when he commisioned them, there are other aspects that still seem cheap and tacky.

The flags remain electronic renderings of their real, fabric selves, while the interviews continue to be conducted in a halting and vague manner in a variety of tongues – some unrecognisable to anyone. The emotional response to victory they are touted as providing has not yet been apparent, with drivers choosing instead to use the format as a platform to regurgitate the same answers used in the conventional press pen. I wouldn’t shed a tear if they didn’t appear in Melbourne next season.

I expressed a desire for Another race in Europe.

The empty slot that existed on the calendar in July eventually came to nought, but the return of the A1 Ring, which I predicted in January, has been confirmed for 2014. Now called the Red Bull Ring in honour of new owners the Austrian drinks giant, the race is pencilled in for 22nd June. It is something of a mini-revival for European F1 circuits after the loss of France in 2009 and the demise of Valencia’s otherwise-unloved street circuit in 2013. Allied with new events in Russia, Mexico and the United States 2014 looks set to contain a record-breaking 22 races.

Sergio Perez found 2013 considerably more challenging than 2012.

Sergio Perez found 2013 considerably more challenging than 2012.

I also wanted the New drivers to emulate 2012 rookies.

Romain Grosjean and Sergio Perez may not have been rookies per se in 2012, but there performances were above expected given the stage of their careers and machinery they were driving. Speaking in November 2013, it seems these were as much down to the nature of the 2012 Pirelli tyres as any driving brilliance.

Not to take anything away from two of F1’s best hopes for the future, but 2013 has proven to be a challenging battle ground for the rookies of the year. To begin with, none were in machinery capable of reaching the podium, or the points in the cases of Giedo Van Der Garde and Marussia drivers Chilton and Bianchi. Bottas and Gutierrez both achieved a single points finish in their maiden seasons, but while the Finn is confirmed to continue in F1 next season at the time of writing Esteban Gutierrez has yet to sign a deal.

Points for Caterham and Marussia.

Something we’ve been hoping for rather than predicting for some years now. The gap to the frontrunners was marginally reduced in 2013 but they remain as far away as ever from securing a top ten result. Marussia avenged their 11th hour defeat in 2012 by beating their Norfolk-based rivals to 10th in the constructors championship by virtue of Jules Bianchi’s 13th place in Malaysia, which adds spice to their contest going into 2014. Perhaps the new regulations will provide the chance they both need to make the leap.

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