Soon 2012 draws to a close. We put aside this great season and place it in our memory unlikely to leave. Arguably one of the greatest seasons in living memory, 2013 has a tough ask if it wants to emulate the thrills, spills and closely fought races we had become so accustomed to. The change in driver line up is likely to help – the average age of the drivers has reduced by four years ensuring a younger, fresher line up in 2013. As Suzi Perry told me, it has “all the ingredients” for an exciting year.
In turn that should bring even higher levels of unpredictability as rookies take to the grid for the first time. To put this into perspective, many associate the phrase ‘ignorance is bliss’ with a driver’s first Grand Prix attempt.
The pressure will fall to Sebastian Vettel; winning Championships is becoming somewhat of a norm. This next year will be the real test for him. In contrast Fernando Alonso has a point to prove. He was the ‘nearly man’ of 2012; if his Ferrari is even slightly better than last year that hunger and passion could produce a Championship win for a driver considered to be a true great in the sport.
Sergio Perez will make an almighty step up from the mid-field team Sauber to McLaren, bringing with him the burden of the team’s reputation.Whilst I think he will cope with this move, sustaining any ability may be his downfall. Consistency is key. Similarly Esteban Gutiérrez, who replaces him at the Swiss team, will have to prove that he did deserve the seat over the ever popular Kamui Kobayashi. The shadow of Robin Frijns will be leaning over, ready to step up if the young Mexican is not up to the task.
Arguably the greatest pressure is not on the bottom end of the grid. Those at the top have a certain amount of prestige; they wouldn’t be there otherwise. Williams need to emulate the success of Barcelona if they are to have any hope of obtaining the revival they so badly crave. With a fresh face in Valterri Bottas and with the funding he brings, several podiums could be on the cards. If Williams have taught us anything, it’s don’t rule them out!
Marussia and Caterham will have a real spotlight on them. One of the teams’ drivers is likely to be at the back of the grid following the withdrawal of HRT. Suddenly they cannot rely on the unreliability of the former team’s car, but have to focus on their own. After several years, Q2 should be a reasonable target and anything short of points may highlight a lack of improvements. They too see fresh line ups – perhaps crucial to their 2013 chances?
Let’s not forget Force India, for so many do! They did not have the poor season of Toro Rosso but did not match the success of Sauber and Williams. A state of stalemate has ensued, major improvements are required to reach that much wanted fifth place. Nico Hulkenberg came close to a last minute win in Brazil at the end of the season; alas not quite yet for a driver who moves to Sauber next year. Force India’s success in 2013 could well decide the future of Paul Di Resta. Not one of the sport’s most charismatic figures, commentators don’t seem to speak of the Brit in as much detail as some of his peers. He’s going to have to get himself noticed if a move up to a big team is realistically on the agenda.
My teams to watch next year are Mercedes GP and Lotus. Both secured wins in 2012, Nico Rosberg stood on the top step in China whilst returning racer Kimi Raikonnen secured an impressive victory in Abu Dhabi. The unchanged Lotus line up will bring continuity for a team who lost a great driver in Robert Kubica. Grosjean’s win at the Race of Champions has silenced numerous critics and I expect 2013 will act as a platform for a fresh start. Very few second chances are handed out in Formula 1 and this is his third. I suspect it will probably be his last; only success will do!
The attention will not be on Nico Rosberg in 2013 despite enjoying his most successful year to date, Lewis Hamilton will join him complete with his Championship winning experience. I think many, including initially myself, were quick to write off Lewis Hamilton’s chances at the team – ultimately he may have the last laugh. As for Rosberg, only more wins and podiums will be enough to secure his future. Bring on March 17th 2013!
So there you have it, my much requested thoughts on the 2013 grid. You may notice Toro Rosso were not mentioned in significant detail. My last blog post assessed their chances in particular so I have omitted them through fear of repeating myself. I will link that blog post below for those who have not had a chance to read it.
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