Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Season Preview Part 1

Welcome to the 2013 Formula One Predict-a-thon game.

Hello everyone, I would like to start this season with an observation. This game isn’t really about winning and losing, Oh being able to wander round the office or home and tell anyone fool enough to ask about your smile, that winning is the best feeling in the world is fine. But in reality there can be only one winner each race and only one winner at the end of the year.
The point of this game is really to make you care about the driver finishing tenth. To make you root for Hamilton to pass Webber for that sixth place and reward your faith in him. It makes you look at the back of the field as well as the superstars at the front and pray the Marussia will hold together long enough to get to the line.

So when the rest of the world throws up its arms and complains that no one will ever beat that smug German in Neweys new wonder car, you’ll smile and point out that you knew Jenson was rubbish at qualifying and
Perez is only ever good for 7th place.

And with the heartfelt bit out of the way, let’s get down to brass tacks and take a look at this year’s runners and riders, starting from the back of the grid and the “lucky to still be in business” brigade.

Well with the death of HRT they have no one to make them look good this year. They are the first team ever, I think, to fire a driver before the season even starts, with the luckless Brazilin Luiz Razia getting his marching orders when his cheque didn’t clear in time for the fourth test.  That suggests they are doing this on something of a shoes string budget ... yet again.

23. Max Chilton.
Max is first and foremost a pay and play driver. He’s got talent; all the drivers have some talent or other at this level. But pretty much everyone has written him off as daddy’s boy that’s bought his way into F1. But hang on didn’t Senna, yes the great 3 times world champion Senna, buy his seat at Toleman with his father’s money, after a very privilege upbringing in the nicer bits of Sao Paulo? Now I’m not suggesting Max is going to be anything other than last man standing fodder, but give the guy a break. He’s got his chance and I hope he sees out the season.

Chance of top ten Finish: None what so ever – unless a meteorite destroys the rest of the field on Saturday night.

22. Jules Bianchi.
 Max and his AON sponsorship are joined by Jules Bianchi and his 2014 Ferrari engine contract. Jules has been knocking around the paddock for a number or years now, technically he’s a rookie but he’s sat in a fair few F1 cars already. He was/is a Ferrari test driver and was almost going to make it into the Force India seat until Sutil came back from the dead and brought a big Mercedes cheque with him. Lots of people rate the Frenchman, Ferrari for instance, but not enough to give him a top line drive. He only had the call last week and turned up to the fourth and final test and went faster than Max.

Chance of top ten Finish: No chance, unless the heavens opened and everyone else spins off.

Tony Fernandez has stepped down as team manager and some nobody you’ve never heard of has been given his job. I think this is going to be a holding year for Caterham before the new engine regs in 2014 and the tie up with Renault Alpine. Until then it’s a year of beating Marussia and trying to not appear too rubbish. After winter testing, that might be a tough ask.

21. Giedo Van de Garde.
I have no idea who this is, some Dutch kid that’s been hanging around the back of numerous garages for a number of years now. He almost got a drive with Spyker back in 2007. But the FIA refused him a super licence and that was the end of that. A few years keeping the midfield numbers up in GP2 and now he’s been given a life line with Caterham.

Chance of top ten Finish: Never going to happen.

22. Charles Pic.
Was in the Marussia last year and failed to impress anyone other than the board at Caterham. He is most famous for, whilst driving for Marussia, missing a gear and quite by accident letting the Caterham he would be driving next year, through at the last race of the 2012 season. He didn’t hit too many things last year and kept a rubbish car ahead of the HRTS drivers.

Chance of top ten Finish: It might happen, but unlikely.

Torro Rosso:
 It’s much, much more of the same for the Redbull Number 2 team. And this year their secret weapon is .... They’ve made the car more comfortable to drive. Do you think that’ll make a difference to their results? No, me nether. Predicable underachievers, they could well struggle to make it into qualifying two this year and given how much money they have, you have to ask what are they doing wrong.  They’re ahead of the Marussia and Caterham teams, but not good enough to mix it up with the mid field boys. They might be in luck if Force India goes to the wall half way through the season though.

19. Daniel Ricciardo.
He did alright last year with a couple of fine drives in Korea and Australia. If the car has been bolted together properly he could be there to pick up the pieces when the midfield falter, his ability to qualify well will be put to the test this year with no HRT safety net.

Chance of top ten Finish: Better than hopeless, but will need others to fail.

18. Jean-Eric Vergne.
Didn’t qualify as well as his team mate last year, but took more risks with strategy and reaped the rewards.  As with Ricciardo, he’s not got HRT qualifying last to save him this year so he’s going to have to work through the back markers to get any points.

Chance of top ten Finish: Will need to qualify well to stand a chance.

My personal favourite team, but they’ve traded on those past glories that I loved so much, for far too long now. Last year was almost a return to form, but what started out well just sort of faded once again. The fortunate win in Spain was tempered by the garage fire a few hours later and Maldonado spending the rest of the season driving into Perez and being a complete tool. They’ve rolled the dice this year with yet another radical rear end design and lots of trick bits. In the hands of Newey or McLaren this would be a guilt edged tilt for the title. But in the underfunded hands of Williams it’s a layer of complication that could rob them of points. I’d love them to do well, just as a nice send off for Franks wife who sadly lost her battle with cancer as the F1 testing ended. And because they represent to a lot of people like me the heart and soul of the British F1 ‘garagista’ teams.

 17. Valtteri Bottas.
Another year and another rookie with cash at Williams, Bottas has a silly name and allegedly a lot of talent.  He’s been the number three, standing at the back of the pits doing no driving what to ever, driver for a number of years now and he knows the team well. But he’s not driven a car competitively since 2011, choosing to spend 2012 pushing a broom around the Didcot factory and making the tea for Frank and Toto Wolff (before he went off to Mercedes and the HUGE paycheck).  He’s supposed to be good, but then so was Bruno Senna last year, time as ever, will tell.

Chance of top ten Finish: If the trick bits don’t explode, then yes he’ll be there.

16. Pastor Maldonado.
Despite all the insane driving and what appeared to have be a personal vendetta against Perez last year, Maldonado is back for more. Well until last week when Hugo Chavez finally succumbed to cancer and suddenly all that lovely Venezuelan state sponsorship Pastor was carrying around in his back pocket didn’t look quite so secure. The word is he is safe for now, Franks already banked the sign on cheque so he’ll be with us for a few months at least. But if the old red mist descends again and the Williams boys start demanding money to rebuild the car race after race, he might not see the second half of the year.  I’ll grudgingly admit that when Maldonado is focused and not being a tool he is a very fast driver. A proven race winner after all, but he just loses the plot too often and starts being a liability to the team and his sponsors. He needs to grow up and listen to the team this year and bring home the points, not a broken car trailing bits of carbon fibre.

Chance of top ten Finish: If he isn’t a complete tool, very good.

Force India.
My tip for the first team to go into administration this year! Team owner Vijay “sell his own mother for a fistful of used tenners” Mallya, appears to be, if not actually on the run from the Indian authorities then he’s certainly keeping a very low profile when he goes to the corner shop for a packet of B&H and a copy of razzle. His Kingfisher Airline are in debt up to their eyeballs, he’s sold off the drinks company United Spirits, who’s logos appeared all over the F1 cars. And the Indian government wants a word about some tax taken from Kingfisher employees that didn’t get paid to the tax man.  If you ever get to have a drink with Mr Mallya, thank him for the G&T then check your wallet is still in your pocket. He’s probably a really nice bloke, but I wouldn’t trust him to look after the school goldfish over the summer.  As for the F1 cars, they look alright, solid mid field fare.

15. Adrian Sutil.
Back once again after getting fired for starting a fight with the Lotus team owner. Yeah I know, who would have thought ‘soft hands’ Sutil had it in him! This year it could be interesting to watch how he deals with his old friend and mucker Hamilton. These two used to be best buddies until Lewis failed to turn up to defend his mate at his trial and subsequent conviction for injuring Eric Lux CEO of lotus owners Genii Capital. It appears Sutil might have a bit of a chip on his shoulder about this and things could get fun if Lewis wants to get past the Force India driver during a race. Still Sutil is a pretty handy, if unspectacular driver, who might take a race or two to get back up to speed. He picked up the drive when Bianchi failed to wave enough money with a Ferrari logo under Mallya nose, and for a driver who missed a year of driving he did alright when he got back in the car at the last test.

Chance of top ten Finish: pretty good, might take a race or two though.

14. Paul Di Resta.
He did alright for the first half of last year and then Hulkenberg got his act together and made the plucky Scot look a bit ordinary. When Sutil was his team mate in 2011 he blew the German out of the water and was lauded as the next Coulthard, faint praise indeed. So he’s not quite caught the eye of the big teams yet and needs a strong year to break out of the midfield wannabes. His team didn’t help him with some odd pit calls last year but as team leader he should get the priority strategy this year. If Sutil doesn’t use his burning self righteous indignation to win the championship of course.

Chance of top ten Finish: pretty good.

The conservative midfield team, with the no nonsense approach to picking up points and not getting in everyone’s way. They fired Krazy Kobi and Perez was lost to McLaren in a dawn raid, so Hulkenberg was more than happy to leave the sinking ship at Force India and rookie Estaban Gutierrez have stepped in. I seriously doubt this will change their softly softly, oh the race is over is it? Approach to racing they have show in recent years. They don’t appear to have any ambition other than midfield respectability and have never rolled the dice and thrown on a pair of soft tires with 10 laps to go to see what happens and I expect more of the same this year. So far the car hasn’t been all that reliable in testing either.

12. Estaban Gutierrez.
Has been a regular ‘standing at the back of the garage trying not to get in the way’ number three driver for a few years with Sauber and was given a try out in India last year when Perez was punished for taking the McLaren shilling.  His GP2 days were marked by his ability to qualify well and his habit of colliding with other drivers in the race.  He joins a team that doesn’t like its drivers to do anything daring so it’s a perfect team to learn the ropes with. If he keeps his nose clean he should be alright.

Chance of top ten Finish: He’s in a Sauber! What do you think?

11. Nico Hulkenberg.
He’s moved around some interesting teams has Nico – started at Williams and a pole in Brazil with a truly awful car. A year off to scrape together more funds then a return to F1 with Force India and a better end to the season after a slow start. And now a move to Sauber, a team known for solid but unexciting racing with cars that are always the first Adrian Newey wants to take a proper look at. Hulkenberg could throw up some surprise results this year, if the big boys drop the ball, Nico will be there to collect the points and I can see a top six finish or better with a fair win and a bit of luck.

Chance of top ten Finish: Pretty good, not a certainty, they need to work on reliability first.

Next up .. the big boys.

No comments:

Post a Comment