We’ve had our mouths full about F1 teams over the past few months. First we got all giddy for a few car launches – seemingly less flashy every year – of this or that team, then we were happy to just see some cars going around a track in Jerez and Barcelona. The tech experts were analyzing every minute detail to be found on the teams’ 2013 contenders, trying to unravel what 2013s special innovation would prove to be. But in all that excitement to see what the design teams have come up with this year, we almost forget to look at that most captivating of components in a formula 1 car: the drivers. When talking about who is the greatest: Vettel, Hamilton, Alonso or Raikkonen, there is massive fanboyism guiding people’s view, but the one nagging problem remains: you will never really know who is the best unless they are pitted against each other in equal machinery. Top Gear is a cool show, and I love watching the laps in the ‘reasonably priced car’, so while it was fun to see Hamilton get a lot of pleasure ousting Vettel from the n1 spot recently, it can never really be an accurate measure of speed. What we want is to watch F1 drivers battle each other in F1 cars on the limit. While we are robbed of this in most cases, we can still cherish those wonderful teammate rivalries, where – unless you drive at Red Bull or Ferrari – two drivers are given an equal chance to go out there and see who’s best without the car coming into play. With this post I want to dive back into the F1 season here at backmarkers F1, and in a first installment of 2013 predicitions, predict the winners of the teammate wars!
No surprises here. Webber is just not as good as Vettel over the course of a season so one kind of has to agree with Marko (shocking, I know), that while Webbo can have his gifted moments when he’s unbeatable, they are much too rare to make him into a world champ anytime soon, especially with the triple world champ at his side. Nobody is in any doubt as to who the number 1 is in this team, and whether both drivers really do get an equal chance is therefore debatable.
Even worse than Red Bull, Ferrari only knows 1 leader, and that’s Nando. Felipe can just about tie Alonso’s shoelaces when it comes to comparing skill, and is just happy to still be driving an
F1 car (and so he should after last year’s horrifying performance)
Here it gets interesting. Losing their wonderboy Hamilton, Mclaren thought to have landed a coup by signing young hotshot Sergio Perez, who caught the eye with some great podiums last year, but also raised some eyebrows with lesser inspired events, especially during the latter part of the season. Button has been a quick and reliable hand for Mclaren, but he has never shown that outright one lap pace needed to be able to fight at the front at every GP. The same problem befell Perez last year, so one must wonder how much Mclaren will suffer not having that ace qualifier up their sleeve. That said, with Button’s experience Perez should be easy pickings for the most experienced driver on the grid, and if he does get beaten by the Mexican many will wonder whether he still has a place in F1. Anyway, I predict Button to rather comfortably beat Perez, all the while squandering another great Mclaren car mostly due to poor qualifying performances.
Raikkonen and Grosjean are quite an exciting pairing. While Grosjean seemed to have the upper hand in qualifying last year – no mean feat against the iceman – Kimi’s superb racecraft ultimately made him beat Grosjean quite handily over the course of the season, topping it off with an emphatic (though inherited) win. Having been given another chance by his team to prove he can turn that blistering speed into something worthwile when there are others on track around him, Grosjean could put pressure on Kimi. However, while we granted Romain a second rookie year in 2012, we shouldn’t forget that Kimi was also coming back to F1 after a long absence, and having seen Schumi struggle with the vastly changed formula this was no mean feat. In his second year at the team, it is clear Kimi has galvanized the team around him, fully acclimatized back to F1 and I predict to see more stunning performances of the Fin this year, leaving Grosjean behind in the dust…but hopefully not in the gravel trap..
Perhaps the most exciting battle to look forward to. The back story works perfectly: good friends and teammates in the old karting days face off again with equal weapons. While nobody would label Rosberg a slouch, there has always been that reluctance to count him as a truly great driver as he has never really been measured against a known quantity within a team. While he did easily have the measure of Schumacher in their years together, there will always remain the doubts of whether Schumacher was more than just a shadow of the 7 time World Champ he retired as the 1st time around. This is a huge opportunity for Rosberg to finally prove what he is really worth against Hamilton in his prime. If Rosberg can make life difficult for Hamilton then it is already mission accomplished for him in 2013. While I do think Rosberg will keep Lewis honest I do not think he will be a match for the Briton’s blinding pace.
The Swiss team has an all new driver line up for 2013 after seeing Perez swooped up by Mclaren and mercilessly sacking Kamui Kobayashi. 2012 was the best year for the team since the BMW days, and they look keen to build on that success with an innovative car which raised some eyebrows in testing. With the field looking so close again this year, we shouldn’t be surprised to see Sauber take a few more podiums again. The signing of Hulkenberg was a major coup for the Swiss team, however their n2 driver for the year is a bit of a doubt. To keep the Mexican backing going Gutierrez was almost a shoe in for the team to replace compatriot Perez, and he has some pretty big shoes to fill. I’d think another year in GP2 would have probably served him better, and going up against the Hulk he is just going to get eaten alive.
While a bit of a shock decision, the return of Adrian Sutil is after all a fairly conservative choice as he had shown in testing that he has not lost much of his edge during his 1 year of forced leave. With the team in financial trouble – though nobody within the team is ready to admit it, the financial woes of the two main backers Mallya and Sahara are well documented – the Medion sponsorship money brought by Sutil will also have played a part. After all, Bianchi’s backing is down to Ferrari support, not necessarily the cold hard cash the team would have needed. Sutil is a known quantity and a safe pair of hands capable of a good turn of speed on his day, as he has shown on the final few GPs before his sacking in 2011. Di Resta came into the sport on a wave of hype but has largely failed to deliver. Having been severely trounced by Hulkenberg in the latter half of 2012 his reputation – and probably his confidence too – has taken a hit. If he does not show anything special again, he is likely to remain stuck in the midfield for eternity..like Sutil. With an extra year under his belt, and Sutil despite his strong showing in testing probably a bit rusty still, I do believe Di Resta will edge him out, but the FI this year doesn’t look competitive enough to allow either of them those eye catching performances which lift you out of the midfield.
If you’d ask me about Williams around this time last year, I would have told you about the most embarrassing pay driver line up in the history of F1. Maldonado the 30 million dollar crash baby and senna the 15 ish million dollar ‘cousin of..’ was truly an embarrassing line-up for such an iconic squad. You’d expect something like that from a backmarker team but Williams? But low and behold, Maldonado proved that when he is alone of the track and stays focused, he does actually possess talents beyond the hard Venezuelan cash by winning in Barcelona and pulling off a few remarkable qualifying laps throughout the season in proper balls hanging out of the cockpit style. Senna on the other hand continued to disappoint with lackluster weekends all around. Sadly the weaknesses of their driver line up resulted in the team ending up ridiculously low on the WCC standing despite having had a pretty damned good race car all year long. This year they are bringing in the hottest new F1 talent in a few years with Valterri Bottas. With 15 practice outings last year he should be better prepared than most rookies, but we should not expect miracles from the next flying Fin in the first half of 2013. After all he has never raced anything bigger than a GP3 car, and has not competed in a Grand Prix since then. However once he gets the hang of it he will have Maldonado fuming at the wheel by being bitchslapped by a younger – unfunded – driver with the same equipment. #BOTTAS ftw oh, and also #PERRRKELE
9. Toro Rosso
Red Bull’s bitch squad had a pretty torrid 2012 after unceremoniously sacking its previous crop of wannabe Vettels. Having two rookies at the wheel of a difficult car will always keep you on the backfoot, and the STR team never really seemed to get their head round the 2012 season. Having now had their rookie year, the excuses will be running thin for the Red Bull juniors if they don’t want to end up like Buemi and Alguersuari. Like their predecessors and their internal fight, there was not much to choose between them last year. While Ricciardo did largely edge Vergne due to his much superior qualifying pace. Vergne will really need to get on top of quali to fulfill the great potential I do believe he has. The car doesn’t look like it will be much more competitive than last year so either one of their drivers will have to trounce the other one to stand any chance of survival in Helmut Marko’s madhouse. His qualifying needs to be sorted but in terms of racecraft he more often than not had the upper hand on Ricciardo last year and we all know that in the end it’s only the result on Sunday which counts.. Ricciardo did show glimpses of greatness last year so this is a fight that will be very hard to call. Still, I tip Vergne for this year.
I guess with this being backmarkersF1 and all I should be exited when talking about the backmarkers, especially the lovely Caterham team.. and then they had to go and drop Heikki ‘PERRRKELE’ Kovalainen (boooo) and Vitaly ‘InRussiaCarDriveYou’ Petrov (applause). They have pushed Williams off the throne for 2013’s ‘grab the cash and go’ driver line-up award by signing Guido Van Der Garde and Charles Pic. While Pic did show some proper ability in last year’s Marussia, where he showed more than respectably against experienced hand Glock, Van Der Garde is someone who has ended up in F1 just because he had the biggest sack of money available at the time. Sure he was WSR champion about ten decades ago. Then he spent a few lightyears in GP2 being mostly just not good enough to consistently compete with the top guys. Pic will handily beat him this year, and may just be able to get me excited about this team again if he continues the way he ended last year.
While their lineup was looking dire as well with Max ‘MyDaddyhaslotsofmoney’ Chilton and Luis ‘HeresaCheckbutdonttakeit tothebankjustyet’’ Razia, the latter’s last minute funding trouble gave un unexpected chance to Bianchi to finally grab an F1 race seat after a few years of waiting in the wings. In the end, it is probably even better for Bianchi to start at the back of the grid where there is little pressure than there would have been at Force India. The guy has speed but has shown a remarkable weakness under pressure and this low profile entry into f1 might just be the ticket to unlock his full potential. The Marussia team is looking better than ever, having already largely caught up with Caterham last year, which is no mean feat considering they had the crummy Cosworth engine and no KERS. With KERS coming onboard for 2013, Pat Symonds fully into the team having served his crashgate ban and a technical partnership with Mclaren ongoing, I think this year Marussia will beat Caterham on merit. As far as the teammates go, Bianchi will easily dispatch Chilton to go crying home to poppa. I’s official: my backmarkersF1 support now goes to Marussia instead of Caterham.
Share your take on the 2013 teammate wars below, just a few days left now for us to start finding out!