Seven races down the line, and what state is the Formula One 2013 season in? Not too bad is the answer.
The Red Bull and Sebastian Vettel dream team hasn’t been as dominant as the last few years have seen, yet he still has a sizeable lead in the Drivers Championship, Mercedes have been nailing qualifying sessions down but lack any substantial race pace to challenge on a Sunday, Ferrari and Fernando have been a bit hot-cold, generally proving to be consistent enough and the most serious challenger to Vettel’s crown. Throw in Kimi Raikkonen in the Lotus, and it’s been a potent mixture, that hasn’t really boiled over into the massive brawl that has been promised, but is just nicely warming up.
The big news is that over at Mercedes, the most famous driver of the lot, Lewis Hamilton, is being outperformed by his teammate Nico Rosberg. Hamilton’s big-money move was the one that stole all the headlines, pre-season, but his German teammate, whilst not topping him in the Drivers Championship, has proved to be consistent in both Quali and Race-day conditions. The Brit has admitted he’s suffering from ‘not fully understanding his car’ and its brakes. A couple of podiums aside, Hamilton hasn’t shone, but then that was never expected in a developing car, although he will be a little miffed at Nico’s race win at Monaco.
Overall, the Mercedes team, excluding the current ‘Pirelli-Gate’ (like it?) scandal which they have become embroiled in, in recent weeks, will have been happy at their steady progress during 2013. Starting out as rank outsiders, they have come to be Saturday afternoon favourites, and have won a race, equalling last season’s total. You get the feeling that Hamilton will want to win at least one race though, especially after Nico’s glory in Monaco…
Sebastian Vettel has continued his imperious form of the last 3 seasons, and goes into the three-week summer break with a 36 point lead over his rivals, but its not all been plain-sailing for the German and his Red Bull team. No. 2 driver Mark Webber battled with his dominant teammate and the team in Malaysia when he was forced to hand over the number one position to Vettel, sparking off a chain of events which got everyone speculating for just how long the Aussie will be staying at the Milton Keynes-based team for.
Even now, it seems Webber’s days are numbered; with Vettel blasting ahead in the Championship race, he, in a similar car, has been off the boil and suffering from consistency problems ever since Malaysia. Rumour has it hat Kimi Raikkonen could be headed to the triple title winners, next season to replace the exiting Australian.
Kimi had been the early Championship rival to Vettel, winning the Australian GP in fine fashion, and a trio of 2nd places he seemed the most viable contender to the racing Red Bull. However, recently, his Lotus hasn’t been performing with back-to-back disappointments in the two street circuits with just 3 points to show from 2 races. Poor for anyone, never mind a championship contender, and perhaps an incentive for the media-shy 33 year old to head to Red Bull next term? As a matter of fact, Roman Grosjean, the controversial teammate of Raikkonen, has had a poor start to his season too, with all of the aggression sapped from him, after a number of crashes in 2012, which seems to have taken a big chunk of his pace in the car with it.
Ferrari have been pretty much a one-man team again this season, Fernando Alonso assuming the role as team leader and almost single-handedly keeping his chances alive, with a succession of superior drives, 2 wins to his belt, and some poor qualifying slots, as in 2012. The car is better than 2012 though, but so is the man himself, looking to achieve that illusive 3rd title that he has so narrowly missed out on in the last few years. To keep bouncing back, as the Spaniard manages year after year, is a testament to Alonso, and despite a huge 36 point gap back to him in 2nd place in the Championship, you wouldn’t rule out a late surge from the Ferrari. After all, he’s suffered an unfortunate retirement back in Malaysia, and a couple of low down finishes, plus surely Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull will have a retirement at some point this season?! If anyone will capitalise, it’ll be Alonso you can bet on that.
The best of the rest: The dramatic decline of McLaren has been a desperate story, and has seen former world champion, Jenson Button and new-boy Checo Perez, scrap it out from the most meagre of points. It said it all, when the British team, returned to THEIR Montreal track, a track they’d won 5 out of the previous 7 races and finished 11th and 12th. Not good. But McLaren’s loss has been to fellow Brits, Force India’s gain, as they sit comfortably above them in the Constructors Championship. Paul Di Resta and Adrian Sutil haven’t achieved the full potential the car has offered, but a stunning drive from the Scot in Montreal, saw him drive on a set of tyres for 50 laps and retrieve a 7th place finish from nothing, promising stuff then.
Toro Rosso, have seen the intriguing inter-team battle take another turn as the Frenchman Jean-Eric Vergne has started to at last show some promise, most recently adding a career-best 6th place finish to his bow. Daniel Riccardo, has been a bit more consistent, but it will be interesting to see who comes out on top, especially if the rumours surrounding Webber’s departure appear to be true, meaning if Raikkonen isn’t an option, one of these two from the sister team could be? Sauber and Williams, will be disappointed with their 5 point showing BETWEEN them, especially after showing some impressive pace last season, although it must be noted Valtteri Bottas of Williams qualified a nice 3rd, in Canada, before promptly sliding down the grid. Nico Hulkenburg also threatens to shine through, but must regret his move to the Swiss team.
Down in the doldrums at Caterham and Marussia, things don’t seem to be getting better quickly. With both fielding two brand new driver line-ups for 2013, all continuity seems to have gone, although the odd car seems to be qualifying ahead of Sauber’s Esteban Gutierrez, a man who, unfortunately, looks well out of his depth.
And that’s F1 2013 so far. As I said, it’s not reached top gear yet, there have been a number of ‘so-so’ races in my opinion, but providing Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull slip up, we could see an almighty title battle yet, roll on Silverstone, and the British Grand Prix in 3 weeks time!