|Pirellis will again play a major role|
As we head into the first weekend of the 2013 F1 season, speculating on the pecking order has been rendered a hazardous task after a murkily inconclusive winter testing. As the rule-book remains largely stable this year, the gap between the teams has got ever so smaller, and even though we expected the big teams to have mastered the Pirellis by now, they still remain a tricky proposition.
With such a prelude to the season opener at Melbourne, the initial part of the season promises to be as surprising & entertaining as the last season when we got seven different winners from the first seven races! The big five - Red Bull, McLaren, Ferrari, Lotus & Mercedes have all topped the times on some day or the other in the winter testing but none have dominated enough to be billed as the favorite going into the season opener at Melbourne. There is a feeling within the F1 community that some teams in the top-five - Red Bull especially - might be sandbagging their true potential, but it is quite clear that both Mercedes & Ferrari have taken a step forward compared to the same time last year, while McLaren might be genuinely struggling. Lotus continue to be strong as they were last year & Red Bull is again expected to be the benchmark team.
The mid-field is expected to be as close as last year, with Force India looking to have taken a step forward. Among the back-markers, there will be no HRT cars this year & the fight will be tooth & nail between the Caterhams & Marussias.
|Schumi retires while Sutil returns|
Among the drivers, there are as many as 5 rookies this year. Esteban Gutierrez replaces compatriot Sergio Perez in the Sauber team, while a Finn Valtteri Bottas replaces Bruno Senna in the Williams team. Dutch driver Giedo van der Garde joins the Caterhams while Marussia will have an all-rookie line-up of french-man Jules Bianchi & the british driver Max Chilton. Among the five, Bottas & Bianchi look the most promising, but we will have to wait & see their true colours. There have been some high-profile driver movements within the grid. Lewis Hamilton has chosen to fly from his nest - McLaren, to the lap of the Mercedes AMG team - a bold decision indeed, but here's wishing him greater success. Sergio Perez has filled in the vacancy at McLaren. Michael Schumacher has bid farewell to the sport for the second time, while Adrian Sutil rejoins his old team - Force India. Nico Hulkenberg has moved on from Force India to Sauber.
(...to be continued...)