F1 2013 – Senna’s Mid-season Review

After nine rounds of the 2013 Formula 1 World Championship, EngageSportMode’s canine correspondent reviews how things stand so far.

Formula 1 2013 – State of Play So Far

SenniSausage

Tyres. Seriously, if I hear any more jokes about Pirelli and their lack of durability I’m going to go leave a “present” on somebody’s front lawn. It’s true to say black round things have dominated the 2013 so far, either by degrading too quickly or just downright exploding into little bits. I’ve got chew toys made of better quality rubber than these tyres; perhaps that’s a new job opening for me next year.

But anyway, here’s a run down of how the teams and drivers are performing. Who’s a good boy, and who gets sent to the doghouse?

Red Bull Racing

RedBull

Constructors Championship: 1st, 250 points
Drivers Championship: Vettel 1st, 157 points. Webber 5th, 93 points

Vettel is positioning himself nicely for a 4th title in a row, providing he can contend with the mustachioed threat of Fernando Alonso. The changes to the tyres for the German Grand Prix seem to have suited him better, letting him take a convincing win over Räikkönen. Tarnished his image slightly with the “Multi 21” incident in Malaysia, but in reality it’s just confirmation of his ruthless determination to win.

Webber is…there, still, for this season anyway. Announced his retirement from Formula 1 with a move to racing sportscars for Porsche instead. In reality, it’s probably about time; years of being ground down by Vettel must be tiring, with Malaysia the nail in the coffin. Still has the pace, with fastest laps in Canada and Britain, but not a title contender in his swan song season.

Of more importance is who will replace him? Kimi Räikkönen is apparent favourite, with Daniel Ricciardo, and Felix Da Costa also in the mix. Tomorrow’s Young Driver Test at Silverstone will give Ricciardo and Da Costa the chance to prove their worth in the RB9. Jean-Eric Vergne must be feeling slightly sorry for himself.

Mercedes AMG F1

Mercedes

Constructors Championship: 2nd, 183 points
Drivers Championship: Hamilton 4th, 99 points. Rosberg 6th, 84 points

It would be impossible to write this without mentioning “test-gate” and the surrounding fallout. News of Mercedes AMG’s “private test” for Pirelli following the Spanish Grand Prix rocked the paddock in Monaco. Despite doing 1500km in 2013 specification cars, and a finding of serious wrongdoing by the FIA Tribunal, the end result was being banned from this week’s Young Driver Test. Wow.

In terms of race performance, Mercedes AMG is having its best season yet, taking pole in six of the nine rounds so far. However, the team has failed to convert this into effective results come Sunday, with only two wins for Rosberg so far. Hamilton is showing speed in the W04, and must surely be highly amused by the problems besetting McLaren this year.

Recent tyre revisions are likely to work against Mercedes, so I cannot really see either Lewis or Nico challenging for the championship come November. But you get the feeling this is all about setting up a full on attack for 2014.

Scuderia Ferrari

Ferrari

Constructors Championship: 3rd, 180 points
Drivers Championship: Alonso 2nd, 123 points. Massa 7th, 57 points

Potential favourites at the start of the year following testing, Ferrari seem on course to challenge Vettel and Red Bull strongly for the rest of 2013.

Alonso seems to be on his best form for a while, despite spending time cultivating his facial hair and staring at/pondering things. His race pace is scarily quick, with wins in China and Spain proving how much of a contender he is. Qualifying pace seems suspect at times, but otherwise as ruthless as ever.

Massa is having another “Massa-style” season. He out-qualified Fernando in the first two rounds of the season, yet has spent most of the year suffering accidents and mechanical failures. Even Rob Smedley seems to be losing patience with the perpetual bad luck of Felipe.

Lotus F1 Team

Lotus

Constructors Championship: 4th, 157 points
Drivers Championship: Räikkönen 3rd, 116 points. Grosjean 8th, 41 points

Quietly, softly, Räikkönen has got himself into third in the driver’s championship through a series of consistent podium places. In fact Kimi seems to be Mr Dependable this year, the only driver to have finished every race in the points. He’s like Nick Heidfeld, but without the beard.

But in all seriousness, Kimi looks to be quite a threat, especially given how hard he pushed Vettel in Germany. Grosjean is having a far quieter season than last year, which is exactly what he needed. He’ll never be Räikkönen, but he’s got a real opportunity to prove himself as a competent number two driver now.

Force India F1 Team

Force India

Constructors Championship: 5th, 59 points
Drivers Championship: Di Resta 9th, 36 points. Sutil 11th, 23 points

If you had told Vijay Mallya that his team would be ahead of McLaren come this point in the season, he probably wouldn’t have believed you. But it’s true and they are, in short due to the sterling efforts of Paul Di Resta.

Were it not for Force India’s constant bumblings, such as Di Resta’s car being underweight at the British GP, Paul would probably be even further up the rankings. The fact he recovered from the back of the grid to finish 9th in that race proves just how hard he’s pushing. A front line seat cannot be far off soon.

Adrian Sutil is, by contrast, having a fairly anonymous return to Formula 1, with 5th in Monaco being his best showing so far. Curiously, he’s also notched up three 13th place finishes. Spooky.

McLaren Mercedes

Mclaren

Constructors Championship: 6th, 49 points
Drivers Championship: Button 10th, 33 points. Perez 12th, 16 points

Right now this must surely be McLaren’s worst start to a season in modern history. If things fail to improve, it’ll be the first time the Woking outfit hasn’t been a top five constructor since 1981!

So why has it all gone wrong? Firstly, the MP4-28 is widely acknowledged to be a bit of a dog [ahem-Ed] and seems wildly far off the pace shown by McLaren at the end of 2012. In addition, you have Button who is hardly likely to set headlines ablaze with his driving, and seems to spend most of the race complaining and whinging.

Perez, on the other hand, is proving to be as unruly as one might have expected. Several times he has gone toe-to-toe with Button, causing the Englishman to demand the team rein him in. Kimi Räikkönen had a more direct suggestion to dealing with Sergio’s aggressive driving, suggesting the Mexican should be “punched in the face” following their collision in Monaco. Either way, McLaren had better hope they find some pace soon.

Scuderia Toro Rosso

ToroRosso

Constructors Championship: 7th, 24 points
Drivers Championship: Vergne 13th, 13 points. Ricciardo 14th, 11 points

Red Bull’s junior team finds itself in a little bit of a hinterland at this stage in the season; not quite in touch with the top six, but far enough ahead of the bottom four teams. Both Vergne and Ricciardo have given career-best finishes so far in 2013, with Jean-Eric achieving 6th in Canada, and Daniel hitting 7th in China.

Vergne also seems to be suffering from Mark Webber-esque bad luck, with four retirements spoiling his chances this year. Were it not for them, it’s possible he might have pulled out a bigger gap to Ricciardo, meaning he should feel even more aggrieved at not being picked to test for Red Bull this week. The fact he’s comfortably set more fastest laps compared to Ricciardo underlines Vergne’s ability but, for whatever reason, he is not the chosen one.

Sauber F1 Team

Sauber

Constructors Championship: 8th, 7 points
Drivers Championship: Hülkenberg 15th, 7 points. Gutiérrez 18th, 0 points

A paltry 7 points sees Sauber a long way from the 126 they managed to score last season. By this stage last year they’d already achieved two podiums, with another two to follow later in the year. I very much doubt we’ll see the Swiss team emulating that in 2013.

Hülkenberg must be kicking himself for leaving Force India for this. Instead of fighting for top-five finishes, he’s doing well to manage to scrape into the points at all this season. It might well explain the rumours that he has terminated his contract options with Sauber. Gutiérrez has been fairly anonymous in his first season, with one fastest-lap in Spain being his only real achievement, but given the money behind him, his seat is probably safe.

Sauber have also announced details of long term investment from Russian companies, which also includes the aim of bringing 17 year old, and relatively unproven, Sergey Sirotkin into Formula 1 for 2014. Could be interesting…

Williams F1 Team

Williams

Constructors Championship: 9th, 0 points
Drivers Championship: Maldonado 16th, 0 points. Bottas 17th, 0 points

Last year’s victory in the Spanish Grand Prix must seem like an absolute lifetime away for the team from Oxfordshire. 2013 marks the worst season since 1977 for Williams, and that was their first year in the sport using a March-Ford. Granted the team has struggled in recent years, but at least in 2012 they were making regular points finishes with Bruno Senna.

Maldonado has struggled hugely, and rookie Bottas has had little to work with in order to show off his proclaimed Messiah like talent. Williams have signed a deal with Mercedes-Benz to supply engines next year, and has taken on Pat Symonds as their new technical director, replacing Mike Coughlan.

Symonds helped mastermind Schumacher’s victories at Benetton, along with Alonso’s title wins with Renault, so he has form. But Symond’s was also infamously banned from the sport for five years following the deliberate crash by Nelson Piquet Jr. at the 2009 Singapore Grand Prix, enabling Alonso to win. Controversial, but Williams need a kick up the backside to avoid slipping further backwards.

Marussia F1 Team

Marussia

Constructors Championship: 10th, 0 points
Drivers Championship: Bianchi 19th, 0 points. Chilton 21st, 0 points

With HRT gone, thankfully, the scrap at the back of the grid is closer than ever. Marussia seem to have made the most progress, with Jules Bianchi putting in some stellar efforts during the opening rounds. Chilton has, sadly, not quite been able match his team mate but did, to his credit, achieve a respectable 14th place at Monaco.

Interestingly, Marussia have today announced they will be using Ferrari engines and gearboxes for next season. Given what the team has achieved with the torrid Cosworth V8 engines, teams like Sauber and Williams might have to watch their backs in 2014.

Caterham F1 Team

Caterham

Constructors Championship: 11th, 0 points
Drivers Championship: Pic 20th, 0 points. van der Gaarde 22nd, 0 points

The team that was Lotus, but is now Caterham, shows some signs of improvement but faces losing touch with Marussia if next year’s package works well for them.

Pic achieved 14th in Malaysia which has, to date, been the team’s best result. Giedo van der Gaarde has managed two 15th placed finishes, on top of a team best qualifying result of 15th at Monaco. Nothing to write home about, but better than HRT ever would have been.

Conclusions

I’d stake my reputation of being “more accurate than Jacques Villeneuve” that Vettel will be World Champion this year. Anyway, that’s enough from me, I’m off to roll in the grass and stare inquisitively at seagulls.

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