2012 was a truly fantastic season. Seven different winners in the first seven races, more twists and turns that the Monaco Grand Prix and Sebastian Vettel clawing his way to just winning the World Championship. After the insipidity of the 2011 season, 2012 came as a shock to the system and as such, only a fool would be stupid enough to try to second guess the 2013 season, but that’s exactly what I am, so I’m going to try.
It would take me hours to take you through the entire grid, so I’m going to go through the top five teams and decide which team holds the chance of winning the 2013 World Championship (if someone from outside the top five wins, it will certainly be embarrassing!).
Starting off with Mercedes, we can see how awful their year was. Ross Brawn has one amazing head sitting on his shoulders but he failed to realise when he needed to stop developing the RFA on the Mercedes, and try to recover. Comparing him to a gambler, the situation was bad and yet he kept digging himself deeper and deeper and deeper, assuring himself that once they hit the gold, all would be good again. But Brawn was wrong and their never-ending pursuit of the perfect double DRS absolutely killed the team. The one win and three podiums was only a shadow of what seemed to be capable at the hands of a MGP W03.
Talking to Gary Hartstein recently, he told me “Every physician in the paddock agrees, you just can’t do Formula One when your forty, not in 2012”. But yet, Michael Schumacher did seem to have good pace at the start of the season before being absolutely blighted with mechanical failures in what has to be the least reliable car since Mark Webber’s 2006 Williams.
Looking at all the problems Mercedes faced in 2012, one would question why someone such as Lewis Hamilton would make such a silly error as to leave a World Championship contending team for such an unreliable future. He’s paid to drive, not to think, but his management made a big no-no in allowing him to make the move, even if a little monetary incentive was involved. Realistically will we see Mercedes fighting for the Championship? I couldn’t imagine so. They really need to pick themselves up and be able to know when to stop digging into a bad idea, and change to something worthwhile.
As for McLaren, how will they fare without Lewis? Lewis is one of the most popular drivers on the grid and he was holding McLaren up in both popularity and the amazing talent of pulling the best from a situation. McLaren had a whole host of drivers willing to jump into the hot seat when Lewis jumped ship, and I believe that they’re choice is something they are probably already regretting.
Sergio Perez has put in a fantastic performance in a couple of races but when he’s not on the podium, he’s always usually well down the field. A couple of good performances, although impressive, do not in my opinion, warrant him a seat at McLaren already. He has some problems that need to yet be ironed out. Look at his crazy dart up the inside of Charles Pic in Austin, or causing the pile up in Abu Dhabi. Since signing with McLaren before Japan, his skill has jumped straight out the window and combining this with the inevitable time needed to get to grips with the McLaren, I don’t expect the Mexican to shine.
Having said that, Jenson Button should not be understated. While not the best driver on the grid, he is very talented in both the wet and the dry, but he will be of no use to McLaren. You can’t win a championship with just one good driver. Ask Ferrari.
Speaking of whom, it took me a long time to decide if they will be ready to fight. Alonso did something unbelievable, pulling the dog of a Ferrari he was forced to work with, and turning it into a championship contending car, a car which came within three points of a World Championship. Yet, look at Fernando’s pattern. In 2010, in Silverstone, he told BBC “I will win the championship”. Despite the massive deficit to the leader, he put in a fantastic run and again came painstakingly close, to finish 4 points behind Vettel. The following year, he won just one Grand Prix, the British round. If 2012 has taken as much out of him as it would seem from the post-Brazil picture, then we’re in for a slow year for Ferrari. Felipe Massa has seemingly recovered and is starting to impress, but Fernando still shoulders the brunt of Ferrari’s hopes so if he is off form, the prancing horse will be forced to chase the bulls.
Even I’m not silly enough to count Red Bull out of the Championship and I wouldn’t need to. Fernando Alonso was bang on when he said he was racing Adrian Newey. It seems that the design guru can’t be beaten. Red Bull’s prodigy, Sebastian Vettel, is going down as one of the best, like it or not. Mark Webber, his outspoken Aussie team-mate is talented, but not to the level of the German, although it is hard to tell as the RB8 seems to have been geared towards a German World Champion, not an Australian one.
So this means that Red Bull are going to grab the bull by the horns (that was awful, I’m sorry) and run away with it? No, I don’t think so.
Lotus F1 Team have slowly but surely been making their way up. Having lost Robert Kubica in the tragic Rally accident in 2011, the team were forced to look for a suitable replacement, calling Nick Heidfeld, Vitaly Petrov and Bruno Senna in to try to make a difference, with two podiums in the first two races all there was to show for it. But in 2012, Lotus successfully coaxed 2007 World Champion, Kimi Raikkonen back into the world of Formula One, pairing him with Romain Grosjean who was also making his return to Formula One. Kimi Raikkonen showed his huge talent, finishing every single racing lap, but one, and finishing third in the Championship despite only taking one win, which no doubt will be vastly improved in 2013.
Romain Grosjean is hugely talented even though his reputation as a “first lap nutcase” does out shine this. Seemingly over his far too ambitious racing style, he can start afresh in 2013 and have what could be one of the best partnerships ever seen in the sport.
I know the idea of the article was to establish the most likely team to win the Championship, but it will be a very close call. One thing for certain is; 2013 looks likely to see a fight between Raikkonen and Newey, and it will certainly be a fun one.