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F1 2013 Roundup

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On: Fri, Nov 29, 2013 at 1:13PM | By: Nick Bakewell


F1 2013 Roundup

Here we are, edging ever nearer to the end of the year, a time traditionally given over to a bit of reflection. In this case, I’d like to turn the mirror towards this year’s Formula One world championship, and see if we can’t find some nuggets of truth and happiness to extract from what was otherwise, prima facie, a rather boring season. We all know the internet loves a good list, anyway.

DRIVERS- BEST & WORST

Sebastian Vettel
Much though it pains me to say, there’s no missing it, is there? Driver of the year goes to Mr. Vettel for his nigh-on flawless execution of a 4th world drivers’ championship bid. I think it’s safe to say that Vettel belongs in the pantheon of all-time greats by this point, having been decided best-in-the-world at the second hardest thing a person can undertake in the world of sport (not as hard as hitting a fastball, but easier than playing golf. Hear that, Tiger?) four times over at the ripe old age of 26. Naysayers abound, but as I stated recently, I’d like to see any of you try it. Also, if you’re reading this, Lewis, I really would like to see you try it.

Nico Rosberg
Speaking of…sorry, Lewis, but this one has to go to your teammate. I always suspected that the guy who was regularly outperforming Michael Schumacher, even post-prime Schumacher, was damn quick. This year he proved it in spades, outperforming Hamilton as well. Lewis may be quicker, even quickest over one lap, but contemporary F1 is all about being adaptable, and Rosberg has proved that he can do it in spades: a string of pole positions and a further two wins to add to his trophy cabinet. As ever, I can’t wait for next year, when the Silver Arrows will have the brand new power plant to shore up their not-inconsiderable defenses. I hear tell that Mercedes’ engine is both more powerful and more reliable than the units from Renault and Ferrari; maybe we’ll see a legitimate championship bid next year?

Romain Grosjean
Wow, where did this come from? The perennially-grinning Frenchman has finally started to prove his mettle, comfortably eclipsing his recalcitrant teammate in the latter half of the season, particularly with some brilliant driving in Germany, Japan, and America. Gone is the “first-lap nutcase” of yesteryear, and despite some rather embarrassing prangs early in the season, he looks well set-up to be leading the team following Raikkonen’s departure. He’s finally managed to temper his volatile instincts with a healthy dose of maturity and genuine racecraft. We always knew he was fast, but now he’s consistent, too, which as anyone knows, is the mark of a great racing driver.

Adrian Sutil
You know the Albert King song, “Born Under a Bad Sign”? There’s a line in it that goes: “If it weren’t for bad luck, I’d have no luck at all”; I think it sums up Sutil’s return to F1 pretty neatly. Four retirements, only nine points finishes from a race-winning driver in a fairly quick (albeit inconsistent) car. Where did it all go wrong? Granted, I think a lot of it is down to the team: Force India have proved that they desperately need to poach or purloin a decent race strategist from another team, as is the fashion nowadays. It remains to be seen whether he’ll stick with the team for next year, though with the great game of musical chairs that’s currently happening, if he decides to leave the team, he might find himself bereft of a drive for next season. That would certainly be sad, but I’m dubious as to how much of an impact it would make on the shape of the grid.

Sergio Perez
Poor Checo: he never really had a chance, did he? McLaren’s first season without a podium in almost innumerable years, and the drivers are hardly to blame. Saddled with some thoroughly subpar machinery, Perez was prodded into driving more aggressively; to “get his elbows out” as stated by Mclaren boss Martin Whitmarsh. What resulted were some truly close shaves with other drivers, some of which went past the edge of decency and put him out of the race. For whatever reason, despite comparing favorably in some circumstances to his former-world-champion teammate, it wasn’t enough, and McLaren unceremoniously dumped him a few weeks ago. Now without a drive, he’s said he’s considered taking a sabbatical if he can’t find a drive with a good enough team. Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that.

Fernando Alonso
Okay, wait, before you all raise a pitchfork-and-torches mob and storm up to the castle gates, demanding my head on a pike: Alonso is recidivating, turning once again into the whining drama queen that was apparent at McLaren in 2007. While he paid his dues to the Scuderia with a pair of wins and a nice string of podiums, it wasn’t enough to challenge Vettel. Not even close. That’s why I’m disappointed in him: time after time we’re told that Alonso is the wily old wolf, crafty, and ruthlessly capable of making the best of a bad car. We saw this very clearly last year when he wrestled the sub-par Ferrari through some extremely adverse circumstances, leading to a thrilling Hunt/Lauda style season ender. This season, on the other hand, saw Alonso “having his ear tweaked” by Ferrari chairman Luca di Montezemolo, being regularly passed or outqualified by his teammate, and just generally being a sourpuss about his car and his team. Rather than fighting to the bitter end as he did last year, he seemed to have consigned his expectations to the landfill from day one of this season. He might finish second in the drivers’ championship, but to a racing driver, second place is just the first of the losers.

TEAMS
Since there are so few teams this year (just 11), I’m going to limit this to best or worst, and then one runner-up in each category. Let’s start with the good news first:

Infiniti Red Bull Racing
As with the individual, so with the team. There’s no getting away from it. Red Bull have got it figured out in a way that no other team does. Perhaps it’s because they’re a relatively nascent team, and thus have no big histories to pay obeisance to, or baggage to tote along with them. They’re a team for the modern F1 era, put together based on the high-profile, high-tech style of racing and team management that pervades the sport today. They understand that the sport’s primary purpose is to be a spectacle, a venue for entertainment, which is how you wind up with stuff like (former RBR driver) David Coulthard doing donuts on top of the Burj-al-Arab in Dubai. Certainly, they have a truly devastating weapon in the form of Adrian Newey’s drawing hand, but we can’t forget that F1 is a team sport on a scale unheard of in almost any other sport. One gets the sense that Red Bull’s utter domination is because they’ve created, at their core, the nucleus of what is the perfect team to suit the sport’s current climate. One had only to listen to Vettel’s radio message to the team following his recent victory in Texas to understand: “We have to remember these days, boys. They won’t last forever. I’m so proud of all of you. I love you”

Doesn’t it bring at least a few tears to your eyes?

Lotus
Honorable mention goes to Lotus-Renault, for their exceptional car in the face of some pretty serious financial adversity. Quick at the start of the season, and kept progressively speedy throughout the season while being exceptionally kind to its tyres, which these days is as important as remembering to, say, put fuel in the car. I really hope that the car continues to be as brilliant next year, despite the loss of head designer James Allison. If so, perchance we’ll see a fully fledged attempt at the title from Romain Grosjean.

Worst

McLaren
I’m sorry, but McLaren, look at yourselves. You just let your best driver and your best designer go, and now your title sponsor (Vodaphone) is leaving as well. I realize that not every team has good years, or great years even, but you didn’t even make it onto the podium this year! When was the last time that happened? It’s a good thing that Ron Dennis is almost bald already, otherwise he’d be tearing his hair out. I think that, much as I like all the people involved with the team, it might be time to consider a serious re-ordering of priorities. Clearly, whatever they have going for them right now isn’t working.

Force India
This was just sad to watch; it’s one thing to have good drivers in a bad car, or bad drivers in a good car, but to have subpar drivers with mediocre strategy in a completely unreliable car? It devolved into farce pretty quickly. I’ll put it this way: no team should have to retire a car because the wheel won’t come off during a pit stop. Shape up, Force India.

To sum up, then
I felt that 2013 was a rather boring season, and not just because of Red Bull’s inevitable dominance. Too much time was spent whinging about tyres and optimum performance windows and target lap times, etc, etc, on and on. Maybe it was down to the weather: Brazil was exciting because it was pretty much the only mildly moist race on the calendar. Whatever the case, F1 in its current state has clearly reached a plateau, and is in dire need of a good shakeup. While I’m sad that the lovely, screaming V8s are going away, I’m hopeful that the new engine regulations will reshuffle the field for next year. I suppose that’s the eternal refrain of the sports fan, isn’t it? “There’s always next year”.

As a PS, I’d just like to say thanks and congratulations to Mark Webber for a great and memorable career in F1. All the best, and good luck with Porsche next year.




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