Welcome to the 2013 Formula 1 season! Well…sorta I suppose. Cars are not on the grid in Australia, but we are through launches and only a few weeks from the opening round of the 2013 campaign. We have had two testing sessions occur with one left in Barcelona. Testing is never a really good way to tell anything, so we will launch the first power rankings of the season anyway. I will break them up into team and driver’s rankings separately as a driver performance does not always match the team (see last year’s Ferrari). So without further babbling, I give you the teams of the 2013 season.
1. Ferrari – I am going to start the season pretty high on Ferrari and label them the team to beat going into Australia. The Italian squad was terrible at the start of last season. They pay Fernando Alonso a hefty salary and he earned his pay the first few rounds of the season. The team has made some changes and is very serious about 2013 being the year they knock the Bulls off the top step. Testing has been kind thus far for Ferrari. Not many issues with reliability in the car and both Fred and Massa look to have pretty good confidence in the car. The team knows they need to start strong if they are to rebound and take both titles.
2. Red Bull – Winners of the last three manufacturer’s titles, Red Bull will undoubtedly be at the front early and often in 2013. The minimal amount of rule changes will actually hurt the team I believe. Last year the Red Bull was not the best car for much of the season. In fact, it was only the best car the four straight races Vettel won to propel himself back into the championship. I think there is some stress at the team currently with Webber and some of the Red Bull upper management, regardless of what they are saying to the press. The team has had a good couple tests with minimal negativity out of the car. It would appear all systems are go for the “drink racers”.
3. Lotus Renault – While the lack of rule changes may hurt Red Bull, I think it plays perfectly into the hands of Eric Boullier and Lotus. Fact of the matter is the Lotus was probably the second best car out of the blocks last season and both Mercedes and McLaren have undergone some substantial changes during the offseason. Lotus Renault is back with the same cast and crew. Look for them to be nipping at the Red Bull’s heels!
4. McLaren – Pretty rare territory for the Woking group here. McLaren usually leaves the gates VERY strong. I think it will be a little different early on this season however. The loss of Hamilton and acquisition of Perez will take a bit of the sting out of their early season. Some key leadership has also left the team as well. Paddy Lowe has left as technical director and joined Mercedes AMG. While this may not hurt too badly, Jenson figured it may have some of an impact when hypothetically speaking of his joining the AMG squad a couple of weeks ago.
5. Mercedes AMG – Wow! Can a team go through any more of a change during the offseason? It seems as the only people who look familiar is Nico Rosberg and Ross Brawn. Add Lewis Hamilton, Toto Wolff, the mouthpiece Niki Lauda, and now Paddy Lowe. It is apparent that AMG want results and it better be sooner rather than later. I will give props to AMG though. It is not like they don’t know the problem. The problem is their chassis has been garbage. It destroys tires and the amount of money Mercedes was putting in the team was laughable when you look at the results they wanted to achieve. The folks at AMG are going to get off to a slow start, but will rebound later I believe. That is a 180 compared to their usual strong start and eventual mid-pack (if that) form.
6. Williams – I am expecting a great start for Williams this season. They have made some great changes over the last couple years that show they are invested in the future of the team. The decisions have been smart though. Both Maldonado and Bottas have had great things to say about the 2013 challenger the FW35 so far. The car was pretty damn good out of the box last season. I really think they are ready to take control of the mid pack and will surprise a few people down under during round one. Bottas as a signing in my mind is the key to this guy. I really think this guy can be good…very good. He doesn’t really seem like a rookie to me and that is why I think they will start the season so well.
7. Sauber – What a start to the 2012 season these guys had. Their car is usually pretty good and the addition on Nico Hulkenburg is a good one. Last season they had both Perez and Kobayashi which was a pretty good lineup. I am not as sold on the other kid from Mexico at this time. Esteban Gutierrez has that rookie feel and I don’t think he lends much to Sauber out of the gate (minus cash). I am going to have them drop a spot in the preseason rankings because of the switch.
8. Sahara Force India – This team is sinking faster than the Titanic at the moment. What a complete joke their 2012-2013 offseason has been. They don’t even know who the hell will drive the second car 16 day out of free practice one. Di Resta is in a tough spot here I think. The team performed well at the end of the season last year, but this has to be a frustrating start to 2013 for him. I think the team will be ok once we get back to the later European rounds like Spa and Monza, but I am not looking to them for much inspiration early in 2013.
9. Scuderia Toro Rosso – Another run with a similar crew at STR. I don’t look for much out of these young guys early on. It will be interesting to see who steps it up though as the year goes on. One of these guys is in good shape to take over Webber’s car if they can deliver in the STR this season. I don’t think they will challenge much, but the battles against each other on track will be a lot of fun to watch.
10. Caterham – They claim they are ready to make a jump this season. I like the direction Caterham are going, but their driver talent to start with is kind of meh at best. I think Marussia will give them a run for that 10th spot this season.
11. Marussia – The last of the Cosworth project weighs in at P11 to start. I have a good feeling about the Marussia people getting ahead of Caterham before it is all said and done, but the loss of Timo Glock was big. This should prove to be a slow start for the Russians in 2013.