Rarely in Formula One have the first two races provided so much room for speculation as they have this season. Five different men between four teams have reached the podium in just two races. There have been controversies between and within teams, strategic errors have been made, and a general gloom exists over the issue of the 2013 tyres. Here’s how the storm’s been brewing with the big names of the sport.
Red Bull: Red Bull were at the centre of attention in Malaysia. Webber who had been assured that his position would not be challenged by Vettel, became the victim of Vettel’s cruel sense of authenticity and desire to win. The cause of this incident found its catalyst far from Vettel’s desire to win, but rather from the difficulty that the new tyres and regulations have imposed on all of the teams.
The 2013 Pirelli tyres have proven more than difficult to deal with and Red Bull alongside Mercedes were some of the first teams to complain about the new tyres to Pirelli. Tyres currently dictate almost all aspects of the race from car design to race strategy, and thus it is no wonder that teams experiment with different settings. Webber due to a different strategy turned down his engine settings to preserve fuel and tyre, while Vettel with a different set-up had more grip and fuel to perform the daunting overtake.
Pirelli Motorsports Director Paul Hembery has confirmed that Pirelli are set to review their tyres after the Bahrain GP. This could be good news for Red Bull and Mercedes.
Lotus: Lotus came out with a surprise victory in Australia. Kimi Raikkonen drove a brilliant race with a strategy that allowed him to cruise to victory 12 seconds ahead of everybody. Lotus, it seems, have built a car that manages its tyres extremely well in the dry. If weather permits, the Chinese Grand Prix could be pocketed by Lotus.
Lotus drove a two pit stop strategy in Australia, whilst most teams had to make three. With the Chinese GP ahead, it will be interesting to see how many teams have managed to set their cars so that they only need two pit-stops.
Ferrari: The men from Maranello have managed to produce a competitive car right from the beginning of the season. Felipe Massa seems to be in fantastic form, whilst Alonso is looking as strong as last season, which should make the title fight even more exciting than last year. What is disappointing is Ferrari’s usual favouritism towards Alonso, meaning that unless Alonso is out of the race, it will be unlikely to see Massa on top of the podium.
McLaren: Having scored just four points in two races, McLaren is struggling to find pace and consistency. It is unclear as to how severe issues are with McLaren. Known for their ability to develop the car throughout the season, McLaren have shown little signs of improvements since Australia. If they are struggling with aerodynamics; the amendments should not take too long. If problems persist in the chassis and suspension it could take months to fix such problems.
The next few races will determine the degree of problems that McLaren are having. If they show signs of improvements in China and Bahrain, the problems can be attributed to set-up, whilst if their poor performance continues, problems lay deeper in the foundations of the car.
Toro Rosso: Normally, not a contender for big points, and unlikely to be this year, but, what needs to be looked at is the internal competition between Ricciardo and Vergne. While the boys at Red Bull are likely to behave tolerantly the next few races to make up for the incident in Malaysia, the gloves are off at Toro Rosso. With Webber’s future in a state of speculation, the race seat in Red Bull is eyed by both Ricciardo and Vergne. Ricciardo has vowed to “blow Vergne apart”; meaning racing between the two should be highly entertaining.
Mercedes-Benz: Mercedes are 33 points ahead of McLaren in the constructors’ championship, and have shown signs of improvements from last season, which must be putting a smile on Hamilton’s face. Nevertheless, Mercedes needs to focus on getting the race strategy together. They showed in Malaysia that they had the pace to keep up with Red Bull, but their tyres and fuel wore out too fast for them to properly challenge Red Bull.
The rest of the grid is populated by new drivers and the comeback of a former-driver-turned-bar-fighter Sutil. Competition between Marussia and Caterham remains as always, and Sauber alongside Force India are starting to take in some important points.