The records just keep breaking whenever Vettel and Red Bull are mentioned in the same sentence. With his fourth consecutive world title, and eight consecutive race wins (at the time of writing) the dynamic duo seems unstoppable. Red Bull’s 2013 success is to an extent, attributable to Pirelli changing their spontaneous 2013 tyre compound before the Hungarian GP back to the 2012 construction. Since the Hungarian GP Vettel has won eight of the nine races. This has put the frown back to Alonso’s face who, despite his best efforts to tame the prancing horse, keeps finding himself on the wrong podium after the races.
Sebastian Vettel is not the only driver smiling at the moment; Lewis Hamilton must be relieved to know that he did indeed make the right call to leave McLaren and switch to Mercedes. While Hamilton is undoubtedly high-fiving his management, Sergio Perez is probably still in shock after being booted due to underperforming, and replaced by the Danish Kevin Magnussen. Lotus is seemingly in a two state shock, one being that they’ve still to secure funding and have just lost Raikkonen to Ferrari and back problems. On the other-hand, Romain Grosjean has undergone a complete change in driver character, no longer the ‘first lap nutcase’ as dubbed by the soon-to-retire Mark Webber, and is carrying the team with finishing on the podium consistently. Whoever the shrink that Grosjean is seeing is clearly a miracle worker. Perhaps Grosjean and Perez should swap phone numbers.
All of this is, of course, rather irrelevant as the 2014 regulations will bring new engines and designs into play that should equalise the field. The double exhaust outlets are replaced by single exhaust outlets (along with engine downsizing and some clever electronics), meaning Red Bull is less likely to produce cars that achieve higher downforce through ingenious exhaust gas management. But, knowing Newey and his black magic behind the drawing board, I wouldn’t count on it too much.
The reign of Sebastien is over. The new reign of Sebastien has started. It appears the makings of a WRC winning driver involve being French and called Sebastien, nothing else matters. Sebastien Ogier has won his first ever WRC world championship, in his first season with Volkswagen. With Loeb out of the picture, Ogier wasted no time proving Citroen made a mistake letting him go, and won nine out of the thirteen races held. His pace in the Polo WRC was nothing short of impressive, and the world of rallying missed a clash of the titans when Loeb announced his retirement from the sport just as Ogier was warming up for a comeback. Volkswagen came into the season as a new entrant and incinerated Citroen and M-Sport, showing that it is possible to perform right from the start.
While Citroen is experiencing the withdrawal effect of Loeb, M-Sport has performed extremely well given the small budget they have in comparison to the likes of VW. Thierry Neuville, the Belgian driver for MSport has taken an underperforming M-Sport Fiesta and grabbed seven podium places throughout the season. Hyundai is entering the 2014 calendar with a brand new programme, and have recruited Neuville and his hipster glasses to drive for it, hoping for a similar explosive entrance to the one VW had. Former F1 driver, Robert Kubica, who endured a terrific crash in 2011, has won the WRC2 category and is making his way to the top tier with more testing and seat time for the Citroen WRC team. 2014 will see Ogier and Neuville go head to head with VW defending the title and Hyundai hopefully putting up a fight.
In MotoGP it has been 35 years since a rookie has taken the MotoGP crown. Marc Marquez is the first rookie since the American Kenny Roberts to win the MotoGP world title in his first try. Marquez is 20 years old, lightning fast and in possession of all the qualities to make him the next king of the sport. His riding style is poetry on two-wheels, elbow dragging through corners, aggressive on the duels (think him and Rossi at Laguna Seca) and late on the brakes, yet intelligent and composed when needed to, like in Valencia where he secured the title in the final race show-down between him and Lorenzo. Jorge Lorenzo had a crash in the practice session for the German GP that saw him miss the race, giving Marquez the chance to take the lead. Lorenzo, nevertheless, came back strong and began the hunt for the title until the final race in Valencia, which saw him dictate the pace until the chequered flag. Dani Pedrosa is probably wondering what happened this season, after all, he was expected to be the number one contender for the title at Honda, not Marquez. Come to think of it, both Pedrosa and Perez should have a group session with Grosjean’s shrink.
Rossi on the other hand has decided to ditch the shrinks and voodoo magic, and instead fire his long term crew-chief Jeff Burges, whom he’s worked with for 14 years and treated like a father in racing, in search for better performance. Rossi, cold-bloodedly, replaces Burges with Silvano Galbusera, a former World Superbike crew-chief for BMW. The pressure is now on Rossi for 2014, he clinched just one win in 2013, and if no more transpire in 2014, maybe it’s not the gear or the crew-chiefs that are to blame, but perhaps the rider. Regardless of Rossi’s troubles, the racing in 2014 should be phenomenal as the Spanish trio of Marquez, Lorenzo and Pedrosa take on each other and the rest of the colourful squads.