Team-by-team look at the 2013 Korean Grand Prix

Sebastian Vettel once again took a comfortable victory but all eyes were on the action happening behind him. Kimi Raikkonen battled from his starting position of ninth to finish second whilst teammate Romain Grosjean started and finished third to take the last podium place. The star of the race was Nico Hulkenberg who finished fourth having passed both Ferrari’s on lap one and then kept both Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso behind him. Elsewhere there were close battles between Massa, Perez, Gutierrez and Maldonado.

Red Bull
Sebastian Vettel took another victory as he moves ever closer to his fourth title. His rivals will be happier that the gap between him and the Lotuses was much closer. He was also battling to keep his tyres in top conditions nursing his right front tyre until the end of the race. IMG_2875Mark Webber was out of luck in Korea. A ten-place grid penalty for his taxi ride in Singapore left him 13th on the grid. He made progress through the race but shortly after pitting Perez’s delamination saw him run across the debris and pick up a puncture. With no medium tyres left he had to switch to the supersoft. After the safety car from the Perez incident Adrian Sutil lost control of his Force India at turn three and careered in Webber. The Australian’s car then caught on fire leaving his team with a tough task to get the car ready for next weekend in Japan. The fire brought out the second safety car but not before a fire marshall car took to the track causing confusion. It is mathematically possible for Vettel to take his fourth title next weekend.

Lotus
Kimi Raikkonen finished a triumphant second having started in ninth. The two safety cars helped the Finn before he overtook his teammate late in the race to steal the spot from the Frenchman. Romain Grosjean had started third and got ahead of Hamilton to pursue Vettel. Whilst the gap was a lot closer than in previous races it was not enough. Grosjean made a small mistake which gifted Raikkonen the place although it was very close between the two teammates.

Sauber
IMG_2809Nico Hulkenberg and Sauber were the stars of the race. Having started seventh the German managed to pass both the Ferrari’s of Felipe Massa and Fernando Alonso on the opening lap. In the first stint of the race he kept ahead of the double world champion and was still ahead him after the first pit stop. At the restart after the first safety car Hulkenberg passed Hamilton and the pair then battled to the end. There was a close moment where it looked like it was all over and Hamilton had managed to get passed, however the German was quickly back passed and he finished the race in fourth. Esteban Gutierrez started in the top ten and was unlucky to miss out on the last point after a close battle with Massa, Maldonado and Perez.

Mercedes
Lewis Hamilton finished fifth in a disappointing day for the Briton. He had started second but was passed by Grosjean early on. He held on to third until the first round of pitstops. After his teammate Nico Rosberg suffered a nose/front wing failure the team pitted him before Hamilton who lost out and had to complete another lap. He ended up behind Hulkenberg and despite passing him on one occasion at turn one he couldn’t get passed. Rosberg’s race nearly ended in sparks but he managed to keep the car running back to the pits, he finished the day in eighth after a battle with the McLaren of Jenson Button.

Ferrari
Both the Ferrari’s found they were passed by the Sauber’s on lap one. Felipe Massa caused mass confusion after spinning at the third corner on lap one. A number of drivers had to take avoiding action and it pushed Massa well down the field. After the incident Alonso was behind Hulkenberg who he was unable to pass. After the two safety cars he was behind Hamilton and Hulkenberg. As the two battled the Spaniard closed up and diced with Hamilton but could not find a way passed. He finished the day in sixth. Massa battled with Maldonado, Gutierrez and Perez to finish ninth.

McLaren
Jenson Button was McLaren’s highest finisher with both drivers finishing in the top ten. The Briton finished seventh in the late battle for fourth between Hulkenberg, Hamilton, Alonso and Rosberg. He was passed by Rosberg but got the place back to take home four important points. Sergio Perez brought out the first safety car after his front right tyre threw off its tread throwing its debris across the track. He made it back to the pits and clawed his way back up the standings after a battle with Maldonado, Massa, and Gutierrez to take the last point.

Williams
Williams missed out on the final point after a close battle between the teammates, Maldonado and Bottas, and the McLaren of Perez, Ferrari of Massa and Sauber of Guiterrez. In a few corners Maldonado went from tenth to 14th after being passed by the above and his teammate. Bottas ended the day in 12th while his teammate was behind him in 13th.

Caterham
Charles Pic took 14th ahead of his teammate Giedo van der Garde in 15th as they continue their close battle with Marussia. The Dutchman got a drive through penalty for forcing Jules Bianchi’s Marussia wide on the opening lap and recovered to pass both Marussias.

Marussia
The Marussia pair finished 16th and 17th with Bianchi beating Max Chilton to the finish line. Van der Garde got a drive through penalty for forcing Bianchi’s Marussia wide on the opening lap but recovered to pass both Marussias before the end of the race.

Toro Rosso
Both Toro Rosso’s retired on the last lap with mechanical issues. Daniel Ricciardo had been running in ninth after a long first stint which saw him mix it with the front runners. However his day ended after a mechanical problem which saw him pull up at the side of the track. Jean-Erice Vergne also ended his day with a mechanical problem but was classified finishing 18th ahead of Ricciardo in 19th.

Force India
It was a day to forget for Force India. A less than impressive performance in qualifying in Saturday continued on Sunday. Paul di Resta continues to diminish his chance of a top drive after crashing out of yet another race on lap 25. His teammate Adrian Sutil caused Mark Webber’s retirement from the race after spinning his Force India at turn three on the first safety car restart. The German managed to continue before pulling into the pits with five laps to run.

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Team-by-team look at the 2013 Italian Grand Prix

Sebastian Vettel took a dominant victory as Fernando Alonso finished second much to the delight of the Italian crowd. Mark Webber converted his front row qualifying to third – his first podium at Monza – whilst Nico Hulkenberg boosted his chances of a better seat next year with fifth in his Sauber. Both Kimi Raikkonen and Lewis Hamilton’s title chances suffered after a poor qualifying session and race. Here is how each team finished.

Red Bull
IMG_2875Red Bull converted a front row start into getting both drivers on the podium. Sebastian Vettel led from the off as Mark Webber lost out on second to Felipe Massa. Vettel extended his lead over the coming laps to drive comfortably to the end. At the end Fernando Alonso managed to close the gap but could get no closer than five seconds. Webber lost out to both Massa and Alonso at the start but the Australian fought back to get within a second of Alonso. Webber was also told to short-shift in the closing laps but still had enough to finish third. A great result for both drivers and the team with both the drivers and constructors titles not looking too far off.

Ferrari
Ferrari would have been hoping for more at their home race but after failing to get on the front row in qualifying second and fourth may be all they could have hoped for. Felipe Massa started ahead of Fernando Alonso and briefly got himself up to second before letting Alonso past. The Spaniard then trailed Vettel for much of the race leading for a number of laps before pitting. At the end he managed to close the gap to just over five seconds but it was not enough. Massa’s race may go some way to helping his 2014 seat chances but rumours suggest he is most likely on his way out of the team – with an announcement imminent. Kimi Raikkonen and Nico Hulkenberg are being touted as replacements.

Sauber
Nico Hulkenberg produced the drive of the day to finish a strong fifth in a less than brilliant Sauber. IMG_2809The German started third on the grid after an outstanding lap on Saturday. He lost out at the start and by the first corner he was fifth but a controlled race meant that is where he stayed. He had been in a race long battle with Nico Rosberg but managed to keep ahead of the Mercedes driver right up until the end. It was a contrasting day for Esteban Gutierrez – who had been the faster Sauber driver throughout the weekend – with him eventually finishing 13th. Question marks are over both drivers heads with Sergey Sirotkin set to be one of the teams drivers in 2014. Hulkenberg is also being touted as a candidate for the Ferrari and Lotus seats. Either way this performance will have helped Sauber who have struggled for much of this season.

Mercedes
Mercedes had a mixed weekend but both drivers finished in the points. Nico Rosberg had a race long battle with Nico Hulkenberg but could not pass him despite being faster. He ended the day in sixth. Lewis Hamilton was forced to recover from a poor qualifying which saw him fail to make Q3. A slow puncture meant an early stop which pushed him down the field. A fighting drive saw him make numerous overtakes in the closing laps to finish ninth. He had been on course for eighth but after overtaking Romain Grosjean on the last lap he ran off the track and had to give the place back. Hamilton has suggested his title hopes are now over.

Toro Rosso
Daniel Ricciardo went some way to proving he is the right man to replace Mark Webber next season with a seventh place finish. The Australian managed to keep his Toro Rosso ahead of Romain Grosjean and Lewis Hamilton in the closing laps using the great straight line speed of his car. Jean-Eric Vergne had been keeping Jenson Button and Hamilton behind him in the opening laps but was forced to retire with a transmission problem. He was out of the race on lap 15. Ricciardo now moves ahead of Vergne in the drivers standings.

Lotus
IMG_3183A day to forget for Lotus. Both drivers started outside the top ten but Romain Grosjean managed to get himself into the top ten. He finished eighth after a battle with Daniel Riccardo. In the last laps he kept Lewis Hamilton behind him to keep hold of the four points. Kimi Raikkonen’s day didn’t start well when he ran into the back of Sergio Perez at the first corner. He had to pit because of the damage. He drove well to claw his way back up the field but still had to make a second stop. He was overtaken by Hamilton as they made their way thorough the field. Raikkonen failed to pass Jenson Button and ended the day in 11th.

McLaren
On McLaren’s 50th birthday race the team would have hoped for more. They had seemed to have made some sort of recovery and passing Force India in the constructors championship at the last race. However things didn’t really go according to plan in Monza. Both Sergio Perez and Jenson Button had mixed it in the top ten but only one of them stayed there at the end of the race. Button took the final point finishing 10th. Perez was 12th after being passed by Raikkonen.

Williams
There was disappointment for Williams once again as both drivers finished outside the top ten. Both Pastor Maldonado and Valtteri Bottas were passed by Gutierrez and Adrian Sutil on the opening lap and battled throughout the race to make up lost ground. They ended the day in 14th and 15th behind Gutierrez.

Force India
Both Force India drivers were forced to retire from the race in Monza making it a race to forget for the team as they continue to struggle in the second half of the season. Paul di Resta’s race was over on lap one when he locked up and drove into the back of Grosjean. The stewards are currently investigating the incident. Adrian Sutil started from 17th after a three place grid penalty for impeding Hamilton in qualifying. He made up the places but was forced to retire on the last lap.

Caterham
Charles Pic beat teammate Giedo van der Garde in the battle of the backmarkers. The Frenchman had a strong advantage over his teammate as both finished ahead of the Marussias. Caterham still trail Marussia in the constructors.

Marussia
Jules Bianchi once again finished ahead of teammate Max Chilton as they continue their inter-team battle. The team still lead Caterham in the constructors title but have been beaten by their fellow backmarker team in recent races.

2013 Team Preview: Sauber

Drivers: Nico Hulkenberg, Esteban Gutierrez
2012 Constructors position: 6th
2012 Driver position: Hulkenberg 12th (driving for Force India), Gutierrez (rookie)

Sauber impressed in 2012 taking four podiums during the course of the season. Sergio Perez took three of those podiums early in the season being edged out by Fernando Alonso for second in Malaysia and finishing third in Canada and second in Italy. In September Perez was announced as a McLaren driver for 2013 and in the races after the announcement he failed to score points for Sauber, leading some to question his suitability for McLaren. Kamui Kobayashi had a mixed season scoring on eight occasions and taking one podium at his home Grand Prix in Japan. Despite finishing the championship in 12th the Japanese driver was not retained for the 2013 season.

SAUBER SING

Sauber starts 2013 with two new drivers- Nico Hulkenberg and Estaban Gutierrez and will hope to build on their 2012 success. It could be suggested that Sauber have got the better deal with signing Hulkenberg to replace Perez. Hulkenberg began to shine as the season came to a close and should be able to push Sauber and help develop the team. Gutierrez will have to acclimatise to the team and make take a few races to produce competitive results. Expect Hulkenberg to out-race and out-score Gutierrez, a win for the team could be possible, especially with the 2013 tyres, but should not be expected. The team should be able to maintain sixth in the constructors championship.

The car has looked strong during pre-season testing and should be competitive in the midfield. Working together the two drivers have the ability to produce some good results but it is yet to be seen whether more podiums will be possible in 2013.

Predicted 2013 Constructors position: 6th

2013 Team Preview: Force India

Drivers: Paul di Resta, Adrian Sutil

2012 Constructors position: 7th
2012 Driver position: Di Resta 14th, Sutil (N/A)

Force India go into every season with the aim of achieving 5th in the constructors championship and despite promise in the closing stages of the 2012 championship the team were a long way off in 2012. Both Nico Hulkenberg and Paul di Resta performed consistently throughout the season scoring on 20 occasions between them. Both had best finishes of fourth and Hulkenberg led the Brazilian Grand Prix before finishing fifth. Hulkenberg left the team at the end of the 2012 season despite the promise the team showed and this may have been well timed. Force India did not announce their 2013 drivers until the final pre-season test amid rumours of cash flow issues for Vijay Mallya and Sahara shareholder and the need to source a pay driver.

DIRESTA

After weeks of deliberation Adrian Sutil will return to the team for 2013 to race alongside Paul di Resta as the team looks to return to the top of the midfield. The partnership is a strong one and both are known to be consistent points scorers so if the car is good then they could be on course for a good season. Sutil’s year out may be an issue to begin with as will his lack of testing for the team, however he proved in 2011 that he could be a top ten contender. If Di Resta is outperformed by Sutil this year it could be pivotal in his future. He will want to dominate his teammate otherwise he may struggle to retain a seat in F1 in 2014.

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The Force India has looked fairly consistent during pre-season testing but the late decision over the second driver may hamper the team in then early stages of the season. Both drivers have said they are aiming for podiums and the new car could be able to achieve this.

Predicted 2013 Constructors position: 8th

Sauber launch C32 Ferrari

Sauber unveiled its 2013 chassis the C32 at its Hinwil factory on Saturday.

The new car is the first to be launched under team principal Monisha Kaltenborn and will be driven by Nico Hulkenberg and Esteban Gutierrez.

With few rule changes for the 2013 season the new Sauber is based on the successful C31 with the strengths of the car being improved and the team aiming to eliminate the weaknesses.

One of the most intriguing features of the new C32 is the nose of the car. Sauber have disguised the stepped nose when viewing the car from the side by introducing high sides but the step remains visible from the front.

The C32 also features smaller sidepods which are streamlined to help further performance. The rear end of the car has also been changed to boost the aerodynamics of the car with the team adopting a McLaren style exhaust layout.

The car’s livery has also been heavily revised. The C32 now features graphite grey paint work with elements of white and red.

The outfits 2012 car was very successful with the team achieving sixth in the constructors championship and finishing on the podium four times.

Kaltenborn said: “”The aim is very clear and simple: we want to continue to improve ourselves and a key factor in this is the car.”

She said that the team had very high expectations of its two “very fast, very talented drivers.”

The car certainly looks striking and despite the livery drawing some comparisons with HRTs 2010 car, appearance wise it is the best looking car to be launched so far this year.

The new Sauber could have the potential to get amongst the big boys and produce some impressive results, but we will have to wait and see when testing begins next week whether this car really has the ability to produce surprises in 2013.

The C32 will get its first outing at the first pre-season test in Jerez next week.

News round-up: Lotus announce launch date and teams reveal who will test 2013 cars first

Lotus announce launch date

Lotus is to reveal its 2013 car on Monday January 28 with the launch being streamed live online.

The launch of the E21 will take place at the teams Enstone factory a week before testing begins in Jerez.

Both Kimi Raikkonen and Romain Grosjean will be at the launch which can be viewed via the Lotus F1 youtube page from 7:15pm on Monday.

The Lotus will become the first constructor to unveil its car if Marussia, who are yet to announce a launch date, do not launch sooner.

Testing begins in Jerez on February 5.

Teams announce drivers to begin testing programmes

McLaren, Red Bull, Lotus and Sauber have all announced which of their drivers are to test their 2013 cars first.

McLaren have revealed that Jenson Button is to begin the teams’ testing programme. Button will be the driver of the MP4-28 on February 5 in Jerez with Sergio Perez taking over for the second day. The final two days of testing will be shared between the drivers.

Mark Webber will be the first of Red Bull’s drivers to test for them in 2013. Webber will driver for the first two days of the test before he hands over the RB9 to Sebastian Vettel for the final two days.

The new Lotus E21 will be driven by Romain Grosjean for the first two days of testing before Kimi Raikkonen takes over. Whilst at Sauber Nico Hulkenberg will be the first to test the Sauber C32 before rookie Esteban Gutierrez takes over for the final two days at Jerez.

Hulkenberg signs for Sauber

Nico Hulkenberg will drive for Sauber in 2013 it was announced today.

Hulkenberg who currently drives for Force India has signed a one year deal in a switch that had been predicted for some time.

The move to Sauber will see Hulkenberg replace the departing Sergio Perez, who is to move to McLaren for 2013. There are suggestions that his move to Sauber will provide him with closer links to Ferrari who will be looking for a replacement for Felipe Massa in 2014.

Sauber’s second driver for 2013 has yet to be announced but their Mexican reserve driver Esteban Gutierrez is said to be in contention after his FP1 outing in India.

Current Sauber driver Kamui Kobayashi is also still in the running for the second seat.

Attention has now turned to who will replace Hulkenberg at Force India in 2013 with Jamie Alguersauri and Adrian Sutil being suggested.

Former Force India driver Sutil is being touted as the leading candidate after team principal Vijay Mallaya suggested at last weekend’s Indian Grand Prix he would consider Sutil for 2013.

Ferrari’s big decision: will Massa stay for 2013?

With McLaren, Red Bull and Mercedes already having decided on their driver line-ups for 2013, Ferrari are the only top team yet to make an announcement. Rumours have begun to circulate suggesting that the final decision for the second Ferrari seat is between current incumbent Felipe Massa and Force India drivers Nico Hulkenberg and Paul di Resta.

Ferrari hasn’t given any timescale as to when they plan to decide and announce their driver line-up for 2013 but it is thought the decision will be made within the next few Grand Prix. Fernando Alonso is already confirmed for 2013 but whether or not Massa will still be there with him is the difficult decision that Ferrari face.

With Luca di Montezemolo having said that Sergio Perez was too inexperienced to drive for Ferrari it seems to suggest that Massa is likely to stay for another year, especially when it is considered that both Hulkenberg and di Resta have the same number of Grand Prix under their belts as Perez. Despite this Massa’s inconsistent performance over the last few years had led many to believe that once his contract expired this year it would not be renewed.

Both Hulkenberg and di Resta have had equally good performances this year. The recent announcements of line-ups at McLaren and Mercedes suggest that di Resta is the biggest loser so far having been linked to both seats. The situation doesn’t look to get much better for di Resta with rumours suggesting that Hulkenberg is the more likely to get the nod at Ferrari. Some rumours even suggest that the Hulkenberg deal is already done.

The decision for Ferrari is not going to be based on money so they are looking to secure the best driver for their campaign next season. Ultimately they are looking for a driver who can score points and podiums and help them to the constructors championship. The option to stay with Massa offers the team continuity but Ferrari may need something brand new to help them next season. Both Hulkenberg and di Resta are no doubt talented options who are likely to drive for little money.

Suggestions that Ferrari are looking to employ Sebastian Vettel in 2014 would mean they are just looking for a stop-gap driver for 2013. If this does turn out to be true this could prove to be career suicide for Hulkenberg and di Resta if they moved to Ferrari in 2013. However some are sceptical that this would be the right decision for Vettel in the long run.

If Ferrari are looking for a motivated driver who can push Alonso then choosing a young and ambitious driver like Hulkenberg or di Resta could be their best option. If they just want consistency and a driver that who they know well then they may end up keeping Massa. Whether or not Ferrari choose to keep Massa is dependent on his performance in the coming races. If he manages to maintain some of his current form then he could secure himself one last chance.