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

Red Bull and Sebastian Vettel took their fourth consecutive drivers and constructors titles in India as the German produced a flawless race. Vettel also remains the only driver to have ever won the Indian Grand Prix. Elsewhere there was disappointment for Webber and Alonso who both had days to forget. There were impressive performances from Grosjean and Perez and Force India secured a double points finish in front of a home crowd.

Red Bull
IMG_2875Sebastian Vettel became a four time world champion as he finished on the top spot of the podium for the tenth time this season. People were expecting the race to be tough for Vettel, who was starting on the soft tyre, as many thought the medium compound tyre was the tyre to start on. The German pitted on lap two to dispose of his soft tyres and then made his way to the field. His teammate Mark Webber had started on the medium tyre and as predicted found himself in the lead once all those who were on soft tyres had pitted despite losing out two places at the start. After both drivers had done their stints on the soft tyres and now with both on the same medium tyre Vettel was ahead and from there on the win and title never looked in doubt. Webber was forced to retire from second with an alternator issue. Vettel’s win ensured his fourth drivers title and Red Bull’s fourth constructors title. The German celebrated his championship with some donuts on the track and was later reprimanded and Red Bull fined €25,000.

Mercedes
It was a good day at the office for Mercedes. Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton were both overtaken by Felipe Massa at the start and then battled it out between them. Rosberg made his way through the field overtaking a fading Kimi Raikkonen in the closing laps to secure second place. Lewis Hamilton lost out behind Valtteri Bottas whilst his teammate got passed after the first round of pitstops. Hamilton couldn’t manage to hold off Sergio Perez in the closing laps he finished sixth behind the Mexican and Massa who had leap-frogged him at the start.

Lotus
Romain Grosjean continued an impressive turn of form taking another third place finish. The podium finish had looked unlikely after his 17th place qualifying on Saturday but he managed 13 laps on the soft tyres he started on before switching to the medium tyres. He made his way through the field before fading teammate Kimi Raikkonen was told to get out of his way to allow the team to hold onto third place. Grojean demonstrated how to completed a one stop race in India. Raikkonen had also attempted to do a one stop but his medium tyres gave out with just laps left – he was passed by Rosberg and then Grosjean and Massa before pitting on the last lap. He did however set the fastest lap of the race on a new set of tyres.

Ferrari
Felipe Massa was the best of the Ferrari finishers in a day which went terribly wrong for Fernando Alonso. The Brazilian leap-fogged both Mercedes at the start and led them through the first stint. Massa was up to second on the first lap and led the race for a few laps after Vettel pitted. Massa was catching Grosjean and Raikkonen in the closing laps but only made up one more place to finish the day in fourth. Alonso’s day went wrong from the first corner. He was the only man who could stop Vettel from taking the title but after Raikkonen and Webber clashed at the start Alonso had nowhere to go and hit the Red Bull. He had to pit for a new front wing on the second lap. The Spaniard didn’t manage to recover and ended the day in 11th outside the points.

McLaren
Sergio Perez produced one of the performances of the day. Starting on the medium tyre he kept himself in contention of the top ten and as those on soft tyres around him pitted he made his way up the grid. Perez stayed in third completing a long stint on the medium tyres before pitting for softs. After returning to the medium tyres Perez pushed Hamilton for sixth place and eventually passed him to take fifth for McLaren and ten well deserved points. Things started badly for Jenson Button who missed out at the start and never really managed to recover from there. At one point he was stuck in 17th place over 50 seconds adrift of the lead. He ended the day in 14th.

Force India
Force India took a double points finish for the first time since the British Grand Prix. The team were looking for a good result at their home grand prix and will be delighted with eighth and ninth after struggling over the last few races. Paul di Resta was eighth and Adrian Sutil ninth. The German had spent a long time up front in the race after gambling on a one stop strategy. He managed 41 laps on the medium tyre and managed to make the soft tyres last for just under 20 laps at the end. Pirelli has suggested a 35 laps life for the mediums.

Toro Rosso
Daniel Ricciardo held onto the tenth place and final point after a long first stint on the medium tyres. For a large proportion of the race he had been in third place before pitting on lap 33. He was behind the Sutil train after the final pitstops but held off Fernando Alosno for the final point. The Australian had benefited from Nico Hulkenberg being forced to retire his Sauber which was running in seventh. Jean-Eric Vergne could only manage 13th in the other Toro Rosso but had a few interesting battles with Alonso and Button.

Williams
Pastor Maldonado took 12th for Williams on what was a better day for them. The team had been fined after FP2 due to a lose wheel nut but there were no such problems on race day. His teammate Valtteri Bottas had run in the top ten after a long first stint on the medium tyres but after his pitstop he fell back and could only manage 16th.

Sauber
It was a day to forget for Sauber as a string of point scoring finishes came to an end. A strong running Nico Hulkenberg had looked on course for another points finish in seventh but suffered a brake problem on his C32 which forced him to pit. The team sent him out again but he retired one lap later as the car was not driveable. Esteban Gutierrez had been in 11th but fell to 16th after a late pitstop. He had also been hit with a drive through penalty for a jump start and could have potentially been a points scorer if it hadn’t been for that.

Marussia
Max Chilton completed a long stint on the medium tyres to finish ahead of his teammate Jules Bianchi in 17th. Chilton had earlier contributed to rival Giedo van der Garde’s retirement after a clash on the first lap. Both Marussias finished on a day where their rivals suffered a double retirement.

Caterham
There was a double retirement for Caterham making it a disappointing day for them. Giedo van der Garde retired in the pits after a first lap incident with Marussia rival Max Chilton. Charles Pic was forced to retire after a serious technical problem on his car.

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Five things to watch out for at this weekend’s Canadian Grand Prix

Before racing begins in Canada we take a look at five of the things you should be watching out for. From the protests surrounding Mercedes and Pirelli’s tyre test to the impressive form of Force India these are the five key stories to look out for this weekend:

1.Tyres tests
Tyres once again were a major talking point last time out in Monaco after it was revealed Mercedes and Pirelli carried out a tyre test using their 2013 car. The test held after the Spanish Grand Prix led to Red Bull and Ferrari lodging protests against this. The matter was referred to the race stewards who in turn referred it to the FIA. The test using a 2013 car with 2013 drivers was essentially run by the team which led to the upset. Both Mercedes and Pirelli claim the FIA knew about the test and let it go ahead, however the FIA isn’t so sure. To add to the drama Ferrari will now also be investigated after it conducted a test with Pirelli using a 2011 car. Using a 2011 car is normally thought to be within the rules and regulations but the Italian team will still be investigated. It had been suggested a outcome could be decided by Canada but this looks unlikely – the issues looks set to run and run and who knows who may be next to admit to a tyre test.

2. Sergio Perez
Heading to Bahrain Sergio Perez was being told to ‘toughen up’ by his team but just four races later his new feisty attitude is upsetting his teammate and other drivers. Jenson Button has been unhappy on numerous occasions with Perez’s overtaking with the pair having some near misses. In Monaco the Mexican may have been able to get past Button but it did not end well when a misjudged overtaking attempt on Kimi Raikkonen left Raikkonen with a puncture and having to pit and Perez out of the race. Both blamed each other for the incident with Raikkonen saying Perez should be “punched in the face”. The Mexican needs to find a balance between the aggression he has been showing over the last few races and the control he showed in the early part of the championship. If he can find the perfect balance he has a chance of doing well in Canada.

3. Force India
Force India are having a truly impressive start to a season. They have 44 points from six races and have only failed to score on one occasion in Malaysia due to a wheel nut problem. In Monaco they appeared to be single handedly trying to dismiss the claim you cannot overtake on the streets of Monte Carlo with some impressive moves by both their drivers. Adrian Sutil achieved the teams best ever performance in Monaco with a fifth place – ending his bad luck of recent races – whilst Paul di Resta scored points for the fifth time this season. Historically the team has never done well in Canada having only scored three points there in 2010. This year the car is much better and they have their best chance of scoring some good points and extending their lead over the other midfield teams in the constructors championship.

4. Romain Grosjean
Monaco signalled a return of Romain Grosjean of 2012. His less than impressive drive saw him crashing into the back of the Toro Rosso of Daniel Ricciardo ending the Australian’s race. The incident also brought out the safety car. Grosjean seemed to show he hasn’t quite learnt the lesson about controlling his race and after an investigation by the stewards he was given a 10 place grid penalty for Canada. Monaco saw Grosjean have four accidents in just three days – all of which were his own fault. The team repaired the car each time only for Grosjean to go out and reck the car again. Whilst it wasn’t in the same league as Spa last year where he potentially changed the face of the championship he denied Ricciardo the chance of points. Will he have learnt his lesson in Canada or will it be a case of de ja vu?

5. Williams and Mercedes power
After a dismal start to 2013 Williams have announced they will move to Mercedes power in 2014 when the new V6 turbo engines are introduced. The deal is understood to be long term and will see Williams supplied with Mercedes engines and Energy Recovery Systems. Williams have used Renault engines for the last two seasons but haven’t really seen any improvement in fortunes. This season they have had two best place finishes of 11th out of six races. They have no points compared with the 44 they had at this point last season. The move will hopefully produce results next season but until then the once illustrious team need to sort out their difficulties in 2013.

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Will Perez’s inexperience hinder McLaren in 2013?

In November last year I wrote an article questioning McLaren’s decision to pick Sergio Perez as the replacement for the departing Lewis Hamilton. After two races for the team in 2013 he has scored just once and whilst the car is not as strong as it was in 2012 some have questioned whether Perez’s inexperience is hindering McLaren.

In an interview with the BBC former McLaren driver John Watson said McLaren looked as if they had ‘one and a half drivers’, alluding to Perez’s lack of experience. Watson’s assessment of McLaren could be considered fair. Whilst Perez could certainly perform if given a race winning car, the 2013 McLaren challenger does not have that potential.

The experience of the other front running teams will not help McLaren as they seek to develop and improve their car. Nor is Perez skilled enough to be able to develop the McLaren into a race winner and it is still yet to be seen if he can make the car perform better than it should.

The team have scored just two points from two races with tenth place finishes at both the Australian and Malaysian Grand Prix. Perez’s teammate Jenson Button is also struggling with the car, but he has a lot more experience behind him- both in racing and with the team.

Admittedly some of the issues are with the MP4-28- the car is simply not as good as their front running rivals. But the reality is a good driver will get performance out of the car and score points even when the car doesn’t deserve or normally have the ability to finish in the top ten.

It was suggested at the time of his appointment at McLaren back in September last year he was not the right man for the job. And this was before McLaren’s woes began concerning the pace of the car.

Whilst no one can say for sure someone like Nico Hulkenberg or Paul di Resta would have been any better if they had got the chance, some would have felt their talent may have compensated for their lack of experience.

Suggestions Perez has been signed because of his potential Telmex sponsorship, especially as Vodafone are to terminate their contract with McLaren at the end of 2013, add fuel to the fire that Perez was chosen for his money rather than his ability to perform and help develop the team.

Maybe Perez just needs more time to adjust to life at McLaren. Having a less than perfect car will not have helped him find his feet but if he wants to be a champion in F1 he needs to do more than drive the car.

Learning to develop and draw performance out of a car which is far from perfect would at least show the world he deserves his chance at McLaren. But until then McLaren must hope the updates and upgrades for the car over the coming races are enough to boost their performance before it is too late for 2013.

cropped-cropped-f12013.pngKeep up to date with all the latest news and results from race weekends at beckycreedf1.wordpress.com 

2013 Team Preview: McLaren

Drivers: Jenson Button, Sergio Perez

2012 Constructors position: 3rd
2012 Driver position: Button 5th, Perez 11th (driving for Sauber)

McLaren should have been in contention for both of the championships but mechanical issues and a lack of pace at some Grand Prix left them out of the drivers title and losing out on 2nd place in the constructors. Both Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button showed how strong McLaren could have been with 7 wins between them but a failure to score consistent points left them both out of contention in the drivers title. With minimal technical rule changes McLaren should be able to develop a 2013 car that is in contention for both titles but much will depend on the drivers.

BUT MACLAREN

McLaren have retained Button for the 2013 season and he is the most likely driver at McLaren to win the drivers title. Whilst Perez’s appointment as Button’t teammate following Hamilton’s departure may have seemed like a good move, he seemed to struggle after the announcement was made. He certainly is talented seen by his three podiums in 2012 in Malaysia, Canada and Italy. However there weren’t a shortage of drivers on offer to McLaren and performances by other drivers later in the 2012 season, notably Nico Hulkenberg, seemed to suggest that McLaren may have taken a gamble that won’t pay off. Perez has to get to grips with his new team, a faster car than he has ever driver before and deliver performances capable of winning championships. It’s a tough ask and should Perez manage to pull it off then he will be one of the most exciting championship contenders for seasons to come.

The team may have struggled to understand their car during pre-season testing and the car has not always looked as competitive as its rivals in long runs. Despite this the car should still be capable of challenging at the front however it is yet to be seen if this will produce championship winning results.

Predicted 2013 Constructors position: 3rd

Barcelona Testing: McLaren and Perez ahead on day two

McLaren’s Sergio Perez set the fastest time on day two of the second pre-season test in Barcelona.

The Mexican driver completed 97 laps and set his fastest time on the soft compound tyre.

Sebastian Vettel set the second fastest time after 84 laps, his fastest time in the Red Bull also coming on the soft tyre.

Red Bull attempted to complete a race simulation in the afternoon but this was disrupted after the car stopped out on track causing a red flag.

Kimi Raikkonen spent much of the morning in the pits after his E21 needed a gearbox change. He eventually managed 43 laps and the third fastest time on the medium tyre.

Behind him Lewis Hamilton set the fourth fastest time on the hard compound tyre ahead of Fernando Alonso who set the fifth fastest time.

Valtteri Bottas set the sixth fastest time on his first outing in the FW35 ahead of Daniel Ricciardo, Paul di Resta and Nico Hulkenberg.

Max Chilton set the 10th fastest time ahead of Charles Pic in the Marussia, who managed 102 laps.

It should be remembered that the times set in testing are unlikely to be a true gauge of each cars performance.

Testing continues in Barcelona tomorrow where Mark Webber, Romain Grosjean, Jenson Button, Jean-Eric Vergne, Giedo van der Garde and Luiz Razia will all test in place of their teammates. At Force India Adrian Sutil will test for the team, his first time driving a F1 car for over a year.

For full times, laps completed and tyre compounds see http://www.autosport.com/news/report.php/id/105640.

Are pay drivers an essential part of F1?

With Marussia terminating Timo Glock’s contract due to the tough economic conditions it has highlighted F1s reliance on pay drivers to maintain the sport. Whilst some F1 fans may think that pay drivers are bad for the sport, the reality is they have been and always will be part of F1.

It is fair to say that since the introduction of three new teams to F1 in 2010 the pay driver has been more widely recognisable. Caterham, Marussia and HRT were dependent on pay drivers to build their teams in a world were the economy was and still is struggling.

Both Marussia and Caterham had previously built their teams on one salaried driver and one pay driver but the current economic climate has seen this nearly impossible to do. Whilst Glock would have brought sponsorship to the Marussia team this was not enough to compensate for the three million Euros he was paid in 2012. Compare this with ‘pay driver’ Charles Pic who brought around 5 million Euros to the team but was paid just 150,000 Euros it is clear to see that the team could struggle financially.

Glock lost his Marussia drive due to the financial climate

Glock lost his Marussia drive due to financial reasons 

The situation was similar at Caterham where it now looks as though Heikki Kovalainen will face 2013 outside F1. The Finn was being paid roughly four million Euros in 2012 whilst teammate and pay driver Vitaly Petrov was being paid just 500,000 Euros but brought £12 million in sponsorship. Petrov ended up finishing ahead of Kovalainen in the drivers standings and helped Caterham to 10th in the constructors showing that pay drivers can prove their worth.

Caterham look set to pick two pay drivers for 2013

Caterham look set to pick two pay drivers for 2013

Many fans complain that pay drivers do not deserve to be in F1 since they do not have the ability of their non-paying colleagues. However whilst these drivers bring money they do bring talent too. Take for example Pastor Maldonado and Sergio Perez. Both are pay drivers with money from Venezuela and Mexico respectively and they have proved that they are just as good as paid drivers. Maldonado may be wild but he won the Spanish Grand Prix and Perez may be inconsistent but he scored three podiums in 2012.

Conversely there are examples of teams exploiting the pay driver, namely HRT. In the 2010 season HRT fielded four drivers- all of which were pay drivers- with two (Karun Chandhok and Sakon Yamamoto) receiving no paid salary.

HRT used four different pay drivers in 2010

HRT used four different pay drivers in 2010

There was a similar occurrence in 2011 where three drivers raced for HRT, however one of these was Daniel Ricciardo a Red Bull protege. Red Bull ‘paid’ for Ricciardo’s drive hence without the funding and being a ‘pay driver‘ Ricciardo would never have got his chance in F1.

The way that HRT appeared to exploit the pay driver set-up is nothing new. In the 1975 and 1976 seasons Frank Williams Racing Cars- the predecessor to Williams F1- had ten different drivers who drove for the team. As a consequence of this rules regarding the number of drivers that could be used in each season were tightened.

The idea of the pay driver is not a novel one and many famous drivers- even world champions- have been pay drivers at some point in their careers. Both Michael Schumacher and Fernando Alonso started out as pay drivers in their early careers, as did three time world champion Niki Lauda.

Similarly Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton’s careers would not have been possible without financial support and backing from Red Bull and McLaren. Every driver one way or another has had some financial backing to reach F1 and the backing is crucial to the teams to help develop the sport.

Whilst not everyone is going to agree with F1 teams recruiting pay drivers the reality is the sport needs these drivers, especially in the tough economic climate. The pay driver is an essential part of F1 with sponsorship harder to find. Despite negativity towards todays pay drivers they are more talented and competitive than ever and they are deserving of their place in the sport.

Have McLaren made a mistake signing Perez?

The signing of Sergio Perez at first looked like a good move by McLaren. But after he has failed to score points in any races since his announcement the decision is starting to look slightly less appealing.

When McLaren confirmed Perez in September he had scored podiums in Malaysia, Canada and Italy but in the four races since the announcement he has failed to score a single point.

Perhaps the pressure of the spotlight being focused on him has led to some of the erratic driving of the last few races. In Japan Perez’s botched attempt at overtaking the man he is to replace, Lewis Hamilton, left him spinning into the gravel and having to retire. He also retired in India after a puncture caused by clipping Daniel Ricciardo’s front wing.

Most recently in Abu Dhabi Perez was involved in an incident when he attempted to overtake Paul di Resta forcing him onto the grass and then running wide into the path of Romain Grosjean. Grosjean and Mark Webber then collided and were both forced to retire. Perez was handed a 10 second stop-go penalty and went onto finish 15th.

These incidents do little to give McLaren reason to think they have made the right decision. When other drivers have begun to shine, Perez has faltered, someone, somewhere in McLaren must be wondering if they have made the right decision.

Questions over Perez’s move to McLaren won’t have been helped by Martin Whitmarsh admitting this week that he can’t be sure of his potential with McLaren.

There weren’t a shortage of drivers on offer to McLaren but they were most likely swayed by Perez’s early season success.

Some might suggest that on recent evidence Sauber have ended up with the better end of the deal by signing Nico Hulkenberg for 2013. Whilst Perez has had some disastrous weekends of late Hulkenberg has begun to shine as the season draws to its close.

To be fair to Perez, he is an exciting prospect for the future and his podiums show that he has the potential to win races. But if he can’t race at his best knowing he has a 2013 race seat, and a rather good race seat, guaranteed then it doesn’t bode well for the future.

Hamilton signs Mercedes deal as Perez gets McLaren chance

Lewis Hamilton has signed a three year contract to drive for Mercedes from 2013 it has been announced. Hamilton will move to Mercedes at the end of the season and will be replaced at McLaren by current Sauber driver Sergio Perez.

From 2013 Hamilton will drive for the Mercedes outfit in one of F1s worst kept secrets. He will team up with his friend Nico Rosberg, leaving Michael Schumacher without a drive for next year. Schumacher may ultimately have to face up to a second retirement.

Rumours began to circulate last month that Hamilton would leave McLaren and switch to Mercedes and this was not helped by Hamilton tweeting telemetry data during the Belgian Grand Prix. His decision to move to Mercedes is a confusing one. Despite the team securing its first win since being renamed in 2010, they have failed to contest a championship. The decision can be further doubted as there is nothing to suggest that next year the Mercedes car will be any better, especially as earlier this week the teams Double DRS was outlawed for 2013.

Hamilton’s move to Mercedes and the decision to announce it before the end of the current season seems an unusual decision. It won’t help his campaign for this years championship and is unlikely to motivate any of his team to help him.

Whether or not it is the right decision for Hamilton, Perez has been given a huge opportunity. It may be suggested that the McLaren contract is a reward for his impressive driving this season, however there is a possibility that he is making the move to a bigger team too early in his career. Whether Perez’s ability stretches to winning a championship is a difficult question, he undoubtedly is a very impressive driver but he has never driven under the pressure of winning a championship.

With both Mercedes and McLaren’s 2013 seat line ups confirmed attention turns once again to Sauber and Schumacher as well as Ferrari. It seems unlikely that Schumacher will find another seat elsewhere considering his mixed form on his return from retirement. Sauber will be looking for a replacement for Perez, the person to replace him will depend on whether the team needs someone with money or someone with experience. Ferrari are still yet to announce their line up for 2013 and although it had been openly said that Perez would not be going to Ferrari, this change in the driver market may well have secured Felipe Massa another years contract.

Whether or not the respective signings were the right decision for either driver is questionable. However there can be no question that 2013 will definitely be a season worth watching.

Perez boosts his chances of Ferrari drive

If Ferrari needed reminding that there are plenty of young drivers capable of replacing Felipe Massa they only need look at Sunday’s Italian Grand Prix Result. Sergio Perez’s impressive drive from 12th to second could be seen as him reaffirming to Ferrari that he would be the best man to replace Massa in 2013.

Despite Perez claiming that his second place finish would not influence any driver decision made by Ferrari he couldn’t have given them a better demonstration of his potential as one of F1s top drivers. The result was partly down to the masterful race strategy played out by his Sauber team. They elected for him to begin the race on the hard tyre whilst all his rivals started on the medium compound. By starting on the hard compound Perez was able to pit after his competitors and climb the field to second, just seconds behind eventual race winner Lewis Hamilton.

Massa may have provided himself with a little bit of breathing space having had a strong weekend. Qualifying third gave him his best chance of securing a good result all season but he wasn’t able to capitalise on a great start and eventually finished fourth behind team-mate Fernando Alonso. Being outshone by Perez won’t have helped his case but if Massa can continue to produce strong results for the remaining races of the season he could just hold onto his seat.

Whilst rumours have begun to circulate around other drivers replacing Massa next year, Perez has kept himself in the running by providing a flawless performance. His ability to be a top team driver in the future is not in doubt after Sunday’s performance. Ferrari may not employ him as a driver for next season but it now seems inevitable that one day they will.