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.

F1’s midfield in 2013: a story of struggles and triumphs

Heading into F1’s midseason break it seemed an appropriate time to take a look at some of the struggles and triumphs of the sports midfield teams. They have smaller budgets and are most dependent on upgrades to keep their season going. For the teams in this category it isn’t always plain sailing – there are so many factors to contend with from the car and drivers to luck and results. Some of the teams are former front runners whilst others are teams on their way to the top but one thing is for sure life is not easy in the midfield.

In 2013 Sauber finished as F1s leading midfield team with 126 points. The team took podiums in Malaysia, Canada, and Italy with Sergio Perez and one in Japan with Kamui Kobayashi. Yet they started the season with neither of these drivers. Replacing them were Nico Hulkenberg and Esteban Gutierrez. Having seen the performance of last years car they may have been expecting more but a risky car design did not yield benefits. From 11 races they have scored seven points all of which came from Hulkenberg.

The highlight of the season would have to be Hulkenberg’s four points in Malaysia in what has proved to be a less than impressive car. They may be scoring some points but Sauber was a team in financial difficulty.IMG_2809 There were reports of Hulkenberg not being paid and suggestions the team would not last the season. Last month they signed a major cash deal with a trio of Russian companies. Whilst the announcement at least brought some stability to the team it is now thought Russian driver Sergey Sirotkin will make his debut for the team in 2014. He would be aged just 18 and is yet to get a super licence. The team’s chances of seeing a further improvement in the second half of the season look quite unlikely and both drivers will be wondering who will be replaced by Sirotkin.

Force India have had a mixed season. Leading the midfield teams they have been able to challenge McLaren for fifth in the constructors. Their two drivers also sit in tenth and 11th in the drivers championship. Whilst last season the team was hit by financial issue rumours this year the team has been out of luck on numerous occasions. IMG_3036Adrian Sutil returned to drive alongside former teammate Paul di Resta and the season started where Force India had left off in 2012 with Sutil leading a number of laps at the Australian Grand Prix – this was the second race in a row a driver from the team had done so. Both Sutil and Di Resta finished in the points with seventh and eighth place. Yet bad luck was to strike the team in Malaysia where they had a double retirement.

Highlights for the team have seen Di Resta take a strong fourth place in Bahrain and Sutil a strong fifth in Monaco. Whilst races have been good for the team qualifying has often not gone to plan. Di Resta had failed to make the top ten seven times and has not made Q2 on three occasions. Whilst luck has played a big part the team has also been hurt by the change in tyre structure after the blowouts in Britain. They may lead McLaren in the constructors championship for now but it is only by two points. If they want to have any chance of beating McLaren they will need to be back on the pace in Spa.

IMG_3550Much of Toro Rosso’s season has been overshadowed by the talk over the second Red Bull seat. Both of Toro Rosso’s drivers were thought to be in contention but it is now expected to be a battle between Daniel Ricciardo and Kimi Raikkonen (and Alonso depending on what rumours you read). Yet Ricciardo is being beaten by teammate Jean-Eric Vergne in the standings.

So why is the Australian getting the nod over his teammate? Ricciardo has excelled in qualifying getting into the top ten four times yet Vergne has made the top ten on one occasion.In the races Vergne has found himself having to retire on four occasions yet has beaten Ricciardo to the flag five times and holds Toro Rosso’s best finish of sixth place at the Canadian Grand Prix. If only the team could mix Ricciardo’s qualifying and Vergne’s race performance then they may have a few more points. At the last race before the summer break they failed to score any points but will be hopeful of a resurgence in Spa.

IMG_3024Williams went into the summer break ending a points drought of 11 races. They had not scored a single point since the US Grand Prix back in 2012. Pastor Maldonado scored the treasured point after finishing tenth place. He was undoubtedly helped by a few late retirements and penalties for other drivers. However Williams will savour the point. For a team who had showed so much promise after the Venezulen’s win in Spain last year 2013 will be a season to forget. They have finished 11th three times so had been close to a points finish on a few occasions.

Whilst Maldonado’s point is clearly one of the teams triumphs Valtteri Bottas’ third place on the grid for the Canadian Grand Prix may just pip it. The Finn had been touted as the next big thing but hasn’t been given a car to really show his potential. Canada may not have finished as he expected but it shouldn’t be to long before Bottas scores his first points in F1. Maldonado expects Williams to move forward after the performance in Hungary but whether this is possible is unknown.

As the season has gone on the midfield has got closer and closer. The changes made to the tyres after Britain have helped and hindered a number of teams and this is seen most in the midfield. There is still time for plenty of shuffling among the teams aiming for sixth in the constructors. How much progress each team will make in the second half of the season will be an interesting battle to watch.

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

Before racing begins in Spain I take a look at five of the things you should be watching out for. From the dominance of Red Bull and return of Romain Grosjean to some of the interesting updates teams are bringing to the European races these are the five key stories to look out for this weekend:

1. Dominant Red Bull
In Bahrain Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull appeared to take charge of both the drivers and constructors championship with a dominant win. Vettel became the first driver to secure multiple wins in 2013. His unchallenged win could signal the beginning of a winning streak similar to 2012. Vettel has extended his lead in the drivers championship by 10 points whilst Red Bull lead Lotus in the constructors by 16 points. This weekend could see them extend that lead further.

2. Romain Grosjean
Bahrain signalled a return to form for Romain Grosjean. His impressive drive which saw him secure a third place podium finish showed he has grown as a driver and got rid of the crashes and near-misses he was blighted with last season. He knows this year could be make or break and his driving in Bahrain has shown he certainly means business in 2013. He seems to be relishing the chance to challenge teammate Kimi Raikkonen and perform in a car capable of winning a championship.

3. Sauber’s rear wing
Sauber will be testing a new rear wing at the Spanish Grand Prix in an attempt to improve their fortunes. Sauber have only scored five points at the first four races- all from impressive performances by Nico Hulkenberg. The team has shown none of the pace that last years car had and have seen themselves struggling to challenge fellow midfield team Force India. The team have struggled with the rear stability of the C32 and the team hopes the updates to the car will help correct these issues- the team is aiming to finish with both cars in the points at this race.

4. McLaren
Bahrain signalled a run of better performances for McLaren. They secured their first double points finish with Sergio Perez sixth and whilst Button finished tenth. The pair had battled closely in the initial laps and Button was not always happy with Perez’s driving. The team will also have some upgrades for Spain although Button has dismissed how crucial they will be but said he hoped it would move them closer to the cars in front.

5. FIA
Electronic issues with the cockpit warning system should be fixed in Spain following an FIA upgrade. The first four races of the 2013 season have been affected by a telemetry link between race control and the cars not working. This left race control unable to automatically disable DRS. The issue also saw drivers left without warning lights in the cockpit to reaffirm yellow flags. This weekends race in Barcelona should not be affected by the issues.

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F1 2013: The Battle of the Midfield

With just three days until racing begins in Australia we take a look at the battle of F1s midfield teams for sixth in the constructors championship.

The midfield teams look to be closer than ever as we head into the 2013 season. In 2012 the midfield teams were closely matched at the beginning of the season but by the end there was differing results for each. Whilst Sauber were challenging Mercedes for fifth in the constructors, Toro Rosso were struggling and slipping into the clutches of the backmarkers. With the teams now closer than ever before this is certain to be an interesting 19 round battle.

In 2013 the front runners look closer together which will make it difficult for the midfield drivers to get a break at the front and produce podium performances. In 2012 the start of the season featured seven different race winners in seven races and whilst this is still possible this season, with the top teams being so close the midfield racers are unlikely to contribute to this.

In 2012 Williams was one of the teams to win one of the first seven races in Spain. Pastor Maldonado won the race taking the teams first win since 2004. The team were competitive at the start of 2012 but could only manage eighth in the constructors. This season the team’s long run pace looks much more competitive and they should be challenging the front of the midfield, however they are not alone.

Williams 2013 car will make its debut at the second test

Both Sauber and Force India will be hoping to maintain or better their 2012 constructors championship position. Sauber have gone radical with the design of their car electing to use narrow sidepods, although it cannot yet be seen how much of an advantage or disadvantage this will be, the car has still looked competitive on single lap runs. Last year the team were securing podiums and challenging Mercedes for fifth in the constructors and whilst this looks unlikely to be repeated in 2013 the team should be battling Williams and Force India for sixth.

Sauber Belgium

Force India have two dependable drivers in Paul di Resta and Adrian Sutil and will want to see a return to the top of the midfield in 2013. The car looks to have similar pace to the Sauber and despite Sutil’s year out potentially posing an issue his testing times in Barcelona seem to suggest to has not lost the pace he showed in 2011. It will be interesting to see if the team can produce even better results this year and go one better than fourth place and secure a podium that was so elusive in 2012.

DIRESTA

Toro Rosso need to be challenging the other midfield teams for sixth in the constructors this season. Their 2012 season is one to be forgotten and this year’s car the STR8 needs to be a much better performer than last year. Both drivers are under pressure to produce results this year to stand any chance of remaining in F1 in 2014.Their pace over pre-season testing has been mixed, on some days the car has looked very competitive only for it to look much further back as the week comes to the end.

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The only thing that is certain in the midfield this year is that there is going to be mighty battle for sixth in the constructors championship. The drivers may not be able to compete with the front runners consistently throughout the season but it is more than likely they will have a chance to sneak a few podiums or even a race win between them.

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

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: Scorpion Racing bid too late for 2013, Ferrari name car F138, Rosberg to drive F1W04 first and DEKRA to partner Sauber

Scorpion Racing bid too late for 2013

Bernie Ecclestone has played down the suggestion that a HRT takeover by Scorpion Racing would gain 2013 entry.

Ecclestone said that the planned takeover had come too late as the registration cut-off had already passed.

HRT could return to F1 as Scorpion Racing

HRT could return to F1 as Scorpion Racing

The takeover of HRT is planned by a group of American and Canadian investors who are attempting to purchase cars and equipment which had been used by HRT in 2012.

Ecclestone suggested that Scorpion Racing would be better to enter Formula 1 in 2014. The proposed team would not take up HRTs former Madrid base but would instead base its team in Silverstone.

Ferrari name 2013 car F138

Ferrari announced on Wednesday that its 2013 challenger will be called the F138.

The Italian team said the name of the car marks the year of 2013 and also the end of the use of V8 engines.The car will be launched at Ferrari’s Maranello base on Friday.

Testing begins in Jerez next week were the car will have its first outing. Felipe Massa will drive for the first three days of the test before handing the car over to development driver Pedro de la Rosa. Fernando Alonso will drive the car for the first time at the second pre-season test in Barcelona.

Rosberg to test F1W04 before Hamilton

Mercedes have announced that Nico Rosberg will drive the F1W04 before Lewis Hamilton at the Jerez test next week.

Rosberg will drive on the 5th and 7th February with Hamilton testing the car on the second and last day of the test.

Mercedes announced earlier this month they would be launching their car on February 4 in the pit lane of the Jerez circuit.

Sauber forms partnership with DEKRA

DEKRA will be an official partner of the Sauber F1 team for the 2013 season.

The company will be extending its long term partnership with Sauber driver Nico Hulkenberg. DEKRA has partnered Hulkenberg since his early racing career.

You can read the press release here.

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.

2013 Rookies: Esteban Gutierrez

Gutierrez has been promoted to a race seat for Sauber in 2013 after serving as the teams test and reserve driver since 2010.

Gutierrez first tested for Sauber in its former guise BMW Sauber in 2009 as a prize for winning the Formula BMW Europe championship and would take part in the young drivers test for Sauber a year later.

The Mexican spent the 2010 season in GP3, where he won five races and the title, beating Canadian and current DTM driver Robert Wickens.

Gutierrez then graduated to GP2 where he struggled in his first season finishing the championship in 13th place. In 2012 he improved winning three races and finishing the championship in third in the drivers standings.

Sauber continued to evaluate Gutierrez and he was given his first chance to take part in free practice at the 2012 Indian Grand Prix, in the place of an ill Sergio Perez.

Gutierrez will partner Hulkenberg for the 2013 season

Gutierrez will partner Hulkenberg for the 2013 season

Despite only setting the 20th fastest time in his only outing for the team, Sauber were impressed and confirmed in November 2012 that Gutierrez would be partnering Nico Hulkenberg for the 2013 season.

Comparing Gutierrez to the other rookies he does not seem quite as impressive and Sauber seem to be taking a gamble that he is ready for F1. However in this situation it seems that money talks but this may be to the detriment of the team.

Gutierrez will need to find his feet in F1 and may take some time to get up to speed but if Sauber can continue their 2012 form he looks set to score some good points.

Teammate battle: Expect Hulkenberg to consistently out qualify and out race Gutierrez.

News round-up: Kobayashi gives up on 2013, Gillan leaves Williams and Force India announce launch date

Kobayashi gives up on 2013

Kamui Kobayashi has admitted he has no chance of securing a seat for the 2013 season.

The Japanese driver was left without a seat after his 2012 team Sauber announced Nico Hulkenberg and Esteban Gutierrez as their driver line up.

Kobayashi was dropped from the Sauber team

Kobayashi was dropped from the Sauber team

Kobayashi set up a website in an attempt to raise funds for a seat in 2013, however despite raising 8 million euros he wrote on his website that the funds were not enough to secure a race seat.

Kobayashi, who finished 12th in the drivers standings with 60 points, will now turn his attention to 2014.

Gillan leaves Williams

Williams chief operations engineer Mark Gillan is to leave the team to spend more time with his family.

Gillan is credited as one of the main people behind Williams’s 2012 form that saw them win the Spanish Grand Prix.

Before Pastor Maldonado’s win in Barcelona Williams had not won a Grand Prix since 2004.

Williams did not comment on who would be replacing Gillan.

Force India announces launch date

Force India has become the first team to announce the launch date for their 2013 car.

The Silverstone based team, which is yet to announce its drivers, will unveil its new car on 1, February, days before testing begins.

Force India have announced their 2013 launch date

Force India have announced their 2013 launch date

The team is expected to confirm their drivers before the launch with Paul di Resta widely tipped to remain with the team, whilst the team is currently considering a number of options including Adrian Sutil, Sebastian Buemi and Jamie Alguersuari for the second seat.

Testing begins in Jerez from 5, February.