The third and final test has finished, the cars packed for Melbourne. In the lat 4 days of running before the season opener, what 5 stories grabbed the attention of the Badgerometer? Read on to find out!
Goodbye Razia, hello Bianchi
Poor Luiz Razia must have had one of the shortest F1 careers ever. It’s a fickle business, and sometimes, hard decisions which may not prove popular with the masses have to be made. So from the outside, Marussia’s decision to drop him after his sponsors missed another payment deadline, and replace him with Jules Bianchi, may seem harsh.
But it’s a decision that could end up paying dividends for both team and driver. In the end, Marussia gain a potential engine deal with Ferrari from next year, as well as an exciting prospect in Bianchi, who won’t have to deal with as much pressure to perform unlike if he’d got the Force India seat.
It’s also fair to say that, faced with the choice of keeping a driver with unreliable sponsors and have your team face financial difficulties, or hiring a driver with proven backing and keeping your staff in a job for at least another year, most of us would go for the latter any time.
Don’t expect a quick McLaren at first
They won’t be 2009 levels of slow, but don’t be surprised if McLaren aren’t challenging for wins or podiums in the first few races.
Unlike most of the other teams, they haven’t made major changes to their 2012 car, instead going for a new approach and chassis for 2013. They were still ironing out niggles in the first Barcelona test, and carried that on to an extent into last weekend, meaning that they haven’t had the time to gauge their true pace. It’s looking like more of a season-long project – having a slower car that’s reliable is better than having a fast car that will turn to scrap at a breath of wind. It’s all quite sensible really.
The silver (or should that be chrome?) lining is that McLaren historically have the upper hand in the development race, so by the time we get to European leg of the calendar, they should be up to speed. Don’t rule them out after that.
Lotus – fast, but fragile
The pressure to perform is well and truly on Lotus this year – after a very successful 2012, sponsors and crew alike will be expecting similar and better results to challenge for wins on a regular basis.
That won’t be happening if their car breaks down every other race. In homage to Loti of the past, the E21’s reliability has been patchy to say the least; a broken gearbox here, a data input problem there, all adding up to precious lost time. They’ve recovered well from the setbacks though, either getting close to or topping the timing sheets regularly, and similar problems last year didn’t hinder them, Kimi Raikkonen being the only man to complete every single lap of every race in 2012.
Still, to finish first, first you have to finish. Hopefully the gremlins won’t return, and Lotus will give the likes of Red Bull, McLaren and Ferrari a run for their money to make the championship even more exciting.
Mercedes may have finally nailed it
They were certainly one of the most hard-working teams during testing, and just by looking at the times vast progress has been made over the winter, with last year’s Spanish GP pole time being beaten by over a second. Even Christian Horner has been complimenting their pace.
All the signs are pointing to Mercedes having finally got that monkey off their back, especially with reliability. If they can get the W04 running as smoothly in the races, with a pairing like Hamilton and Rosberg they could be a serious force to be reckoned with. And with so much brain power coming into the team over the winter, another season like the last few is just not an option this time.
However, some predictions of Hamilton winning the title could be a bit premature. A lot of their runs late in the day, particularly in the last test, were on low fuel, when others were doing long race simulations. It makes for nice headlines for a team that have struggled in recent times though.
We’re in for a cracker!
7 days, just 7 days!
We’ve got every reason to be excited about the new season, and not just because we’ve been starved of racing for what seems like ages.
On track it’s looking tighter than ever, especially in the midfield, so we could be seeing some great battles all the way down the grid. How much of that will get on TV we don’t know, but as a general rule, if there’s too much happening for the cameras to catch, things will be going well. Having four rookies on the grid will certainly spice things up too, for better or worse.
And then there’s the off-track exploits – the inevitable political and technical rows, Fernando and Kimi’s Cap War (with guest appearances from Daniel Ricciardo), and the general banter between the fans are going to make this year as interesting as ever, even if Red Bull end up running away with it again…
We love it, and we can’t wait!