2013 February 28 – first day of the last pre-season test

As previously stated in these pages, Red Bull is ominous in form.

But, hey, don’t get those razor blades over your wrists yet, teams haven’t played all their cards yet.
There are very significant changes coming for Melbourne; assume the Ferrari is a data-gathering draught horse, not the Arabian Stallion they’ll be making their challenge with.
Prediction: We (most of us) haven’t seen Ferrari’s real 2013 car!
I don’t think we have a fully functional Lotus, on Thursday (Feb. 28th).
I don’t think we have the Melbourne-spec McLaren.
And we probably haven’t seen the complete 2013 Red Bull, either!
I think Sauber still have a significant functionality/component to turn-on/enable.
The Williams by-line was something to the effect, “we’ll have to bring an upgrade to every event”, probably suggesting a new upgrade for Melbourne, thus will not be seen this weekend in Barcelona.

So there is a long, long way to go to figure out the running order.

Yes, it will likely be another year of the running of the Bulls, but HEY, doesn’t it happen that some guy beats the running of the bulls, in Spain? Does that mean it’s most likely a Spanish guy?

2013 February 23 – second test, and the crystal ball is still muddy…

We’ve had the second test, at the race track that the teams have the most experience on, and therefore the teams have the best knowledge, of all the tracks on the Formula One schedule.  Yet, there is scant information to predict comparative pace of the competitors.

What we know:

  1. The new tires behave and degrade in new patterns from their behaviours and degradation patterns of last season, which itself varied greatly over the course of the year; they are at least as sensitive and variable as last year; it looks like they are more sensitive, and more variable than last year. Therefore, prediction: tire management will be at least as important as it was last year.

That’s about it.  That’s all I learned.

I did notice that one team did a race simulation; it seems to have been highly regarded by all on the pit lane, to have done one!  That’s probably relevant for the first few races, anyhow.

 

2013 Feb. 08 – First test, first thoughts…

Red Bull, relentless.
In terms of pace, one need look no further than Webber’s long runs, and Vettel’s mid-1:18 on HARD tires! No major technical issues at Red Bull either; the bull looms ominously!
After the bull, the black team is looking very good! Two days topping the timesheet may not be too meaningful, but the reliability at the first test, consistent long run times; Lotus really seem like they have the momentum, and right now, look the strongest to challenge the bull.
Ferrari!?! a spark of nothing less than dominance on day 3, but just like Filipe said, it doesn’t mean too much. The reliability of the red car is typical of a first test, yet, I bet many had hoped for clearer sailing to set a tone of challenge; that was missing for me. Also, the communications coming out of everything red seemed… well, just too scripted and consistent; I’m wary of this level of message control; if a team is so strong, read ‘red BULL’, the message is there for everybody to see for themselves, and so potent!
McLaren?!? a question mark for me. Yes Button did have that run, and wasn’t it on mediums? But I didn’t see the same level of consistency as the red bulls or black and gold flowers. I read a bit about how the new McLaren is a significant redesign, uhm… it doesn’t seem any more changed than the other top teams.
Maybe I have it wrong.
Mercedes, whoa or woe? Inner turmoil?!? Fires and massive mileage make-up. I don’t want to touch it. If the discussion (in the ENglish-language dominated British press, and their pet topics) wasn’t so absurdly focused on Lewis, and ‘how he’s feeling…’, or something, I’d think there’d be a lot of discussion about (h)ow! they’re looking at the backside of Force India, for sure, and maybe another team.
Am I too harsh?
This is Formula One! They sell their products to the aerospace industry! Mercedes is one of the primary marquee automobile and industrial brands in the world!
They ARE in the weeds!
Too many chiefs… it looks like, to me.

The usual scraps behind, except one is missing.

I still like Sauber, and prefer to believe them to be biding their time, working spartan-like through their programs, maximizing their resources.
Did I mention I like the look of the 2013 Sauber?

2013 February… on the verge of something special in Formula One?!?

Without reservation, I can honestly go on the record that the 2012 Formula One championship was the best season I’ve ever followed.

Now the marketing vehicles, except for WilliamsF1, have had their covers pulled off, for what it’s worth.

These early launches are about marketing and business development. Anyone who thinks that here is anything on this car to give any developmental advantage to the competitors has not been paying too much attention to how this cycle is now working. Ferrari, said, before the launch of their F13-8, that the car in Melbourne will be quite different to the one that is presented to the public during their ‘launch’.

I expected the red car to be fast out of the blocks this year. After the first day of testing, I’m not so certain that is the case.

I was very interested in seeing the Mercedes, a wildcard, but their woes apparently continue; “call the fire brigade”.  Speaking of the silver arrows, they are the most top-heavy organization of all time!  If you’ve been paying attention over a few cycles of this game, then you’ll know, without doubt, that the Niki Lauda, Toto Wolfe equation is incompatible with Ross Bran remaining with the team; it ain’t gonna happen!  That’s just the way it is, regardless of you stature.  The achievements of Ross Brawn in Formula One racing are staggering!  Yet, he’s on the way.

For whatever reason, maybe because of my bent endearment to the underdog, I like Sauber; not just Peter Sauber, but the entire Sauber culture and tradition. I like the car.

Of course, as mentioned above, the ‘launches’ are all about marketing, rather than actually displaying the focus of the teams’ fanatical developmental focus.  I would personally discount any teams chances, if they were to bring any of their key hard earned ‘goodies’ to the table, for their VERY aggressive and active and capable of copying competitors to assess. Nonetheless, I find I like this car better than any launched so far. Despite the fact that it was a fantastic achievement scoring as well as they did last year, this season might even be better for Sauber; the car could in fact be genuinely competitive, not ‘somewhat competitive’ as it was last year.   As far as incremental development of machinery, Sauber is bats way over it’s head, and has has for quite a few years. With this unusual period of stability in regulations, we enter a potentially optimum environment for Sauber. Notwithstanding the fact that the driver line up has a lot to do to demonstrate that it is as good as last year’s phenomenal line up, there is a very real possibility that it could be better yet!  I believe that both of the 2012 Sauber drivers are world-champion potential; but Nico’s trajectory at the end of 2012 was the most impressive.  While information for assessing the expected performance of Gutierrez is next to nothing, I yet remember while naming Sergio Perez to first drive for the team, the word on the street was that he was a placeholder for Gutierrez!  Nico didn’t set the timesheets ablaze on this the first day of testing for the year, but there is a long way to go.

Did I mention that the Sauber looks good?  The management structure at Sauber seems very solid; Kaltenborn has more than demonstrated top flight capabilities for someone in her role. I just hope they can remember, if your driver is currently experiencing the drive of his life, closing in on, and as certainly as anything in the circus, going to pass the legend in the Ferrari, to take the lead, with a few laps to go, then do NOT tell your driver to change anything!  Best if you just don’t talk to him at all, except o tell him that you’re there for him, if he needs you, and that he’s doing a great job.  We could have had another winner last year.

I expect teams to be establishing their baselines during the Jerez tests.  Maybe we’ll start seeing some more ‘goodies’ bolted on during the next test, and a continuous development cycle across he year.  The team that will be first across the finish line for the championship, will be the team that has the capability, and delivers the stream of upgrades in such an order that it will be most difficult for other teams to adapt and incorporate, like Red Bull did last year with their decisive final round of new goodies,starting with Singapore.  Nobody could adapt and incorporate the concepts in time to catch them.

With the constancy of the rules, I expect the races to be very competitive, and multiple race winners to be the norm, as early as the fourth race. For a team to dominate, it will likely have to come with a unique innovation that nobody else has, and requires a significant time frame to develop by competitors. Who knows where that could come from in this year’s tight pack, Sauber, Williams, Force India. If there was a year that a previous year’s mid-pack team could win, this has got to be it.

 

It’s going to be good!