2013 season is off to a flying start with three different drivers winning the first four races of the season. The new generation of Pirelli tyres are one of the talking point of the season, as they were in 2012. Lotus and Force India are the two teams who are able to maximise from the new tyres, while Mercedes are struggling to manage them. Apart from tyres, use of two DRS zones in first four races of the season have grabbed attention. The rule has made overtaking way too easy and the car in front finds it hard to defend its position. Meanwhile, Jules Bianchi has proved himself to be the most impressive rookie of the year with some amazing drives during the first four races of the season. So we analyse in details the key talking points of the season and performance of the top 5 teams.
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The showers during qualifying and just before the race made the Malaysian Grand Prix an interesting one from strategic point of view. Teams started the race under the intermediate tyres but soon disposed them off for slicks. But instead of opting for faster options tyres and then doing the remaining stints with more durable prime tyres, teams tried various strategies in this respect. A wet qualifying session meant that teams had plenty of fresh tyres for the race and they exploited this to their maximum advantage. Many drivers including Sebastian Vettel did the final stint on medium(option) tyres to overtake as many drivers on low fuel. Mercedes did only one of the four dry stints on hard tyres. Lotus was one of the teams to do only three dry stops(four in total), further showing the Enstone based team's ability to manage their tyres.
In this strategy analysis, we dive deep into Sebastian Vettel's race explaining how he lost first place during the first round of pitstops, second place in his second stop before fighting his way back to the top in a rather awkward fashion.
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Sebastian Vettel took 38th pole position of his career in a rain affected qualifying session at Sepang, outpacing the Ferrari duo of Felipe Massa and Fernando Alonso. Light rain hit the track in the middle of Q2 - the track wasn't wet enough for intermediates nor dry enough to beat earlier times on slicks. This meant that Lotus of Romain Grosjean and Force India of Paul di Resta failed to make into Q3 while the McLarens of Jenson Button and Sergio Perez made into the final part of the session.
In Q3, Vettel, Massa and Alonso took the right decision of using new sets of intermediates in later part of the session and will occupy the first three positions of the grid. Mercedes duo of Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg decided to continue on a single set and could only qualify in 4th and 6th place respectively. The German team looked strong in wet conditions in FP2 and was also strong in dry but a strategy error prevented them from starting the race from the front row. Another man who was disappointed after qualifying was Adrian Sutil. After an impressive comeback in Australia last weekend, the German driver topped the first part of qualifying(which was completely dry) and was hoping to finish in top 5. However, the Force India lacked pace in the wets and he could qualify only in 9th place(8th on the grid after Raikkonen's penalty). We now analyse each team's qualifying performance.
Lewis Hamilton set the fastest time(1:23.282) on Day 4 of Barcelona test but it was the man who replaced him at McLaren, Sergio Perez who set the fastest lap of the test session. Perez's laptime of 1:21.848 was just a tenth slower than Hamilton's pole lap in 2012. But in 2012 teams were allowed to use DRS as per their discretion in qualifying, while this year it is limited to the DRS zone. Also, teams deliberately didn't run on qualifying fuel load in order to prevent rivals from getting hint of their actual pace.
Moving away from lap times, Adrian Sutil's return to Formula 1 made headlines this week as the German driver tested the Force India VJM06 on Day 3 of Barcelona test. After a one year absence, his laptime of 1:22.877 was 1 second off Alonso's pace and 7th fastest of the day.
Teams reported high tyre degradation on the new Pirelli rubber and that they start to lose off pace after just one proper flying lap. However, this was mostly due to cold weather conditions at Barcelona. It is expected that this degradation will ease off during warmer conditions in the main season. Another major story was the controversy regarding Williams and Caterham exhaust designed which were banned by the FIA. More on that in our team by team review.
2012 was a truly fantastic season. Seven different winners in the first seven races, more twists and turns that the Monaco Grand Prix and Sebastian Vettel clawing his way to just winning the World Championship. After the insipidity of the 2011 season, 2012 came as a shock to the system and as such, and now we'll try to second guess the 2013 season.
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Red Bull have had the same driver pairing for longer than anyone else on the grid, having kept Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber as their driver’s since 2009. They had a mixed 2009 season, good 2010 season and an absolutely fantastic 2011 season in terms of dominance. For example, between the two drivers, they grabbed 18 of the 19 pole positions in the season, loosing Korea to Hamilton. It was a fantastic run of form and it came as a huge shock when McLaren waltzed into Australia to really out do the Red Bull’s, placing their cars on the front row while Red Bull could only manage 5th for Webber and 6th for Vettel. They pulled some good race pace out of the car though, Vettel finishing 2nd while Webber finished 4th; his best ever race result in Australia, particularly good as he had been involved in a first corner shunt.
Lewis Hamilton has grabbed pole position at the Brazilian Grand Prix after putting in a fantastic lap. The Brit will start ahead of Jenson Button in P2 and Mark Webber in P3. Sebastian Vettel put in a lap that couldn’t get higher than P4 after making a mistake on his first lap while Felipe Massa in P5 will be trying to hold him up. Venezuelan driver Pastor Maldonado qualified in P6 ahead of Nico Hulkenberg in P7. Fernando Alonso will need a massive push of luck to win the championship tomorrow, starting from P8, just ahead of Kimi Raikkonen and Nico Rosberg in P9 and P10 respectively.
Sebastian Vettel continued his dominance at Circuit of the Americas as he stormed to pole position in today's qualifying session. Lewis Hamilton got most out of the McLaren to qualify in 2nd place; his laptime of 1:37.766 was a tenth of a second slower than Vettel's 1:35.657.
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Sebastian Vettel stormed to lead in World Drivers Championship with 4 consecutive wins in second half of the season. But how many races did he win in the first half? Only one. So how a driver who scored just one win in first 11 races score 4 wins in the next 9 races? The answer lies in the car RB8, designed by one and only Adrian Newey.
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Lewis Hamilton ended Red Bull's run of pole position with a dominant performance at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. Hamilton looked quick throughout this weekend and was the fastest in FP1 and FP3.
Hamilton's first lap time of 1m40.630s was enough for pole position though he did come out again for a second run on which he wan even quicker but decided to slow down after it was clear that no one could catch him. Mark Webber breaked into 1:40s on his final run to go 2nd fastest, but his lap time was still 3 tenths slower than Hamilton's.