Finally the new F1 season has started. Although there aren’t many changes to the rules governing the cars and engines, there are definitely surprises thrown about during the first weekend of race. As we anticipate the rest of the 18 races, it will be an interesting season to look out for, with the challenges between the big teams, and the slugfest between the smaller teams but having young and talented rookies.
It was definitely an interesting weekend to look forward to and it sure didn’t disappoint. With the teams limited to 3 test sessions during the off season and on the winter conditions, the teams had limited knowledge on how the new tyres supplied by Pirelli would perform. Pirelli did confirmed that the tyre degradation would be worse than last year to make races more unpredictable and ensuring drivers would need to master their cars to protect the tyre wear. However they could only do so during the test sessions where the track conditions are low.
Coming to the first race in Melbourne, teams are in fact struggling with tyre wear with much hotter conditions on track. And with the downpour during the last practice and qualifying session, the teams actually went into the race guessing how the tyres would perform. Safe bet would be a 3 stop strategy which most teams utilized, except Iceman Kimi Raikkonen. Out of convention, he went with 2 stopper and with his cool driving in managing the tyres well, he not only won the race but also emerge with the fastest lap. Lotus is not considered a big threat, but rather a dark horse. With this win, it has definitely propelled Lotus and Kimi to be among the potential World Champions this year.
Looking at Maclaren, it gave me a feeling that they were at the same level Ferrari was at last year. The cars are not competitive and even the drivers don’t feel confident. With reports coming in that Maclaren may even consider using their 2012 cars, they really have to step up their development to remain as title contenders.
Red Bull as usual displays that pace in their cars. With a maestro in Christian Horner and mavericks like Sebastien Vettel and Mark Webber acting out the plans to perfection, Red Bull is definitely poetry in motion. There may still be minor chinks in the cars, but you can trust the team to iron out all problems to achieve success very soon. However Webber really needs to step up his game. True enough he was challenging for the World title 2 a few years back, but his recent drive in Melbourne and his performance last year seemed like he just don’t have it anymore. In fact he has complained more than he produced results which really affected his performance.
It seems like Ferrari is back in business this year. With renewed vigour and drive in Alonso, the confidence he have in the new car, the mood at the red camp has definitely changed. It is also nice to see Felipe Massa back to the level he is expected of. With a slower car last year, Ferrari still managed to produce results, with the cars on par with the top runners, their first victory this year don’t seem far away.
Lewis Hamilton made the big decision to jump ship to Mercedes this year. He seemed more relaxed and is still settling in with the new team. Provided if things go his way, Mercedes could be the surprise package together with Lotus this year. However it brings to mind that in MotoGP, no matter how talented Valentino Rossi was, when he switched his ride to Ducati 3 years back, he simply could not get it work unlike Casey Stoner. That resulted in his worst seasons in his career on the iron horse. Hamilton have to be patient like Nico Rosberg, yet display more aggression to make sure the cars are competitive enough to be among the front runners.
With not much change in the rules this year, the expectations of the aerodynamics will be much bigger to shave off that extra millisecond. As the season goes by, the teams will surely manage the tyres better, but to make the cars remain competitive, tweaks to aerodynamics will play an important part to ensure competitiveness.
With 18 more races to go, it is already intriguing to find out how the season will pan out. Surely the big teams are there, but will there be surprises like last year, especially with many talented drivers in the smaller teams. My take on them will be on my next post.