Part two of my blog, focusing this time on the Lotus, Mercedes & Sauber teams and their drivers for the 2013 Formula 1 season, finding out who will be more than likely challenging up front and who will be under pressure.
LOTUS RENAULT E21
7. Kimi Raikkonen – Finland
8. Romain Grosjean – France
Kimi Raikkonen’s return to Formula 1 after a couple of years away rallying was one of the major talking points of 2012. There was pressure on him from the start, did he still have what it takes to race at the front of a F1 race? After the major disappointment in Michael Schumacher’s return, questions were being raised about Kimi. But he answered them in the best way possible. He found his way to a win in Abu Dhabi, and finished third in the drivers championship. He showed he hadn’t lost his talent behind the wheel of an F1 car, and if the E21, which is being launched on the 28th January is quick, I’d imagine Kimi will be up there again, possibly a major championship contender this time around.
2012 wasn’t the greatest year of Romain Grosjean’s career, but it wasn’t the worst either. Three podiums highlighted the good points, but numeous first lap accidents highlighted the bad. The fact it took Lotus a while to announce they were keeping him on for a second season shows just how much pressure the Frenchman is under. We all know he CAN race quickly and safely, you just need to look at Valencia & Canada for that, but on occasion he was a liability on track, especially on the first lap. His actions in Spa, though not intentional, showed some immaturity, and hopefully in 2013 he can show he belongs in F1. Its certainly make or break for Grosjean.
MERCEDES AMG F1 W04
9. Nico Rosberg – Germany
10. Lewis Hamilton – Great Britain
Mercedes are having a major overhaul of employees at present; since the end of 2012 they’ve replaced Norbert Haug with Toto Wolff, and have brought in Niki Lauda as a shareholder. Nico Rosberg remains at the team, having taken his first Grand Prix victory in China last year. His early season form was stunning, but as the team concentrated on 2013, his 2012 efforts faded, failing to score in the final few races. With a new teammate that everyone knows is quick, Nico will have to raise his game in 2013. The new car is released on the 4th of February, and Nico is hoping that it’ll suit his style so he can perform at the sharp end of the field.
Nico’s new teammate is none other than former World Champion Lewis Hamilton. His speed and racecraft is well known, but how will he fare in a new team, his first team other than McLaren, who have been grooming him into the talent he is for years. Everyone expects lots from Lewis everytime he gets into a race car, and that puts extra pressure on him. 2012 saw him grow in stature in my opinion, letting the negative comments drift over his head, and it saw him impress in a way I hadn’t seen since his first couple of years in F1. A good Mercedes car should enable him to fight at the front again, but we know from his 2009 season that he’ll fight for any position.
SAUBER FERRARI C32
11. Nico Hulkenberg – Germany
12. Esteban Gutierrez – Mexico
Sauber had one of their best seasons ever in F1 in 2012, with four podium finishes. However they’ve lost Sergio Perez to McLaren and have dropped Kamui Kobayashi. They have however taken on Nico Hulkenberg from Force India, which I believe is a great coup for the team. If the C32, to be launched on 2nd February, is as good as its predecessor, it could enable Nico to shine further on the sport. I think Sauber have signed a future F1 World Champion, and its about time he had the car under him to show that. I wouldn’t put it past Nico to win a race for the team in 2013.
Esteban Gutierrez comes into Formula 1 admitting that he might not be ready for it. He was signed by Sauber as Sergio Perez’s replacement for the simple reason that the team needed the backing of Carlos Slim, and that would only have remained if Esteban was signed up. He has the financial backing therefore but does he have the speed? He was the inaugeral GP3 champion and won a few races in GP2, so obviously has some talent. Whether this talent translates well in a Formula 1 is yet to be seen. Pre-season testing will be hugely important to the young Mexican.
Again we see drivers within teams that are either secure or under pressure. You’d have to imagine Kimi Raikkonen is secure where he is at Lotus, likewise Lewis Hamilton at Mercedes where they invested heavily in him to get him there, and with Nico Hulkenberg at Sauber, who does well everywhere he goes. Their respective teammates are under pressure. Romain Grosjean needs to prove he can be both quick and safe on track, Nico Rosberg needs to prove he can compete with who is regarded as one of the best talents in F1, while Esteban Gutierrez needs to prove to himself he belongs in the sport. Only time will tell for all 6 drivers.
In my third installment, I shall be focusing on Force India, Williams and Toro Rosso.