The 2012 Formula 1 season was one of the most exciting in recent memory, with the tense title battle between Alonso and Vettel going right down to the wire in Brazil. With relatively stable technical regulations, hopes are high for a continuation of this conflict in 2013.
However, Alonso and Vettel may not be the only challengers. McLaren ended the season with arguably the fastest car in 2012, while Lotus and Mercedes both seem to have edged closer to the pace setters over the winter, which could result in at least a give way squabble for supremacy in what promises to be a fascinating season.
The major change for 2013 is at Mercedes Benz, where Michael Schumacher has been replaced by Lewis Hamilton to form what Niki Lauda claims is the strongest driver line-up in F1 with Nico Rosberg.
The German squad had a miserable end to 2012, but seem to have made significant progress over the winter with its high profile new technical team; setting the fastest time of the winter in the final Barcelona test. Winter testing can be a notoriously unreliable indicator of form, but Mercedes still seem to be capable of challenging for victories in 2013.
Replacing Hamilton at McLaren is Mexican Sergio Perez who put in some remarkable performances last season to take 3 podium finishes for Sauber. However, these strong drivers were interspersed with indifferent performances and errors which simply won’t be tolerated at McLaren. The onus really will be on Jenson Button to carry the McLaren team if Perez can’t iron out the inconsistency.
Nico Hulkenberg had been expected to take Hamilton’s vacant seat at McLaren, but he has instead opted to move to Sauber from Force India which is seen by many as a sideways step. Nevertheless, it could leave him in the perfect position to replace Felipe Massa if Ferrari decide to ditch the Brazilian for 2014. Hulkenberg’s position at Force India has been taken by the returning Adrian Sutil who is reunited with the squad after one year out of the sport.
There are also five rookie drivers on the grid this season, the most promising of which is Valtteri Bottas who has replaced Bruno Senna at Williams Renault. He has been described by Frank Williams as one of the biggest driving talents he has ever seen, which is quite an endorsement for a man who has previously employed Ayrton Senna, Alain Prost and Nigel Mansell.
Who will be champion?
Price comparison website MoneySupermarket asked respect motorsport journalists and bloggers to vote on who they believe will be the 2013 Drivers champion. It turns out that Fernando Alonso is favourite for that long awaited 3rd Drivers Championship in 2013; attracting 55.3% of the vote.
Reigning champion Sebastian Vettel only picked up 26.3% of the overall vote from contributors despite the fact that Red Bull are the overwhelming favourites for constructors championship with 66.7% of the vote.
MoneySupermarket also asked respondents to vote on what they felt would be the biggest talking point of 2013. Perhaps unsurprisingly Felipe Massa’s position at Ferrari was the most frequently mentioned topic, with Nico Hulkenberg, Sebastian Vettel, Mark Webber and Jules Bianchi all being linked to his seat for 2014.
Grand Prix Preview 2013 – An infographic by the team at MoneySupermarket Car Insurance