Wednesday, 27 November 2013

2013 Season Close

The 2013 season came to a close on Sunday in spectacular fashion and a record breaking result for Sebastian Vettel, Heikki Kovalainen and Max Chilton. For Vettel, 9 wins in a row really demonstrated the strangle hold that both he and the Red Bull team had over the current regulation package. The change of regulations next year could not have been timed better for this reason, and the action will certainly be closer throughout 2014 as teams adjust and adapt. There is a chance that the viewers may also have some adapting of their own, with some rather unsightly nose concepts emerging. 

Lotus were unable to move up from 4th in the final 2 races, which I feel even having Kimi Raikkonen race in Austin and Interlagos would not have changed. My last post detailed David's Valsecchi's appointment for the last 2 races, and I was disappointed to see his name behind those of Kovalainen, Hulkenberg and even Michael Schumacher. The reason is not based on talent, but in loyalty. In Valsecchi, Lotus have a driver who has attended every race and put in masses of effort to help the team over his own interest. The 2 races could have helped him find a race seat next year, but the chance has now gone by. Some may look at Kovalainen's lack of points, but there is no guarantee that anyone else would have scored a point either. The news after Brazil that he had expected it to be easy to score points in the Lotus is an interesting point though. F1 is the pinnacle of motorsport, and I would have thought his 2 years within McLaren would have served a reminder that the car is only part of the equation. 

The battle at the tail end of the field is rarely spoken of except for at the final race, and it was Marussia that came away with the vital 10th place in the constructors championship ahead of Caterham. 13th place for Jules Bianchi back in Malaysia was the result that sealed the victory and greater prize money that comes with, at the time when Marussia had the better car. The battle always comes back to reliability, both of the Marussia and Caterham cars but also the other teams ahead of them. It is testament to Max Chilton then that he was able to finish every race of his debut season, even when largely outperformed by Bianchi. Bianchi is still within the Ferrari academy so his talent is undeniable, whereas Chilton is looking to secure more time in his F1 career. His performances improved greatly throughout the year, and the margin to Bianchi shrank in the latter stages of the year. Rumours suggest he will be announced back at Marussia for another season and I hope that his progress continues.

The race itself in Brazil was one of the best this season with the lack of running in the dry until the cars left the garages Sunday afternoon causing a great unknown in the early stages. Track limits have been discussed at length in 2013, and I did feel bad that it was Felipe Massa to suffer in Brazil in his final drive for Ferrari at home. The arguments that others cut the line as well and Massa was treated unequally is unfortunately not true, given he was given 2 warnings prior to the penalty. The drive through itself then served its purpose as he learnt his lesson and did not repeat the error again. It was taken badly by himself and the team knowing as we do now that there was a deal in place whereby Alonso was prepared to allow Massa to pass for the final podium position. Emotion has trickled onto the racetrack where fines and penalties limited outbursts and actions within the cockpit. It has been brilliant seeing donuts from Vettel, Webber and Massa in the second half of the season, but Webber trumped that in Brazil. His final race in F1 finished with Webber returning to the pits without his helmet on, to show the real remarkable personality in the car. He will be missed greatly in the paddock next year, but the timing of his exit with a podium sign off was the best he could hope for with Vettel as dominant as he was in the final races. The World Endurance Championship is certainly going to gain some following with his move to Porsche.