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ApexHead's 2013 F1 Grand Prix Rapid-Fire Reviews/Podcasts

Discussion in 'Formula 1' started by Jack Acid, Mar 20, 2013.

  1. Hey all --

    Back at these with the start of a new season, hope you don't mind me starting a thread to post as I go along.

    You can listen to the podcast here.

    I welcome all thoughts and feedback. Cheers!

    This is what a new season is all about it, isn't it? We never know what to expect and the season opener, Round 1 at Melbourne was a sterling example as to why, as Kimi Raikonnen won for the 2nd time in his career at Albert Park, marking his 20th career win overall.

    Many question lingered coming into the season - would Lewis Hamilton get on with his new team at Mercedes? What about Sergio Perez with McLaren? Would Sebastian Vettel continue his dominance for a forth season in a row? How would the new rookies shake out with their new teams? It's far too early to answer any of them with certainty, but at least we have an idea.

    Lost on those aformentioned prominent musings though was the question was how Adrian Sutil, returning to Force India after a one year hiatus, would handle his action in a car since the end of 2011. Remember, he was not added to the team until about four weeks ago, as rumors of who would fill Force India's second seat lingered all offseason. The result of course was Sutil finishing a solid 7th but for a considerable stretch of the race, he looked to have a legitimate shot to win, given the team's gutsy 2-stop strategy.
    Biggest Winners

    Kimi Raikkonnen - Not just because he won the race but because let's face it, no one saw Kimi getting this kind of result in Round 1. Lotus' 2-stopping tire strategy paid off and it's clear the E21 is performing closer to what it seemed to flirting with last year. Remember, the 2012 E20 car seemed to have more struggles in cold weather, so such a strong start in more cool conditions bodes well for the car's performance.

    Meanwhile Kimi's teammate Romain Grojean finished a more predictable s 10th after qualifying 8th. But to have Grojean finish the race and stay out of trouble was a positive for the team and Lotus have something to build on.

    Felipe Massa/Ferrari - A 2nd place finish for Alonso, even from starting 5th, is to be expected from the 2 time world champion. But where Ferrari really surprised was the pace and performance from Felipe Massa, who not only out-qualified his teammate, but finished a strong 4th. If this is the pace to expect from Ferrari moving forward, then the gauntlet has been thrown down for Red Bull for the Constructors title.

    Force India - Despite Sutil leading a portion of the race and competing for a podium spot, it's surprising he only finished one position ahead of his teammate Paul Di Resta, who finished 8th. Double points is nothing to sneeze at , so Force India could play the same role of the 2012 Sauber team, which routinely finished in the lower top 10. Still, the team has to be concerned with how far the performance fell off when running on the super-soft tire compounds. Malaysia should shed more honest light on the subject.

    Honorable mention:
    • Lewis Hamilton. Granted, 5th was perhaps less than what Lewis would have wanted, but it was certainly a decent result for Mercedes who struggled to finish that high most of last year. Given how poorly McLaren showed, there is no question Lewis is not second-guessing his decision to join Mercedes.
    • Also, Sauber rookie driver Esteban Gutierrez has to be happy. He lead all rookies in finishing 13th, which helped salvage an otherwise tough weekend for Sauber, who saw their 11th spot start by Nico Hulkenburg go to waste due to a fuel problem that kept him from participating As long as Sauber doesn't have reliability problems, they should continue to compete in the 2nd tier market
    • Marussia. Not only did the rookie duo do well for the team, they finished an impressive 15th (Jules Bianchi) and 17th (Max Chilton), moving up 3-5 spots each from their starting spots. It's much too early to tell, but Marussia could have the making of a team to be flirting with the mid-teens race in and race out.
    Biggest Losers

    McLaren - When a team mentions the possibility of going back the prior year's car design, you know there are problems. Qualifying told us that the turnover at McClaren - not just with the Lewis/Perez switch, but also within the team - has caught up with them, contrasting what has been strong results for the last 4-5 years. Jenson Button was only to climb one spot from this starting 10th and ending 9th, while newcomer Sergio Perez was able to make better of his atrocious P15 start and finish 11th.

    Still, it's clear McLaren has massive work to do to compete with the other big boys and the UK outfit could be setting up for a long campaign. Jenson Button's concerns about how long it will take to get competitive are quite valid indeed.

    Mark Webber - Another fantastic qualifying performance from Webber squandered by yet another horrific start. Until Webber is able to eliminate this deficiency is his race results, a good grid spot will amount to little. Fortunately for Mark, he was able to finish 6th after it appeared he might only manage 8th or worse.

    Pastor Maldonado - Williams made good strides last year with Pastor able to get his first career win, as well as run high on a number of occasions. The results may have been even better if Pastor had been able to finish a couple races without incident, most namely Melbourne and Valencia. However, Pastor's miserable weekend came to an appropriate halt when his wheels came off the tarmac heading into Turn 1 and off into the grass he went. Pastor described the car as "undriveable" after a poor qualifying session, but this error feel squarely on his shoulders.

    What made things worse for Pastor was the fact that his rookie teammate, Valtteri Bottas, was able to finish a decent 14th after starting 16th. Maldonado needs to show that his flashes of brilliance last year were not just in fact, flashes in the pan.

    Honorable mention: Romain Grojean. Yes, he finished the race and got a point. But ultimately, he fell two spots from his starting grid position. The E21 is clearly very good on the harder tires, so hopefully the young Frenchman will find his pace heading into Round 2.
    Biggest Surprise

    It has to be Sutil and frankly, the pace of the Force India car as a whole. Paul di Resta is a good young driver and combined with Sutil, the team has to be very excited heading into Malaysia.
    Not So Surprising...

    The unreliability of the Mercedes. Last year Michael Schumacher saw plenty of good drives go to waste from problems with the car and Nico's exit at Melbourne tells us that it's possibly still a problem. Mercedes is lucky that this happened with Nico and not Lewis, as it could have posed as a rocky start for the new tandem.
    What to Look for in Round 2

    • What is the true pace of both Sauber and Force India? Both teams will be trying to claw over one another all the way to the end.
    • Is Lotus really here to play, or did they simply exploit the unknowns of a new season?
    • Will Red Bull get its tire wear woes sorted out before Malaysia?
    • Will McLaren be able to make any improvements at all in just a week's time?
    • Are Ferrari as prepared to battle for the Contructor's title as they appear?
     
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  2. Well summarized Jack..good read

    Looking forward to the next one
     
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  3. Thanks much mate, looking forward to it!
     
  4. [​IMG]
    Malaysian GP Results

    If we learned anything from the Malaysian Grand Prix last Sunday, it's that it's never too early for high-stakes drama. One might even say that the podium interviews were just as exciting as the race itself.

    After all, it's not often we see a podium ceremony so full of tension to the point where body language alone would tell an unawares observer that they were watching three men who just had the worst drives of their lives.

    Look no further than Mark Webber, who finished in 2nd place, which would seem normally fantastic. Yet he was barely able to contain his anger as Sebastian Vettel stood in the middle of the podium -- granted, sheepishly -- and accepted the 27th winner's trophy of his career. But this race will not be remembered as the one where Vettel tied Jackie Stewart for the all-time career wins; no, this race will be remembered for Vettel's complete defiance of team orders to remain in P2 behind his teammate. Vettel opted instead to engage Webber in a risky duel, though he was able to overtake the lead on lap 44, eventually winning his first race of the season.

    No matter how you cut it, it's hard to imagine this problem between Mark and Seb going away. While it will be a difficult season to bear out under the current status quo, it's fair to wonder if Webber will remain with the team beyond this season.

    Curiously though, this was not the only case of team orders for the front runners, as Mercedes faced the same dilemma with both Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton. As the race went on, Nico repeatedly pleaded with team principal Ross Brawn to allow him to pass a slower Lewis Hamilton, only to be denied. Nico was of course disappointed, but the key difference between Mercedes and Red Bull is that Hamilton acknowledged Nico was correct.

    The discrepancy between Ross Brawn and Christian Horner could not have been any starker. While Brawn demonstrated complete authority, Horner demonstrated silence, which could not have helped Webber's view. Now the leading constructor will have to spend the next three weeks trying to patch up things between Mark and Seb, as well as earn back the trust of Mark. This could get uglier before it improves.

    The other big story of the race was the sheer volume of problems many teams had in the pit lanes. Toro Rosso, Caterham, Force India & McLaren were all victims of failures, poor judgment and circumstance. Force India had wheel problems, and Toro Rosso was fined for an early release that caused a collision with Charles Pic in the Caterham. Jenson Button's drive was compromised by pit blunders, more on that in a moment.

    Biggest Winners

    [​IMG]
    Malaysian GP Driver Productivity

    Felipe Massa - Another strong drive from the recently-maligned Brazilian, salvaging 6th after Alonso was out after one lap. He also out-qualified Alonso for the second race in a row, so it's quite clear Felipe appears to be back in form to his pre-Hungary 2009 days. While true Felipe did fail to secure a podium despite his P2 grid start, the spotty weather and pace of the Red Bulls doesn't make this surprising. He also made a strong push late in the race to assure his finish, which also speaks well for the tire wear for the F138. Ferrari is hoping this continues, as they appear to be the only team in the early running to give Red Bull any hassle.

    Jean-Eric Vergne - Despite starting 17th, Vergne was able to score a point finishing 10th. The jockeying of drivers and teams around that bubble spot is going to be ongoing for the 2013 campaign, but Vergne appears as a more consistent driver than Daniel Ricciardo. If Toro Rosso can sort out its mistakes, their car could be in the running for points any given race.

    Romain Grojean - Another finish without incident for the 2nd year Lotus driver, a good sign that he has developed patience over the winter. Grojean was able to finish 6th after starting 11th, one spot ahead of Kimi. Lotus must be happy to see him finishing races and are learning to trust him more.

    Valtteri Bottas & Esteban Gutierrez - Both rookies were impressive again, though neither were able to secure a point. Bottas climbed a remarkable seven spots to finish 11th, and has been particularly eye-catching. This is helped by the contrast between him and his teammate Pastor Maldonado. The Williams car is an early mystery, but Pastor needs to improve quickly or he could be facing replacement sooner than later. Meanwhile Gutierrez finished 12th and for the second race in a row, was able to finish higher than he started. Both of these guys are racing with cool heads and avoiding rookie mistakes. Honorable mention to Marussia driver Jules Bianchi, who managed 13th thanks to retirements from some of the faster cars.

    Biggest Losers

    Fernando Alonso - Missing out on points is bad enough, but Malaysia was unique because Alonso made uncharacteristic errors. His tap with Vettel coming around Turn 3 was very slight, but as we know it was enough to damage the front wing. But the decision to not pit at the end of Lap 1 ended up being all too costly when his wing broke coming down the start/finish straight and thus ended his day after one lap. Ferrari assumed responsibility for the decision, but I can't rule out the possibility of the team taking bullet for Alonso's judgment. Given Massa's pace, it's safe to wonder if Alonso could have secured a podium without the incident. His swift exit was just as swift in a kick to the groin for Ferrari fans.

    Force India - A bigtime winner in the season opener, Vijay Mallya's crew saw their second race disintegrate into ashes thanks to an insurmountable wheel nut problem. Watching Sutil stranded for minutes in the pit lane was absolutely brutal. Paul di Resta retired on his last pit stop. The three week gap between races couldn't have come at a better time, as the team will need that gap to fix the problem.

    Jenson Button - He was on his way to a potentially impressive result, but was let down by his team failing to secure his right-front wheel and he was forced to be wheeled back for an almost 2 minute delay. He would later retire from severe vibration. His teammate Sergio Perez was not able to finish than his grid start of P9, but it was evident McLaren had made decent strides in the short week.

    Christian Horner - Despite Red Bull's success, few would envy the position of Horner after this one. Not only must he sort out the issues between Seb and Mark, but also the team's relationship with Mark. Furthermore, his backbone is being tested by Vettel's arrogant disregard of team orders. Christian will need to decide who runs the team - he or Vettel.

    Biggest Surprise

    Because the season is so young, it's hard to be surprised by any pace or performance discrepancies between Australia and Malaysia. However, the broad spectrum of pitstop problems and mistakes were glaring, almost to the point where it seemed historical. Teams will really need to dial in their hardware and protocols, as pit blunders are the difference between a good result and a forgettable one.

    Not So Surprising...

    The pace of the Red Bull and additionally, the cutthroat nature of Vettel. We always knew Seb does not handle losing well but he exposed himself here as a poor sport. It would be a long time before he could convince anyone he is a team player.

    What to Look for in Round 3

    • China could be an interesting benchmark for Mercedes. Nico Rosberg won his first (and thus far only) career race at China last year. His 2011 teammate Michael Schumacher had also been running well until a pit error ruined his result. Meanwhile, Lewis Hamilton has won in China twice. This could be setting up for a strong finish for Brawn's team.
    • The behavior of Webber and Vettel on track, starting with practice, qualifying sessions and of course the race. All eyes will be on Red Bull, its drivers and how it handles the strain of its drivers.
    • Will Bottas continue to outshine Maldonado so thoroughly?

    2013 F1 Driver Power Rankings after Round 02
    [​IMG]


    2013 F1 Driver Power Rankings
     
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  5. Another solidly written piece.:thumbsup: Although i would've considered Rosberg for either the Winner or Loser's list. He drove smarter and better then Hamilton all weekend,and if it wasn't for Ross Brawn he would've been on the podium...where he belonged!