With just over a week before the start of the 2013 preseason testing schedule, it’s time to look at what shape the Formula One teams are in and who might be setting the pace at the first test in Jerez, Spain on February 5th.
The only major changes in the team is the departure of Mark Webber’s race engineer, Ciaron Pilbeam. The RB9 will be launched February 3rd. Look for the team to be quick straight away but probably not the quickest, as they like to leave a little something in reserve.
Also no major changes within the team plus, the addition of the experienced tester Pedro de la Rosa will be a great help. The as yet unnamed 2013 car will be unveiled February 1st. The team are sticking with the pull-rod suspension layout but should have a better handle on its set-up this year.
The departure of Lewis Hamilton leaves large shoes for Sergio Perez to fill, but it also allows Jenson Button to become the undisputed leader of the team, just as he was at Brawn when he won the world title. The MP4-28 will be launched January 31st (hopefully in the traditional McLaren Orange paint scheme)
Kimi Raikkonen’s race engineer, Simon Rennie, moves to Red Bull (perhaps Kimi told him to “Shut up!” one too many times?) but otherwise there are no major changes. No launch date has been announced for the E21 but expect it to be ready for the first test.
Changes have been coming thick and fast since the departure of Norbert Haug and the signing of Lewis Hamilton. The appointment of first, Niki Lauda as non-executive F1 Team Chairman and now Toto Wolff, former Williams director, as Head of Motorsport are all part of a huge makeover. It will take some time for the dust to settle and to see what effect (positive or negative) it has on the track. The W04 car will be launched February 4th and will run at Jerez the next day.
Despite a total change in driver line-up, things are looking up at Hinwil. With a stable management team in place, more sponsorship and the signing of the experienced Nico Hulkenburg, the promotion of Esteban Gutierrez to a race seat isn’t such a risk. The C32 is well advanced and set to be unveiled February 2nd. Look for it to be fast straight out of the box.
The team enters the season with major questions about its future. With owners Vijay Mallya and Roy Sahara’s companies both in deep financial trouble, it remains to be seen if they will still be in control of the team by the end of the season. The VJM06 is set to be launched February 1st but the team has yet to announce who will partner Paul di Resta, which does not bode well.
The move by company director, Toto Wolff to Mercedes has been painted as consensual but must be a major blow to the team as he was basically running the operation during 2012. They had already announced that the FW35 would not be ready until the second test (February 19th in Barcelona) which always puts a team on the back foot when testing is so restricted.
The team benefits from an unchanged driver line-up, the experienced Steve Nielsen as Sporting Director and the addition of James Key as Technical Director, who has previous knowledge of the Ferrari powerplant through his work at Sauber. The STR8 is set to debut February 4th and could be one of the early surprises in testing.
The CT03 will be unveiled at the Jerez test February 5th with new signing Charles Pic at the wheel. Who will partner him is still undecided, with Vitaly Petrov, Bruno Senna and Luiz Raza all candidates. This really is a make-or-break year for the team to close the gap and challenge for Q2 places and a few points before sponsorship gets hard to find. The defection of Nielsen to Toro Rosso could cause problems too.
Things began to look up with the addition of Technical Consultant Pat Symonds and the use of the Williams KERS system in 2013, but things took an unexpected turn this weekend when number one driver Timo Glock left the team for “commercial reasons” (AKA “We can’t afford to pay you”). Although the MR02 should be ready for the first test session, rookie driver Max Chilton will not be much use in developing it straight away. With Russian backing and a Russian GP coming in 2014, Vitaly Petrov would be the obvious choice to join the young (and well sponsored) Chilton, but Bruno Senna is also in with a chance.
There are bound to be more developments in the days leading up to February 5th at Jerez, so it’s time to get excited about Formula One again!