2013 Team Reviews: Red Bull

The Team Review series draws to a close, but not before the World Champions, Infiniti Red Bull Racing are placed under the microscope. 2013 was an incredible year for the Milton Keynes based team, as the now four time World Champion Sebastian Vettel, notched up 13 victories, wrapping up the title in India and claiming an unprecedented nine consecutive wins. With long-time servant of the team Mark Webber announcing his retirement and a dramatic team orders fiasco, 2013 was a year to remember for the Red Bull juggernaut.

The Unstoppable Sebastian 

Even by Vettel’s immensely high expectations, 2013 was an unbelievable campaign. The RB9 was a strong package from the outset and as the paddock arrived in Australia, flashbacks of 2011 left many people anticipating a year of Red Bull domination. However, Vettel and Webber struggled in Australia and despite locking out the front row on Saturday, Sunday was most certainly a different scenario, as Vettel could only manage P3, while Webber fell to P6.
However, Sebastian’s consistency was key in the first half of the campaign. The German never finished outside of the top four in the first seven races, with this streak only broken when Vettel suffered a gearbox failure at Silverstone when he was on course for a victory. Post Silverstone, the German was impeccable, winning each and every race bar the Hungarian Grand Prix. His form was immaculate and he exuded confidence at every event – He never looked like relinquishing his stranglehold of the championship and was able to manage each race from the front. Even Mark Webber, in equally sublime machinery, was unable to halt his teammate’s charge. The post race doughnuts became a formality once the championship was wrapped up in India, with three races remaining.
Meanwhile, Qualifying performances were just as extraordinary. Each time Sebastian competed on option tyres in Q3, he qualified within the top three, (which he achieved in 18 of the 19 rounds.) The one exception came in China, where Red Bull opted to qualify on the prime compound to optimise race strategy. When Vettel hit the track in anger on Saturday’s, he was a potent and consistent competitor.

“Multi-21 Seb, Multi-21?”

One of the most memorable quotes of the season. An exasperated Mark Webber could do little to hide his anguish after a Malaysian Grand Prix which threatened to tear Red Bull apart.
Mark Webber was driving a magnificent race, leading his teammate after jumping him in the first phase of pit-stops. His lead was small, yet as the duo entered their final stint, Webber led the charge. Then came the infamous call of “Multi-21” – Red Bull code identifying the team’s desire for Webber to finish ahead of Vettel, and in this case, telling the drivers to hold station. What came next stunned the pit-wall. Sebastian ignored team-orders and mounted an attack on a defenceless Webber, who had already turned his power output down in the knowledge that he had no threat from behind. After a fierce tussle, Vettel claimed the initiative and went on to take the win.
The situation was dire for Red Bull. Mark Webber felt cheated and Christian Horner’s authority as Team Principal had been undermined. In typical undiplomatic fashion, a furious Webber stated his belief that his teammate would “receive protection as always” when being interviewed live on the podium, making matters worse for his team. The situation was so volatile, initial speculation suggested that Webber may not arrive in China for the next race and instead call time on his career, there and then.      
Of course, the Aussie did respect his contract at Red Bull, but the gloves were off, between him and Vettel – To be honest, the gloves were off since Turkey 2010 quite frankly. This mutual distaste was evident from Sebastian’s press conference on Thursday in Shanghi, when Vettel claimed that he would do the same thing again, should the situation arise. Fortunately for Red Bull senior personnel, the pair never met each other on the circuit for the remainder of the year.

The Aussie’s Departure

After driving for Red Bull since 2007, Mark Webber has been a key feature of the team’s road to success. He was crucial to their development and after claiming an impressive nine race wins, he leaves the sport with fond memories. However, 2013 was unfortunately a season without a victory, (including a bitter day in Malaysia,) yet with five second place finishes, two fires, two poles and a scandalous dispute, 2013 optimises Webber’s dramatic career of highs and lows.
Undoubtedly the best moments of Mark’s season came in Brazil. His final race was a truly memorable one, even before he arrived on the grid. Webber was greeted with an Australian favoured garage, fitted with rugby balls, cricket bats, Australian flags and ‘Waltzing Matilda’ blaring out from the frequently used Red Bull stereo. The race was just as special, as the Aussie met Fernando Alonso on track for another titanic battle to add to their collection. After beating the Ferrari, Mark completed the another Red Bull one-two finish. In a rare display of emotion, Webber removed his helmet on his in-lap, looking to soak up the atmosphere while completing his final miles in an F1 car. It was a beautiful moment which will live long in the memory.

2013 for Red Bull was filled with these special moments. Whether it was Vettel’s crowd-pleasing doughnuts or Webber’s removal of his helmet, Red Bull will have fond memories of the season. After enjoying so many moments throughout the year, the sour events in Malaysia were somewhat forgotten by the end of the campaign. Even Vettel’s boo-brigade had softened to a team who were beginning to resemble the fun-loving, not-too-serious operation that they were before they found success. Lets hope that attitude continues in 2014.      


2013 Team Reviews: Mercedes

2013 for Mercedes has been tale of trials and tribulations, but the sprinkling of success has softened the blow of the damaging tyre-test gate and the brake down of relationships in the team’s hierarchy. With Ross Brawn departing the team, you could suggest that the future could look bleak for the team from Brackley, however, with the likes of Paddy Lowe, Toto Wolff and Lewis Hamilton successfully integrating themselves into the team over the course of 2013, this coming season could be even better than the last. The three victories in 2013 somewhat made up for the turmoil faced off the circuit.

Hamilton Becomes One Of The Family…

2013 was all about integration for Lewis Hamilton as he opened a new chapter of his career, with his first season away from McLaren. The day when he headed for pastures new would always be a challenge – Mercedes knew that after driving for McLaren for six years in Formula One, the Brit would need to be integrated into the team slowly. Lewis relished the opportunity and it was clear from his first interview at Brackley, where he already seemed settled, at least looking from the outside-in. 
This confidence emanated from him when he hit the track for the first time, which was remarkable considering the circumstances. Two podium finishes in Malaysia and China displayed both the strength of the car as well as Hamilton’s excellent work throughout the winter. A brief mistake in Malaysia when he drove into the McLaren pit-box instead of his new employer’s, was the only sign of his previous relationship. 
The points amassed at the start of the year were very well deserved. The W04 was not free of issue especially during the early stages of the year, as tyre wear was a significant stumbling block. The high levels of degradation were amplified by Lewis, as his teammate Nico Rosberg had previous experience regarding Mercedes’ tyre characteristics. It was the steepest of learning curves for Hamilton and these difficulties were evident in Spain, as he could only manage P12, despite being given advice on tyre preservation from his German teammate – Regardless, Rosberg could only manage P6 himself!
Eventually, Lewis turned his consistency into a victory in Hungary, with a truly magnificent drive. Bold, brash and decidedly rude manoeuvres from Hamilton made his race, while Sebastian Vettel fell short when trying to clear the traffic between stops. A well deserved victory and the last non-Vettel triumph of the campaign. Seems a remarkably long time ago now…

Rosberg’s Coming of Age

While Michael Schumacher drove the Silver Arrow alongside Nico Rosberg for his three seasons at Mercedes, Rosberg managed to out-qualify and out-race the seven time World Champion. However, few people were willing to credit Rosberg for the success, suggesting that it was merely Schumacher’s rustiness which made his fellow countryman look stronger. This year was identified as the year that we would find out just how good Keke’s son is and he most certainly delivered.
Nico’s performance against Hamilton this year was a clear sign of his credentials. He notched two victories in Monaco and at Silverstone, and while Lewis did eclipse Nico’s points total in 2013, it was only by a mere fraction – 189 points to 171. The additional victory makes up for the points difference in my view. Moreover, this campaign also showcases just how good Schumacher was on his comeback just to keep pace with Nico.
Unlike Hamilton, the German enjoyed a remarkably strong end to the year, finishing on the podium in both India and Abu Dhabi. This is such a crucial time to perform well, as it supplies the driver in question with emphasis heading into the winter and while Rosberg does not seem to be a guy who lacks motivation, any boost is a good boost.

Tyre Test Gate

It wouldn’t be a Formula One campaign if there was no controversy now and again. This year’s political fiasco centred around Mercedes and Pirelli as it was alleged that the pair had collaborated in a secret tyre test which took place just after the Spanish Grand Prix. The news came out just prior to the Monaco Grand Prix – Nico Rosberg’s lights to flag win lit the blue touch paper and the typical bickering was initiated.
Of course, the matter went to the International Tribunal in Paris, with the accuser Christian Horner, the accused Paul Hembery, and the scape-goat Ross Brawn. Mercedes had put Brawn on a pedestal – If the case turned out to be a horrendous disaster, it would be Brawn who would be held accountable. Convenient, considering that he was soon to depart. However, Ross performed remarkably well at the hearing, showing all his experience and the calm attitude which has been a characteristic of Brawn’s for many years. With a crucial email from Charlie Whiting showing that the team had conducted the test in good faith, they escaped the hearing with merely a ban from the forthcoming Young Drivers Test and a fine. Meanwhile, Pirelli were able to continue their contract as tyre suppliers. Everyone came out a winner, except from a certain leading Team Principal.

Too Many Cooks…

The employment structure at Mercedes is as difficult to decipher as a Rubik’s Cube – Who really is the Team Principal, and who is running the operation? With the entrance of Wolff and later Lowe to Brackley, Brawn clearly failed to understand his position within the team. Ross is a magnificent team leader, yet not a man to claim a back-seat role at a team and the platform of Team Principal was never declared by anyone at Mercedes, (and their were plenty of people who could take on the responsibility.) At times, I doubt the team themselves even knew.
The relationship was evidently collapsing and Brawn was loosing patience. It was somewhat of an inevitability in the end that he would leave and loosing a man like Brawn can never be a positive for a team. His experience and technical knowledge is one thing, but his magnificent man-management skills has seen him claim several championships. In Malaysia, when the Red Bull drivers took matters into their own hands and undermined their Team Principal, Nico Rosberg respected Brawn as the boss of the team and despite arguing his case, the German adhered to the team order to stay behind Hamilton in P4. When fellow Mercedes employees look sheepish to claim responsibility for Tyre Test Gate, Brawn was ready to serve his team’s case. Despite Mercedes having Toto Wolff, Paddy Lowe, Bob Bell, Aldo Costa, Geoff Willis and Niki Lauda as the face of their team, loosing Brawn may have catastrophic consequences. His legacy at Mercedes will live on in 2014, yet beyond this, the true effects may become abundantly clear.

Mercedes have made huge steps forward in 2013 and are value for their well-earned P2 in the constructors. The development has been phenomenal and few could have predicted their strength prior to the season, especially in regards to their magnificent Qualifying pace. The W04 was the fastest car on the grid over the course of a lap, yet politics, high tyre degradation and an undefined leader did cause issues. However, 2014 could be where the silver arrows return to the front of the field on a more regular basis with the integration of the new faces.
They are already my title tip for 2014!            

2013 Team Reviews: Ferrari

A team with the prestige and history of Ferrari always have high hopes of success when heading into any season. Unfortunately for the passionate Tifosi, 2013 was yet another trophy-less season – the last championship success came courtesy of Kimi Raikkonen in 2007. Appropriately dubbed, “The Bull Fighter” Fernando Alonso once again finished second to Sebastian Vettel in the Drivers Championship, yet the Spaniard was once again Mr.Dependable, picking up two victories and a further seven podium finishes. Meanwhile, teammate Felipe Massa suffered another disappointing season claiming just one season. However, Maranello will be a hive of excitement as their Finnish son returns to partner the chosen one. It could be explosive!

Fernando “The Bull Fighter”

Fernando Alonso has had a difficult career so far at Ferrari – victories have come in each and every one of his four campaigns behind the wheel of the Scuderia, however, the championship’s have been snatched away by a certain Sebastian Vettel. In three of the four seasons, Alonso has finished P2 behind the seemingly invincible German and 2013 was yet another tale of Alonso earning the position of bridesmaid. 
Fernando has an incredible knack of extracting the maximum from his machinery. 2012 showcased these remarkable talents as he took the championship fight all the way to the final round while wrestling with a below-par F2012. At the start of 2013, Ferrari were exceedingly optimistic regarding the strength of the package, with Stefano proclaiming Alonso’s championship credentials prior to Melbourne. Alonso drove magnificently in the opening round to notch P2 behind an invincible Raikkonen, who was not set to be beaten on the day. Wins soon came for Alonso in China and then at his homecoming in Barcelona. At this point, the championship was “nicely spiced” as exclaimed by Sky Sports F1’s David Croft. He was taking the fight to Vettel just as he had done in the previous campaign.
While Vettel’s nine consecutive victories in the second half of the season left all of his rivals in a state of shock, Fernando maintained his ‘best of the rest’ accolade, with his own spell of form which ultimately sealed P2 in the championship and guided Ferrari to beating Lotus in the constructors. In the Belgian, Italian and Singapore Grand Prix’s, Alonso claimed P2 by a comfortable margin. They were impressive performances, deserving of the victory itself. While post-Singapore Ferrari suffered a downturn in car performance as their final upgrade package made the car suffer from uncontrollable understeer, Alonso only slipped out of the points just once, when finishing P11 in the Indian Grand Prix. Other than his retirement in Malaysia, this was his only race where he failed to score any points. Quite remarkable consistency when you consider the state of the final package…

Massa Unable To Match Alonso

Unfortunately, it is what we have come to expect in recent years. Felipe Massa was once again outclassed by his teammate in 2013, despite this campaign proving to be one of his best since 2008. The Brazilian can best be described as entirely inconsistent – Notable successes such as his P4 in the opening round or his excellent P3 in Barcelona were not incorporated in a sequence of results which were required to convince his employers of his value.
His patchy season saw him amass just 112 points compared to Alonso’s 242 – in what we can assume is equal machinery, such a stark contrast would always place question marks regarding Massa’s future. However, it was not all bad for Felipe as he provided evidence for his impressive one lap credentials with positive Saturday’s. His best qualifying performance came in Malaysia, where he claimed a well-earned P2 on the grid. While he managed P5 in the race, the weekend was also proof of Felipe’s difficulties regarding race performance, and it was typical of his season. It seemed as though he struggled to strike the correct balance between tyre preservation and maintaining lap time. If this is the issue, Felipe will hope that either Williams’ tyre management strategies suit his style, or alternatively, that he learns from his mistakes this season.

Strong In The Face Of Adversity   

While the F138 was undoubtedly a strong package during the early stages of the season, Ferrari chose the wrong development path, (when have I said that before!) The team were misguided by their wind tunnel and Pat Fry identified the issues as born from correlation problems – Their developments which had worked in the wind tunnel failed to add lap time when they eventually hit the track. It is a problem which has plagued Ferrari for several years now and they will have to solve them before they can take the challenge to Red Bull over the course of an entire campaign. This season, the front wing was the problem area, as it failed to pull air into the ‘coke bottle’. This meant that the coanda exhaust package was creating rear downforce almost independently. 
The aero deficiencies were visible for all to see during FP3 in Austin, when humidity reached 93% and vortices gave aerodynamisists fantastic insight into the strengths and weaknesses of the competition. On the F138, air which passed through the front wing was not drawn into the sidepod turning veins and was lost, costing vital lap time. Moreover, understeer crippled the progress of both Massa and Alonso in the final rounds as they struggled to get to grips with the erratic and unpredictable nature of the car. The fact that they managed to hold onto P3 was remarkable in itself, yet Ferrari are typically adept at being strong in the face of adversity. It was a struggle, but P3 is better than P4.

So, 2013 has been an up and down affair for the Scuderia and P3 will never be enough for the Tifosi, who always demand a lot from their team. Until they make a return to the top of the pile, nothing will ever be enough. However, a triumphant return seems even further away after yet another season of development failure and correlation calamities. Will James Allison solve the issues, or do the problems lie deeper?  

2013 Team Reviews: Lotus

Next to come under the microscope is Lotus and what a crazy season it has been for the team from Enstone. Kimi Raikkonen has proved to be a highly valuable asset to the team – too valuable in fact, while Romain Grosjean enjoyed a magnificent turn in form after the summer break as he claimed four podiums post Hungary to add to his two prior to the shutdown. While Lotus were at times, the closest challengers to Red Bull, the team struggled with inconsistencies during the early part of the year which meant that they were unable to catch Ferrari and Mercedes, despite their better form at the end of the year.

Excellent Winter Capped By Early Win

With the E20, Lotus had a fantastic baseline heading into the winter months. They avoided the trap of the tempting revolution and the DNA of the predecessor was apparent in the E21. One key trait carried forward from 2012 was tyre preservation, which was an even more valuable attribute in 2013 considering the unpredictable nature of the Pirelli tyres. This attribute paid dividend in Australia as Kimi was able to stretch the stint lengths to complete a two stop – What was remarkable was the fact that Raikkonen was able to set his fastest times during the final laps of each stint. It looked as though Lotus had the strongest package, however, the car was limited. The operating window was still very narrow; an improvement on 2013, but the fundamental issues remained.

Rollercoaster Ride for Romain

Romain Grosjean endured and enjoyed 2013. It was a definitively topsy-turvy season for the Frenchman, yet one which he most certainly developed through and became a better driver, especially after the mid-season break. Prior to the Summer shutdown, critics were questioning Lotus’ decision to maintain Grosjean for 2013 and with only 49 points compared to teammate Raikkonen’s 134 it was difficult to argue against them. His two podiums in Bahrain and Germany were magnificent performances yet failed to compensate for the inconsistency. Moreover, Grosjean’s weekend in Monaco was more like a weekend from hell for the Frenchman, as he suffered no less than four crashes. His collision with Ricciardo during the race earned him a ten-place grid penalty for Canada, and quite rightly so.
However, following a Summer break within which he became a Father, his fortunes changed and he demoted Raikkonen in the team’s pecking order. While Kimi had become somewhat disinterested with the team after the announcement that he was Ferrari-bound for 2014, Romain dealt with the number one status well. It boosted his confidence and he was noticeably less cautious behind the wheel. A magnificent run of form saw the Frenchman collect four podiums in just five races between the Korean Grand Prix and his spectacular P2 in Austin. The most poignant of these podiums came in India when Grosjean climbed from P17 on the grid to P3, thanks to excellent tyre management and brilliant overtaking. We had seen Kimi conduct races of this ilk, yet India was the first weekend when Romain proved that he could match the departing Finn.

Boullier’s Most Challenging Season Yet   

2013 was a monumentally troublesome year behind the scenes at Enstone. Finances have always been a burden for the team, yet with much of the investment into 2014 coming out of this year’s budget alongside the 2013 challenge the team were soon looking for major investment. The strength of the package and ability to fight at the head of the pack proved a costly venture for the team as success in Formula One comes at a price. In Abu Dhabi, Kimi Raikkonen announced that he had not been paid a single euro by the team all year and this came as little surprise. When Raikkonen originally signed for the team in 2012, the question remained as to whether Lotus could afford his wages – Ultimately this was answered this year.
Eric Boullier was bombarded with questions regarding payment of drivers throughout the year as it was speculated that Kimi had not been paid long before he publicly announced the situation. However, Boullier remained calm and collected in front of the media throughout all of the trials and tribulations experienced by Lotus in 2013, including the contentious decision to give Heikki Kovalainen his fellow countryman’s seat during his medical absence.

Quantum Motorsports Fiasco

Boullier’s job did not get any easier as the season came to an end. Lotus needed to find sponsorship in order to ensure that they would be on the grid in Melbourne for the start of 2014 and the deal needed to be secured before the close of 2013 to allow the team to operate through the winter months. In Abu Dhabi it was suggested that Quantum Motorsports had expressed an interest in investing in the team, with the Group owner Mansoor Ijaz meeting with Boullier that very same weekend. However, Boullier was then under fire as the financial legitimacy of the owner was questioned – something which Boullier failed to address in the Team Principal Press Conference in Sao Paulo.
However, the deal with Quantum was never signed, meaning that Boullier had to search for money by different means and a pay driver was the only option. Enter Pastor Maldonado. Pastor’s controversial move to Lotus provided Boullier with another challenging set of questions, yet has provided Lotus with the money they need. While Boullier was unable to sign Nico Hulkenberg, (his driver of choice) to replace Raikkonen, the mission to save Lotus from liquidation was accomplished.

In 2013, Lotus have once again overachieved. Considering their budget limitations, having the opportunity to legitimately challenge for P2 in the constructors is extraordinary. To finish P4 in such a turbulent year for the team will give them confidence heading into 2014, which they will hope can be a year where the on track action eclipses the politics at Enstone.           

2013 Team Reviews: McLaren

The 2013 Team Review series has run into 2014 and there is still plenty more to come. Today it is McLaren who are up for examination after a year of disappointment and despair for the team as they suffered their first season without a podium finish since 1980. Despite the best efforts of Jenson Button and Sergio Perez, the season was condemned to failure from the start as McLaren were yet another team to take the wrong approach to what should have been an evolutionary winter.

The McLaren Technology Centre would have undoubtedly been a miserable place throughout this year as a disastrous season followed a significantly under-par winter. McLaren followed in the footsteps of Williams and Sauber, by choosing revolution over evolution. While aesthetically the car looked almost identical to its predecessor, a number of key changes were hidden beneath the bodywork, including a Ferrari-esque front pull-rod suspension. This was always a huge gamble as such a switch could take several races to acclimatise to, yet the team ultimately had bigger issues afoot, as an unorthodox high nose meant that the car suffered from instability, especially under braking. It took the team half the season to fully understand the issues and then work to correct them took the remainder of the development programme.
After ending 2012 with debatable the fastest car on the grid, revolution seemed to be an unnecessary risk. This is especially poignant considering that accountability in the Technical department was no-existent, with Paddy Lowe all but checked out of the team by the end of January. His absence from the car’s unveiling told the story and the likelihood is that his full attention may not have been on developing the best car for McLaren.
Meanwhile, McLaren newcomer Sergio Perez endured an erratic campaign. After the first two rounds of the championship, Perez was accused by Whitmarsh of being too placid and he asked for more aggressive performances from the Mexican. Checo delivered aggression, yet it was not entirely controlled and he twice angered Kimi Raikkonen as the two collided in both China and Monaco. More poignantly, Button and Perez came to blows in Bahrain, with the two making contact on several occasions, leading to Button’s now famous team radio call asking the team to “calm him down.”
While Perez developed throughout the year, Jenson Button extracted the maximum from the car throughout the season, hence the differing points totals, with Button scoring 73 points compared to Perez’s 49. As such, Jenson’s first year as undisputed number one at McLaren has been somewhat of a success from an internal perspective; He managed to beat his less experienced teammate, while developing an effective working relationship with him. The latter was particularly difficult when it is considered that the relationship was at breaking point post Bahrain; Sam Micheal and Martin Whitmarsh dealt with the situation calmly and above all effectively. 
The final race of the season was a massive boost for McLaren heading into a challenging winter. Jenson Button’s P4 finish was no fluke, as he maintained a consistent pace throughout the duration, posting some times which extended even the likes of Vettel. Meanwhile, Sergio Perez climbed from P19 on the grid after a crash in Qualifying, to an astounding P6. He was undoubtedly determined to show McLaren that they had turned their back on him too soon and while both he and Jenson benefited from the misfortune of Massa and Hamilton, it was still quite an achievement.
McLaren have been known in the past as the masters of in-season development and a glimpse of substance to match the claim was visible towards the end of the season as the team became far more competitive. Finishing in P5 in the constructors is failure for a team with the history and prestige of McLaren, but with a determined Technical Team and Tim Goss at the helm, 2014 should be a better season for the team. If it is not, then Whitmarsh may get his marching orders.             

2013 Team Reviews: Force India

The midway point of the Team Review series has seen the spotlight set on Force India, a team who experienced a mirrored season compared to rivals Sauber – Force India were significantly disadvantaged by the tyre construction changes which derailed their challenge at the head of the field and refocused their campaign on defending from a fast charging Sauber who were catching fast. While they managed to hold on to P6 in the constructors, it was certainly a rocky ride, especially when Paul Di Resta’s form took a turn for the worst during the Asian leg of the season.

Both Di Resta and Sutil experienced similar season’s. This highlighted the struggles faced by the team in general in the second half of the year. Prior to the the tyre construction change the team was on the crest of a wave, as the car was well suited to the scale of conservation required to maintain tyre life. This was highlighted in Australia, as Adrian Sutil enjoyed a remarkable race where he managed to two stop. His strategy was radical and only matched by the eventual winner Kimi Raikkonen in the Lotus. Unfortunately for Adrian, an extended final stint on the option tyre proved to be too ambitious and after briefly leading the race while strategies overlapped, he fell to P7. However, with Di Resta just behind, it was an impressive weekend for the team which was catalysed by excellent tyre management.
This characteristic proved highly lucrative for the team as they continued to gain vital points through management of the high degradation rubber. Paul Di Resta’s P4 in Bahrain was a prime example of the strength of Force India’s early season package – Paul was unfortunate not to gain his first career podium, as he lost out to a fast charging Romain Grosjean in the closing stages. Meanwhile, Di Resta was once again performing admirably in Canada, as he recorded a remarkable 52 lap stint on one set of prime tyres which earned him P7 following a disappointing Qualifying session.
This remarkable tyre preservation guided the team to an incredible early total of 59 points by the German Grand Prix. However, from this race forward, the team’s fortunes took a dramatic change once tyre construction was altered by Pirelli. The team only surmounted another 18 points throughout the final 10 races, while rivals Sauber began to close the gap between the two teams.
In terms of the driver pairing, it was not a match made in heaven. Paul and Adrian did not share a perfect relationship, especially following the Australian Grand Prix, where Paul suggested that Adrian halted his progress in the closing stages of the race while his tyres had hit the proverbial cliff. Perhaps they failed to bury the hatchet but for reasons unknown, the team dynamic was not ideal.
At least this will not be an issue for the team next season as they entertain an all new driver pairing of Nico Hulkenberg and Sergio Perez. The team’s dismissal of Paul Di Resta seems somewhat unjustified, as his points total of 48 dwarfed that of teammate Sutil who managed just 29 points. His lack of sponsorship should not be an issue for the team considering their lucrative Team Principal, owner of the Kingfisher Group and the assets of Sahara. Undoubtedly, Paul’s lapse in form between Belgium and Korea was at the crucial decision making period, which will have influenced the team’s judgement. Di Resta failed to make the cut, yet he can leave the sport with his head held high after a positive three year stint as a Force India driver.
On reflection, Force India will feel that 2013 was a missed opportunity. Their initial package was exceptional, yet the mid-season tyre alterations derailed their chances of snatching the all-important P5 in the championship. Their position in the constructors is still positive and their confidence will not be deterred by their poor second half of the year.    

2013 Team Reviews: Sauber

2013 was a year of mixed emotions for Sauber. While the campaign failed to live up to the lofty heights of 2012, which produced no less than four podium appearances, 2013 eventually developed into a promising year for the team. The change in fortunes was fundamentally down to the change in tyre construction which took place prior to the summer break. Nico Hulkenberg immediately improved and Esteban Gutierrez soon followed suit. Sauber’s season went from a dire start to an acceptable finish and they will hope to carry the momentum forward into 2014.

Sauber’s disastrous start to the season was stimulated by a similar situation to the on which plagued Williams. The design team had opted for a radical approach in an otherwise evolutionary year, with tightly packaged sidepods and a new, more aerodynamically efficient, rear axle. However, the sidepods were causing some issues as they spoilt the airflow to the rear of the car, making it unstable and difficult to handle, especially on turn-in to a corner. These issues were amplified in China, as both Hulkenberg and Gutierrez struggled to maintain grip throughout the demanding Turn 1. However, contrary to Williams’ dilemma, the team could redevelop the problem parts and notable upgrade packages in Spain and Belgium put the team back on track. 
However, the huge improvement in performance, particularly in the case of Nico Hulkenberg, was not solely down to upgrades and hard work from the team – luck was involved. When Pirelli brought new construction tyres to Hungary, the C32’s potential was realised. The power-shift as a result of the change was most poignant in the mid-field as Force India, who had enjoyed a strong season up until this point, almost switched places with Sauber in the pecking order. An enormous improvement from the Swiss team was always to be anticipated once the tyres were changed, as the new construction tyres were of similar ilk to the 2012 specification rubber, which had augmented the strength of the team last season. While the change launched Hulkenberg into the spotlight at the head of the pack, it was too little too late, with Sauber failing to jump above Force India in the constructors fight – Justice, somewhat upheld. 
As for Sauber’s drivers, Nico Hulkenberg won the inter-team battle by a comfortable margin, yet this was always to be expected. What was not to be anticipated was the strength of Hulkenberg this season, which has led many people to suggest the German as a challenger to the driver of the year accolade. Throughout the year, he led the team by example, even in the most adverse circumstances. His failure to start in Melbourne as a result of unreliability was swiftly forgotten, with the first points of Nico’s season coming in China just two races later. Following the mid-season break, Hulkenberg was even more impressive, highlighting his credentials and linking him with the top drives. P5 in Italy following a P3 in Qualifying was remarkable, yet he proved that the result was not a fluke by driving an impeccable race in Korea to take P4. The latter was particularly special as he had to fend off a fast charging Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton in the closing stages. What has impressed me this season is Hulkenberg’s ability to work with the engineers to develop a setup across the weekend. At circuits such as Monza, where setup is crucial, Hulkenberg delivered while his teammate faltered.
Meanwhile, Gutierrez’s season is best described as a ‘slow-burner’. The Mexican struggled greatly early on, as he failed to acclimatise to Formula One. His army of critics were building and the pressure on his shoulders was immense. However, he managed to provide his season with a new lease of life once he understood the new construction tyres, with his incredible P10 in Qualifying in Singapore, highlighting his growing confidence. His first and only points finish came with a P7 in Japan. Gutierrez has undoubtedly been given the benefit of the doubt this season, yet he will need to be a regular points scorer next season if he is to cement his standing in the sport. 
Sauber’s 2013 season hinged on tyres and any season which hinges on a factor out of the team’s control can never be an entirely successful season. However, Sauber showed character by the bucket load this year and this is a key attribute which should not be overlooked.