- Season Preview
2013 Season Preview - The TeamsLaurence Edmondson March 11, 2013
Drivers Sebastian Vettel (GER), Mark Webber (AUS)
Team Principal Christian Horner
Technical Director Adrian Newey
Title Odds 10/11
Towards the end of last year Red Bull had to dig deep to seal the title for Sebastian Vettel and over the winter there were rumours it was having a knock-on effect on the development of the RB9. But in testing the car looked quick, even if its fuel load concealed its true performance, and there will be more new parts in Australia. With stability in the rules and stability at the team there is no reason to think Red Bull has lost its way over the winter.
ESPN prediction Red Bull will be a title contender this year and the RB9 will win races. It's inconceivable the team has gone backwards from 2012, but the question is whether it has made as big a step as its main rivals. One thing we can be sure of is that Adrian Newey's brilliant design team will continue to squeeze performance out of the regulations for the remainder of the year, so even a slow start in Australia will not be the end of the world.
Drivers Fernando Alonso (ESP), Felipe Massa (BRA)
Team Principal Stefano Domenicali
Technical Director Pat Fry
Title Odds 7/2
The difference between this year's pre-season and last year's has been night and day. The car was consistently quick and when upgrades arrived at the final test they had the desired effect. Working with a wind tunnel that the team can trust will make a massive difference this year and should give it the confidence it needs to pursue bolder design concepts that will allow it to fight with the likes of Red Bull.
ESPN prediction Fernando Alonso has asked to have a car within a couple of tenths of his rivals and the early signs suggest he should have it. Ferrari is not expecting to have the fastest car in Australia, but if Alonso can maintain his strong form from 2012 then he will be in the mix for the title. Likewise, Ferrari need Felipe Massa to carry over his improved performances from the end of last year to give it a shot at the constructors'.
Drivers Jenson Button (GBR), Sergio Perez (MEX)
Team Principal Martin Whitmarsh
Technical Director Tim Goss
Title Odds 10/3
McLaren has made a big departure from last year's car in the hope of having a decent platform it can extract performance from throughout the season. But with those big changes have come some headaches during testing and set-up changes have proved particularly lengthily. The team will have to make the most of its simulation tools in Woking to ensure it arrives at the first races with a car in good shape because there is little doubt the MP4-28 will be quick in the right circumstances.
ESPN prediction McLaren finished last season with the fastest car in the paddock and the early signs are that this year's car is a good step forwards. Tapping its full potential might take a few races and it will be interesting to see how the team operates without Lewis Hamilton and ex-technical director Paddy Lowe, but it is still capable of winning the championship this year.
Drivers Kimi Raikkonen (FIN), Romain Grosjean (FRA)
Team Principal Eric Boullier
Technical Director James Allison
Title Odds 12/1
Last year's car gave the team a very solid base to build on over the winter and the early signs in testing showed that the team has made as much progress as the top three, if not more. Last year it lost its way a bit around mid-season as it appeared to get distracted by its Passive Drag Reduction Device. But that work could bear fruit this year as the team has continued to develop the system and should be more advanced in this area than its rivals. Qualifying pace was the issue last year so that will be the area of focus, with long runs during testing suggesting the E21 has retained the race pace of last year's E20. The team will also hope development can be more progressive this year with the help of its new simulator.
ESPN prediction In Kimi Raikkonen the team has a driver capable of fighting for the title, so it comes down to whether the Enstone factory can produce a competitive car on a lower budget than its rivals. That is lot to ask when you're going up against the likes of Red Bull and McLaren, but if anyone can do it it's the boys and girls at Lotus
Drivers Lewis Hamilton (GBR), Nico Rosberg (GER)
Team Principal Ross Brawn
Technical Director Bob Bell
Title Odds 12/1
There has been a genuine sense of optimism at Mercedes during pre-season testing. The team knows it has a huge amount of work to do to be fighting at the front consistently, but there was definitely progress made over the winter and it should also start to feel the benefit of its new wind tunnel this year. Last season's problems with tyre degradation have been a key focus and it appears as though there has been a step forward in this regard that should give the team a much better base to work with this year. Lewis Hamilton's arrival has been a big shot in the arm for all the team and there is a real sense that it now has all the ingredients for success.
ESPN prediction Despite setting the fastest time in testing, when it comes to qualifying in Melbourne Mercedes will most likely be off the pace of the top teams. If the car is close enough to the pace then Hamilton has the ability to pick up the slack over the course of the season and put the car in contention for the odd victory. Mounting a serious bid for the title is probably too much to ask, however.
Drivers Nico Hulkenberg (GER), Esteban Gutierrez (MEX)
Team Principal Monisha Kaltenborn
Chief DesignerMatt Morris
Title Odds 150/1
The team has an all-new driver line-up this year, which is always a bit of a risk ahead of a new season, but Sauber is a resilient little outfit - as it showed last year when it lost technical director James Key ahead of the season. Its current technical line-up have not held back with the new car and its narrow sidepods and neat rear end makes it one of the most visually striking cars on the grid. On its launch there were concerns the tight packaging of the C32 may hinder its reliability, but the new Sauber completed more mileage than any other car at the final test.
ESPN prediction The team insists it has maintained all the positive aspects of last year's car while tackling the weaknesses head-on. Nico Hulkenberg should now have a platform on which he can prove his talent, and if he performs like he did towards the end of last season podiums will be within his reach.
Drivers Paul di Resta (GBR), Adrian Sutil (GER)
Team Principal Vijay Mallya
Technical Director Andrew Green
Title Odds 500/1
Questions over the team's funding and its second driver have not provided the best backdrop to its pre-season, but the Force India mechanics quietly got on with the business of testing nonetheless. The car does not appear to be anything special, but appearances can be deceiving in Formula One, especially during the early tests. In recent years the team has come on strong in the second half of the year, so it will be important to be scoring points right from the off in 2013.
ESPN prediction It's two drivers will score solid points if they have the car to do so, but the competition is so tight this year that performance is likely to swing from race to race. Force India is desperate to start competing for regular podiums, but the lower places in the top ten are a more realistic target.
Drivers Pastor Maldonado (VEN), Valtteri Bottas (FIN)
Team Principal Frank Williams
Technical Director Mike Coughlan
Title Odds 250/1
The switch to Renault engines last year did Williams a world of good and its new technical team led by Mike Coughlan finally produced a car worthy of Grove's facilities. However, despite winning a race in Spain, more often than not the drivers failed to get consistent results and this will be the key area of focus in 2013. Pre-season testing suggested the car is easy on its tyres and that could be crucial in the opening rounds. Running low-fuel to get headline times is not the team's style, so don't be surprised to see the FW35 closer to the top of the timing screens after qualifying.
ESPN prediction Of the midfield teams Williams impressed the most in pre-season testing and could find itself taking points off some of the bigger names in the first few races. But whether Maldonado and Bottas can really do the new car justice over the course of the year is another question.
Drivers Daniel Ricciardo (AUS), Jean-Eric Vergne (FRA)
Team Principal Franz Tost
Technical Director James Key
Title Odds 1000/1
New technical director James Key came to the team a little too late to have a real influence on the new car, but the early signs are that the STR8 is a step up. The team has focused on giving the drivers more set-up options this year to tailor the car to the needs of each circuit and the tyres. Key has been impressed by what he's found at the factory in Faenza but it might take a few races for him to whip it into shape.
ESPN prediction The team is targeting sixth in the constructors' title, which is probably a little overambitious. However, Toro Rosso should be in the points more often this year rather than simply plugging the gap between the midfield and the backmarkers.
Drivers Charles Pic (FRA), Giedo van der Garde (NDL)
Team Principal Cyril Abiteboul
Technical Director Mark Smith
Title Odds 5000/1
It's all change at Caterham for 2013 with two new drivers and a new team principal. However, the car looks remarkably similar to last year's and the early signs are that its performance has not taken a big step forward. The team has shied away from making any big predictions but points are undoubtedly the main aim.
ESPN prediction Caterham is the one team that really needed to make a step forward over the winter, but instead of fighting the midfield teams it is likely to have its hands full fending off Marussia. There were no indications at testing that the team would be scoring points on merit.
Drivers Max Chilton (GBR), Jules Bianchi (FRA)
Team Principal John Booth
Technical Director Pat Symonds
Title Odds 5000/1
The MR02 is the first Marussia with KERS and a properly sorted aero package. The team should be proud of its efforts although it had a nasty distraction over winter testing as Luiz Razia joined the team and left within a matter of weeks after his sponsors failed to cough up. On the plus side Bianchi is a solid replacement and Chilton comes to the first race with more testing than he could have hoped for in his first season.
ESPN prediction Marussia is in with a serious chance of beating Caterham this year, but it will still be huge and unexpected achievement if it scores a point. With HRT gone, finishing off the foot of the constructors' championship will be the aim.
Laurence Edmondson is deputy editor of ESPNF1