It’s a long way back now, but the start of the season was actually really promising. Lotus, Ferrari, Mercedes and Red Bull all looked competitive. Lotus and Ferrari were kinder to the tyres, but Mercedes and Red Bull has better raw pace. It was finely balanced.
Force India made a cracking start to the season, and them beating McLaren seemed possible. McLaren, by contrast, had managed to turn what was the fastest car in 2012 into perhaps the sixth fastest in 2013.
Hamilton’s jumping ship to Mercedes had been considered by many (including me) to be bad for 2013 but possibly good for 2014. As it happened, it was a great decision for this year.
However, a huge change occurred around the halfway point. Crumbly tyres are desired by the sport’s bigwigs, but tyres that explode around Silverstone are a step too far. So, the tyres were hardened and swapping left and right rear tyres was banned. The former gave Red Bull a critical advantage, and the latter really harmed Force India’s pace. It transformed a tightly contested and competitive season into a 9 race procession of largely tedious Vettel victories.
But let’s not forget those away from the sharp end. Hulkenberg had a cracker of a season, finishing 10th, splitting the two McLaren drivers and beating both Force India drivers.
Grosjean moved on from first lap tomfoolery last year to excellence this year, with strong qualifying, superb race pace and often being the best of the rest behind the Red Bulls. At the time of writing he wasn’t officially confirmed for next year but Lotus would be insane to let him go (then again, they’ve be insane to take Maldonado over Hulkenberg).
Bottas had a hard time. Lauded as a great talent, the car he had was really poor. Towards the end of the season it improved slightly, but he was only able to show flashes of skill. Hopefully Williams can stop the downward trend of the last decade and improve.
There were very few safety cars this year. Partly this is because rain was rare, but mostly it was because the driving was pretty good. There were fewer avoidable incidents than last year, where Maldonado and Grosjean racked up quite a few between them. I suspect we’ll see more next year, but I’ll talk about that more in another piece.
Mr. M had suggested a rolling driver market thread, but as I’d already written this article and pencilled it in for today, I thought it made more sense to post it and have a little about drivers at the end.
Maldonado has been confirmed for Lotus. This is pretty bad news for them, for the sport in general and for Hulkenberg.
The general rumour for Force India is a Perez-Hulkenberg combination, which could be good for them, but makes Di Resta’s exit from F1 likelier. Sutil may end up going to Sauber, as the Sirotkin deal appears to be off.
I’ll post more about this sort of thing when I do the look ahead to 2014.