The chasing pack - the 2013 Season Preview Part Three 08 Mar 2013
In the final part of our season preview we discuss the teams that occupied positions six through 11 in the 2012 constructors standings (Continued from Part Two)...
11 Nico Hulkenberg, 12 Esteban Gutierrez
Sauber are a team willing to be bold, as evidenced by the ground-breakingly narrow sidepods on designer Matt Morriss new C32. This is a refined version of the 2012 C31 which was so spectacularly kind to its tyres.
It remains to be seen how much of an advantage the reduction in drag from the smaller sidepods confers, not just on long straights but also in general airflow over the cars rear end (and thus grip enhancement), or whether high ambient temperatures create problems. But the adventurous route is sure to be monitored very carefully by rivals.
The team have settled in nicely around their brace of new drivers. Nico Hulkenberg set some decent times in testing and (with the usual caveat about fuel loads) showed some impressive form. The quiet German is extremely dedicated and good with technical feedback, which should help the team to move forward.
Meanwhile, the teams new Mexican rookie Esteban Gutierrez has done a good job thus far as he acclimatises to F1 racing, and has also shown pace. One of the intriguing factors of 2013 will be to see if the team can do even better than the major breakthrough they made in 2012, when they came so close to victory more than once.
14 Paul di Resta, 15 Adrian Sutil
Force India-Mercedes VJM06
Adrian Sutil's return to Force India is a very sound move by the team, reigniting the relationship between the German and team mate Paul di Resta.
Sutil has always been fast and demonstrated in 2011 that he had brought a new and much-needed on-track calmness to his driving that had hitherto been missing. Testing in Barcelona indicated that he has not lost any of his poise after a season away from the cockpit.
Di Resta goes into his third season of F1 racing ready to make the breakthrough he needs in order to make himself sufficiently attractive to one of the top teams. 2013 will be a critical year for him which could make or break his career.
The indications are that the VJM06 is another highly driveable machine that has very similar pace to the Sauber, and possibly to some of the top five teams offerings, and the Silverstone-based squad go into the new season optimistic of at least sixth place overall.
16 Pastor Maldonado, 17 Valtteri Bottas
Last year the soon-to-depart Adam Parr did an excellent and largely unsung job in putting together the driving and technical factors which led to Williams winning their first Grand Prix since 2004. But the overall feeling at the end of the season was one of frustration that the drivers were, Barcelona apart, unable to exploit the equipment sufficiently to do better than eighth overall.
Since then both Toto Wolff and Dr Mark Gillan have elected to leave the team, but Williams have regrouped yet again and though Mike Coughlans FW35 was not ready until the Barcelona tests both Pastor Maldonado and newcomer Valtteri Bottas were able to show its potential.
It is unlikely that the controversial little winglet in the exhaust exit will be seen beyond Melbourne, after the FIA advised that they deemed it illegal, but nevertheless there is a strong air of optimism in this camp and a belief that the FW35 is a good step forward from the FW34.
Thus, much will depend on the drivers. Maldonado is quick and capable of decent finishes if he can control his competitive urges sufficiently to stay out of trouble with other drivers, while Bottas is the real deal and believed by many to be one of the sports genuine future stars.
18 Jean-Eric Vergne, 19 Daniel Ricciardo
Toro Rosso-Ferrari STR08
Toro Rosso must aim to challenge for sixth place in the constructors championship even though they only managed ninth in 2012. And if that puts the team under pressure with their neat new James Key-penned STR08, its nothing to what drivers Jean-Eric Vergne and Daniel Ricciardo face, even if both choose to play it down.
Two years ago Red Bulls Helmut Marko dropped the teams previous drivers - Sebastien Buemi and Jaime Alguersuari - in favour of them. They are both thus acutely aware that Portuguese rising star Antonio Felix da Costa, a star in GP3 and World Series by Renault in 2012, and of the young driver test in Abu Dhabi with Red Bull, is waiting in the wings should Marko deem one of them to have come up short.
20 Charles Pic, 21 Giedo van der Garde
At the 11th hour in 2012, Caterham managed to move back ahead of closest rivals Marussia and to continue on track towards better funding with 10th place in the constructors championship. But their new CT03, which is an improved version of last years troubled CT02, has been a handful for much of the pre-season testing.
The team have regrouped around two new drivers, Frenchman Charles Pic and Dutchman Giedo van der Garde, who both found their new car difficult until an aero update arrived late in the final test.
Since then, it has been announced that former Jordan, Renault and Lotus technician Hari Roberts has arrived to strengthen the design group led by technical director Mark Smith and performance director John Iley, as the new head of aerodynamics. All three will be under pressure to facilitate a significant upturn in the teams performance.
22 Jules Bianchi, 23 Max Chilton
Like Caterham, Marussia are on their mettle to improve their performance after struggling for the last three years. They have two strong weapons in their armoury: the new MR02 into which former Toleman, Benetton and Renault designer Pat Symonds has made significant input, and which has relied on both wind tunnel and CFD testing; and a KERS system for their Cosworth V8 for the first time.
They too have regrouped. They had to let F1 veteran Timo Glock go for financial reasons, and now rely on youngster Max Chilton in place of Caterham-bound Charles Pic, and Ferrari Driver Academy member Jules Bianchi who supplanted Luiz Razia at the last minute in Barcelona testing when the Brazilians funding failed to materialise.
Both Marussia and Caterham will likely struggle to score points, but their battle for 10th position will lend extra punch to the 2013 season.
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