Five key themes to look out for in 2013
1 January 2013 – Formula 1 2012 has been and gone in a flash, with Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull crowned triple World Champions. Now the attention turns to the 2013 campaign, with plenty of talking points to mull over. Here are five key themes to look out for...
Hamilton's switch to Mercedes
Lewis Hamilton's move to Mercedes conjured up one word with most Formula 1 fans: money. However, there is more to the deal than meets the eye and the 2008 World Champion could surprise quite a lot of people in 2013. Switching to the Silver Arrows for what has been titled a 'fresh start', he certainly has a difficult task on his hands, but his rollercoaster career with McLaren will have prepared him well.
Although Hamilton has enjoyed front-running machinery during many of his McLaren years, it is easy to forget his heroics from 2009 when driving a sub-standard car. Much like Alonso in 2012, the Briton has proven that he can get the most from a slower package and so an early performance deficit should not unduly concern him. The 27-year-old clearly wanted a new challenge and Mercedes has provided him with that opportunity. He has new-found focus and, most importantly, the speed to deliver. Sergio Pérez, who is still a slightly unknown quantity, has big boots to fill this season.
A changing of the guard?
"CVC will probably be forced to get rid of me if the Germans come after me," are Ecclestone's own words on the bribery case which could ultimately drive him out of Formula 1. The business magnate transferred a sum of around 27 million pounds to German banker Gerhard Gribkowsky to push through the sale of the sport to private equity firm CVC in 2006, with Ecclestone claiming that the latter had threatened to supply tax information to HM Revenue & Customs if he was not paid.
What will come of the situation? We know this much: Gribkowsky was arrested in 2011 and Ecclestone is now under investigation for his role in the deal. Ferrari President Luca di Montezemolo says stepping down is the only option for the 82-year-old if found guilty, but the situation looks likely to drag on for some time. One thing is for sure, no matter how controversial a figure Ecclestone has been during his long reign, Formula 1 would endure a massive structural loss if he leaves.
Pirelli's 'more aggressive' tyres
With seven different winners from the first seven races of 2012, Pirelli was hailed for its large part in producing an almost unpredictable Formula 1 spectacle. However, teams and drivers eventually got on top of the complex tyre situation as the races passed by and at the end of the season the Italian company was being described as overly cautious.
Despite this anti-climax, fans need not fear ahead of the 2013 season. Speaking to GPUpdate.net last month, Pirelli Motorsport Director Paul Hembery said: "There’s a more rapid warm-up and more temperature going into the tyres. With the changes we’re making to the compounds we’re trying to bring back some degradation levels." This is definitely something to look forward to as the first race approaches.
Formula 1 has long been known as a constant development race, but there will be a big twist this year. A major engine overhaul, amid further regulation tweaks, will come into play in 2014. This will force teams up and down the grid to perform a balancing act; the likes of Red Bull, Ferrari, McLaren and Lotus can't let up in their bid for title glory, whereas teams further down the grid could opt for a strategic gamble.
Highlighting the issue facing the entire field, Ferrari has already announced that two separate designers will be leading its respective 2013 and 2014 projects, meaning the staff at Maranello can be split equally in the chase for those crucial tenths of a second. The differing strategies will be extremely interesting to follow.
The real Romain Grosjean
A string of silly errors may have tarnished Romain Grosjean's reputation in 2012, but the Frenchman remains one of Formula 1's most exciting prospects. It must be reiterated that the 26-year-old, who claimed the 2011 GP2 title, contested his first full F1 season last year, with his 2009 stint at Renault not worthy of being described as a genuine opportunity to shine.
Dotted around his mistakes were performances even the most established of drivers would have savoured. A stunning lap to claim third on the grid for the opening race of the season well and truly marked his return to the Grand Prix scene, with podiums in Bahrain and Canada following. If it wasn't for an alternator failure in Valencia, he may well have become France's 13th Grand Prix winner. Lotus will have a championship contender on its hands if his lapses in concentration can be eradicated.