The shortest winter break between two F1 seasons is finally over and with all but one seat at Force India finalized, the cars have finally turned their engines at Jerez. All teams bar Williams and erstwhile HRT were finding their feet with their 2013 challengers. Williams are running their 2012 car with some 2013 development parts and systems. The new car will break cover at the second preseason test, scheduled for next week at the Circuit de Barcelona. A last minute shake up at the head of the team has seen Toto Wolff, jump ship to head the Motorsport division of Mercedes. Wolff still has a shareholding of about 40 million Euro in the Williams team in addition to his latest acquisition of 30% shareholding in the Brackley based AMG Mercedes Petronas.
Wolff has moved in to fill the void left by Norbert Haug who has headed the Mortorsport division of Mercedes since 1990. Toto along with Brawn and Niki Lauda will run the team as it looks to turn a page on a bitter sweet year, that saw them start strong and win their first race with Nico Rosberg. The double DRS which helped them at the start of the season turned out to be their achilles heel by the second half of the season. The famous signing of Lewis Hamilton and the unceremonious exit of Michael Schumacher has promise of better things to come, as the seven time world champion was shown the door and his seat offered up to the 2007 champion. The W04 had a bit of a smoky start as an electrical failure caused a bit of a fire just 11 laps into testing, and setting the 8th best time.
The Mclaren underneath Button seems the car to beat based on times after day 1, but there could be some showboating and upstaging as teams try and hide the real picture. Button finished the day one second ahead of the Red Bull of Webber. Mclaren has lost Lewis and gained the fast but inconsistent Sergio Perez, who manages his tires just as well as his more experienced team mate and the 2009 world champion. They won the last race of 2012 and will be favorites to win in Australia if these times are anything to go by.
Webber and Grosjean in the E21 ended the day separated by less than a tenth. But with the first day of testing usually having a program of checking systems rather than setting times, its anyone’s guess. Grosjean will be hoping to have an incident free start to the season, but there is always the chance that he can become pivotal in deciding the title.
Force India are the other team apart from Marussia to have a seat vacant for the 2013 season, and it seems more and more likely that the seat will be filled by Jules Bianchi. Fans are hoping either Kovalinen or Kobayashi stand an outside chance of getting picked up, as both lost their seats to pay drivers looking to get into the sport.
Sauber and Red Bull seem to be taking a similar direction with radiator packaging, shape and design of the nose which has led some to question the possibility of another spygate saga in the making. Sauber had a good 2012 with 3 podiums and further points finishes, but with this years all new driver line up Hulkenberg and Gutirrez they will be looking for that elusive win.
Ferrari will be hoping for a better start to the season with the F138 than they had in 2012. The disastrous start was salvaged by Fernando Alonso who performed, according to some, above the realm of possibility to end up 3 points behind 2012 world champion Sebastian Vettel. Alonso will not be getting into the car before the second test in Barcelona. Felipe Massa who clocked the sixth fastest time described the new car as on “another planet” compared to where the F2012 was at the first test last year. However, even despite Massa’s confidence in the car, and accounting for his impression that he could have matched Webber’s time, he would have been atleast 1 second slower than the Mclaren. The guys back at Maranello and Alonso would have been hoping for that little extra.
Caterham and Marussia are both looking to get into the midfield and the all new Marussia helped with input from Mclarens wind tunnel and the addition of KERS seems to look the part. Caterham will be starting the year with an evolution of last years car with a new exhaust that is causing a few murmurs along the pitlane. James Allison, technical boss at Lotus was heard stating “There is one feature of the Caterham exhaust which I dont think will be there when we get to Melbourne”.