MotorSportsTalk’s F1 2013 mid-season review – part one

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With ten races down and nine to go, Formula One’s summer break has come at a pivotal time during the 2013 season. Sebastian Vettel may enjoy a 38 point lead at the top of the standings, but the season is far from over: Fernando Alonso’s squandering of a 40 point lead in 2012 acts of proof for that point. However, besides Vettel’s success, there have been many many stories that have made this season one to remember – be it for the right or wrong reasons. Therefore, the MotorSportsTalk team has cast its eye over the season so far

BEST DRIVER

Tony diZinno: Kimi Raikkonen. Quietly has hung around with a win and five second place finishes in what hasn’t been the best car. If the team makes improvements he could be championship material.

Christopher Estrada: Sebastian Vettel. Is there really a doubt about this one? It hasn’t been a completely smooth year for the three-time defending World Champion (see Silverstone, as well as the firestorm he created after his Sepang win) but he’s once again shown why he’s been the dominant force in Formula One.

Luke Smith: Sebastian Vettel. The German driver has picked up where he left off in 2012 by laying down a quite remarkable pace. What’s more: he doesn’t even have the quickest car over one-lap, a position he hasn’t been in since 2009. Just think what position he would be in had he not retired from the lead at Silverstone…

Keith Collantine: Sebastian Vettel. I would give it to him purely for having the gumption to show Red Bull exactly what he thought of their attempt to impose team orders in Malaysia. But there’s plenty of other reasons to single him out as the top driver so far this year. He’s scarcely put a wheel wrong and had it not been for a gearbox failure at Silverstone he’d be more than two wins clear of his rivals already.

MOST DISAPPOINTING FIRST-HALF DRIVER

TDZ: Sergio Perez. Part of it has been the a poor car but Perez has rarely seized any opportunities with McLaren this year, and made some mistakes that have earned the ire of drivers.

CE: Felipe Massa. A string of crashes and retirements for the Brazilian has forced Fernando Alonso to carry Ferrari’s scarlet flag largely by himself. Speculation about Massa’s future in Maranello has intensified in recent weeks and he knows that he is likely facing a pink slip unless he raises his game in the second half.

LS: Pastor Maldonado. Car problems aside, Maldonado has lacked the spark and panache that saw him run so strongly in 2012. Being matched by your rookie teammate is not the mark of a future champion. On the plus side, he has only retired on three occasions this season.

KC: Felipe Massa. He ended last year strongly and began this season well. But he slumped horribly thereafter with a string of unforced errors and crashes.

MOST IMPROVED FIRST-HALF DRIVER

TDZ: Paul di Resta. Off a disappointing second half of 2012, improved pace and results through the first half.

CE: Nico Rosberg. So much for being Lewis Hamilton’s sidekick. Rosberg has been a
surprise for Mercedes in 2013, with his two first-half wins at Monaco and Silverstone showing that he’s more than a match for the popular Brit. But this intra-team rivalry could heat up even further now that Hamilton’s on the board after his triumph at Hungary.

LS: Charles Pic. It is difficult to prove yourself when towards the back, but Pic has been very impressive, leading home a Sauber in Bahrain and finishing just 2.4 seconds behind a Williams in Spain, who had won the race in 2012.

KC: Romain Grosjean has been a changed driver in the last few races having got the E21 to his liking. He’s still got a propensity for carelessness though, as he showed with his incautious move on Jenson Button in Hungary.  

BEST FIRST HALF RACE

TDZ: Canada. On track, Vettel dominated at the front of the field but a lot of great action behind him all day.

CE: Bahrain. Political unrest continued to mar the event, but the race itself was quite intriguing even though Vettel ruled at the front. Highlights include Romain Grosjean and Paul Di Resta’s duel for the last spot on the podium and Sergio Perez delivering a wild but entertaining drive after being told to “toughen up” going into the weekend.

LS: Germany. A fantastic battle for the win saw Vettel, Raikkonen and Grosjean go toe-to-toe on different strategies as Mercedes struggled and Bianchi’s race went downhill… literally!

KC: Hungary. Who’d have thought a driver could win the Hungarian Grand Prix from pole position and it would be considered not just a surprise but also a good race? This one had strategic intrigue and some memorable overtaking moves.

WORST FIRST HALF RACE

TDZ: Britain. Despite an entertaining finish, the rash of tire failures was difficult to watch.

CE: Canada. Thoughts continue to be with the family and friends of Canadian Grand Prix track marshal Mark Robinson, who lost his life while helping to remove a wrecked car at the end of the race.

LS: Monaco. For all of the glitz and glamor, it was an incredibly dull race at the front as the teams ran well below their optimum pace in order to preserve their tires. Damn, mentioned the ‘t’ word.

KC: Too many of the earlier races this year were utterly forgettable, a haze of endless pit stops and dull DRS passing. Add that to the idiocy of F1 continuing to race in Bahrain and the sheer awfulness of the point-and-squirt desert track and you have a clear ‘winner’.

BEST OFF TRACK STORY

TDZ: Sauber’s future secured thanks to Russian investors. For all Peter Sauber has put into the team, much out of pocket, great to see the team live on.

CE: Formula One stands to gain even more exposure (particularly here in the States) when its most glamorous and dangerous era takes center stage in the upcoming Ron Howard film, “Rush.” If it manages to legitimately capture the aura and the fire of the sport as well – and the flick’s trailers look promising in that regard – all the better.

LS: Mark Webber’s optimism for 2014. One would imagine he could have a bitter taste in his mouth following the fall-out at Red Bull, yet Mark seems relaxed and excited about moving to Porsche’s Le Mans programme next year.

KC: DRS being scrapped for 2013. Sorry, I must have been dreaming.

WORST OFF TRACK STORY

TDZ: Tiregate. I was “tired out” of it almost from the outset. Too obvious a pun?

CE: Formula One without Bernie Ecclestone would be like NASCAR without the
France family: Very tough to imagine. But with the British billionaire now facing major bribery charges, the prospect of an F1 world without its supremo is now potentially in play. Ecclestone has had many battles along the way in making F1 the massive spectacle that it is, but this may be his biggest one to date.

LS: The tire safety row. The short-sightedness of the teams put them in the mess, and for the safety of the drivers to be put at risk was highly embarrassing for all involved.

KC: The tire row exemplified everything wrong with F1: a lack of leadership from the FIA, the inability of the teams to agree on anything, no heed being paid to safety warnings from the drivers, mixed messages given to Mercedes about their test and young drivers losing their chances to get running. The only upside was that the FIA’s new International Tribunal did a thorough and fair job, but it should never have come to that to begin with.

Be sure to come back tomorrow for part two of MST’s mid-season review.