The start of the European season in F1 2013 has me pleased for a number of reasons. The first of which is that I don’t have to wake up at ridiculous o’clock to watch the action, although that did give me some sort of routine on weekends admittedly. The second reason is that Formula One is returning to my favourite circuits, which, let’s be honest are substantially better than the new Tilke ones. For example, Barcelona, although not being the most exciting race, certainly gives us an indication of how the season will pan out. Two weeks later we have the jewel in the crown, the Monaco Grand Prix. The only race between now and September not to be held in Europe is Canada, perhaps my favourite race. The Gilles Villeneuve circuit throws up crazy weather, great action and unpredictable results. Then we’ll go to Silverstone, a rock in the calendar and a circuit that has acquired a new lease of life thanks to the fortunate collapse of Donnington Park’s British Grand Prix bid. No disrespect to Donnington Park of course, I love that place, but it is better suited to Touring Cars, Formula 2, Formula 3 and Bikes. Then we’ll (hopefully) be back at the Nurburgring, financial matters aside, which is again another favourite of mine. Budapest is a bit “meh” but that’s followed by perhaps the two best back to back weekends in sport, Spa Francorchamps and Monza! All this between May and September I can’t wait!!
After that essay of a second reason, I get onto the third reason I am happy for the start of the European season. Due to the first four races being fly aways, the teams haven’t had any time to ship their new parts to any of the races. This means that the development of their cars have almost been put on the side burner until Spain. This is why the Barcelona weekend is a fascinating and fundamental indicator for form in this part of the season.
Certainly from what I’ve seen, Force India has a noticeable update on the front wing, with a few winglets flicking upwards. It’s a big change which should hopefully give the car a bit more front downforce in the long turn 4 and the twisty infield sections of 5,6,7 and 8. The reason for this is simply that the car needs to be bolted to the ground through these corners as the front left tyres especially, take a pounding. This is of course made a lot worse if the grip is not there, as the tyres have to work twice as hard. Several of the drivers complained this weekend of severe understeer in the long corners, where they have to wait an eternity to get back on the throttle. Others however, such as Fernando Alonso and Nico Hulkenberg struggled a lot with oversteer, certainly in sector 3 in turns 11 and 12.
Mclaren, who have struggled immensely throughout the first part of the season, with lack of grip, understeer/oversteer, stability and ride height problems brought a revised front wing with them to Barcelona. This made its debut at the end of second practise, firstly on Sergio Perez’s car before appearing on the sister car of Button. The new wing appears to be a lot simpler than its predecessor with fewer winglets and pieces on the main panel. The nose cone itself is more like the Red Bull one, where instead of pointing straight forward like the previous one, it dips down a little. The reason behind this is presumably to cut the air better and better channel the air over the nose cone and through the rest of the aerodynamic ducts at the middle and rear of the car. Whether or not it will work is the big question, but at this stage of the season, Mclaren have to try something radical. That said, both Jenson Button and Sergio Perez were off the pace once more, with Button saying “we’re a hell of a way behind”.
An unexpected addition to this blog, and unwelcome, is the continued tyre failure problems at Pirelli. After a disappointing race in Bahrain where two punctures for Felipe Massa and one in qualifying for Lewis Hamilton, Force India’s Paul di Resta suffered a delaminated tyre on the pit straight. This certainly doesn’t help the slowly building criticism of the manufacturer as to the uncertainty of performance.
Before I go, one other reason why I’m delighted we are back in Europe…motor homes are back!!