Formula One 2013 driver line-up almost complete, two vacancies left
By Berthold Bouman
With less than four weeks to go before pre-season testing starts at Jerez, Spain, the 2013 driver line-up is almost complete, only Caterham and Force India both have still one vacancy. It is certainly not easy to get into Formula One, but staying there is almost as difficult, as Swiss media reported Sebastien Buemi will again sign as Red Bull’s test and reserve driver after being ousted from Red Bull’s Italian sister team, Toro Rosso, in 2011.
It is highly likely it is all over for the Spanish HRT team, according to veteran driver Pedro de la Rosa, and therefore only 22 drivers will be on the grid when the season kicks off in Melbourne, Australia, on March 17.
Red Bull Racing
After winning his third consecutive title Sebastian Vettel is confirmed for 2013, while Mark Webber will be the number two driver for the Austrian team, as he recently signed a one-year contract. The pair will drive for the successful team for the fifth consecutive year, but team advisor Helmut Marko is not happy with Webber’s last year’s achievements and has threatened to dump him next year.
Of course championship runner-up Fernando Alonso will stay with the Maranello-based team, he has a contract until 2016. Not much to choose, and also not much to lose either is what Ferrari President Luca di Montezemolo must have thought when he signed Felipe Massa for another year. Massa had a bad start of the 2012 season, but wrestled his way back into contention during the second half of the season, and helped Ferrari to clinch second place in the Constructors’ Championship.
After many mechanical failures, bad pit stops and other disappointments, Lewis Hamilton left the team he grew up with and Jenson Button is now the number one driver, at least for this season. Sergio Perez will drive alongside the Briton, but whether the Mexican driver, who started his career at Sauber, is up to the job remains to be seen. Although he can be very fast, he lacks some experience and often makes mistakes that cost him dearly.
Lotus’ gamble to lure Kimi Raikkonen out of retirement paid off, the 2012 campaign was a huge success for Lotus, and the Finn signed for another tour with the French-Luxembourg team who took fourth place in the 2012 Constructors’ Championship. Much has been said about first lap crasher Romain Grosjean, but the fact remains he is just as fast as his team mate as he scored one second place, and two third places in 2013, and Team Principal Eric Boullier, who is also his manager, has given him another year to prove himself.
Formula One lost two great names in 2012: Michael Schumacher who retired once again, while Mercedes Motorsport boss Norbert Haug decided to quit as the results of his Mercedes team were not really much to write home about. German Nico Rosberg will stay for another year at the German team now solely led by Team Principal Ross Brawn, while 2008 World Champion Lewis Hamilton will reinforce the German Silver Arrows team.
Last year Sauber surprised friend and foe with their very fast car, but Kamui Kobayashi was ousted in favour of Mexican youngster Esteban Gutierrez, who will race alongside the also very fast Nico Hulkenberg who decided to leave Force India in favour of a leading role within the Sauber team. Hulkenberg again proved he can beat even the greatest names in Formula One, he was the star of the 2012 Brazilian Grand Prix, until he crashed in an attempt to regain the lead he had lost to Hamilton.
Paul di Resta has not been officially confirmed, and thus team owner Vijay Mallya might pull a rabbit out of his hat by not announcing one but two new drivers for the 2013 season. There are plenty of candidates: Jaime Alguersuari, Bruno Senna, Adrian Sutil and Jules Bianchi. Sutil wants to return to his old team, while Bianchi is also in the race as he is the team’s current test and reserve driver.
Sir Frank Williams confirmed Pastor Maldonado and Valtteri Bottas for this season, Williams also had a good car last year, Maldonado was responsible for the first Williams victory in eight years, after he won a thrilling Spanish Grand Prix. Bruno Senna, who was disappointing to say the least, was replaced by the talented Bottas and is the second Finn on the 2013 start grid.
Both Daniel Ricciardo and Jean-Eric Vergne will spend another year at Red Bull’s sister team, hoping to graduate to Red Bull Racing in 2014. Although the Toro Rosso was not a bad car, the team only scored 26 points in 2012, but both drivers were consistent and Toro Rosso is aiming for more top ten places in 2013.
Caterham has confirmed Charles Pic for 2013, after the young Frenchman left Marussia to try his luck in the slightly faster Caterham car. Again plenty of candidates for the second seat, Guido van der Garde, Heikki Kovalainen, Bruno Senna and Vitaly Petrov are the most likely candidates. Petrov did Caterham a huge favour by finishing 11th during last year’s Brazilian Grand Prix which meant Caterham finished in 10th place of the 2012 Constructors’ Championship, which was good for $10 million extra in the bank. A bonus for Caterham, and they might decide to reward the Russian driver with a 2013 race seat.
The Anglo-Russian team has confirmed Max Chilton and Timo Glock. Chilton is a rookie who graduates from the GP2 feeder series, while Glock will embark on his fourth journey with Marussia.