With hostilities set to resume this weekend at the Circuit de Catalunya in Barcelona, I am going to be a party-pooper and say that the 2013 Formula 1 season is already done and dusted.
Although my heart says: ‘Silly call, as the season is only four races old’; my head says Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull will do the business yet again come the end of the 19 races.
With three world title crowns on his mantlepiece, a fourth is a mere formality, in my opinion. Ahead of Round 5 of the world championship, the 25-year old from Heppenheim in Germany is ten points ahead of his closest rival Kimi Raikkonen, but tellingly has a whopping 30-point lead over his most likely title rival in the long run, Fernando Alonso.
Once again F1 design guru Adrian Newey has delivered a potent weapon for Vettel to ply his trade – the Red Bull RB9. And the full potential of this car has yet to be unleashed as the nature of the Pirelli tyres this year demand tender loving care. Talk coming from the energy drinks camp is that the team’s current creation has it’s wings clipped and when they unharness the intricate secrets of this year’s Pirelli rubber they will fly.
This early prediction of mine is not to suggest that boredom will ensue; quite the opposite in fact, as an intriguing battle could unfold as the rest chase the best. A true David vs. Goliath scenario.
The comparison is telling because in the parable David does beat Goliath, so I am not suggesting the dominance will not end. But, I don’t see it happening this season.
I use the word dominance a touch out of context, because although Vettel has won three titles on the trot he did not dominate. In fact he stole it at the very last race in Abu Dhabi from teammate Mark Webber and Alonso.
In 2011 it was a no-contest as he cruised to the title. For neutrals or non-Seb fans, sadly this year shades of 2010 are evident.
I am not being negative here, but rather trying to arm readers of this column with some forewarning and to temper expectations. There is nothing more I want than a contest that goes down to the wire, but I am just not seeing it in my crystal ball as yet.
Look at Alonso and Ferrari - already they have one non-finish on their score-sheet and an eighth place. Alarmingly, Alonso is playing the luck card and claiming they have now had their share of the bad stuff and its now his rivals turn.
For a superstitious guy, which the Spaniard apparently is, that is a weird statement. As if Lady Luck dishes out her charms in fair quantities. In sport you make your luck.
The DNF in Malaysia could be attributed to bad luck, but I will play devil’s advocate and say no way should the team have allowed Alonso to carry on another lap with a broken wing.
They did and history has recorded that the Ferrari ended up in the wall after crashing out at 300-kmh. He left Malaysia pointless while his main rival bagged the maximum score.
In Bahrain, again Lady Luck got the brunt of the Ferrari team’s wrath for daring to jam the DRS wing device on Alonso’s car. I say: no way should a top team have such a petty mechanical issue ruin their race. I can’t recall such breakage, during a race, in the short history of DRS in F1.
The excuses have already run out for the reds, delivery on track is now in high demand from their legion of fans.
Some will point to Lotus and Raikkonen as likely challengers to Vettel’s fourth title ambitions. I hope so, but even the Iceman himself questions his team’s ability to sustain relentless development to mount a serious title-winning campaign. Thus far they are the best of the rest, but without the big bucks (of the top teams) their challenge could fizzle out as it did last year.
McLaren – let’s not go there...
That leaves Mercedes. The German team is in a state of transience and although they have die-hard racer Lewis Hamilton in their line-up, the team has undergone an internal revolution with Toto Wolff and Niki Lauda brought in to the bridge to assist Ross Brawn steer the operation to success.
I believe there is still a journey for them to undergo before they can become bona fide challengers. To start with, they have to decide who will have the right to shout louder, the wolf man or the brawny guy. History has shown three team leaders do not make for a successful F1 outfit.
My opinion in a nutshell: it is highly likely that Vettel will be quadruple world champion at the end of 2013, not only because he has a great car at his disposal, but because his rivals are tripping up early on and have simply not got their act together.
My heart hopes this is not true, but my head just shakes. Nevertheless, don’t phone me during the remaining 15 races on the F1 calendar because I will be avidly watching every grand prix no matter what.
The writer is the corporate communications manager at Dubai Autodrome llc.