By Peter Dushenski
In 7 short days, the 2013 Formula 1 season begins in Melbourne with the Australian Grand Prix!
Last year, your author watched more than half the races, many of them live at completely obscene hours of the morning. So if you’re looking for a devoted perspective, you’ve come to the right place. It’s easier for our European friends to watch F1 races live, but the TV schedule is rather more challenging for us igloo-dwellers 8 time zones away!
While we followed F1 more closely than ever before in 2012, most of our thoughts on the matter were published on Twitter. Only Jenson Button’s cries for a RHENOCÉROUS were loud enough to prompt an article on these pages. Interestingly, that article was more prescient than most, as Button’s boys at McLaren have followed Ferrari’s pull-rod (i.e. “rhino-faced”) front suspension design for the 2013 season, the only other team to do so. We already knew Jenson was quite the hobbyist, running marathons in sub-3hrs, but who knew he was such a lobbyist too!
Since you already know CarEnvy doesn’t make predictions, let’s kick off the 2013 season with a few Hip-Hip-Hoorays!
Here are 5 things worth cheering for in 2013!
In at #5: Williams F1!
New followers of the sport will naturally begin by cheering for big teams like Ferrari, McLaren, and Red Bull. We certainly did. As the F1 Mental Infection spreads, as it inevitably does, one finds depth in the 2nd tier teams like Sauber, Force India, and Williams. This is fun! If you find yourself cheering for Marussia over Caterham, however, our condolences go out to your family…
Of today’s 2nd tier teams, Williams stands apart. After watching a documentary ostensibly about the Secret Life of Formula 1, yet sharply focused on the team that Sir Frank Williams built, we’re finding it hard not to cheer for the tenacious ingenuity that has characterized the team. Those who are even newer to the sport than we are may be surprised to learn that Williams was once not just competitive but utterly dominant! They won an astonishing 9 Constructor’s titles between 1980-1997 and their revolutionary FW14 car from 1992, with its cutting edge Adrian Newey design, semi-auto gearbox, active suspension, traction control, and ABS, was so monstrously successful that Nigel Mansell wrapped up the Driver’s Championship in it after only 11 of 16 races!
Today, Williams F1 continues to push the envelope in unexpected ways. On top of a never-ending stream of technical innovations, Williams is currently the only team to employ a female driver: Development Driver Susie Wolff. No word on whether she’s helping the team develop exquisite knobs, though we certainly hope she is!
In at #4: Kimi!
The creamy cold dessert is called Eiskrem in Germany, gelato in Italy, sorvete in Brazil, and ice cream in Canada. No matter what you call it, followers of Formula 1 associate the irresistable frosty goodness with one man: Kimi Räikkönen. After a two-year absence from the sport, the 2007 World Champion joined the reinvigorated Lotus-Renault F1 team last season and finished the year an impressive 3rd in the Driver Standings.
His visible distaste for the corporate-fueled politics and hypetacular machinations of F1 stand him apart from every other driver in the field. While some drivers are given the boot because they can’t raise enough sponsor dollars, the Finn can be found eating jäätelö and dreaming of pole positions in the back of his tour bus. How can you not cheer for the guy?
In at #3: Belgium
The best race of 2012, for your author certainly, was the Belgian GP. Held at the undulating and majestic Spa-Francorchamps, the 77th running was more riveting than any other by far! After a 5-week summer break, F1 fans need their scratch itched in the worst way, and Spa delivered in spades last year.
Grosjean almost decapitated Alonso, perenial pole-sitter Vettel crawled from 10th on the grid to finish 2nd, fan favourite Jenson Button won from pole, Schumacher competed in his 300th race and final Belgian GP, Hamilton crashed into Kobayashi, and our man Kimi made the pass of the season on Schumacher at the steeply inclined Eau Rouge!
The Belgian GP was already our favourite race on the F1 Calendar but now it’s on our bucket list! Here’s hoping that 2013 is everything we hope it will be!
In at #2: NBC!
After a great many years on the SPEED network in the US, Formula 1 is going mainstream with the NBC network. Following last year’s ground-shaking TV move in the UK, from crown-bearing BBC to publicly-traded Sky, North Americans are about to be similarly stirred.
Most agree that the move will be a very good thing. As someone who has long enjoyed NBC’s golf coverage, your author has high hopes that NBC will meld its technological expertise with the familiar and wonderful hosts the network has stolen from SPEED. Steve Matchett in particular, who completely impressed in his March 5 podcast with Formula1Blog, is most a welcome holdover.
For even more F1 coverage between races, follow along with me on my F1 Twitter List, which includes the finest collection of analysts and teams available anywhere. Look around if you don’t believe me!
In at #1: Aerodynamics!
The flow of air in and around the F1 car is the name of the game this season, much as it was last year. With engine development on pause, Pirelli taking care of tires, and drivers being drivers, aero is the primary focus of every team’s resources for 2013. As such, the already complex cars are becoming more nuanced, more alien, and more artistic with every passing day of testing. It’s heating up!
Some of these developments will help make the cars faster, improving passing and therefore our entertainment. Other developments will inform the automotive engineering world at large – teaching the scientists and designers who build our road cars about aerodynamic efficiency.
Eventually, this will benefit us all, especially if our next car gets 261mpg, like the milestone Volkswagen XL1 announced earlier this week at the Geneva Motor Show. If F1 is the forefront of prototyping, then XL1, with its iPhone mirrors and crank windows, is the forefront of limited-production (only 250 units produced). Slowly but surely, F1 technology and knowledge trickles down from one level to the next, ultimately ending up in our garages. We all win!
Looking ahead to the 2014 season and its 1.6L turbo-hybrid engines, aerodynamics won’t be the sole focus of the sport’s attention for much longer, so let’s cheer for all the air-channeling advancement we can get!
What’s wildly appealing, to your author at least, about F1 this season is not just how insane today’s cars are, but how pedestrian they’ll look in 50 years. Looking at a 1963 Ferrari 156 F1 Aero (so named for its 1.5L, 6-cylinder engine), it’s stunning how far the aerodynamic design has progressed. Applying a similarly sized leap forward, it’s hard not to be mind-boggled at what a 2063 F1 car might look like! The span of personalities, nations, and legal loopholes only add to the intrigue of the highest level of open-cockpit racing.
CarEnvy isn’t making any predictions about who will win this year because predicting is insane. Cheering, on the other hand, is fun! The Williams, Belgium, Kimi, NBC, and Aerodynamics stories will continue to unfold over the next 9 months and we’ll be following along as closely as work, wedding plans, and philosophical journeys allow.
This season, we’ll be trying to watch even more races, delve deeper into the technical developments, and broaden our understanding of this uniquely relevant and global sport.
One more thing: If you haven’t already, join the F1 conversation on Twitter! Talk to you soon!