Saturday 23 September 2017

ON THE GRID: David Kennedy's team-by-team guide to the Formula One season

Infiniti Red Bull Racing

Engine: Renault RS27-2013

1 Sebastian Vettel (25) 1st in 2012

2 Mark Webber (36) 6th

THE fact that Red Bull didn't top the timesheets in pre-season testing (they ran on heavier fuel loads) doesn't signify much. It's hard to see how Red Bull won't lead the charge. Technical chief Adrian Newey is the envy of the paddock for penning the design of the most coveted car on the grid.

Sebastian Vettel (pictured) will be going for a fourth successive title, something only the great Juan Manuel Fangio has achieved. His chief opponents, Hamilton and Alonso, believe they could beat him given the same machinery. But they all say that, don't they? Mark Webber signed a single-year contract and his role will be that of wingman to Vettel, except in Monaco and Silverstone, where he has seems to possess the alchemist's touch.

Scuderia Ferrari

Engine: Ferrari Type 056

3 Fernando Alonso (31) 2nd

4 Felipe Massa (31) 7th

Ferrari is poised for a much better season and there's great anticipation that finally the Maranello team has delivered a car to match Fernando Alonso's supreme ability. Even if they don't get it right straight out of the box, it shouldn't be long before they do.

Alonso was beyond unlucky not to clinch his third title last season. He certainly doesn't want a repeat of that gargantuan struggle as he takes on the might of the Newey/Vettel combination yet again. Felipe Massa is another driver with one more season left in his contract. A decent car would be just reward for his seven years of hard graft with Ferrari.

Vodafone McLaren Mercedes

Engine: Mercedes FO 108Z

5 Jenson Button (33) 5th

6 Sergio Pérez (23) 10th

McLaren is suffering heavy casualties in a war of attrition. Lewis Hamilton, the driver that delivered their last championship in 2008, has left the mother ship.

Another body blow was technical director Paddy Lowe announcing that he's following him to Mercedes. Meanwhile, he'll remain the world's most expensive tea-maker as he is 'rested' by McLaren this season, who'll be on high alert for any doodling of Mercedes designs on company napkins. To complete the triple loss, Vodafone is ending their association with McLaren at the end of this season. Rumours that this is because the Bahrain GP has been included in the 2013 calendar remain unsubstantiated.

Jenson Button has a new challenge on his hands – to beat a team-mate ten years his junior. As the winner of the 2012 race in Melbourne and the last race of last season, Button is probably fed up at this stage of proving himself. Sublime in wet conditions, he lacks the raw speed of his former team-mate.

Mexican Sergio Pérez was on the podium three times last season when he was driving for Sauber. He's shown good form in pre-season testing. Now is his chance to prove his worth.

Lotus

Engine: Renault RS27-2013

7 Kimi Raikkonen (33) 3rd

8 Romain Grosjean (26) 8th

The Lotus eater might once again devour a few of the more established players. It has a handle on the Pirelli tyre degradation issue and therein lies its advantage.

Kimi Raikkonen at the helm guarantees success at some stage. He'll be more settled in this his second year revisiting F1. He certainly has given Lotus plenty to feel positive about.

Romain Grosjean has to keep off the grass and stay out of trouble or he'll be an ex-Lotus employee, despite the loyalty of fellow Frenchman and boss Eric Boullier. Flashes of brilliance when he does keep it on the tarmac. No buddy to Alonso who part-blames him for losing the title last season, nor to Webber who called him "a first-class nutcase".

Mercedes AMG Petronas

Engine: Mercedes FO 108Z

9 Nico Rosberg (27) 9th

10 Lewis Hamilton (28) 4th

Mercedes are moving their chess pieces around faster than you can say Kasparov. With a €70m contract, they'll be expecting a lot from Hamilton but their real focus is on 2014, a year of major regulation changes, which will suit them rightly.

McLaren's technical director Paddy Lowe starts work at the end of the season. Norbert Haug has gone. Niki Lauda has joined as non-executive chairman and Toto Wolff as executive director and they are cracking the whip at Brackley. Team principal Ross Brawn is on shaky ground and may be retired when Lowe is added to the burgeoning technical department that includes Bob Bell, Geoff Willis and Aldo Costa.

Hamilton's baptism didn't augur well when he crashed in pre-season testing. Team-mate Rosberg frequently out-qualified seven-time world champion Michael Schumacher before he re-retired and he'll be looking to see off Hamilton. The Stevenage-born driver will have other ideas however. The duo were team-mates 13 years ago in Karting. It will be gloves off all the way between these two, with Hamilton getting the upper hand.

Sauber

Engine: Ferrari Type 056

11 Nico Hulkenberg (25) 11th

12 Esteban Gutiérrez (21) n/a

This gutsy team finished sixth in the championship last year behind Mercedes. At the helm is Monisha Kaltenborn, the only woman boss in F1. The world's richest man Carlos Slim sponsored Sergio Pérez who defected to McLaren but Telmex money has been retained for fellow Mexican Esteban Gutiérrez. McLaren could use it when rival Vodafone part company.

Nico Hulkenberg will lead the charge and no better man. He'll be eyeing Massa's drive at Ferrari so making an impression is paramount. Esteban Gutiérrez, as well as being GP3 champion, is a multiple winner in GP2 so he's no slouch. He needs to keep his nose clean and consolidate points.

Sahara Force India

Engine: Mercedes FO 108Z

14 Adrian Sutil (30) n/a

15 Paul di Resta (26) 14th

It will be interesting to see what the team delivers with their completely redesigned chassis. The Kingfisher brand is owned by team principal Vijay Mallya which includes the troubled airline. The team's last three championship positions sound like one of their Boeings – 767. Can you go one better in 2013?

Adrian Sutil is uber-talented which is why he's back in the fold. Scotland's Paul di Resta could struggle to beat his team-mate.

Williams

Engine: Renault RS27-2013

16 Pastor Maldonado (28) 15th

17 Valtteri Bottas (23) n/a

Frank Williams lost his wife to cancer recently so understandably neither he nor his son Jonathan will be focused too clearly on Melbourne.

Pastor Maldonado is also mourning Venezuelan leader, and his mentor, Hugo Chavez. The Spanish GP winner in 2012 will be hoping he can maintain that speed whilst upping his consistency.

GP3 former champion Valtteri Bottas can run up to the Lotus garage if he wants to bend Kimi's ear for advice in his native tongue.

Scuderia Toro Rosso

Engine: Ferrari Type 056

18 Jean-Éric Vergne (22) 17th

19 Daniel Ricciardo (23) 18th

The upgraded 2013 car is expected to be an improvement on last season's underperforming one. Hard to believe Vettel won a race in a Toro Rosso once upon a time.

Jean-Éric Vergne and Daniel Ricciardo enter their second season as team-mates. For Ricciardo, this weekend was an important event, his home GP. There's fierce rivalry between him and Jean-Éric Vergne as they both covet Webber's seat at Red Bull. Vergne has the edge.

Caterham

Engine: Renault RS27-2013

20 Charles Pic (23) 21st n/a

21 Giedo van der Garde (27) n/a

The team will have to rely on luck, good strategy and bad weather if they're to earn their first championship point.

Charles Pic and Giedo van der Garde were team-mates in GP2 and here they are again in F1. Pic has the benefit of a year with Marussia to clip the wings of the flying Dutchman.

Marussia

Engine: Cosworth CA2013

22 Jules Bianchi (23) n/a

23 Max Chilton (21) n/a

Pat Symonds has been drafted in as technical chief and his input should help point the team in the right direction. Their technical agreement with McLaren is also beneficial.

Jules Bianchi, with his Force India and Ferrari test experience, will undoubtedly be quicker than Chilton but just how far up the grid he can drag them remains to be seen.

Irish Independent

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport