- More 2013 F1 Launches: Red Bull, Ferrari, Sauber, Force India
- Sauber stuns with shrunken sidepods
- Caterham picks Van der Garde for second seat
- Byrne working on Ferrari's 2014 car
- Ecclestone tips Vettel to beat Alonso again
- Marko pushing to keep winning Red Bull team together
- 'No issue' if Lowe leaves McLaren - Button
- Ecclestone hints Mercedes can live without Brawn
More 2013 F1 Launches: Red Bull, Ferrari, Sauber, Force India
It was a busy weekend in the F1 world, with two teams launching new cars and two drivers edging closer to 2013 race seats.
At Silverstone, Force India's VJM06 was revealed, while at Maranello, Ferrari revealed its F138, which - like the new Force India - hides its unseemly 'step nose' beneath an FIA-sanctioned vanity cover.
The "evolutionary" new scarlet car also has a tweaked livery, with more black.
And residents of the internet world saw it even before those at Maranello, who - due to a technical glitch - were staring at a white sheet while viewers of the team's official website were transfixed by photos of the F138.
Ferrari, meanwhile, was seen to tackle the rumours about Stefano Domenicali's future by giving centre stage to the team boss at the Friday launch -- speaking even before the revered president Luca di Montezemolo.
Sauber revealed a new grey livery and a "very different" looking formula one car for 2013.
Designer Matt Morris admitted the Ferrari-powered C32, no longer predominantly white but now coloured graphite with red and white flashes, is a "visually very different" single seater to its 2012 predecessor.
One major difference is the former clear 'step' in the nose, which is now effectively housed in an apparently complex aerodynamic solution -- something not seen yet as Sauber became the fifth team to launch after Lotus, McLaren, Ferrari and Force India.
Team boss Monisha Kaltenborn confirmed: "The C32 is based on its predecessor, which was a very competitive car."
Racing the new, darker Sauber this year will be Nico Hulkenberg, who has moved from Force India, and Mexican rookie Esteban Gutierrez.
Red Bull has also revealed its new RB9 racer in the past few hours, showing off the strengthened sponsorship arrangement with Renault Nissan luxury arm, Infiniti.
The Red Bull team will be looking to the "evolutionary" RB9 to take Sebastian Vettel to a fourth world title - a challenge that F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone will see Ferrari's Alonso made runner-up again.
The team will field a familiar team, with drivers Vettel and Mark Webber leading the way.
“The fact that this is my seventh season with the team is a massive advantage,” Webber said
“I couldn’t have envisaged it when I joined and it’s hard to believe that you could be with the same Formula One team for seven years, as continuity is not always easy to achieve in this sport."
The team is now in Spain, with testing of the RB9 due to commence at the Jerez de la Frontera circuit on Tuesday.
Webber will give the car its track debut, driving on Tues 5 and Wed 6 February, with Sebastian taking over for the final two days, on Thurs 7 and Fri 8 February.
Sauber stuns with shrunken sidepods
Sauber has revealed the first major technical innovation of the 2013 season, and according to Germany's specialist Auto Motor und Sport it could be a masterstroke.
Reportedly, designer Matt Morris got the idea for the C32's ultra-narrow sidepods when Sergio Perez's sideways-crushed car got back to the Swiss team's garage after his huge Monaco shunt in 2011.
"If the trick works, the competition has a problem," said correspondent Michael Schmidt.
Schmidt said the C32's sidepods are 10 to 15 centimetres narrower than those on the 2012 Sauber.
The benefit is clear: reduced drag and air disruptance to the diffuser and rear wing, and more scope for redirecting the flow to the most beneficial places.
"We endorsed the concept in July last year, because it influences the chassis and the crash structures," said designer Morris.
He explained, however, that the biggest problem was not the crash tests, but accomodating the radiators, electronic boxes, wire harnesses and other parts in the drastically reduced space.
"A nightmare," grinned Morris.
But arguably the biggest advantage of all is that, if Sauber has pulled off a masterstroke from left field, the competition will not be able to copy the innovation -- to do that, rival teams would have to build a new chassis.
Meanwhile, unlike McLaren, Sauber has not followed Ferrari's lead by introducing novel 'pull-rod' front suspension.
"There is probably an aerodynamic advantage," Morris admitted, "but to optimise the benefits and minimise the mechanical disadvantages would require a really complicated programme that goes beyond our capacity.
"This is a project for the 2014 car," he added.
Meanwhile, Mercedes' attempt to give eager fans a sneak peak of its 2013 car failed spectacularly when its website servers crashed.
The Brackley based team had promised to reveal more of the unlaunched W04 every time a fan issued the Tweet #f1w04reveal.
"Guys, server demand today has exceeded anything ever seen for Mercedes-Benz worldwide," the team said on its official Twitter channel.
The sneak-peak is now online at the team's official website, but the real W04 is currently en route to Spain, where it will be launched at Jerez on Monday ahead of the week's test action.
Caterham picks Van der Garde for second seat
Caterham has ended the long wait over its second race driver for 2013, but uncertainty still reigns regarding Force India's choice.
Ending the hopes of the team's 2012 lineup Heikki Kovalainen and Vitaly Petrov, Caterham said Dutchman Giedo van der Garde will be Charles Pic's teammate.
"I want to thank (team boss) Cyril (Abiteboul), Tony Fernandes, (sponsor) McGregor and everyone who has worked so hard to make this happen," said van der Garde.
As for Force India, it appears Adrian Sutil is still a candidate, but on Friday the higher bets were being placed on the Ferrari-linked Frenchman Jules Bianchi.
The Silverstone based team denied the decision is all about money.
"The decision we will make will be for the benefit of the team," deputy boss Bob Fernley insisted, according to Reuters.
"And it doesn't necessarily follow that that is a financial requirement. In fact it's highly unlikely that it will be."
There might, however, be an engine link, with rumours Bianchi's drive could be crucially linked with a Ferrari engine deal for 2014.
"It's part of the decision-making process," Fernley said.
"It would be too simplistic just to say it is linked to an engine, because it's not the case at all."
Byrne working on Ferrari's 2014 car
Rory Byrne, Ferrari legendary former chief designer, was at the launch of the team's 2013 car at Maranello on Friday.
He told Auto Motor und Sport he is actually "working full steam" on the Italian team's project for the 2014 car, which will be powered by the all-new turbo V6 rules.
"It's a nice car," the South African - referring to the newly-launched F138 - laughed, "but it's all child's play compared to what awaits us in 2014."
Until then, Ferrari has the 2013 title to win after a so far five-year championship drought, and boss Stefano Domenicali confirmed that his designers have adopted some "extreme solutions" to compete with Red Bull.
"We are just waiting for Newey to complain about our rear suspension," Auto Motor und Sport quoted a team insider.
The German report said the insider is referring to the rear profile that duplicates the 2012 Red Bull -- only more extremely.
Ecclestone tips Vettel to beat Alonso again
Bernie Ecclestone has tipped his friend Sebastian Vettel to win a fourth consecutive world championship in 2013.
"I see it in this order: Vettel, Alonso, Button and Hamilton," he told the Italian sports daily La Gazzetta dello Sport.
The F1 chief executive said he was curious to see how Mercedes' sweeping changes for this season will make a difference, and said McLaren has a "better chance" to win the 2013 title compared to last year.
"Many will not share my opinion," said the 82-year-old Briton, "but I think McLaren is now better balanced and Button has the potential to be even better."
Ecclestone also expects a good season for Ferrari.
"Ferrari will be strong, I have no doubt," he said. "But they need to start well -- they can't wait for five or six races and then emerge," added Ecclestone, referring to Ferrari's poor start to its 2012 campaign.
He also did not sound sorry that HRT has folded.
"In formula one, there should only be the best, not teams that have difficulties," said the F1 'supremo'.
"I think there should be ten teams at the most. It's the ideal number to manage the championship well."
Meanwhile, having officially confirmed the Nurburgring in its July 7 calendar slot, Ecclestone admitted turmoil behind the scenes at Italian grand prix host Monza.
Recently, amid a management controversy, the historic circuit's chief Enrico Ferrari was stepped down.
Ecclestone admitted he doesn't "understand what's really going on", but praised the departed Ferrari's role.
"Thanks to him, Monza had a favourable economic treatment compared to all the other European races," he said.
"On the continent, no race is as cheap as the grand prix of Italy," Ecclestone reiterated. "He was tough in business, but competent, straightforward, clean."
Ferrari's successor is Fabrizio Turci.
Ecclestone said: "I do not know and do not envy him. Without Ferrari it will be more complicated, because Enrico was a key man."
Marko pushing to keep winning Red Bull team together
Red Bull is constantly pushing to keep its winning team together.
Having confirmed this week that team boss Christian Horner is staying put for several more years, Dr Helmut Marko is now turning his attention to other contracts.
But not his own. Regarded as energy drink magnate Dietrich Mateschitz's right hand man on F1 matters, the coarse and outspoken Austrian Marko said his pact with his billionaire boss was "settled with a handshake".
So would he commit right now to at least another five years at Red Bull?
"Yes, something like that," Marko, a doctor of law and former driver, told Kleine Zeitung.
But as for members of the ultra-successful Milton Keynes based team who have signed up in black ink, Marko admitted that he looks "every six months at all the major contracts" and attempts to renew "those that should be extended".
Undoubtedly, he is referring to key figures like Sebastian Vettel and Adrian Newey, but the latest speculation had been about Briton Horner, Red Bull's 39-year-old British team principal who had been linked to Ferrari.
Marko said only: "There are not many (in F1) who do not try to poach staff from Red Bull."
'No issue' if Lowe leaves McLaren - Button
Just like Sergio Perez is shaping up to emulate Lewis Hamilton, McLaren can also live without technical director Paddy Lowe, Jenson Button said on Thursday.
"People move on," said Button, who after Michael Schumacher's return to retirement is now the most experienced driver on the entire formula one grid.
Although still at McLaren in 2013, Lowe was conspicuously absent on Thursday as McLaren launched its new car, amid rumours he is on the brink of switching to Mercedes.
Button, though, said the Woking based team will cope no matter what happens.
"Like with Lewis, it was a big shock initially, then you regroup and train someone else up to be in that position.
"We've got to wait and see what happens. Paddy has to decide. It's going to be hanging in the air, if there are rumours about somebody moving on.
"Whatever he decides I won't have an issue with it," he insisted.
Indeed, the 33-year-old said he is "damn excited" about 2013; his fourth consecutive year at McLaren, and his first without Hamilton as his teammate.
"It's strange," Button said, attempting to explain his excitement. "Maybe it's because I know the direction we are taking with the car.
"Or it's because it's a fresh start and a new teammate."
That new teammate is Mexican Sergio Perez, who at 22 is stepping into former world champion Hamilton's cockpit.
Button was quick to compare his two McLaren teammates.
"It's good to see he (Perez) has really been getting into the spirit of McLaren and spending a lot of time here, either doing sponsor activities or developing his relationship with the team," he said.
"When Lewis and myself were here together we never used to see each other. It used to be one day in the simulator and out the other."
As for the chromium car they will be racing, the MP4-28 appears almost identical to its predecessor, but the real differences are actually significant.
First, there is a 'step' nose, even though it's not visible, as McLaren has taken up the FIA's option of installing a laminate 'modesty panel'.
Tim Goss, McLaren's engineering director, said the panel "weighs practically nothing".
But when Lotus unveiled its 2013 car with a clearly visible 'step' in the nose, technical director James Allison said the laminate would weigh too much and have no performance benefit.
"I don't understand that," Goss is quoted by Germany's Auto Motor und Sport.
"The cover is not only because of appearance; a smooth surface is aerodynamically always better than a split level."
Also unlike Lotus, McLaren has overlooked the option of a 'passive' double-DRS system for its 2013 car.
Goss admitted his team had "experimented" with the concept, ultimately concluding that the potential advantage is quite small.
"Three teams tried to develop such a system for racing last year," he explained, "and none succeeded."
But a major difference between the 2012 McLaren and the new MP4-28 is Ferrari-style 'pull-rod' front suspension; a concept not seen in formula one since early last decade.
"Naturally, you look at the ideas of the competition, but to be honest, when Ferrari did it, we asked ourselves 'Why on earth would they do that?'
"Only a long investigation showed that it is quite useful. The aerodynamic benefits outweigh the potential problems," said Goss.
Ecclestone hints Mercedes can live without Brawn
Bernie Ecclestone has suggested Mercedes can cope without its current team boss Ross Brawn.
It has been rumoured Briton Brawn could be pushed out of the Brackley based team altogether, or confined to a merely technical directorship, in the wake of the arrival of Austrian chiefs and shareholders Toto Wolff and Niki Lauda.
Ecclestone told F1 business journalist Christian Sylt: "They have got Toto there and they have got Niki. That will probably be enough."
So far, Wolff has said Mercedes wants Brawn - in a "technical role" - to stay, but also in question is the future of the team's chief executive, Nick Fry.
Already departed, after a 22-year Mercedes tenure, is Norbert Haug.
"I think the system at Mercedes needs to work," Wolff told cityam.com.
"If you have more good people it is not bad news but I think everybody needs to understand what his role and position is."