Sunday, 24 March 2013

Malaysia Results and Championship Standings (2/19)

Overall Standings

A bit of a change around at the top. Unlucky to Alonso and Ferrari pickers as that, in my opinion, was the best race and constructors picks for this weekend (performance-wise).

Constructors Championship

For constructors, so not to disadvantage teams with only one driver (or to protect against someone who doesn't post), players will score points in line with race finishes. See the overall results from Malaysia below, Sangan will score 18 points for his 2nd place this weekend. This is different to how the drivers championship will be scored. If players are tied they will be separated by the following criteria: Race > Constructors > Qualifying > Random > The time of the pick (earlier the better). 

 Now for further information:

Friday, 22 March 2013

Round-up of Malaysia Picks

Time for a round-up of the Malaysia picks. I've changed the format to give more information.

See the following for:

- The Overall Championship Standings after Australia - 1/19 (





Comment if you have any questions.

Sunday, 17 March 2013

Malaysia - F1 Prediction League

Time for part II of the F1 Prediction league, next weekend's Malaysian Grand Prix will be unpredictable. Its the first time the teams will run in hot temperatures (highs of 33 degrees) so there's great uncertainty. 

Can Raikkonen build on his Australian victory or will Alonso and Vettel strike back? It's time for you to have your call.

So far the standings are as follows.

Constructors championship is based on only race weekend points (Joe's 15 points (above) scores him 25 points)

For a further breakdown of points including Australia results:

For the original F1 prediction league post: 


Random Category for Malaysia

Which driver will run the longest stint on one set of tyres?

The random is fairly self-explanatory. If there is a tie, the deciding factor will be which lap the stint starts on (the earlier the better - the earlier in the race the more fuel in the car so the greater the achievement). will be used to decide results. As there are 22 potential picks and we don't want to limit point opportunities the following points are available.


As before post your picks in the following format -


The deadline for picks is Thursday 21st March 23:59 GMT.

Australia Results 2013 (F1 Prediction League)

Overall Standings

Well done to Joe (Ferrari) who takes a commanding lead as well as the overall race weekend victory. A lot of the lead however is down to the overall season score which is currently very unstable.

Constructors Championship

For constructors, so not to disadvantage teams with only one driver (or to protect against someone who doesn't post), players will score points in line with race finishes. See the overall results from Australia below, Joe will score 25 points for his victory this weekend. This is different to how the drivers championship will be scored. If players are tied they will be separated by the following criteria: Race > Constructors > Qualifying > Random > The time of the pick (earlier the better). 

Now for further information:

Friday, 15 March 2013

Round-up of Season and Australia picks

Come here for a list of entrants and a breakdown of picks from season and Australia.

Entrants (12)

For a bit of fun I've randomly allocated teams, we can incorporate changes into the league at a later date based on results this year etc. We've got enough for a full 6 teams, hopefully we'll be able to expand to a full grid one day!

Now for the picks:


Thursday, 14 March 2013

2013 Teammate Rivalry Preview

With the new season just a day away, it is an ideal time to look at this year's rivalries and the likely winners of the inter-team battles! Beating your teammate is the first objective for every driver, without this crucial success you can never aspire to be champion. For some this is the actual reality, a momentary mistake in the wet causing a spin. Dreams lost. For others winning the teammate war may be the difference between F1 survival and an end of a career. Bearing this in mind let's take a closer look.

Recurring team battles

Vettel v. Webber (Red Bull)

Reigning world champion vs. world champion hopeful. The Red Bull should be a strong car from the get-go so they’ll both have opportunities for race wins. There are certain things in Webber’s favour this year e.g. the removal of unlimited DRS which Vettel mastered so well and the change in engine mappings which often were a solution to Vettel’s style. Bearing these factors in mind, there is reason for optimism for Webber fans.

He’ll look to build on this promise and carry it through better than last year. Webber started off so positively but faltered towards the year-end (see right for 2012 form guide) when the Red Bull improved. What does Webber need to do differently to win? First he needs to build a strong platform in the first eight races (historically his better races) and then he needs to become consistent. Vettel rarely has bad weekends, the same cannot be said for Webber who often goes anonymous e.g. Texas 2012 amongst others.

Ultimately unless the car behaves a certain way it’s hard to envisage Webber coming out on top in this duel. Vettel has been too consistent and is so suited to the optimised Red Bull. Expect Vettel to punish Webber on his off weekends.

Pick: Vettel to be beaten four or five times in the season but to win by a strong margin (70-90 points)

Alonso v. Massa (Ferrari)

Alonso is undisputed number one at Ferrari. In the past he’s stamped his authority where necessary and caused the appropriate noise to be heard, don’t expect anything different at Ferrari. The official line at Ferrari is that both drivers are allowed to race equally and this might be allowed temporarily but for the sake of harmony and the championship this won’t happen for long.

The form guide from last year shows how dominant Alonso was however it should be noted that Massa probably performed better in the last four or five races which raises some interesting questions. Should the Ferrari be in the same place this duel could turn very interesting but ultimately, I think, predictable.

Pick: Alonso to win by only a reasonable margin of 50-70 points

Raikkonen v. Grosjean (Lotus)

Grosjean is one of the most naturally talented drivers on the grid in normal conditions. Blisteringly quick over one lap and furthermore he has a lot to prove. I want to make another Grosjean prediction, like last year, but I admit Raikkonen positively surprised me which brings an element of doubt into my mind.

I’ll be the first to admit that although I’m a big fan of Raikkonen’s persona I’m not the greatest believer in his natural talent (often lauded as equivalent to Alonso, Vettel and Hamilton). In qualifying this year I expect Grosjean to have the slight edge but to not capitalise on these strong qualifying performances enough. Plus I think his dips will be greater than Raikkonen who will consistently collect points due to his maturity.

I see this as the second closest team battle after Di Resta/Sutil but I’m going to have to back Raikkonen by the smallest of margins.

Pick: Raikkonen to edge Grosjean by 5-15 points.

Vergne v. Ricciardo (Toro Rosso)

This is a make-or-break season for both. Toro Rosso are notorious (although not as bad as their reputation) for getting rid of drivers who they don’t see as a long term investment. The ultimate goal for these two is therefore to prove that they are good enough for either a) the Red Bull second seat, Webber’s retirement may be imminent especially with the new v6’s next year or b) they are worth an F1 seat elsewhere.

It’s unlikely that both will be retained next year so as Ricciardo describes he must blow Vergne away to make the impression in F1 that he needs and wants to. Last year showed that Ricciardo has certain advantages over his highly rated teammate. His qualifying pace is exceptional especially a sixth place in Bahrain which defied logic. As you can see from the form guide he continued his strong form towards the end of the season too.

This is going to be a fierce battle but the qualifying differences between the two will in my opinion be critical and will ensure Ricciardo scores the more points of the two.

Pick: Ricciardo by 5-15 points.

Di Resta v. Sutil (Force India)

Last time they were teammates, (back in 2011) before Sutil’s forced break, the two were fairly equal. The two main questions are therefore whether Sutil’s break has affected him and whether Di Resta has progressed as a driver last year. Two complex questions indeed.

Firstly I think Sutil’s break looks to have mentally rejuvenated him and it didn’t take him long to re-acquaint himself during testing. This is a positive sign for him. Di Resta also had to deal with his own adversity, losing a season-long battle with Hulkenberg. This may have affected him negatively however I believe not.

In short both have a point to prove and this battle will be incredibly close. National bias aside I’m still going to go for Di Resta to edge Sutil. I feel the support from the team and the extra year of experience will give him the slight edge needed to beat Sutil.

Pick: Di Resta to marginally win by 2-5 points.

New team battles

Hamilton v. Rosberg (Mercedes)

Hamilton has the star quality but Rosberg has the advantage of being with Mercedes for three years. This is a substantial advantage and it may be one that proves decisive. It takes time to adapt (consistently) to a new team. There are often great results immediately; for example Mansell, Raikkonen and Alonso all winning in their first race for Ferrari but ultimately it takes longer to really master the car, understand the team and to deliver a season like Alonso’s 2012.

The first three races will be absolutely crucial in this team battle. Australia is the initial marker and Malaysia and China are some of Rosberg’s strongest circuits. If Rosberg stays on top through these three races, who knows what will happen next. If he cedes then we’ll have a strong indication of the rest of 2013. Rosberg is often strongest at the beginning of the year and was ultimately pegged back by Schumacher last year (see end of the post).

I expect qualifying to be close between the two throughout the year however I expect the race to be a different matter entirely. Hamilton is a proven race winner/title contender and I expect him to deliver the consistency and outstanding performances when they really matter.  There is still an element of doubt however; the knowledge of Mercedes and the overall beating of, in my opinion, the greatest F1 driver of all-time (albeit outside his peak years) gives Rosberg credibility.

Pick: Hamilton to overcome a strong Rosberg start to win by 20-30 points.

Button v. Perez (McLaren)

Button is a world champion and a lot of his success this year will depend on the consistency in the cars balance. Should be have enough to beat Perez? I believe so. Perez is young, inexperienced and completely new to the McLaren way of doing things. This inexperience was shown last year towards the end of the season during various incidents (think Suzuka where a misjudged pass on Hamilton led to his retirement or Malaysia when he ran wide spurning the chance for victory). Perez needs to look at McLaren as a long-term investment, take the opportunity to learn from Button and take things slowly.

Perez certainly has the talent but there seems to be a common consensus that Button is the ‘team leader’ and this will give him the ability to tailor the car to his style. I think the only way Perez wins this battle is by showing us a consistency and maturity of approach not yet seen. The two drivers have similar styles and weaknesses so the car dynamics will not allow Perez to get a jump on his more experienced teammate (like the opposing styles of Hamilton and Button).

Pick: Button to comfortably beat Perez by 50-60 points.

Hulkenberg v. Gutierrez (Sauber)

This is the easiest teammate battle to predict in my opinion, closely followed by Alonso/Massa. Hulkenberg has two years’ experience in F1 and one of the best junior records of all of the F1 drivers. It would send shockwaves around F1 if Gutierrez was able to dethrone Hulkenberg.

Gutierrez has already showed signs of struggling in pre-season testing. I analysed the data and most of his runs looked significant worse than Hulkenberg, even when trying to compare on a like-for-like basis. Gutierrez plans a ‘cautious’ approach to the year, looking to learn from every experience and that alone is evidence that he won’t be able to challenge Hulkenberg who’s already learnt those lessons.

Pick: Hulkenberg to demolish Gutierrez by 40-60 points.

Maldonado v. Bottas (Williams)

A quick look at the junior records of these two and you would be in little doubt about the eventual winner; Bottas has succeeded in every series he’s been in (top 3 in each full season), Maldonado the opposite. In fact it took Maldonado 4 attempts to finish in the top 3 in GP2.

Is the reality as cut and dry? Maldonado, true to form, struggled in his first season of F1 (finishing 18th by scoring a solitary point). The Williams was a difficult car to drive though. Last year was better and he showed his mettle with a spectacular ‘pole’ and win. The rest of the season showed flashes of brilliance but overall it finished disappointingly. Maldonado, above all else, needs consistency.

Bottas is less of an unknown than the other rookies, his Friday practice results last year indicate that he can challenge Maldonado from the off in terms of pace. Consistency again will be key, he states mistakes will be inevitable but this underlines a mature approach, to his racing, and suggests he’ll bounce back from difficult results. Bottas is highly rated and rightly so, I back him to take it to Maldonado and let his greater talent and consistency from junior formulas shine through. There will ultimately be times when Maldonado is almost untouchable, at street circuits in particular, but Formula 1 is above all else a mental game and Bottas comes to the party well prepared.

Pick: Bottas to beat Maldonado by 5-10 points

Pic v. Van der Garde (Caterham)

In 2011 both of these drivers raced for Barwa Addax in GP2, Van der Garde won twice and finished 4th. Pic didn’t win but still finished 5th. The overall difference was only 3 points. What this shows is that Van der Garde is quick but lacks a consistency Pic has.

Pic was recruited by Marussia after this performance and the extra year in F1 should give him the advantage needed to beat Van der Garde. I wasn’t as impressed with Pic last year as many although he progressed nicely as the season went on but I do expect him to have too much this year for Van der Garde. Expect things to get closer towards the end of the season.

Pick: Pic to beat Van der Garde by 0 points (quite close)

Bianchi v. Chilton (Marussia)

The start of the season will be interesting. Chilton has the greater F1 experience due to greater mileage during testing, made possible by the conflict surrounding Razia’s sponsors. Bianchi has the better junior record and instantly looked good.

I think the 2010 and 2011 GP2 seasons hint towards the discrepancy between the drivers.  Chilton finished 25th and 20th whereas Bianchi finished 3rd both times. Bianchi definitely has the raw speed and the talent to make it big but there are doubts over his reliability/consistency.

All-in-all it’s hard to see past Bianchi winning this one, championship results are often very unreliable in slow cars as one result (for instance a lucky 14th place) could be the deciding results however I’m going to confidently predict Bianchi.

Pick: Jules Bianchi to beat Max Chilton by 0 points (but relatively comfortably)

Do you think you know better? Join our prediction league to find out. Deadline: Tonight before FP1. 

Sunday, 10 March 2013

Circuit de Catalunya (28/02/2013-03/03/2013) Test Analysis

With pre-season coming to a close we were hoping for some shocking headline times and plenty of long-runs, what we got was something a bit different. The general consensus is that the field is closing up but let's look at some of the data and assess how each team looks going into the new season.

I've chosen to concentrate primarily on day three as the dry conditions gave the most reliable data. Still to give a fair overview I've also looked at the afternoons of day one and two. Unfortunately the website I use which provides the raw data to calculate both fastest adjusted laps and tyre degradation wasn't working on the last crucial day. Apologies in advance but from the seven days of testing we have more than enough data to analyse. Some parts of day four will still be considered but accurate and detailed comparison can't be made. I'll finish my analysis by comparing the conclusions found in this post to the conclusions I reached in the first test.

Fastest Adjusted Times

Looking at the 20 fastest adjusted times for the first test gives a feeling of Mercedes and Ferrari dominance. Still does this mean they'll be right at the front in Australia? Perhaps not. As Pitpass explains the testing results are not that important. Testing isn't really about posting fast laps and other teams, especially Red Bull, have not attempted runs with 20-30kg of fuel in. Historically they have run 70kg as a baseline level which is worth about 3 seconds. 

These are the overall best adjusted times:

Note: There is a lack of clarity on Hamilton's time above (80.817), the compound has been listed as medium but the adjustment is only for the fuel adjustment (not the tyre difference between the soft and medium).

The adjusted times take into account the 0.5 second difference between each tyre compound (except between the soft and supersoft) and the fuel adjustment not including in or out laps. Unfortunately due to the problems on day four of the second test I've been unable to make the same fuel adjustment. However since all of the times in the table above would have been set on 1-2 lap stints fuel adjustment is not as relevant.

The majority of fastest times for the other teams were also set on the last day of testing (see below) so it's unfortunate that the data is not available as having access to stint lengths would aid comparison between them.

3 ButtonMcLaren 1m21.444s  +1.314
4 HulkenbergSauber 1m21.541s  +1.411
5 RaikkonenLotus 1m21.658s  +1.528
6 di RestaForce India 1m21.664s  +1.534

Overall what we've learnt is that the Mercedes appears to be a quicker car than the Ferrari. This takes into account both short and long stints performed throughout the two tests. Mercedes have often been quicker although the obvious factors, such as different programmes and different baseline fuel levels, cloud exact comparison. 

However it's difficult to read too much into this as Ferrari have not brought their final aerodynamic package to testing, instead choosing to wait until Australia where they bring the first part of an aggressive early development push. Ferrari remain confident on scoring strong results at the start of the season and have been encouraged by on-track performance and its correlation to their windtunnel.

"Our work in the windtunnel is an element that gives us faith in the area of aerodynamics, where 90 per cent of the performance comes from, so we can work with a certain calmness" - Stefan Domenicali, Ferrari Team Principal.

We've covered Mercedes and Ferrari but it's worth noting that Lotus, Red Bull and McLaren have not attempted low fuel stints. This makes comparison of the short runs more difficult. Red Bull and McLaren have historically tested with high fuel levels and this continues to hold true. What is striking that the 21st fastest fuel adjusted time was Vettel on the first day of the Catalunya test. Look at the circumstances of this run and you can easily envisage the Red Bull running a low 1:19. Lotus and McLaren have yet to show such promising pace. However some of the longer stints, particularly from Lotus, really stand-out. 

Long run pace is often decided by the degradation experienced so let's now analysis that.

Tyre Degradation

The reduced running time in dry conditions means the data sample is quite small so we need to isolate specific runs and identify patterns between teams. Another issue is that with unfinished packages and cooler temperatures than those that the teams will experience in Australia and Malaysia there's only so much we can read into these drop-offs over stints.

Like last week I've broken down down the stints into different categories:

2-5 laps, under 86 seconds first lap
2-5 laps, over 86 seconds last lap
6+, under 86 seconds first lap
6+, over 86 seconds last lap

Each of these will be analysed where possible to the different tyre compounds.

Most of the runs fall into the first two categories. There was quite a lot of tactic variation within the 2-5 laps as each team worked differently to extract performance; still some similarities could be seen. Ferrari, Mercedes and McLaren each ran a fast lap followed by a slower lap before increasing the speed again. I've adjusted these stints to remove the slow lap, taking this into account provides some marked conclusions.


McLaren's stint starting with a 82.6 second lap was very strong giving up only 1.06 seconds per lap on the softer compound. Red Bull and Toro Rosso also did well but since their stints were long and less aggressive the result is almost to be expected.
One of the Lotus runs was arguably the best of all the stints as they only dropped 1.9 seconds over 2 laps (with a starting time in the mid 83s). This type of stint is very encouraging and shows some definite promise for Lotus.

Not every result was so positive and there are some worries from the second test for Mercedes. The large amount of degradation experienced in the shorter runs could show some troubles ahead for the team. The four stints that were run on the soft tyres all ranged between 1.88 and 2.3 seconds drop-off per lap across 3-4 lap stints. This data reflects a worryingly consistent level of degradation. However it's worth noting that, in each of these stints, Mercedes were significantly faster than the other teams which may go a long way to explaining the difference. The other mitigating factor is each of these runs was on day three so specific daily circumstances or driving styles may have affected the results. Nico Rosberg's runs on day four drew praise from other drivers.

"Nico had a great final day of testing in his Mercedes, which shows how dangerous he and Lewis will be in the future." - Sebastian Vettel, reigning F1 champion.

Some good news for Ferrari fans is that Ferrari posted equally fast times to Mercedes but experienced much better degradation. Though this could have been because they only ran for 2 laps. All-in-all Ferrari's degradation was consistently better in the second test when compared to the first test. This agrees with the 'cold tear' theory put forward here after the last analysis. The Ferrari certainly seemed more comfortable, especially on day three in the warmer conditions. It will be interesting to see how this carries over to very hot conditions but in all likelihood the Ferrari will look good. 


The Mercedes came alive on the medium runs between 8-10 laps where the starting laps were quicker, the average drop-off during these laps was 0.3 seconds per stint over the 4 stints - 3 of which started in the 1:24s. The only point of comparisons over these type of runs were the McLarens who also ran 3 stints, this time averaging a drop-off of 0.66 seconds. The Mercedes therefore seemed to be better on the mediums. 

However this trend seems to be reversed on the slower and long medium runs, where the McLaren was stronger. The runs from Toro Rosso and Force India can be discounted as they started off so slowly (in the 1:30s), these were clearly laps performed around a specific slow delta.

The runs from the other three teams were all below this mark, starting between 1:26.0 and 1:28.5 so are more comparable. Only Massa's run experienced gradual degradation. The McLaren and Mercedes attempted to slow down their runs after the initial fast laps and got faster as the stint went on. What this proves is that different teams are going about their testing programmes in subtly different ways. I think the Mercedes drop-off of 0.3 seconds is more representative so that certainly looks good.

Hard and Unknown

There were few runs on hard tyres or long runs. However there were plenty of short stints on unknown tyres (where I've been unable to find out compound information), obviously this isn't a perfect comparison as compounds vary so much but looking at general averages can sometimes be helpful.

Again this backs up the theory that Lotus are very good with tyre degradation. These unknown runs all began in the 1:23-1:24's so were quick from the offset. Similarly Force India's degradation looked strong in their one run which began in the 1:23's. 

Ferrari had several runs beginning in the 1:21-1:23's. In particular a 3-lap stint starting in the 1:22's only saw 0.26 seconds of drop-off per lap which is impressive. It's stints like this which give Ferrari genuine cause for optimism ahead of the new year. 

Ultimately teams like Red Bull and Williams looked a little underwhelming across all of these runs. Their degradation was generally higher, across all of the runs, than some of their competitors. The Toro Rosso stints were all longer stints (towards 4-5 laps) and appear to be on softs or supersofts when comparing to their previous stints so it would be best to ignore their lowly position on the table above.


In truth the picture is very cloudy; the lack of data, the changing conditions from day-to-day and the different programmes run by teams means any conclusions drawn on tyre degradation are slightly suspect at best. What we can say though is that Lotus are still probably looking best, especially on the longer stints. 

Pecking Order?

Despite eight days of testing there is still significant doubt over the pecking order. This is due to the weather and the different testing programmes, leading to one of the most inconclusive testing periods in recent F1 history. However analysing the data we have been able to gather some crucial insights.

Taking everything into account, short and long run pace plus tyre degradation I would give the following pecking order:

Red Bull > Lotus > Mercedes > Ferrari > McLaren > Sauber > Williams > Force India > Toro Rosso > Marussia > Caterham

This is actually fairly similar to my first analysis. I still feel that Red Bull are the best car and McLaren are outside of the top four (if only because of their lack of consistency). The Sauber looks the best of the rest although Williams have yet to show what they're capable of.

It's important to state how close the top teams are (within 0.5 seconds) and there is definitely uncertainty about which team will arrive to Australia in best shape. Each team also has its own strengths and weaknesses which are summarised below. 

Constructors Report

Red Bull
Pace: A
Degradation: B
Reliability: A

Red Bull have played their cards close to their chests. In terms of fuel adjusted times they were only 21st. What is clear from watching the car, and some of the times Webber was posting on day one in tricky conditions, is that this car has huge quantities of downforce. Also the balance on the car appears favourable to its nearest competitors, suffering from neither the snappiness in the rear of the Ferrari or the understeer of the McLaren. The reliability on the car is fantastic, issues were few and far between during testing so I expect another relatively blemish-free campaign from the RB9.

Overall you can expect the Red Bull to be right at the front of the first race. They're working from an existing (evolutionary base) like Ferrari and Lotus and it would be a monumental surprise not to see a Red Bull in the first two rows in Australia. 

Pace: A-
Degradation: B-
Reliability: A-

Ferrari set some impressive times during pre-season testing however they have struggled to match Mercedes in this category. This may be resolved by their early season development push. The long runs were pretty variable and there are still small issues that need to be resolved across the board e.g. the degradation again doesn't look as good as it needs to be, perhaps due to the colder conditions experienced in Catalunya. The Ferrari is clearly a quick car but I'll put my neck on the line to say that it won't be the pacesetter in Australia or on the front row of the grid.

Ferrari would be happy with a podium from Australia and they may have a reasonable chance with Alonso at the helm. Many people have touted Ferrari as a ready title contender but unless they can bring crucial performance to Melbourne and hold it throughout the season I feel a repeat of last season won't happen.

Pace: B+
Degradation: B+
Reliability: B

Fast one minute, slow the next. There's ample evidence to suggest the McLaren is behind the other four title contenders.The lack of dry weather running has caused issues for McLaren. Ideally when designing a revolutionary car (they've changed from a push-rod system to a pull-rod system) you'd get as much running as possible but this hasn't happened. With Button being notoriously unsuited to unpredictable cars and Perez recently arrived you'd expect the McLaren to struggle with this level of inconsistency and doubt.

I think it's unreasonable to expect anything too great from McLaren in Australia, qualifying on the third row of the grid and scoring double digits points is a reasonable expectation. The pace, degradation and reliability have all been good but far too inconsistent. 

Pace: A-
Degradation: A+
Reliability: C

The only real problem experienced by Lotus during the two tests is the multiple reliability issues experienced by Kimi Raikkonen. The other issue is whether Lotus have the ultimate one lap pace, they haven't attempted fast laps like the Mercedes and Ferrari so it's hard to ultimately conclude where they'll be on the grid. Despite this the longer runs have looked very positive. However this is down, in part, to the excellent tyre degradation seen on the Lotus. They are certainly the leaders of the field in this regard.

What does this mean for Melbourne? They will hope to emulate Grosjean's excellent third place qualifying position although this will be difficult. In the race they'll hope to be in contention for a podium position.

Pace: A
Degradation: B
Reliability: B

The Mercedes has easily been the most surprising car during pre-season testing. They've posted the quickest and most consistent laps throughout. Mercedes and Hamilton fans will be hoping that this isn't false optimism. Still the long runs on the Mercedes have looked pretty stable and the balance on the car has been nothing like last year. Nico Rosberg claimed that the overheating of the rear tyres is in the past which was one of the major issues for Mercedes last season. Things are definitely heading in the right direction and the one-lap pace of the Mercedes will put them in contention for the front row/second row come Australia.

The big concern going into this season is erasing the operational blemishes from last season and coping with tyre degradation in hotter conditions. These are still question marks and are the only reasons that I'm not predicting greater things for Mercedes.

Pace: B
Degradation: A-
Reliability:  B

Sauber have been relatively understated throughout testing. A lot of their focus has been on managing the tyres and running to a relatively slow and consistent delta to reduce tyre degradation. In the first four days of testing in the first Catalunya test over half of their stints ended up faster than they started. What does this tell us? They've probably learnt a lot about managing the tyres. This should make them stronger in the race and they'll hope to stop less than the rest of the field. This could be especially relevant if the Pirelli's degrade as quickly as the media have been predicting.

The Sauber has also showed glimpses of speed, finishing third fastest in the first week of testing at Catalunya and finishing fourth on the final day of testing.  Sauber will look to score points and may be in a tight battle with Force India and Williams throughout the season.

Force India
Pace: B-
Degradation: A-
Reliability: A

The one thing you can say about the Force India is that it's a very reliable car. The team have approached testing in a methodical style and the car looks solid. However the big question is whether or not it looks spectacular. Can the Force India challenge for big points? The answer is probably no, they don't look like they can do anything that will rival the top peformers and I can't see them rising to the heights of Hulkenberg's performance in Brazil or the Williams victory at Catalunya. I could be proven wrong but I believe that the Force India will be a semi-consistent points scorer and no more this season.

However big aerodynamic updates in Australia may solve their issue and the good base + increased speed may allow this team to achieve better things. First they need to focus on adding the raw performance before this team can outperform its previous seasons outings. 

Pace: B-
Degradation: C
Reliability: A-

Williams have been very positive about their latest challenger (claiming that they are not ruling out wins) but I still think it's too early to judge their efforts.This may be because of their testing approach, like the Red Bull's they have not attempted many short runs where the full pace is on show. Plus since they launched later than the other ten teams I think they have primarily been focusing on gathering data and understanding the car.

Overall the lack of evidence makes Williams a difficult one to judge but there's no reason why they can't do well this year. Although they've received a B- for pace this could easily have been higher had their programme been different. We shall have to wait and see.

Toro Rosso
Pace: C+
Degradation: A-
Reliability: A

Like the Force India, the Toro Rosso is a very solid car. Both its degradation and reliability have been consistently notable during testing. The major pitfall of the car is the lack of outright pace, it has also looked more unstable than the others. All this adds up to one of their two drivers at least suffering a Q1 exit in Australia. All of the midfield teams are looking to consistently fight for points. One of the midfield teams is going to miss out and it may be Toro Rosso, despite the improvements made from last year.

Pace: E+
Degradation: C-
Reliability: B

The Caterham appears to be the worst car in the field now, according to some track observers the car looks like a real handful especially in wet conditions. They've fared better in degradation than Marussia but have struggled for pace. Will Pic and Van der Garde be able to turn it around in Australia? It's going to be a close, season-long battle with Marussia but there can only be one winner.

Pace: D
Degradation: D
Reliability: C+

Marussia appear to have fallen further behind the midfield although they look like they've jumped Caterham which could be crucial for their future F1 participation. However the degradation on the Marussia looks particularly bad with over 2 seconds a lap drop-off on some of their fastest stints.

Overall the car has looked slow but solid. The introduction of KERS will help in its battle for 10th but the loss of Glock will hurt the team. Bianchi looks like a decent prospect though. It's hard to expect too much from Marussia; expecting anything more than a 10th place battle with Caterham would be too much.

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