With half of the 2013 Formula 1 season behind us things still look pretty much how they have looked for the past three and a half years: Red Bull Racing is the dominant force in the sport.
Though teams like Lotus F1 Team and Mercedes AMG have made big improvements and closed the gap in comparison to years gone by, RBR is still on top of the F1 world and Sebastian Vettel is still the driver to beat in the sport.
Vettel has seven podiums on the season, four of which are wins. He hasn’t finished worse than P4, but did have a DNF at the British Grand Prix due to a transmission failure. The German has only qualified off the podium once, a P9 in China, and has three poles. Seb is a machine and from the looks of things he won’t be falling off pace for quite a while, which means that if any driver on the grid wants to end his streak of World Championships then they have to out-do Vettel at his best. He currently has a 38 point lead over the number two driver in the points, Kimi Raikkonen.
Mark Webber has three podiums and one DNF in 2013, but as yet to finish lower than P7. Aussie Grit has been somewhat hit and miss in qualifying but has only missed the top ten once. His 105 points combined with Vettel’s 172 have Red Bull firmly in the lead of the constructor’s championship.
Despite their on track domination there has been some turbulence for RBR in 2013. At the Malaysian Grand Prix both drivers were told to dial down their cars for the closing laps since they had a comfortable lead and Vettel, who was running P2, was told not to pass Webber who was P1. Vettel didn’t listen. He battled with Webber on the circuit and passed his team mate. Webber was visibly angry after the race, but Vettel claimed that he didn’t comprehend the order from the team. Seb would later apologize to RBR for disobeying team orders, but said he wouldn’t apologize for winning or to Webber. The team never punished Vettel in any way, and Webber got no justice.
That started the rumor mill running and all signs pointed towards Webber leaving RBR at the end of the season when his contract runs out. Nobody really guessed that Webber would do what he did and announce that he was retiring from F1 at the season’s end to go to Le Mans and race for the revived Porsche team. The end of the “what will Webber do” saga only led to the beginning of the “who will Red Bull get to replace Webber” saga.
Silly season got an early start as Formula One fans and writers immediately ran with the idea that Raikkonen would ditch Lotus for Red Bull. At the moment Kimi hasn’t reached a decision but from the signs I’m reading he won’t leave Lotus. RBR Team Principal Christian Horner has named only three candidates for the 2014 race seat: Raikkonen and current Toro Rosso wheel men Daniel Ricciardo and Jean-Eric Vergne.
Ricciardo tested for Red Bull at the Young Driver Test which kept the rumor mill churning, but that was nothing compared to the rumor bomb that went off after RBR admitted to meeting with Fernando Alonso’s manager following the Hungarian Grand Prix. Alonso won’t leave Scuderia Ferrari for the same reason Raikkonen won’t leave Lotus: neither will play number two to Vettel. Ricciardo will be Vettel’s team mate come 2014. Take it to the bank.
Red Bull is the best team in Formula 1 right now and they currently have the best driver in Vettel. If Kimi, Alonso, or any other driver wants to take the driver’s championship away from Vettel they will have to start beating him by more than one position, and they might need some luck in the way of another Seb DNF.
Red Bull has remained a step ahead of the competition all season, and if their traditional form holds true they will only get significantly better as the year goes on. RBR is on top of F1.