Sunday May 26th, 2013
1. Sebastian Vettel
2. Kimi Raikkonen
3. Fernando Alonso
Five races into the 2013 F1 season, and we already have a three-horse race, as was widely expected at the beginning. The three drivers, all world champions, form part of a small group of top racers that are settled in their teams. Vettel, Raikkonen and Alonso- arguably the most gifted drivers of different generations- are already in the reckoning for the title in what could be a long, grueling season for many other teams.
The Spanish Grand Prix two weeks ago was a reminder of this. Promising drivers like Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton (new teammates) will continue to impress in qualifying sessions- with McLaren on pole for the last 3 races- but when it comes down to the race day, the results have consistently been shared between Vettel (2), Alonso (2) and Raikkonen (1, but consistent podium performances). There is only 17 points between the 3 drivers, with Raikkonen looking good to set more of a challenge than he did last season- after his comeback from early retirement. He still looks the most consistent driver in F1, a far cry from what he was during his early McLaren days, and is just a few points behind pace-setter Vettel. Alonso, equipped with the least competitive car once again, will play catch-up through the season.
The Spanish Grand Prix was important for the Spaniard, or he’d have fallen off the pace pretty early in the season. He did what was needed, and now they head into the most glamorous race of the season- Monte Carlo, where qualifying will hold more importance than the other races. If one of the McLarens can continue their strong qualifying, unless beset with some engine catastrophe, it is mighty hard to lose a race in the streets of Monaco from pole position. That said, it will be Mark Webber- the Australian better known for being Red Bull’s adequate no. 2 for years- who will be looking forward to this race the most. The 2013 season hasn’t been kind to Webber- for he languishes even behind the lesser no. 2 Massa in the standings after 5 races on just 45 points. Traditionally, it is Webber who steps it up at his favorite Monte Carlo circuit- and he has won 2 of the last 3 races here. Along with Alonso, he is the only active two-time winner at Monaco. The great Senna had won it 6 times, making it his own, before Schumacher came mighty close to owning the Grand Prix with 5 wins over his career.
It is too early to make any predictions about favorites and in-form teams and drivers in 2013, but this is not like the 2012 season- where the first 6 races were won by 6 different drivers. It will be much more straightforward this time, unless a surprise contender emerges at Monte Carlo.