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GP Week : Issue 196
16 GPWEEK.com // 16 GPWEEK.com // PARTNERS: This has not been the longest season in F1 history, although it sure has felt that way at times. Last year’s 20-race calendar saw more races, but we were also treated to a to-the-wire title fight that kept fans and media alike on the edge of their seats until the very last race. This year? Not so much. By the time the F1 circus arrived in Singapore we were already counting on our fingers, trying to work out whether SebVet would secure the title in Japan or India. And with both championships all sewn up several races ago, and a seemingly endless run of Vettel victories to look back on, the tail end of the 2013 Formula One season has been – for lack of a better word – rather ‘meh’. If only the boy wonder would screw up on occasion, make the sort of mistake that would prove him to be a fallible human being, and not an Adrian Newey-designed DriverBot3000. In Austin a group of hacks racked their brains to come up with any errors SebVet had made over the course of the year, and we came up with two. Two mistakes over the course of the 95 practice sessions, qualifying shootouts, and grands prix that made up the current season. However dry it’s made the action on track, you can’t deny that Sebastian Vettel’s natural talent – coupled with an impressive work ethic – is fully deserving of all the records he’s broken thus far. With luck, however, the 2014 season will be less of a walkover. We’ve got the biggest regulation change in recent memory, covering not only the much-discussed new power units (engines seems too small a word for these thermal and kinetic energy recovering beasts with more cooling than a polar ice cap) but also a dramatic shift in the application of aero, thanks to vertical exhausts and rules designed to bring about an end to the blowing of exhaust gases for maximum rear downforce. The new rules also mandate a near 50 percent drop in the number of power units drivers are allowed to use without penalty, the current eight engines being reduced to a maximum of five in 2014. Any driver using an all-new unit will start the next race from the pitlane, while anyone swapping out a turbocharger or other engine component will face a 10-place grid drop. Add to that the normal reliability issues associated with a massive tech change, and it looks unlikely that any one driver or team will be in a position to dominate. Vettel will have his own new challenge to face, in the shape of new teammate Daniel Ricciardo, who has already says that he intends to arrive in Milton Keynes and do to Seb what Jenson Button did to Lewis Hamilton at McLaren, turning a team centred on one driver into a team shaped around the newcomer. Whether or not Ricciardo achieves his goal remains to be seen – Vettel has been responsible for four sizeable end-of-season victory bonuses for the Red Bull staff, after all – but there’s no mistaking the fact that them’s fightin’ words. Long before the end of his time at Red Bull it was clear that Mark Webber had given up the fight, accepting his number two status within the team. While some might point to the 2013 Malaysian Grand Prix as the source of his discontent, it was at the 2010 Turkish Grand Prix that showed the Australian where he stood. Webber was criticised by senior team personnel after a rash move by Vettel knocked the German out of the race and cost Red Bull a one-two finish, while the ingénue was given a comforting cuddle by team principal Christian Horner. Since he first agreed to join the Porsche WEC effort back in 2012, Webber has been counting down the days to his departure from Formula One. Ricciardo, however, has been waiting on tenterhooks for years for the chance to prove his worth as an F1 driver. The young Australian knows that the best way to make his mark on the sport will be to beat his record- breaking teammate at his own game, scoring endless poles, wins, and fastest laps in a quick and consistent car. For the first time since late 2010, Sebastian Vettel will have a hungry teammate lining up alongside him in an identical car. It’s an enticing prospect, and one that promises to make 2014 considerably more thrilling than 2013 has been. THE LONg ROAD AHEAD OPINION OPINION KATE WALKER Editor