Force India have finally completed their driver line-up for 2013, confirming that Adrian Sutil will race alongside Paul di Resta. Sutil returns to Formula One after a year on the sidelines.
Most of the teams confirmed their driver line-ups well before the start of pre-season testing in February, but Force India chose instead to wait until after they had run both of their candidates for the second race seat – Adrian Sutil and Jules Bianchi – at last week’s second test in Barcelona. Both drivers impressed the team, but in the end Force India went with the experience of Sutil rather than put a new driver in their car.
Sutil has already driven for Force India for four seasons, and for the team’s previous incarnation, Spyker, for a year. He is highly rated in the paddock and is expected to deliver results in his second stint at Force India. He was paired with Paul di Resta in 2011 before his brief absence from the sport, which adds some continuity to his career and the workings of the team.
Dr Vijay Mallya, Team Principal and Managing Director: “The decision over our driver line-up has not been an easy one and we have given it great consideration over the last few months. It was a close call, but ultimately we felt that Adrian’s experience and historic links to the team gave him the edge, and will provide us with the best possible chance of realising our ambitions for the coming season. If he can rediscover the exceptional form he showed in the second half of 2011, I’m confident that we can pick up where we left off at the end of 2012. As for Jules Bianchi, he has impressed us enormously with his speed and work ethic, and I’m hopeful we can continue working with him this year to help him develop into a future Grand Prix driver.”
Adrian Sutil: “I’m delighted to be back in Formula One, especially with a team I know so well. I’m very happy and I want to thank Sahara Force India for giving me a second chance. Having been away from the sport, I’m even more determined to achieve my goals in Formula One. Things went really well at the Barcelona test last week and it almost feels as though I’ve never been away. Driving the car felt so natural and I was able to get back in the groove quickly and find the limit. Now my focus is on making the most of the final test session this week, working with the team in the simulator and getting myself in the best possible shape for Melbourne.”
Williams confirmed today that development driver Susie Wolff will put the first miles on their new Formula One car – the FW35 – in advance of the second pre-season test that begins in Barcelona, Spain on 19 February. The team previously announced that the new car would not be run at the first test, but instead would be launched on the first day of the second test.
This will be the first time that Wolff drives the team’s current car in her role as Williams development driver. She has previously driven the 2011 FW33 during a Williams partner event at Silverstone in 2012, which was her first taste of F1 machinery. Most of her work for Williams has been in the simulator. This year sees Wolff granted more time in the car – in addition to being first to drive the FW35, she will take the wheel for most of the team’s aerodynamic testing this season – which shows that the team has confidence in her testing abilities.
Susie is the wife of Toto Wolff, who is a Williams shareholder and was an executive director of Williams until recently when he took up a directorship at Mercedes. That Susie has retained and expanded her testing role in the wake of Toto’s departure from Williams is a further indication that she provides good value to the technical team.
Mike Coughlan, Williams Technical Director, commented: “Susie has proved herself to be a valuable addition to our driver roster and her feedback during simulator sessions is second to none. As a result we will be stepping up her role this year and I’m looking forward to the progress we can make with Susie’s input in conjunction with that of Pastor [Maldonado] and Valtteri [Bottas].”
Susie Wolff seems enthusiastic about her increased testing role. She said, “I really enjoy my time working with Williams and feel very much at home here. Last year was a valuable experience and I certainly feel that I’ve developed a lot as a driver. Increasing my role this year will further this progression and I can’t wait to get behind the wheel of the FW35 for the first time next month. I’m showing that women can play a role at the top level of motorsport and would like to thank Sir Frank Williams and the whole of the technical team for the trust they continue to show in me.”
Wolff is now the only woman to have a significant role as a driver in Formula One. If she were to find her way into a race seat, she would become the first woman to line up for the start of a World Championship Grand Prix since Lella Lombardi drove for Brabham in 1976.
Felipe Massa will be the first man to drive the 2013 Ferrari Formula One car. The Brazilian will drive for the first three days of the first pre-season test in Jerez, Spain, starting on 5 February, before handing over to new Ferrari test driver Pedro de la Rosa for the final day of the Jerez test. Fernando Alonso will not feature until the second test in Barcelona starting on 19 February.
While Massa and De la Rosa are testing in Jerez, Alonso will be focusing on his physical training in advance of another long, demanding season. The Spaniard should not suffer from a lack of testing, however, as the schedule has been arranged for him to complete most of the second test in Barcelona before sharing the final test with Massa.
Ferrari are emphasising the importance of Pedro de la Rosa’s test day in Jerez, as it will assist him with the simulator work that forms the major part of his testing role.
The team confirmed yesterday that the engine in the new car was fired up for the first time on 23 February and that the work of assembling the car is progressing well.
The full Ferrari driver schedule for pre-season testing is:
|Felipe Massa||Jerez, Spain||5 Feb|
|Felipe Massa||Jerez, Spain||6 Feb|
|Felipe Massa||Jerez, Spain||7 Feb|
|Pedro de la Rosa||Jerez, Spain||8 Feb|
|Fernando Alonso||Barcelona, Spain||19 Feb|
|Fernando Alonso||Barcelona, Spain||20 Feb|
|Fernando Alonso||Barcelona, Spain||21 Feb|
|Felipe Massa||Barcelona, Spain||22 Feb|
|Felipe Massa||Barcelona, Spain||28 Feb|
|Fernando Alonso||Barcelona, Spain||1 Mar|
|Felipe Massa||Barcelona, Spain||2 Mar|
|Fernando Alonso||Barcelona, Spain||3 Mar|
Before racing can commence in 2013, the teams need to finish building their cars and test them. There are just 12 days of testing in this pre-season, which makes every lap crucial.
The launch schedule is:
|Lotus||28 Jan||Enstone, UK|
|McLaren||31 Jan||Woking, UK|
|Ferrari||1 Feb||Maranello, Italy|
|Force India||1 Feb||Silverstone, UK|
|Sauber||2 Feb||Hinwil, Switzerland|
|Red Bull||3 Feb||Milton Keynes, UK|
|Mercedes||4 Feb||Jerez, Spain|
|Toro Rosso||4 Feb||Jerez, Spain|
|Caterham||5 Feb||Jerez, Spain|
|Marussia||5 Feb||Jerez, Spain|
|Williams||19 Feb||Barcelona, Spain|
The provisional testing schedule is:
|5-8 Feb||Jerez, Spain|
|19-22 Feb||Barcelona, Spain|
|28 Feb – 3 March||Barcelona, Spain|
The Williams Renault FW35 will be launched at the second test in Barcelona on 19 February, the team announced this morning. Williams are thus far the only team to delay the launch of their car until after the first test in Jerez.
With only 12 days of pre-season testing available, it makes sense to get the new car on the track right from the start. Williams are not doing that, which is surprising, but it means there is a good reason to delay the introduction of the new car. It is possible that the team could be working on technical innovations that require more time in the factory. It is also plausible that the team has come up with a technical solution that will provide a significant advantage, and they do not want the other teams to see it early and have time to copy it onto their cars.
The latter strategy was adopted by Red Bull in 2011 when they introduced their revolutionary exhaust system very late in testing. The exhaust turned out to be the team’s great strength in that season, and they strolled to the Drivers’ and Constructors’ Championships.
Another possible explanation for the delay is the need to do comparative testing using a known chassis. The team has a great deal of data relating to the performance of last year’s FW34, which makes it a good test bed for new parts. The team has confirmed that it will be running a number of development parts on the car in Jerez, in anticipation of the launch of the FW35.
For the first test in Jerez, starting on 5 February, Williams will run the FW34 but using the 2013 livery. The FW35 will be presented at the Circuit de Catalunya in Barcelona early in the morning of 19 February before taking to the track the same day.
My pre-race analysis of the Spanish Grand Prix is up at:
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