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No certainties as F1 gets set to start 2013 season
Alonso’s prominent position is a testament not only to his superb racecraft but also the fact that Ferrari travels to Melbourne with a car that looked genuinely competitive in the preseason; a marked contrast to last year when the team was embarrassingly off the pace in the early races.
“Last year it was a very difficult winter, we were completely lost and with that car we fought for the world championship all the way to Brazil,” Alonso said. “We now have a car that is responding well to what we change, a car that is doing what we expect the car to do. We know we are maybe not the quickest (yet) but the starting point or the potential of this car is there.”
The man they all have to catch is Vettel, and astute observers of preseason testing gave high marks to the Red Bull’s performance. While Vettel and Mark Webber did not dominate times, the Red Bull team was consistently running with heavy fuel loads and should be able to match the faster times when they get into qualifying trim in Melbourne.
For Vettel, the biggest threat to his hopes of a fourth consecutive title will be how the car handles the new Pirelli tires. Pirelli has changed the composition of the rubber for the season ahead, making it less resilient in the hope of having at least two pit stops per car in each race.
“It was extremely difficult to read some setup changes and find the direction with the car because the tires were simply not good enough,” a frustrated Vettel declared at the testing in Barcelona.
The difficulty coming to terms with the tires will make the season opener all the more unpredictable, as will the presence of new drivers in new cars. Only Red Bull (Vettel and Mark Webber), Ferrari (Alonso and Felipe Massa), Lotus (Raikkonen and Romain Grosjean) and Toro Rosso (Daniel Ricciardo and Jean-Eric Vergne) retain the same driver pairings as last season.
Taking his place at Force India is former driver Adrian Sutil, who is being given an increasingly rare second chance, to partner Paul di Resta.
Pastor Maldonado returns at Williams with a new teammate in Valtteri Bottas, the latest in a long line of flying Finns to grace F1.
Caterham has two new drivers in Charles Pic _ who was at Marussia last season _ and Dutchman Giedo van der Garde.
Marussia’s lineup was the last to be finalized, with young British driver Max Chilton joined by Jules Bianchi, the Ferrari-linked Frenchman who lost out to Sutil for the Force India seat. It was a late call-up for Bianchi after Brazil’s Luiz Razia was dumped by the team before he even raced because promised sponsorship money did not materialize.
The paddock is one team lighter this season, with the Spain-based HRT dropping out after three seasons.
By Tom Fitton
New photos confirm the attack's coordination and its cover-up
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