Top ten F1 fails of 2013

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Another top ten, this time some of the failures of the past season:

1. McLaren’s pull rod suspension –

Arguably the fastest car at the end of the 2012 season, this team (a master of shooting itself in the foot) decided that it had exhausted the development potential and needed a new direction for the final year of this regulation period. Ignoring the time t had taken Ferrari to sort their pull rod suspension in 2012, McLaren chose to throw away their successful front suspension, and try something completely different. The end result was their worst season in a generation. Not even a podium to show for it, and this has undoubtedly had an impact on the next choice.

2. Sergio Perez at McLaren –

Full of promise at Sauber in 2012 (although he did seem to relax a bit once he was confirmed at McLaren), he didn’t dominate Jenson Button enough to retain his seat for next year. Now you could look at this as a fault of the driver (either he isn’t yet ready to drive in a top team, or he will only ever be a good F1 driver not a great one), or the fault of the team (judging him after only one season in a poor car). Either way it is a failed experiment, and won’t have helped Perez’s career. The very late announcement that he would be replaced by Kevin Magnussen didn’t help the driver market, and Perez was fortunate to be able to find a seat at Force India.

3. Pastor Maldonado qualifying in Austin –

Since entering F1 he has been very fast on occasion, but prone to some significant errors of judgement. Most of these have been while running wheel to wheel with his competitors (usually ending in carbon fibre all over the racing line). At Austin however he reserved his biggest error of judgement yet for his excuses for failing to get out of Q1. Blaming the team (any team) for deliberately sabotaging his car shows some tremendous short sightedness, but to accuse Williams of such a thing, show he really doesn’t understand what drives that team to compete in this sport (this is after all a team that has lost World Championships because they have refused to show preferential treatment to one driver over another).

4. Felipe Massa’s final race for Ferrari –

Driving his last race for the red team in front of his home crowd was always going to be an emotional experience. Unfortunately for Massa his continual cutting of the put lane entrance (in particular the white hatched area just before the start of the pitwall), despite explanatory diagrams in the drivers briefing, and many warnings from Rob Smedley during the race, led to a drive through penalty. This effectively cost the team any chance of second place in the constructor’s championship. His inability to follow Vettel’s example and perform perfect donuts (only managing a couple of 180° spins), only adds to this poor showing.

5. Infinity Quantum sponsorship of the Enstone team –

First this organisation picks a name that is already used by another sponsor of a rival team (even if the spelling is a letter different), then they take forever to provide the promised funds, only to take them back almost as soon as they arrive. Following this they insist of the team signing Nico Hulkenberg, which falls through once it becomes apparent that the money will never arrive. In the future we may finally learn just who gained from this farce.

6. Korea –

Ignoring the complete lack of enthusiasm shown by the locals, with the race taking place in front of largely empty stands, what really marks this event out for this list is the organisation of the Marshals. How that truck was ever released onto the track, just in front of the field as the exited turn two, is staggering. For that reason alone the event deserved to lose its place on the 2014 calendar. However in my opinion the design of the circuit (with walls right next to the straight which eliminates any safe place for a broken down car to pull off the track) is not suited to F1 racing. If it was a street circuit (as was promised when the track was built), then the locations of the walls could be justified, and cranes could be employed as at Monaco to safely remove stranded cars.

7. Driving within the confines of the circuit –

I have mentioned the Silverstone tyre failures in another top ten list (memorable moments). However a contributing cause of the sidewall failures seen at that event was the drivers driving completely over the kerb such that the inside sidewall of the tyre dropped over the edge of the kerb. Drivers were even warned over the radio not to take such shortcuts as it was considered a contributing factor to the failures seen. However such restraint only lasted a couple of laps, as once one driver resumed the practice, they all had to follow or lose a significant amount of laptime. If the thought of a tyre blow out going down hanger straight isn’t enough to keep the drivers within the confines of the track, then some other way needs to be found to do so (and I don’t mean drive through penalties).

8. Renault engines (Singapore and Brazil) –

This maybe unfair on the Renault engineers, and it is not meant as a criticism of their product which after all has won the last four championships. However we have grown used to fantastic reliability from F1 engines in recent seasons, so much so that it is not uncommon for 20 or more cars to finish a race. So to see Mark Webber’s Singapore race end in flame on the penultimate lap, or Romain Grosjean’s Brazillian race finish in smoke on lap two, was noteworthy. I have a worrying feeling that we will get used to such sights next year.

9. Heikki Kovalainen’s stand in drives –

With Räikkkönen not being paid (thanks in part to the Quantum funding not coming through), he decided to stop the season early in order to get his back surgery out of the way before starting at Ferrari. All teams are required to have reserve drivers (to be used should one of their nominated drivers become unable to compete before qualifying starts). This seemed like the ideal opportunity for the Lotus reserve driver Davide Valsecchi, however with the team in third place in the Constructor’s Championship, and second place potentially up for grabs, the team wanted a more experienced driver. Kovalainen’s performances showed just how difficult racing in F1 is, and how quickly a driver can become race rusty. His starts in both races were poor, and although he raced well in Austin, a front wing change dropped in out of the top ten. In Brazil even the race pace was poor. While I don’t know if Valsecchi would have done any better, he will be disappointed not to have been given the chance.

10. New Jersey –

Many people (not least Bernie Ecclestone) would like to see another race in the USA. Unfortunately this event has been on the provisional calendar for two years now, and been pulled both times due to lack of funding. I can’t help but feel that the constant public failure to deliver is going to put off any potential investors in the race. Perhaps they should look at a more realistic timetable to host the event, and aim to hold a race in 2016 or 2017. Constantly failing to deliver on promises doesn’t inspire confidence.

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