With the title all but wrapped up in Japan, with Vettel only needing a few measly points over the next 5 races to clinch the championship, the main focus has turned to 2014. Most of the teams stopped developing their cars after the summer break with a complete rule change (a la 2009) coming into force next year. Alongside the new V6 engines with lots of energy recovery elements (KERS and ERS for you tech folk) there is a massive change in the aero regs that will see the huge front wings of recent years ditched in favour of a narrower wing like the cars of 2008. This will hopefully balance the look of the cars as well as cut back the aero and on paper could make a fascinating season after years of engine freezes.
Now the danger is that one or two teams get the aero and engine packages spot on and romp away with it, but with so many elements and the modern F1 calendar so varied (from the tight confines of Monaco and Singapore needing drivability, Monzas brutal power requirements, Aero tracks such as Barcelona and Hungary, through the multi faceted Tilke circuits that feature fast turns and long straights) I think the chances of a season of domination look slim. But the big issue facing the teams is that the weight limit looks tight, very tight so expect some teams who are struggling to make the limit plonk for small light drivers.
However with only the final 4 races left there are still many spots on the grid to be sorted out:
Back to back podiums after the disappointment of the mechanical retirement in Singapore have all but sealed the Frenchmans place at Lotus next year. Many thought he should of made way for other talent at the end of last year and a sluggish start to year left Romain with little hope of being retained for next year. But with an upswing in form, especially his last outing in Japan will see Romain remain at Enstone for 2014, it is likely to be confirmed before India and will take him off the chopping block.
While he has been helped out by Kimi moving to Ferrari next year and the team needing a benchmark showing, I think on his recent form he would have stayed for next season regardless.
The whole Sauber team have really come good at this point in the season, helped by the new sturdier tyres that Pirelli introduced and a driveablitiy that helps the drivers put down power early to defend on the DRS straights. Esteban finally put it all together in Japan after glimpses of promise and recorded the first Rookie drivers points of the season with a stellar drive to 7th, keeping on the coat tails of the ever impressive Nico Hulkenberg will do him a world of good as Sauber now possibly face the issue of having too many good drivers for next year.
Finally a good Saturday for Max has put another check in the column marked retain for next year, however the race didn’t pan out so well and he finished behind the Caterhams. Bianchi is staying on next year and it could be a battle of the wallets to see if Max gets another crack at it in 2014.
Another poor week for the outcast Ferrari driver, after being told to move aside for Alonso to come through he decided to not heed the pit wall and raced on. Only for Alonso to promptly cruise up and pass him. While his Saturdays remain a strength its his Sunday performance that sees the Brazilian coming away empty handed time and time again. A solitary point after Jenson nabbed through the final chicane and to the line highlights why he may not be an option for many teams next year.
With an interview with Lee McKenzie on BBC before qualifying the Brazilian at first seemed very confident of a drive for next year before almost resigning himself to leaving the paddock after Brazil. I think the latter may be more likely.
Paul Di Resta
A 50/50 one for Paul, he made it to the end of the race on the lead lap after a series of non-finishes and he was ahead of his team mate all weekend. However again not scoring points with a painful 11th place is again an issue for the British driver.
The other Force India driver has to also be feeling the heat. but there are rumblings that he could move to Sauber next season as he is friendly with Toto Wolff (Mercedes are providing engines to Sauber next year). Like Paul he could use a marquee performance in the run in to Brazil. Currently he’s 10 points adrift of Pauls total in the standings but much of that relates to mechanical issues early in the season.