Ferrari's rapid improvement makes Alonso the Drivers Championship bet

21May 2013

F1

 

With a quarter of the 2013 Formula One season completed, James Frankland looks back on the last 12 months to see who has improved and who still has work to do...

 

With five races in the books, including the first on European soil where big update packages are bolted on to address problems found in the flyaway events, it's a good  time to look back 12 months and see what we can glean from the progress - or in some cases, lack of it - that has been made on track in 2013 to date.

 

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Ferrari and Force India are the two teams showing the most progress when compared with the same stage of last season. With 117 points the Scuderia have 86% more points  than at the same time last year, much of which is attributed to Felipe Massa's return to form. The Brazilian has 45 points to his name after five races, an increase of  2250% on his solitary points finish at the same time in 2012, a distant ninth in Bahrain. Fernando Alonso has scored 18% more points than the same stage last year, and  with two wins is firmly in the hunt for this third championship.

 

Force India currently sit fifth in the Constructor's Championship, three places and 14 points better off than in 2012. Barring the first race, when Adrian Sutil led on  a contrary strategy before dropping to seventh, it's been Paul di Resta who has led the charge with four points finishes from five races, capped by a career-best  fourth place in Bahrain. The Scot is 73% up on his points tally from previous years and tends to go forward in races, making up an average of 3.3 places per  race from a grid spot averaging 10th.

 

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Back Fernando Alonso to win the Driver's Championship at 2.54

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Over-achievers

It might seem odd to classify Kimi Raikkonen as an over-achiever, but it is based on his ability to keep himself in the title hunt with a Lotus team who are also  over-achieving on the resources at their disposal compared to Ferrari, Red Bull, and Mercedes. The Iceman's perfectly-judged victory in the Melbourne season-opener set  the platform for a strong season, and Kimi has finished on the podium in three of the other four races to sit second in the Driver's Championship, just four points  behind Sebastian Vettel. In doing so he's increased his scoring return by 73% over 2012, while Lotus as a team are 86% up on last year. Kimi's consistency ought to see  him figure in the Top Three come season's end, though you can also back him at 7.8 to win the 2013 Driver's Championship.

 

Daniel Ricciardo is quietly putting together a solid campaign, with the carrot of a Red Bull drive seemingly dangling closer than ever in front of the young Aussie's  nose. With seven points he is 350% up on the two he'd registered after five races in 2012, that coming at his home race. Riccardo's trend so far is to go forward  marginally, making up an average of 0.6 places per race, and within that was his excellent drive in China where he both started and finished seventh. One to keep an  eye on in future races for the Points Finish market.

 

Leaders of the pack

As in 2012, Sebastian Vettel is leading the Driver's Championship and his lead this year has been formed from both better consistency and stronger results, with points  in every 2013 race so far and two wins under his belt in Malaysia and Bahrain. Vettel's points tally is 46% up on last year, putting into context the sharp improvement  made by Lotus/Raikkonen and Ferrari/Alonso to stay in touch at this stage. Nonetheless it is worth highlighting that, but for operational errors by Ferrari in Malaysia  and Bahrain, where Alonso lost at a conservative estimate between 15-20 points, the picture would look very different. As things stand Vettel holds a four-point gap  over Raikkonen with Alonso a further 13 down.

 

Struggling to match expectations

McLaren have suffered a nightmare start to the season and at this rate look unlikely to win a race in 2013, the first time that will have happened since 2006. Jenson  Button has, with 17, scored just 38% of the points he held after five races last year, while Sergio Perez has 45% but would have expected much better after  joining McLaren. Last year Perez was turning heads by hunting down Alonso for a potential victory in Malaysia, while this year his highlight has been a serious wheel- banging session with Button on his way to sixth in the Bahrain Grand Prix. McLaren have plummeted to sixth in the Constructor's Championship, 104 points behind Red  Bull and with just 30% of the points scored by the same stage last year.

 

Mercedes are also having a tough time turning their qualifying pace into solid results. The team have held pole for the last three races but only returned a best  finish of third. Both Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton have tended to go backwards this year, starting from an average of 3.6 and 3.8 respectively and  ending up 2.7 and 1.8 places further back. The forthcoming tweaks to Pirelli's tyres from Canada onwards should help Mercedes as well as Red Bull,  both of whom have had problems, Mercedes more so, of keeping tyre temperatures under control in the race. More durable rubber ought to allow the Brackley team to  convert their qualifying speed into solid results and arrest the backwards slide come race day. Conversely Ferrari, Lotus and Force India may find themselves  inconvenienced as all three appear to have mastered the current-spec Pirellis.

 

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Keywords: Ferrari, Alonso, Drivers Championship, bet

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