Driver-by-driver 2013 season review
From Sebastian Vettel to Max Chilton, we dissect and rate how the 22-man class of 2013 fared during the season just gone
By Pete Gill, James Galloway and William Esler
Last Updated: 28/11/13 10:58am
Championship position - 1st; Points - 397; Best result - 1st (x13)
Vettel won everything in 2013 - or at least it felt that way. When the 2014 season commences in March, eight months will have passed since anyone other than Sebastian prevailed in a F1 race. A four-times World Champion who rounded off a near-faultless year with nine consecutive victories and a host of new records, Vettel has achieved a fearsome level of domination over a field oft-regarded as one of the best in the sport's history. The car matters, but so, unquestionably, has Vettel's talent, intelligence and ability to instantly adapt to the fickle but all-important Pirellis. If he's very much a PlayStation driver of his age, it's also true that he's become very much the driver of his age.
Even Mark Webber thinks so, describing Vettel and Alonso as the "two best guys of our generation" as he made his farewell from the sport. Given, on the one hand, Alonso's reputation and close affinity with Webber, and, on the other, 'Multi-21' and Vettel's infamous non-relationship with his team-mate, it was quite the stop-in-your-tracks accolade. If during the course of his record-breaking season Vettel finally won the admiration of Webber, perhaps it really is the case that he won everything in 2013. PG
2013 rating: 10/10
Championship position - 3rd; Points - 199; Best result - 2nd (x5)
It's hard to know how to assess Mark Webber's valedictory F1 campaign. On the one hand the Australian was nearly whitewashed by his team-mate in qualifying and collected just 50 per cent of the sister car's points - the fourth-worst record on the grid. For the first time since 2008 he also didn't win a race, while his stable-mate cantered to 13. But when you consider that the driver on the other side of the garage is Sebastian Vettel who, at 11 years the Aussie's junior is operating at a level of relentless supremacy rarely seen in F1 before, Webber was up against an extraordinary benchmark.
Having turned 37 in the summer Webber, not one to cheat himself or the fans, made no secret of the fact in his closing weeks as an F1 driver that his motivation and form of his peak years were no longer there. Given he announced his intention to head for a new life in sportscars with 12 races still to go, it would have been easy to mentally check out of F1 altogether too - particularly with wounds still fresh from 'Multi-21' in Malaysia. Webber's finish of three seconds, one third and two Vettel-beating poles in his final five GPs were thus both an impressive testament to his talent and professionalism. Sporting, let alone F1, history is littered with people who just go on that little bit too long but Webber, from the second step of the podium at Interlagos, could count his F1 retirement call as a fitting 2013 victory. JG
2013 rating: 6/10
Championship position - 2nd; Points - 242; Best result - 1st (x2)
It was another impressive season for Alonso, even though Ferrari once again failed to deliver the car the Spaniard needed to challenge Sebastian Vettel for the title - his comment of wanting "someone else's car" for his birthday sums up the Scuderia's recent offerings. He dominated the intra-team battle, finishing with over twice as many points as Felipe Massa, proving how much more he was extracting from the F138.
Moves such as the overtakes on Kimi Raikkonen and Lewis Hamilton on the opening lap in Barcelona on his way to victory also underlined that Alonso had lost none of his natural racing ability. An area where the 32-year-old needs to improve, however, is qualifying having been beaten eight times by Massa this season and failing to make it onto the front two rows of the grid between Bahrain and Brazil. WE
2013 rating: 8/10
Championship position - 8th; Points - 112; Best result - 3rd
Two highlights of Massa's season instantly stand out: third place in Spain, accounting for his only visit to the podium, and the news that he will still be on the grid in 2014 with Williams. Ultimately, it's the lowlight - confirmation that he would be departing Ferrari - that offered the most succinct assessment of a year in which Massa didn't do nearly enough to retain his seat or make a conspicuous impact.
It began brightly enough, with the Brazilian ahead of Alonso on the grid in Australia and Malaysia, but thereafter it fizzled out in downbeat fashion. Tellingly, there were few complaints at Ferrari's decision to jettison their popular stalwart in September. Yet there's still life in the old dog: the threat of F1 redundancy appeared to galvanize Massa and, even if the results didn't follow on race day, the Brazilian did enough as he regularly out-qualified Alonso in the final throes of the campaign to indicate Williams were right to offer the veteran a 2014 lifeline. A new year, a new challenge and a new team may be just what Felipe requires. We'll soon see. PG
Championship position - 9th; Points - 73; Best result - 4th
Having outlasted Lewis Hamilton at McLaren, this was supposed to be the year when Jenson Button had his best chance of challenging for a second title. In the end a fourth-place finish at Interlagos was cause for celebration and said all you needed to know about McLaren's fall from grace in 2013. There was little more Jenson himself could have done in a car which was one of the worst in the team's history.
Inevitably, given the nature of the underperforming, initially very inconsistent, MP4-28, there were some low-key weekends through the year but still a decent number when Button, usually on a different tyre strategy to try and compensate for his car's outright lack of pace, produced some very impressive drives - his run to fifth in China, sixth in Germany and that surge from 14th to fourth in Brazil last weekend chief among them. Although not his specialty, one uncomfortable statistic from the year that may linger is the fact that the Briton lost what will prove his one qualifying head-to-head with Sergio Perez, whose general level of performance was deemed insufficient for a contract renewal. McLaren's bold decision to promote the untried Kevin Magnussen means Button, who turns 34 in January, takes on even greater responsibility next year and will have to be right at the top of his game if the MP4-29 facilitates a return to the winner's circle. JG
2013 rating: 7/10
Championship position - 11th; Points - 49; Best result - 5th
Following stunning drives to the podium for Sauber in 2012, and as the man chosen to replace Lewis Hamilton at McLaren in 2013, it seemed everything was looking up for Sergio Perez going into this season. However, things quickly turned sour when it became clear his performances were not up to the standard McLaren expected straight out of the box - think back to Martin Whitmarsh's "get your elbow out" comments ahead of the Bahrain GP.
However, having failed to take points from five of the seven races between Monaco and Italy whilst Jenson Button continued to harvest up the top tens in a difficult car, the writing was on the wall for the Mexican. Alongside the most experienced driver currently in F1, it also appears McLaren were concerned about Perez's lack of technical feedback and ability to learn as the season progressed and this is an area he will need to work on if he finds himself on the 2014 grid. WE
2013 rating: 5/10
Championship position - 5th; Points - 183; Best result - 1st
2013 was a season of sharp contrasts for Kimi. The first four races accounted for almost 40% of his overall tally, the middle period proved to be a damp squib as the Finn failed to extract any competitive qualifying pace from his Lotus, and the end of the campaign witnessed a swift and rather unseemly divorce from the team which had reignited his love affair with F1.
Ultimately, both parties were made to pay for a lack of funds - or, in the case of Kimi, not paid - and that harsh financial reality was the driving force in his decision to depart for Ferrari and surely played a pivotal role in the acrimonious nature of his exit. The story of Raikkonen's 2013 is thus one of what might have been. The feeling persisted from early summer onwards that Raikkonen, for understandable reasons, was a driver marking time after losing patience with Lotus and realising he was fighting a losing battle with Sebastian Vettel. A battle with Alonso in 2014 should be just the tonic. PG
2013 rating: 8/10
Championship position - 7th; Points - 132; Best result - 2nd
As transformations go, Romain Grosjean's was both 2013's most dramatic, and to his Lotus bosses and those who have rated him highly since starring in the junior formula, overdue. F1's marked man of 2012 - the "first-lap nutcase" as memorably and, given the crime sheet, reasonably labelled by Mark Webber - flourish into one of 2013's fastest and most composed front-running stars, particularly from mid-season onwards when the changes to the tyres helped swing the intra-Lotus pendulum back the Frenchman's way. While Vettel stole the show from the summer break, Grosjean was the grid's fourth-highest points scorer and only finished off the podium once in the five flyaways between Korea and the USA.
It should still be noted, that for all Grosjean's immeasurable improvement, he was still outqualified (11-6) and outscored (183 v 132) by Kimi Raikkonen over the season - the Finn missing the final two rounds to boot. It therefore means 2014, when the 27-year-old as the man in situ is likely to at least start the year as effective team leader at Enstone following the Finn's departure, will be the first acid test for his candidature as a serial race winner, and perhaps even a future World Champion. JG
2013 rating: 9/10
Championship position - 6th; Points - 171; Best result - 1st (x2)
On the face of it, sixth in the Drivers' Championship and two places behind his newly arrived team-mate looks like a bad season, but that would be far too simplistic a view. Instead, this was an impressive year for Rosberg - two wins make him the joint second most successful driver in terms of race victories behind Sebastian Vettel and those came at the blue-riband Monaco and British Grands Prix no less.
His points deficit to Hamilton can also be partly explained by having triple the number of retirements the Briton had, however, unlike the 2008 World Champion, none of these were down to driver error. Given the limited input Hamilton would have had in the W04, Mercedes' progress this year is also testament to Rosberg's development skills, whilst he also showed mental strength following the Malaysian GP by not letting his head drop, despite being ordered to not overtake Mercedes' high-profile new recruit. This really was a breakthrough year for Rosberg, who finally announced himself as a top F1 driver - just.WE
2013 rating: 8/10
Championship position - 4th; Points - 189; Best result - 1st
Contrary to popular myth, 2013 was a positive year for Lewis Hamilton as both he and Mercedes - winners, lest we forget, of just a single race in the previous three years - comprehensively exceeded expectations. Although Nico Rosberg achieved the greater number of victories, the salient fact of the matter is that Hamilton out-qualified, out-pointed and thus out-performed an established and fully-acclimatised team-mate in his first season outside the comfortable confines of McLaren. And all this while struggling to master the W04's braking system in a car built for Rosberg and previous incumbent Michael Schumacher.
Don't be fooled by Hamilton's status as the most divisive figure in F1 or even his own downbeat post-mortem, the 2008 World Champion ended the year with his reputation enhanced. The peaks - victory at Hungary, pole at Spa and Silverstone - far outweighed the blips. It could have been better, but in what was first and foremost a bedding-in season, that inevitable conclusion is already 12 months old. In the final reckoning, Hamilton's 2013 can only be properly assessed at the conclusion of 2014. PG
2013 rating: 8/10
Championship position - 10th; Points - 51; Best result - 4th
What looks likely to prove Nico Hulkenberg's sole year at Sauber must have, for the most part, proved massively disappointing as the Swiss team failed to build on the promise of the previous year that convinced the German to take the sideways step from Force India. Yet, amid the evident frustration as Hinwil became gripped by a serious financial squeeze, Hulkenberg's always high stock rose even higher, even if that still hasn't been enough for one of the sport's luminaries to sign him up.
Certainly there is little fault to find in the German's year: when the C32 was off the pace early in the campaign, Hulkenberg was a permanent feature around the fringes of the top ten, and then took full advantage of the car's Hungarian GP upgrade with 43 points over the second half of the year. Those highlights? Third on the grid at Monza followed by a fifth-place race finish is certainly up there but it was in Korea where he shone brightest thanks to a superb rear-guard action to beat Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso to fourth place. Having dominated Esteban Gutierrez, there is surely little more the 26-year-old can do to try and vault himself towards the upper echelons of the grid. JG
2013 rating: 9/10
Championship position - 16th; Points - 6; Best result - 7th
The most improved driver during 2013? There is a very good case to argue that the Mexican deserves that award. Given how far out of his depth he looked when plucked from GP2 and offered a first practice outing in the C31 during Practice One at last year's Indian GP compared to his accomplished drive to seventh in Japan, you wouldn't recognise that it was the same driver.
There were still too many peaks and troughs, though, and that is why his place on the 2014 grid is not certain. The Mexican certainly has pace, albeit only outqualifying Nico Hulkenberg once all season was not the best way to show it, and perhaps that is a good demonstration of why junior drivers need more testing away from race weekends before making their debuts.WE
2013 rating: 5/10
Paul Di Resta
Championship position - 12th; Points - 48; Best result - 4th
Where did it go wrong for Paul di Resta - ousted from the grid at the end of the season - in 2013? Answer: it didn't - or at least it didn't on the track where the Scot delivered arguably his most accomplished season in the sport, beating team-mate Adrian Sutil according to all available barometers and delivering in qualifying at Spa one of the laps of the season (until, that is, the track suddenly dried, plunging the Scot down the grid).
The problem for Di Resta - and indeed for anyone given the task of dissecting his season - is that it didn't really matter what he did on the track. Bereft of lucrative sponsorship deals, the bottom line of Di Resta's 2013 was that he didn't have one. End of - in more ways than one. PG
2013 rating: 7/10
Championship position - 13th; Points - 29; Best result - 5th
Given the way Force India started the season, a relatively meagre return of 29 points reflected a rather underwhelming return to F1 and Force India for Adrian Sutil. It certainly hadn't started that way: the 30-year-old, after an enforced year on the sidelines in which he admitted he learned there was more to life than F1, briefly led a GP for the first time on his comeback in Australia before eventually slipping to a still solid seventh. From there, things at times got rather messy. Three race-ending collisions, two of which - with Mark Webber in Korea and Pastor Maldonado in Austin - were widely judged to be clearly his fault, and three other car-related DNFs meant potential points finishes were squandered.
The performance that certainly stood out amid all that was Monaco, where Sutil, in inspired Sunday form, passed two past World Champions, Jenson Button and Fernando Alonso, at the chicane en-route to fifth. Nonetheless, having got the better of then-rookie Paul Di Resta at the team in 2011, it was the Scot who won out in the head-to-heads that mattered on this occasion. While both men look likely to depart Force India, Di Resta may feel aggrieved that it's Sutil, via a probable lifeline at Sauber, rather than he who looks set to continue on into 2014. JG
2013 rating: 5/10
Championship position - 18th; Points - 1; Best result - 10th
What a difference a year makes. In 2012 Maldonado was stood atop the podium ending Williams' run of seven barren seasons; this year he was outperformed by rookie Valtteri Bottas, managed to publicly fall out with the team and his departure was announced before the season had even reached its climax.
A solitary point was lucked into in Hungary when Nico Rosberg's engine failed and even that perhaps flattered the Venezuelan's season. He was comprehensively beaten by Bottas 12-7 in qualifying, demonstrating how his single-lap pace deserted him in 2013 and his apparent accusation that the team sabotaged his car in the USA was a low point for everyone concerned. His millions of oil dollars will most likely secure him a seat at Lotus or Sauber next year, but it's certainly debatable whether the former GP2 Champion would still be on the grid without it. WE
2013 rating: 2/10
Championship positions - 17th; Points - 4; Best result - 8th
The fact he was driving one of the worst Williams cars to ever roll off the illustrious team's production line meant his opportunities to shine were limited, but Valtteri Bottas nonetheless showed exciting glimpses of the form that saw him earmarked as such an exciting talent even before he took to a Grand Prix grid for the first time in Melbourne.
The Finn's brilliant third place on the grid in tricky wet conditions in Montreal and his front-running qualifying performance on a changeable track in Austin, which he then followed up with his first F1 points haul in the race, were the signposts to future stardom that everyone had belatedly been expecting. Not to be underestimated either was the typically composed Finn's qualifying defeat of Pastor Maldonado, a driver who has never been accused of lacking outright single-lap pace and who duly trounced Bruno Senna in the same area last year. The arrival of Felipe Massa should give Bottas the chance to continue his learning curve in 2014, and if Williams can hit it off with Mercedes turbos at the first attempt, Bottas could really have a chance to truly arrive in F1. JG
2013 rating: 5/10
Championship position - 15th; Points - 13; Best result - 6th
Irrespective of how the affable Jean-Eric Vergne's career pans out from here, 2013 is likely to remembered as the year when he lost out to Daniel Ricciardo in the battle for the big Red Bull promotion. In fairness, with marginally less F1 experience and scant headline-grabbing qualifying performances, few, if anyone, thought the Frenchman was a serious contender for the seat. But the fact his name was still publicly put in the frame must make his long-team backers' eventual decision to overlook him a tough one to swallow.
At the time that the decision was announced Vergne had actually outscored his Australian team-mate in their season-and-a-bit together, but by the end of 2013, the man heading up the grid had turned that around in his favour, with Ricciardo claiming 20 points to Vergne's 13. Still, it was the latter who claimed Toro Rosso's best result since the heady days of Sebastian Vettel with sixth in Canada and he starred in three qualy sessions when conditions were changeable. Winning his next duel, with incoming 19-year-old Daniil Kvyat, is imperative if he isn't to follow the likes of Jaime Alguersuari and Sebastien Buemi out of the F1 door. JG
2013 rating: 5/10
Championship position - 14th; Points - 20; Best result - 7th (x2)
2013 was not a headline-grabbing season for either Toro Rosso driver on track with the STR8 proving to be far from competitive, but the Red Bull bosses saw enough in Ricciardo's solid - and sometimes spectacular - performances to promote him to the senior team for 2014. The car was not good enough to be in the top ten on outright pace, yet when there was a chance of points or a Q3 appearance, you could guarantee the Australian would take it.
A dominant 15-4 qualifying scoreline over Jean-Eric Vergne underlines how good Ricciardo is over a single lap - something he will need when he takes on Sebastian Vettel next year - and he showed his mental strength when it became clear in the build-up to the British GP weekend that there was a vacancy at Red Bull. With bosses making no secret that it was a shootout between team-mate Jean-Eric Vergne, Kimi Raikkonen and himself for the drive, Ricciardo kept his head and continued to deliver. Indeed, even an off in the RB9 during the Young Driver test didn't stir the unflappable Australian. Thus, 2013 was a year where Ricciardo really developed as a driver and it's fair to conclude he fully deserves his chance at Red Bull next season. WE
2013 rating: 7/10
Championship position - 20th; Points - 0; Best result - 14th (x2)
Was he even on the grid this year? The Frenchman was Mr Anonymous this season following his switch from Marussia to Caterham. He was expected to lead the team, but it was rookie stable-mate Giedo van der Garde who was the one to steal the headlines with two appearances in Q2. When such opportunities did arise, Pic was often found wanting - most notably at the Belgian GP where he was the only driver from the 'new teams' who failed to make it out of the first part of qualifying.
Yes he took a pair of 14th place finishes, equalling his team-mate's best finish, but that still wasn't enough for the team to retain tenth spot in the Constructors' Championship. With Heikki Kovalainen being lined up for a return, his performances this year have done little to justify a nailed-on retention for 2014. WE
2013 rating: 4/10
Giedo van der Garde
Championship position - 22nd; Points - 0; Best result - 14th
It was a long time coming but at 27 years of age Giedo van der Garde finally made it to F1 this year and, by and large, he can be satisfied with his rookie year. Although five years older than Charles Pic, the diminutive Frenchman had the advantage of a learning year at Marussia behind him on their simultaneous arrival at Caterham and it was little surprise to see him hold the early advantage in this intra-team battle. However, as the season wore on, van der Garde picked up his pace and was only narrowly pipped in their qualifying head-to-head, with the Dutchman also increasingly finishing ahead on Sundays.
As well as brightening the paddock with his humour and affable personality, van der Garde also delivered two standout qualifying performances - with early gambles on tyre changes on a drying track leading to surprise Q2 appearances in Monaco and Belgium. With the machinery at his disposal, that's about as good as it can get. JG
2013 rating: 5/10
Championship position - 19th; Points - 0; Best result - 13th
After the heartbreak of missing out on the second seat at Force India, Bianchi found himself dropped into Marussia at the last minute - even having his seat fitting late in the evening at the final pre-season test! Yet despite the lack of mileage in the MR02 and lack of time to familiarise himself with the team and new surroundings, the Frenchman blew away team-mate Max Chilton and proved himself to be a potential race winner.
Only twice was he beaten by Chilton in qualifying and on both occasions that was down to mechanical issues rather than any fault on his part. A highlight was his run to 13th in Malaysia which secured the team tenth in the Constructors' Championship and valuable prize money, and whilst the wet-dry race may have seen a multitude of retirements, Bianchi still deserves credit for being the man from the 'new' teams to take advantage.WE
2013 rating: 7/10
Championship position - 23rd; Points - 0; Best result - 14th
It may not have been on the scale of a certain Sebastian Vettel's record-busting achievements, but almost inconspicuously Max Chilton clocked up a notable landmark of his own in his rookie season. In finishing all 19 races from Australia to Brazil, the 22-year-old Briton became the first debutant in the sport's 64-season history to record a 100 per cent finishing record.
Of course, while crucial to any potential success - and whatever anyone might say not easy to achieve - simply making it to the chequered flag isn't the be-all-and-end-all and it's certainly fair to say that for the majority of his maiden year at the top level, Chilton was the man bringing up the rear of the field as Jules Bianchi, to no one's real surprise given his pedigree, led Marussia's challenge to Caterham. Chilton only twice qualified ahead of the Frenchman, and even then there were mitigating circumstances, but the Briton's first direct defeat of Bianchi in race conditions in Singapore was certainly eye-catching and is the kind of result he needs to build on, should he be retained, if he is to trouble the sister car more regularly in 2014. JG
2013 rating: 5/10