Formula 1 in numbers - a season of margins

Formula 1 in numbers

Formula 1 is a sport of margins. Teams spend millions of dollars to make cars capable of winning races by mere seconds and fighting for championships that are often decided at the very last race.

In 2012, Sebastian Vettel captured his third world title for Red Bull by just three points as a thrilling season went down to the wire.

But as a new season dawns, BBC F1 commentator Ben Edwards and BBC technical analyst Gary Anderson both predict the margins in 2013 will be squeezed even tighter.

"The competition will be closer than it was last year through pure racing," promises Anderson.

The potency of the driver rivalries and their abilities has certainly not lessened over the winter.

Even with the exit of seven-time champion Michael Schumacher there are still five world champions on the grid - Sebastian Vettel, Fernando Alonso, Jenson Button, Lewis Hamilton and Kimi Raikkonen - all of them in cars that should fight for victories.

"Vettel must be feeling impregnable," says Edwards. "Coming back from a poor start to 2012 to win the championship will have given him awesome confidence.

"Ferrari look strong which means Alonso will be a campaigner all year long. Button is another potential world champion if McLaren give him the car he needs.

"Mercedes and Lewis Hamilton seemed to have gone on full attack, the team have made a lot of progress and they could be a threat to everyone out there."

Lower down the grid there is also an intriguing battle of the rookies as five young guns make their F1 bow.

Williams and Sauber promoted reserves Valtteri Bottas and Esteban Gutierrez to race seats while Force India tester Jules Bianchi has made a late switch to Marussia.

Britain's Max Chilton is Bianchi's team-mate while the experienced Giedo van der Garde finally makes his debut with Caterham.

"It's nice having five rookies and there are two really interesting ones to watch," Edwards explains. "Bottas has had an enmeshed relationship with Williams for several years.

"He is totally in the zone and the team respect him very highly. He's going to be able to hit the ground running and I really think he will be scoring points early on in his career.

"Bianchi is also potentially a bit of a star because of the backing he's had from Ferrari and the amount of testing he's done for Force India."

The drivers may get the chance to flex their racing muscles even more in 2013 as apart from minor tweaks - to front wings and a new limit on the use of the moveable rear wings (DRS), for example - there are no major technical rule changes to shake up the grid.

When the rules are stable it is, in theory, easier for teams to close the gap as they fine-tune their cars, although it also means those at the top of the tree tend to stay there.

Edwards explains: "Red Bull are favourites - even though winning four championships on the trot is incredibly difficult - because they know what works with these current regulations."

The new Pirelli tyres will once again be the biggest unknown - although the teams had a chance to get to grips with them, albeit in lower temperatures, during pre-season testing.

The tyre supplier is expecting lower lap times and more pit stops in 2013.

"The cars this year were 1.9 seconds quicker than they were in testing this time last year," says Anderson. "And they were even faster than pole position for the 2012 Spanish Grand Prix.

"Some of that has come from the car and some from the tyres. This year's tyres appear to be easier to get working on the first lap.

"It does look like the tyres are more consistently deteriorating and it looks like there will be more pit stops, or as many, as last year."

As pit-stops and points tot up, times and statistics are squeezed, there is just one figure that really counts in F1's numbers game - being number one.

The 22 drivers and 11 teams now have 19 races ahead to vie for that top spot in 2013.

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