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A Driver Knows

FEATURE BY CHRISTIAN KLIEN
28/02/2013

The 2013 season has begun! The cars have been launched and we've all had our first glimpse, now teams are getting to the business of testing. It's an exciting time of the year for the crews, and after the first test will already know what sort of year they have ahead - they're just not telling us.

A driver knows if a car is good or bad within the first few laps, but it is almost impossible for us to know. The teams will all say their car is strong and they expect a good season because they have to keep their sponsors happy.

That is the difficult part at this time of year; working out who is actually fast and who isn't. All we really know is what lap times they are doing but we don't know if some teams are holding back or if some are putting in fast times to be near the top of the timesheet.

This season is one of evolution, and that's something we can see in most of the new cars. There isn't much revolution from the teams who have one eye to the big rule changes coming for 2014. To me it means we're less likely to see any real surprises this year, so the leading teams from last year will be the leading teams again this season.

That seems to show in the testing times so far because the order doesn't look to have changed too much. Maybe Ferrari looks a little closer than it was this time last year but I think Red Bull is holding something in reserve. They seem to be focussing on long runs, which will hide their true speed a little bit. McLaren is also looking strong, so there's no real change at the top.

I think Mercedes has taken a step forward. It showed well in testing last year and faded as the year went on, so staying towards the front will be the challenge this year. At the moment the signs for them are good.

But we can't really know that for certain because we don't know what the teams are doing, and of course they're still developing their cars. Most won't yet be running everything they will take to Melbourne; the bigger teams like McLaren, Ferrari and Red Bull will bring little bits and pieces for this test, and again for the next test, but will only show their true speed in qualifying in Australia.

Away from testing I thought Jaime Alguersuari made some interesting comments during the week. All though 2012 he was confident that he would be on the grid for 2013, and that suggested he had something in place, or thought he did. It seems that whatever he had has fallen through.

His comments show his frustration, but he is not alone. There are lots of drivers in the same position who can't make it to F1, or can't stay there, for some reason. And that is the problem for Alguersuari because even if you have the talent so do a lot of other guys, and some of them have money too.

By showing his frustration I think he has hurt his chances. Being a racing driver is as much about driving as saying the right things to the press, and I wonder if teams will think twice about him now.

Take Force India as an example. It can choose almost any driver it likes, but will probably be between Adrian Sutil and Jules Bianchi. Nothing has been announced meaning it must be a tough decision. The last thing either Sutil or Bianchi want now is to do something that might hurt the team's opinion of them because it could be the difference between getting a drive or not.

Being a racing driver is not just about driving a car; a driver has responsibilities to their team and sponsors, even if he doesn't drive for them. That's why I don't think Jaime's comments, even if he meant well, will help him in the long run. He is a young guy, just twenty-two, and needs to stay patient. He has a lot of years still ahead of him.

I will be in Melbourne for the race but before then I am racing a Mercedes SLS AMG GT3 for Erebus Motorsport in Adelaide. Watching Formula One cars race around Adelaide is one of the things that inspired me to become a racing driver, so to be able to race there myself is very exciting. Last year I saw the race first hand and thought it was one of the best events in the world so to get an opportunity to race this year, especially with such an amazing group of people, is something I'm really looking forward to. I'll let you know how it goes.

Christian Klien

To check out previous features from Chrisitan, click here

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