MELBOURNE // "The devil is in the detail," Adrian Newey said earlier this year. He was discussing his latest creation, the new Red Bull Racing RB9 car, yet he could just as easily have been analysing Formula One's new rules for the 2013 season, which gets under way with the Australian Grand Prix on Sunday.
With radical changes set to be implemented from next year, the sport's rule book for the season ahead features only a few, seemingly minor, tweaks, the most notable of which sees tighter controls on the use of the adjustable rear wings, known as drag-reduction systems (DRS).
Previously, during practice and qualifying, the speed-enhancing wings could be utilised throughout the session, but now, as in the race, they will be limited to specific on-track DRS zones.
Another change sees teams allowed to include a vanity panel to disguise the car's stepped nose, which was a necessary but unsightly addition last year.
The minimum weight of the car has also been increased.
The other noteworthy rule change sees the nightly paddock curfew that prohibits team members from being in the vicinity at certain times extended from six to eight hours.
The number of exceptions each team is allowed per season has also been reduced, from four to two.
With such minor changes, the past three months have been viewed by most teams as a chance to consolidate and optimise what they already have; an opportunity to correct their car's faults and replicate their rivals' assets.
As a result, the majority of the 22 cars that will dance on the asphalt at Albert Park this weekend are subtle evolutions of their 2012 models.
Much like last year, the biggest challenge for each team will be reading the rubber.
Pirelli have once again tinkered with their tyre compounds, creating a new range they hope will degrade at such a rate to ensure a minimum of two pit-stops per race.
Understand the rubber early and you will be well positioned to prosper. Struggle and you will suffer.
Sebastian Vettel, the reigning world champion and driver tasked with maximising the potential of Newey's RB9, complained during testing that it was nearly impossible to assimilate car set-up changes because "the tyres were simply not good enough".
Pirelli, the Italian manufacturers, must be thinking "mission accomplished".
This year's key theme will, ironically, be next year.
Without a pressing need for teams to reinvent the wheel in 2013, they have been able to focus the majority of their research and development resources on 2014, which will see F1 undergo the most revolutionary regulatory overhaul in the sport's six-decade history.
New technical rules and the introduction of controversial new V6 engines will return turbo power to F1 for the first time in 26 years.
Wholesale changes will be required throughout the field. How each team manages to balance an ongoing championship with the crucial development work required for next season will prove vital in deciding the ultimate destination of the 2013 title.
- GARY MEENAGHAN (firstname.lastname@example.org)
ABU DHABI MEDIA SECURE MENA BROADCAST RIGHTS FOR F1
Abu Dhabi Media revealed it has secured the exclusive Mena regional broadcasting rights in for the 2013 F1 World Championship for the fourth consecutive year.
Abu Dhabi Sports will broadcast all 19 races, starting with this weekend’s opener in Melbourne, Australia.
Races will be broadcast live on free-to-air Abu Dhabi Al Riyadiya +2.
Abu Dhabi Sports subscribers can follow events in HD on Abu Dhabi Al Riyadiya +6.
There will also be a choice between Arabic and English commentary.
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