Red Bull usually is quick, but we’ve also seen they can be fragile at the start of the season. I know there were little rule changes, but with some details changing and being banned, we might see them having some trouble getting the most out of the car in the beginning.
McLaren usually does well at the start of the season in recent years, so I’ll be on the lookout for Button, regardless of him not being a great qualifier and we know Perez can make his way through a field.
Ferrari will have learned from last year and their car won’t be as radically different from their 2012 challenger, as opposed to the difference between 2011-2012. They do have a small risk due to using Toyota’s windtunnel and Ferrari hasn’t been a team who directly understands a car when there’s something wrong, especially with limited testing. I think the rewards of improving the simulator and having de la Rosa will not show early in the season, so I’d say they’re behind McLaren and Red Bull speedwise, but we know their cars last and Alonso doesn’t often put a foot wrong.
Lotus is harder to predict, they had a very good year last year and a decent season in 2010, but seasons like 2009 and 2011, they never really seemed to take off. They do have some good staff and with new sponsors and the fact they were able to keep up nicely with the 3 top teams development wise, I think they’ll be there. As for Mercedes, I don’t dare predict. I was sure they would be winning races early last year, but they somehow managed to mess up a lot and I don’t think Niki Lauda or hiring more star names will change that early in the season.
I’m also pretty curious what midfield team will surprise. If Lotus or Mercedes (or Ferrari for that matter) do manage to start off behind the top teams, we might have Sauber or another team being able to jump in. With Force India catching up with both Mercedes and Sauber late last year, Williams having a good car but not fulfilling its potential, I think we’re in for another good battle in the midfield as well, provided that guys like Maldonado, Bottas, Gutiérrez and whoever ends up driving for Force India can keep their cars on the track.