Over the past three years, Formula One racing has been dominated by a certain driver. In 2010, he only narrowly took the crown of world champion after winning the final race of the season in Abu Dhabi. He won 5 out of 19 races and finished 4 points ahead of his closest rival Fernando Alonso whom he needed to beat going into the final race of the season. At the time, Sebastian Vettel became the youngest driver to ever win a Formula One world championship. Not only did Red Bull celebrate a driver's win but they also celebrated their maiden Constructor's Championship win after a one-two finish in Brazil.
2011 was when the German domination of Vettel began as he won 11 out of 19 races and won his second world championship in a row at the Japanese Grand Prix (still with four races to go). This was a season where Vettel was untouchable and he finished on a staggering 392 points, as opposed to his closest rival Jenson Button on 290. In 2012 it was a different season where the world champion struggled to win races at first and Fernando Alonso, followed by Mark Webber and Lewis Hamilton, was streaking away. The season had gotten off to a flying start when 7 different drivers won the first 7 races before Fernando Alonso won his second in the European grand prix. Sebastian Vettel didn’t win his second race until Singapore in race 14 out of 20. This win then lead to three consecutive wins where he moved steadily up the table. However Alonso was hanging on so it wasn’t until the final race of the season that he won his title finishing ahead of Alonso.
For 2013, the Formula One world championship moves back to 19 races and introduces the American Grand Prix in Austin. Last season was a special one in which no driver appeared to dominate and it went right down to the wire. Red Bull's Adrian Newey almost certainly helped Red Bull to win the Constructor's Championship and Vettel to claim another title with his engineering work with the car making it at one point the fastest vehicle on the track. However, Vettel was almost beaten this year round and the car saved him at points; for example Fernando Alonso, Mark Webber and Lewis Hamilton all could have won the title and, if it hadn't been for reliability issues, I believe Hamilton would have won his second world championship.
Lewis Hamilton was surely going to seriously challenge Vettel if it han't been due to reliability issues in the Singapore Grand Prix and Abu Dhabi. For 2013, Hamilton has made a controversial move to Mercedes for undoubtedly a large fee. However, Mercedes had a poor season in 2012, with only one race win and Nico Rosberg finishing 9 and Michael Schumacher finishing 13. For 2012, Schumacher has vacated his position in the team and retired again leaving a space available for Hamilton, who will surely become the number one driver. Mercedes, who don’t really have problem with financial funding as does Hamilton who is very marketable, should be able to build a very fast car. Mixed with Hamilton who along with Alonso are both two of the most skilled drivers in the Formula One, they should be able to mount a challenge for the title.
Fernando Alonso made a very average car great last season and that must have angered him as he was forced to put in twice as much effort as other drivers with the fastest cars. In fact, it was his pure skill as a driver that enabled him to challenge for the title as much as he did. If Ferrari are able to build a car that is just as fast as the likes of McLaren and Red Bull, then Alonso, like Hamilton, will surely be able to harness it into a car that can finish the job this season and win the world championship. Overall, I believe the world championship will be between Lewis Hamilton, Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso, but may only be between two, Alonso and Hamilton, if both constructors can build a fast car. However it must be faster than Sebastian Vettel’s car, otherwise we're looking at another win for the young driver.
See, also, Tim Bustin on Why Lewis Hamilton should have won Formula One 2012