The 2011 F1 season hit the halfway mark at the German GP. As factories and teams shut down for a compulsory two-week vacation it seems as good a time as any to evaluate the season thus far.
RED BULL – 9/10
The championship leaders have picked where they left off in 2010. Complete domination of the first half of the season has left them with a substantial lead in both title races. Six victories for Vettel seems to have all but assured him of a second driver’s crown. McLaren and Ferrari have undoubtedly eaten into their pace advantage to the point where RBR is the team with the most work to do over the summer break.
MCLAREN – 8/10
The team from Woking is more than worthy of the ‘most improved’ outfit. The pre-season testing revealed a car severely off the pace; through hard work they clawed back into contention and made the most of their opportunities; making them worthy recipients of the most opportunistic tag. In both China and Canada Hamilton and Button scored victories against the run of form. Brilliant victories in Germany and Hungary showed a good raw pace in the McLaren – the perfect platform for a serious run at the title.
FERRARI – 8/10
The Scuderia’s season didn’t start with a bang. It has been a steady and patient process to get them back into contention and competing at the sharp end. A deficit in their wind tunnel threatened to derail their entire season; somehow they found a way to correct the error. Felipe Massa has struggled to match his Spanish teammate prompting speculation as to his future at the team Conversely, Fernando Alonso’s brilliant win at Silverstone has afforded him the kind of momentum that he believes will carry him into contention for the title. It seems a long shot. However, the F150 is a genuinely fast car that has shown a staggering amount of improvement. With Alonso behind the wheel it’s not as far-fetched as it may seem.
They started 2011 as a team with a lot of promise but unfortunately they don’t have much to show for it. Bar China, Rosberg hasn’t been able to consistently deliver up to the standard he is capable of. Some suggest that Michael Schumacher has again failed to deliver. However, his tremendous performance in Canada was enough to evoke memories of the old Schumi. Which begs the question – has he failed to deliver because he has lost his ability or is his lack of performance as a result of the Mercedes?
LOTUS RENAULT – 5/10
The loss of Robert Kubica before the start of the season placed the team on the back foot from the outset. However, Vitaly Petrov soon stepped up to take the role of team leader. The team had a more than solid start to the year with stand-in Nick Heidfeld finishing third in Malaysia. The last few months have been drastically different however. An inability to get into the final part of qualifying has been coupled with a decidedly underperforming car. Rumours that a less-than-impressive Heidfeld may be replaced by Brunno Senna are a clear indication that the team have taken a step backwards in terms of overall performance.
WILLIAMS – 3/10
Most likely the saddest sight of all has been the decline of the once invincible Williams mark. Several drivers and constructors’ titles have proven little help to this flailing team. A complete management re-shuffle sees Sam Michael step down as team boss at the end of the year. Venezuelan rookie Maldonado has failed to score in any of the races while Barrichello has managed only four points from eleven races. The team have pledged to keep pushing development for 2011. It seems rather pointless. Perhaps those resources would be better spent focusing on 2012.
SAUBER – 4/10
This team started the season with little to no sponsorship on either of their cars. Rookie Sergio Perez though offered some relief by offering a substantial amount of revenue in the form of the TELMEX sponsor. Despite starting the season with an impressive drive in Australia Perez has done little else to set the F1 world alight. Kamui Kobayashi is a completely different story! The Japanese driver is without doubt one of the most exciting racers on the track, in addition to which he has scored 27 to his teammate’s 8 points so far in 2011.
TORO ROSSO – 4/10
The so-called Red Bull ‘junior’ team are more than likely the most stable of the mid-field runners. At different times throughout this year both drivers, Buemi and Alguersuari, have been under pressure to perform. Both drivers have been able to lift their game when it was most required with consistent finishes in points paying positions. It seems the real lack of pace stems from the car rather than its drivers.
FORCE INDIA – 3.5/10
The Indian based team started 2011 by partnering the established Adrian Sutil with rookie Paul di Resta, easily the most impressive rookie of the season. Di Resta has impressed with a race craft that has led him to out-perform his much more experienced teammate. The team though have failed to capitalise on the solid platform created in previous years.
LOTUS – 4/10
Four may seem high considering the other, more established team’s ratings. However, its impressive progress means it is well deserved. After a year in F1 the Lotus team had clear objectives for the 2011. The first objective, regular race finishes, was easily achieved during the first few rounds of the season. Their steady improvement has also seen them easily out-class and out perform their nearest competitors, Virgin and HRT. More impressively Heikki Kovalainen, by far the most impressive of the Lotus line-up, has been able to keep his nose ahead of the odd Toro Rosso or Williams car – no mean feat considering the team is less than two years in existence.
MARUSSIA VIRGIN – 2/10
The most innovative aspect of the Virgin team, upon entering Formula 1, was the fact that its car was completely designed using a computer, more specifically CFD (computational fluid dynamics). It may not have been the best idea. The innovation was initially frowned upon and as the Virgin remained off the pace the running joke in the paddock came to be that CFD stands for ‘Can’t Find Downforce.’ There hasn’t been much more innovation either…good or bad. As the second of the three ‘new’ teams Virgin started the 2011 season with an unchanged driver line-up. Something else remained unchanged though – their progress. While Lotus made a determined step forward Virgin was found to have remained pretty much static. In truth, it has shown little improvement from 2010.
HRT – 1/10
Hispania Racing seemed to be the team that is most under threat… under threat of folding that is. Woefully off the pace they found themselves excluded from competing in the Australian Gp. Driver changes saw Narain Karthikeyan making way for Red Bull test driver Daniel Ricciardo (pron. Riccardo). Together with its new owners the team and drivers will be looking for an improvement. If not, HRT’s days in F1 may be few.
Whether it’s fighting for supremacy in the mid-field or being the quickest among the ‘new’ teams or fighting for a world title – every Formula 1 team has something to fight for.