Formula One

F1 Half term report

Summer break = half term report

 

Formula One is now on its summer break with Sebastian Vettel leading the way in the drivers’ championship.

 

Many drivers can afford to enjoy a well earned rest whilst some clear out their bad language. Teams however will be looking to make improvements in hope of coming back stronger for the second half of this season.

 

Here at Sport Grill, I am going to analyse how each team has fared in the first part of this season and where they can improve.

 

Key: DNS – Did not start, Italics – Pole, WD – Withdrew

 

Mercedes

Race Lewis Hamilton Valtteri Bottas
Australia 2nd 3rd
China 1st 6th
Bahrain 2nd 3rd
Russia 4th 1st
Spain 1st Ret
Monaco 7th  4th
Canada 1st 2nd
Azerbaijan 5th 2nd
Austria 4th 1st
Great Britain 1st 2nd
Hungary 4th 3rd
Points 188 169

 

Mercedes have surprisingly not been as dominant as usual as demonstrated by more varied results than usually expected from the Silver Arrows.

 

Lewis Hamilton was expected to dominate new Mercedes teammate, Valtteri Bottas but has been inconsistent with various problems affecting him. His qualifying record however is much better with five poles to Bottas’ two.

 

Never less, he is still just 14 points away from Sebastian Vettel after swapping places with Bottas in Hungary after failing to get past Kimi Raikkonen. Just how costly could that back pass prove to be come Abu Dhabi?.

 

Bottas was expected to play second fiddle to Hamilton but has definitely been more impressive than expected, having beat the Brit in five of the eleven races so far.

 

More of the same when racing resumes and we might just have a proper three way title showdown at the season finale.

 

All in all, a slightly under par first half of 2017 than their usual A* standards. Upcoming races should suit Mercedes in the title battle more than Ferrari as long as they deliver a fully reliable car and no incorrect set ups.

 

Grade: B

 

Ferrari

Race Sebastian Vettel Kimi Raikkonen
Australia 1st 4th
China 2nd 5th
Bahrain 1st 4th
Russia 2nd 3rd
Spain 2nd Ret
Monaco 1st 2nd
Canada 4th 7th
Azerbaijan 4th 14th
Austria 2nd 5th
Great Britain 7th 3rd
Hungary 1st 2nd
Points 202 116

 

2017 has seen a clear split in terms of who Ferrari favour and it shows in the results.

 

Vettel has had a flawless start with six consecutive trips to the podium standing on either 1st or 2nd steps. June and July proved tough with only two podiums in that period amid plenty of drama.

 

Vettel’s bogey month has always been July so he would probably take a 2nd place in Austria. 7th at Silverstone and a Hungarian GP win. That win could well come back to bite him where it hurts in either short or long term if past omens are anything to go by.

 

The second half of this season will be key in dispelling the recent record of Hungarian winners not winning that season’s championship. Add in to the mix that the last German to win in Hungary for Ferrari was Michael Schumacher in 2004, who went on to become world champion and ultimately was his last title.

 

Could Vettel end up doing the same despite having many more years left at the top?

 

As for Raikkonen, he will feel hard done by despite having a car capable of fighting for the championship. Once back from the summer break, Kimi should focus on getting his head down and demonstrate why he deserves a new contract, even if it means costing Vettel the title.

 

Monaco will definitely be his highlight of 207 with that pole position, despite Ferrari’s underhand strategy to hand Vettel victory at his expense.

 

2017 has so far been a huge improvement for Ferrari but their clear no1 & 2 driver approach from the off kind of sours their achievements. The clear lack of discipline over Vettel’s Baku antics will also be a stain on this season seeing his behaviour surely merited a slam dunk disqualification.

 

Grade: B

 

Red Bull

Race Daniel Ricciardo Max Verstappen
Australia Ret 5th
China 4th 3rd
Bahrain 5th Ret
Russia Ret 5th
Spain 3rd Ret
Monaco 3rd 5th
Canada 3rd Ret
Azerbaijan 1st Ret
Austria 3rd Ret
Great Britain  5th 4th
Hungary Ret 5th
Points 117 67

 

Red Bull are clearly a work in progress looking at those results. The main thing to saviour from a tough first half is the consistency when not retiring for one reason or another.

 

Both Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen are yet to finish outside of the top five in races that they finished. Compare that to Mercedes and Ferrari’s results and both drivers are showing title winning form here.

 

The key will be to get on top of reliability issues and trying to avoid collisions because they clearly have two drivers capable of fighting for the title, if given a car capable of finishing EVERY race.

 

In summary, this is probably a potential title battle already lost but still time to finish the season strongly.

 

I wonder if come Japan, Red Bull will switch focus to 2018 and look to give the drivers some momentum heading into next year.

 

Grade: B

 

Force India

Race Sergio Perez Esteban Ocon
Australia 7th 10th
China 9th 10th
Bahrain 7th 10th
Russia 6th 7th
Spain 4th 5th
Monaco 13th 12th
Canada 5th 6th
Azerbaijan Ret 6th
Austria 7th 8th
Great Britain 9th 8th
Hungary 8th 9th
Points 56 45

 

Force India are without a doubt, my team of 2017 so far and are demonstrating how far they have come since arriving in F1 nearly ten years ago.

 

In Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon, they have two of the most consistent drivers amongst lower budget teams. Their point scoring record from Australia to Spain speaks for itself in the journey that this team has been on. Add in the fact that Ocon hadn’t raced at some of those circuits before, that is some impressive feats for him.

 

Monaco and Baku will be without a doubt the low points, when they could of gained many more points and a possible 1-2 in the latter race.

 

The key improvement needed going forwards is more ruthlessness on the pitwall in letting the faster teammate through to try and get a higher result. This has cost them a bit in recent races when clearly got the speed to be pushing the Red Bulls a bit harder.

 

All in all 2017 has been a breakthrough season for Force India but they can’t afford to get complacent.

 

If anyone at the team is reading this, take my advice regarding extra ruthless on board and there is no reason why Force India can’t be challenging the big guns come 2020, if keep progressing at the rate that you are

 

Grade: B+

 

Williams

Race Felipe Massa Lance Stroll Paul Di Resta*
Australia 6th Ret
China 14th Ret
Bahrain 6th Ret
Russia 9th 11th
Spain 13th 16th
Monaco 9th 15th
Canada Ret 9th
Azerbaijan Ret 3rd
Austria 9th 10th
Great Britain 10th 16th
Hungary WD 14th Ret
Points 23 18 0

 

  • Di Resta is team’s reserve driver, who replaced Massa in Hungary due to illness.

 

Williams definitely are hurting from Valtteri Bottas’ late departure in middle off the off/pre season plans leaving them with no option other than to bring Massa back.

 

Either way, that shouldn’t of had such an impact that it clearly has done. You probably can’t help but feel that the car was designed for Bottas and that they’re trying to get through 2017 with damage limitation to their constructor placing.

 

Massa who would of been expecting to probably be racing elsewhere, definitely will be disappointed with the inconsistent results despite recording a 6th place result in Australia.

 

As for Lance Stroll, the jury will surely be out on him till end of season. His season didn’t really start till June when he got his first F1 points on home soil in Canada before following it up with a shock podium in Baku.

 

Since then, he has clearly gone backwards with only a point from Austria to show for his efforts.

 

The key area for improvement in coming races will be upgrades because their Austria upgrade has clearly sapped single lap pace out of the car, costing them in the races despite electrifying starts except for Hungary.

 

The first half of 2017 is one for Williams to forget amongst the odd high here and there.

 

Grade: D

 

Toro Rosso

Race Carlos Sainz J.r Daniil Kvyat
Australia 8th 9th
China 7th Ret
Bahrain Ret 12th
Russia 10th 12th
Spain 7th 9th
Monaco 6th 14th
Canada Ret Ret
Azerbaijan 8th Ret
Austria Ret 16th
Great Britain Ret 15th
Hungary 7th 11th
Points 35 4

 

This season has one full of potential but let down by reliability and bad luck.

 

Despite all of the hardship, Sainz has surprisingly handled the situation better than Kvyat, despite wanting a move away for 2018. When not retiring from races, he has maximised the car’s potential to finish in the points which is impressive in such a tight midfield battle.

 

Kvyat needs to settle down because he is just two points away from a race ban. Unlike Sainz, he has been too inconsistent and running into trouble with the stewards before criticising them on a few occasions.

 

For all of his troubles, he is definitely right to be criticising the stewards because there has been absolutely no consistency in handing out of penalties for on track incidents.

 

As for improvement, the best thing that Toro Rosso can do is resolve their reliability gremlins because a constructors battle with Williams for fifth place could be in the offing for rest of season.

 

Overall, a tale of mixed fortunes with room to improve.

 

Grade: C

 

Haas

Race Romain Grosjean Kevin Magnussen
Australia Ret Ret
China 11th 8th
Bahrain 8th Ret
Russia Ret 13th
Spain 10th 14th
Monaco 8th 10th
Canada 10th 12th
Azerbaijan 13th 7th
Austria 6th Ret
Great Britain 13th 12th
Hungary Ret 13th
Points 18 11

 

Haas has had a tough season so far with brake issues and Grosjean’s near daily moans about issues with the car.

 

Despite all of his issues, Grosjean has never given up with a surprisingly strong drive to 6th in Austria, on a track that requires heavy braking.

 

If he can get on top of those issues, expect to see the Frenchman pushing for point results more often than he has been doing so far.

 

Kevin Magnussen on the other hand has shown a stronger attitude towards the technical issues but it hasn’t been reflected in his on track results. In Baku, he was lucky to benefit from bigger teams tripping over each other en route to a strong 7th place finish.

 

Renault

Race Nico Hulkenberg Jolyon Palmer
Australia 11th Ret
China 12th 13th
Bahrain 9th 13th
Russia 8th Ret
Spain 6th 15th
Monaco Ret 11th
Canada 8th 11th
Azerbaijan Ret Ret
Austria 13th  11th
Great Britain 6th DNS
Hungary 17th 12th
Points 26 0

 

The summer break will be one of optism for Renault because progress is being made.  Results might have been one sided in this team but Palmer has once again grown throughout the season.

 

New signing, Hulkenberg has demonstrated why he deserves to be driving for a factory team by somehow bringing the bacon home on several occasions.

 

For the second half of this season, he needs to turn the form into more regular point paying results. It won’t be a surprise if Renault are more focused on giving him a strong car for 2018 and takes eighth in the constructors championship as a minimum although Haas are catchable.

 

Jolyon Palmer has just been hit by one disaster after another all season so is probably glad to have a month off. Not getting to start his home race is surely just the icing on a extremely sour desert, due to a hydraulics issue never mind the other reliability issues.

 

For all of those disasters, Palmer has actually made steps forward lately whilst also playing the team game in Hungary by letting Hulkenberg past. If he can continue to build on the progress and avoid any gremlins, he could well save his F1 career which is dangling by a thread.

 

Looking at the bigger picture, Renault should be fairly disappointed with the season so far.  With Robert Kubica being mooted to replace Palmer next year, perhaps attention has already turned to planning for 2018.

 

Grade – D

 

McLaren

Race Fernando Alonso Stoffel Vandoorne Jenson Button*
Australia Ret 13th
China Ret Ret
Bahrain 14th DNS
Russia DNS 14th
Spain 12th Ret
Monaco WD Ret Ret
Canada 16th 14th
Azerbaijan 9th 12th
Austria Ret 12th
Great Britain Ret 11th
Hungary 6th 10th
Points 10 1 0
  • Alonso decided to skip Monaco to race in the Indy 500 and was replaced by Jenson Button.

 

2017 has again seen another disastrous season for McLaren, who currently sit ninth in the championship.

 

There’s no point doing individual analysis for both drivers because they both had similar doses of reliability issues. The only real point is the step made forward in Hungary, which again has saved their season for the third year running.

 

McLaren’s key area for improvement over the summer break and for rest of season is the Honda engine.

 

On that note, it would be easy to grade McLaren a F or E for the season so far. However, if you take into account Alonso and Vandoorne’s positive attitudes and on track effort, you can see that they’re genuinely outdriving a poor car on speed and skill alone.

 

Grade: D

 

 

 

Sauber

Race Pascal Wehrlein  Marcus Ericsson  Antonio Giovinazzi *
Australia WD Ret 12th
China WD 15th Ret
Bahrain 11th Ret
Russia 16th 15th
Spain 8th 11th
Monaco Ret Ret
Canada 15th  13th
Azerbaijan 10th 11th
Austria 14th 15th
Great Britain 17th 14th
Hungary 15th 16th
Points  5 0 0
  • Pascal Wehrlein was unable to race in the opening two rounds due to injury so Antonio Giovinazzi replaced him for those races.

 

This season has been tough so far for Sauber with off track upheaval and Monisha Kaltenborn’s departure.

 

Things haven’t been much better too on track except for Spain and Baku when they only just missed out on a double point finish.

 

Pascal Wehrlein might of missed Australia and China with a back injury but he has been the team’s shining light amongst two further incidents. In Spain, he made an alternative strategy work en route to eighth before pipping teammate, Marcus Ericsson to the final point in Baku.

 

Ericsson has underperformed throughout the first half so needs to get his elbows out more. Should he fail to do so, he better hope that his financial backing is strong enough or he could well be out the door in favour of stronger drivers with similar financial budgets.

 

Sauber need to get their backroom sorted ASAP because that could well come into play in terms of how the drivers perform on track, now that they sit last in the Constructors with no prize money being awarded. For that reason and the poor on track results, it has to be a terrible grade.

 

Grade: E

 

 

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