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
|Race||Lewis Hamilton||Valtteri Bottas|
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.
|Race||Sebastian Vettel||Kimi Raikkonen|
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 as his behaviour surely merited a slam dunk disqualification.
|Race||Daniel Ricciardo||Max Verstappen|
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.
|Race||Sergio Perez||Esteban Ocon|
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.
|Race||Felipe Massa||Lance Stroll||Paul Di Resta*|
- 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.
|Race||Carlos Sainz J.r||Daniil Kvyat|
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.
|Race||Romain Grosjean||Kevin Magnussen|
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.
|Race||Nico Hulkenberg||Jolyon Palmer|
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
|Race||Fernando Alonso||Stoffel Vandoorne||Jenson Button*|
- 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.
|Race||Pascal Wehrlein||Marcus Ericsson||Antonio Giovinazzi *|
- 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.