Formula One is now on its annual summer break but here at Sport Grill, its time to dish out half term reports for each team.

With four different winners, close racing and close Constructor battles forming, which teams have hit the grade and who will be spending summer doing their homework?

 

Key

Pole – Bold

Retirement – Ret

 

Mercedes

Race/Driver Lewis Hamilton Valtteri Bottas
Australia 2nd 8th
Bahrain 3rd 2nd
China 4th 2nd
Azerbaijan 1st Ret
Spain 1st 2nd
Monaco 3rd 5th
Canada 5th 2nd
France 1st 7th
Austria Ret Ret
Great Britain 2nd 4th
Germany 1st 2nd
Hungary 1st 5th
Points 213 132
Pole positions 5 1
Qualifying Head to Head 7 5

Mercedes have finally met their match in Ferrari but somehow lead the driver and constructors’ championships through this summer break. 

Whenever Vettel has got the better of them, they have produced brilliant damage limitation and picked up extra when fate went in their favour, particularly in France when Hamilton took a comfortable victory after Vettel took out Bottas, only for Raikkonen to then do same to him at his home race.

Austria meanwhile will surely be the team’s low point reliability wise but Hamilton’s top five consistency has benefitted him in long run, and could prove defining if the title is won by slim margins.

Special mention to Chief Strategist, James Vowles, who had the guts unlike many members of any F1 team to admit his mistake publically via team radio after leaving the Brit out under a Virtual Safety Car unlike his rivals.

Doing that does take balls so hats off to him and he more than made up for it by playing a blinder to get Hamilton from 14th to victory in Hockenheim. 

Although team orders were used in Germany, both drivers were given a chance to race one another first in a rare case for a top team. 

Ultimately, Mercedes should be delighted with how things have gone despite Ferrari’s reconnaissance and if can take advantage of Ferrari’s wet spot, they should clinch a five consecutive championship double/

Grade = B

 

Ferrari

Race/Driver Sebastian Vettel Kimi Raikkonen
Australia 1st 3rd
Bahrain 1st Ret
China 8th 3rd
Azerbaijan 4th 2nd
Spain 4th Ret
Monaco 2nd 4th
Canada 1st 6th
France 5th 3rd
Austria 3rd 2nd
Great Britain 1st 3rd
Germany Ret 3rd
Hungary 2nd 3rd
Points 189 146
Pole positions 5 0
Qualifying Head to Head 11 1

This has been Ferrari’s best first half to a season in years but there is still one weakness or two that could prove costly come November. 

Ferrari’s biggest improvement has definitely been their power unit because it is literally on par with Mercedes as evidenced by more consistent results but Sebastian Vettel is yet strength and weakness. 

In China, Baku and France, we saw Vettel made different errors with the latter two most certainly costing him at least 40 points and what could of been the championship lead entering summer break. 

Germany and Hungary qualifying highlighted what is pretty much his vulnerability – rain. 

Apart from his first two F1 wins,  Vettel is yet to win a wet race since then and it is still present as highlighted by crashing out of lead at his home race, before struggling compared to Raikkonen in a wet Q3 at Hungary. 

That has to change in coming races like Belgium, Italy and Japan otherwise Hamilton could very well maximise this to his advantage in title race. 

Raikkonen meanwhile has done his job as Ferrari’s clear no.2 driver, even if he managed to irk Ferrari during German GP by snatching lead from Vettel to effectively force them to use team orders rather than do honourable thing and let them race. 

Nevertheless, he is the form man at minute with five podiums from last five races so don’t rule Kimi out of another last race title snatch, if can keep momentum going whilst Vettel and Hamilton trip each other up. 

One improvement that Ferrari should make as a whole is don’t run into one of the Mercedes on first lap because it comes across as deliberately tactical and unsporting. 

Like last year, Ferrari deserve an A but the use of team orders in play from off is again disappointing and their dirty first lap tactics makes a B more appropriate. 

Grade = B

 

 

Red Bull

Race/Driver Daniel Ricciardo Max Verstappen
Australia 4th 6th
Bahrain Ret Ret
China 1st 5th
Azerbaijan Ret Ret
Spain 5th 3rd
Monaco 1st 9th
Canada 4th 3rd
France 4th 2nd
Austria Ret 1st
Great Britain 5th Ret
Germany Ret 4th
Hungary 4th Ret
Points 118 105
Pole positions 1 0
Qualifying Head to Head 3 9

Red Bull have had a consistent season although reliability again is a big issue with eight retirements in 12 races.

Verstappen definitely was hungry for a good season but needs to learn to keep things clean if want strong results because mistakes when trying to overtake likes of  Kevin Magnussen (Australia) and Vettel (China) masked his full potential in those races. 

There is also the small matter of his Azerbaijan collision with Ricciardo but to be fair, it was brewing for much of race so team had ample time to impose team orders so no sympathy there if paid closer attention. 

The summer section of season however has been positive with a solid run of results and a lucky Austria win, only split by reliability woes in Britain and Hungary to wreck what would of been a fantastic turnaround in form. 

Ricciardo meanwhile has been amazingly consistent when not retiring with all of his points coming from a top five finish, including that brilliantly controlled Monaco win despite a MGU-K failure affecting his speed. 

Although reliability isn’t something that they can resolve themselves, Red Bull should be happy with how things have gone but attention should probably switch to Honda partnership starting next year. 

Grade = C

 

Renault

Race/Drivers Nico Hulkenberg Carlos Sainz
Australia 7th 10th
Bahrain 6th 11th
China 6th 9th
Azerbaijan Ret 5th
Spain Ret 7th
Monaco 8th 10th
Canada 7th 8th
France 9th 8th
Austria Ret 12th
Great Britain 6th Ret
Germany 5th 12th
Hungary 12th 9th
Points 52 30
Qualifying Head to Head 7 5

Renault have without made the biggest gains compared to this time last season when they sat eighth in constructors’ championship. 

In fact, their rise is such that there has only been one occasion when either car failed to score a top ten finish compared six times at same stage in 2017, and Nico Hulkenberg has even doubled his points total this time around. 

That is simply incredible for a team whose engine isn’t exactly reliable as proven by one of their customers – Red Bull. 

Carlos Sainz meanwhile has pushed Hulkenberg more than Jolyon Palmer did which has benefitted Renault positively as they look to catch Mercedes and Ferrari. 

Once the season resumes, all Renault really need to do is try and starve off the pair of Haas and Force India to record their best championship finish since returning to the sport in 2016. 

Overall, a great season with more progress to hopefully come in second half and beyond. 

Grade = B

 

Haas

Race/Driver Romain Grosjean Kevin Magnussen
Australia Ret Ret
Bahrain 13th 5th
China 17th 10th
Azerbaijan Ret 13th
Spain Ret 6th
Monaco 15th 13th
Canada 12th 13th
France 11th 6th
Austria 4th 5th
Great Britain Ret 9th
Germany 6th 11th
Hungary 10th 7th
Points 21 45
Qualifying Head to Head 3 8

Haas have been strong midfielders this season, although they should really be closer to Renault, given their Ferrari partnership. 

Australia was a wasted own goal with two botched pit stops from good positions but they have constantly benefitted from Ferrari upgrades since then, as demonstrated by their brilliant drive to fourth and fifth in Austria (albeit aided by Mercedes and Ricciardo’s retirements). 

The second half really now has to be about trying to take fourth in constructors from Renault and Force India, although Grosjean is probably driving for his F1 future now with Leclerc linked to seat. 

Either way, this has been Haas’ best season so far in performances.

Grade = C

 

Force India

Race/Driver Esteban Ocon Sergio Perez
Australia 12th 11th
Bahrain 10th 16th
China 11th 12th
Azerbaijan Ret 3rd
Spain Ret 9th
Monaco 6th 12th
Canada 9th 14th
France Ret Ret
Austria 6th 7th
Great Britain 7th 10th
Germany 8th 7th
Hungary 13th 14th
Points 29 30
Qualifying Head to Head 9 3

Force India have been quite disappointing because they have made the car too complex.

Baku aside, both drivers have been unlucky either through first lap mistakes or other but  for a team who finished fourth last season, this has been below par, especially with talk of ‘improvement’ and ‘step forward’ throughout early part of season. 

Austria, Great Britain and Germany definitely did see those improvements come to fruition but they’re lucky that Renault and Haas haven’t scarpered up the road, otherwise a top five finish would of been unrealistic. 

The focus now has to be extracting the car’s maximum in coming races and hoping that their rivals slip up as attention switches to next year’s car. 

2018 so far has however been very disappointing for a team who I thought would take a huge step forward and start to push Red Bull if continued their rise.

Grade = D

 

McLaren

Race/Driver Fernando Alonso Stoffel Vandoorne
Australia 5th 9th
Bahrain 7th 8th
China 7th 13th
Azerbaijan 7th 9th
Spain 8th Ret
Monaco Ret 14th
Canada Ret 16th
France 16th 12th
Austria 8th 15th
Great Britain 8th 11th
Germany 16th 13th
Hungary 8th Ret
Points 44 8
Qualifying Head to Head 12 0

After three terrible years under Honda power, McLaren will be happy with how their partnership with Renault has fared so far. 

Having made a strong start in the flyaways with three double point finishes in four races, it was disappointing to see a return to previous form and particularly from Vandoorne. 

Reliability however seems to be a slight issue still with three retirements being gearbox related but doesn’t mask the clear progress that has been made, despite Vandoorne’s recent car performance troubles. 

In summary, a solid season with room for improvement to get back to previous best, although both drivers could yet leave at end of season.

Grade = C

 

Toro Rosso

Race/Driver Pierre Gasly Brendon Hartley
Australia Ret 15th
Bahrain 4th 17th
China 18th 20th
Azerbaijan 12th 10th
Spain Ret 12th
Monaco 7th 19th
Canada 11th Ret
France Ret 14th
Austria 11th Ret
Great Britain 13th Ret
Germany 14th 10th
Hungary 6th 11th
Points 26 2
Qualifying Head to Head* 8 3

*Brendon Hartley missed British GP Qualifying due to broken car

This season so far could be described as mixed under their new Honda partnership with  Gasly clearly more dominant than Hartley.

Although Honda’s reliability is slightly better than from their stint with McLaren, just two of the six combined retirements from both drivers were related to the power unit. 

That is definitely good progress from Honda’s side of things but for Toro Rosso, things perhaps could of been even better if Hartley had been more on Gasly’s level rather than often battling Williams and Sauber. 

Overall, a solid if quiet season so far with room for Hartley to improve in second half as Lando Norris continues to be linked to his seat.

Grade = D

 

Sauber

Race/Driver Charles Leclerc Marcus Ericsson
Australia 13th Ret
Bahrain 12th 9th
China 19th 16th
Azerbaijan 6th 11th
Spain 10th 13th
Monaco 18th 11th
Canada 10th 15th
France 10th 13th
Austria 9th 10th
Great Britain Ret Ret
Germany 15th 9th
Hungary Ret 15th
Points 13 5
Qualifying Head to Head 8 4

Sauber definitely seems back to their usual selves this season with the emergence of Charles Leclerc. 

Leclerc has just been exceptional with eight consecutive appearances in at least Q2, only ended by a wet qualifying in Hungary, which highlights rain as perhaps an area to improve on in second half of season when get wet conditions. 

Ericsson meanwhile has just been his usual self but perhaps should be doing better with the machinery than his inexperienced teammate is.

Overall, the first half of this season has already beaten their tally of five points from last season, in which they failed to score from Baku onwards.

The aim now has to be getting further into the midfield battle and perhaps pipping Toro Rosso to eighth, given their inferior Honda power unit.

Anyway, this has been a well earned summer break with room to grow further come Spa.  

Grade = C

 

Williams

Race/Driver Lance Stroll Sergey Sirotkin
Australia 14th Ret
Bahrain 14th 15th
Canada 14th 15th
Azerbaijan 8th Ret
Spain 11th 14th
Monaco 17th 16th
Canada Ret 17th
France 17th 15th
Austria 14th 13th
Great Britain 12th 14th
Germany Ret Ret
Hungary 17th 16th
Points 4 0
Qualifying Head to Head 5 7

This has to surely top 2011 for Williams in terms of being their worst season ever with only four points to show for their efforts so far. 

Compared to recent seasons, this car has just been awful because it lacks speed, stability and pretty much everything in between. 

Stroll’s eighth in Azerbaijan was more a case of luck going their way really in a frantic climax to the race, so not really much to celebrate seeing as that was their only points finish so far. 

Moving into second half of season, Sirotkin really needs to deliver if he wants one of their seats next season as rumours of Stroll’s move to Force India keeps growing.

Fail to do so and Stroll doesn’t score any points then this will be Williams’ worst ever season in F1.

Grade = E

 

Missed any of the first ten race weekends and want to get up to date? Click on any of the hyperlinks below to go and check out my round up of the weekend/s.

 

 

One Comment on “F1 2018: Half Term Report

  1. Pingback: Daniel Ricciardo swaps Red Bull for Renault | Sport Grill

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