At the half way stage in the F1 season, it seems like a good moment to take a look at the performance of the three race winning teams so far and to assess how we think the second half of the season will go.
Hamilton 145 pts – P1
Button 133 pts – P2
Constructors’ Position – P1
Leading both championships largely thanks to great consistency, averaging 27 points per race from a maximum of 43. Both drivers have only had one non-points scoring event and without Hamilton’s wheel failure in Spain, he would be a further 15 points ahead in the table.
Even in his championship year, Hamilton was making mistakes and dropping points, this year he seems not to be doing so. He has had plenty of run ins with the stewards, so he is sailing close to the wind, but he’s getting the results. Button has had two great wins, but hasn’t matched Hamilton’s raw pace in qualifying, as a rule. He has recovered well from some tight scrapes in races and has an impressive points haul to show for it. Monaco radiator bungs aside, he’s scored at every race.
McLaren didn’t have the fastest car at the start of the season and arguably haven’t yet had a car advantage at any circuit, except possibly Montreal. They have nonetheless taken all the chances they’ve had to win races and score big points.
There were some team mistakes early in the season, like the complacency in qualifying at Malaysia. McLaren’s development however has been predictably strong. They invented the F Duct, designed the car around it and have improved it. But they showed how complex the blown diffuser is to get right last weekend. Martin Whitmarsh has confirmed that it will appear again at Hockenheim and once it’s working it will put them close to Red Bull.
Once they have all the major “toys” optimised on the cars, it will be a case of developing the aerodynamics and continuing to play to their strengths, which are generally in race conditions.
Although they have worked hard on qualifying, they are still some way behind Red Bull, but on race pace they are invariably much closer, if not faster on occasions.
The upcoming tracks should be good for McLaren, especially Monza. It will come down more to racking up the points and delivering on the car’s potential every week than anything else. If McLaren have a second half of the season like the first, they will win both titles.
Webber 128 pts – 3rd
Vettel 121 pts – 4th
Constructors’ position – P2
Red Bull have had a rollercoaster year with a near faultless record in qualifying – only missing the pole on one occasion out of 10 – but not always managing to translate that into results and with a damaging feud between the drivers which cost them points in Istanbul and Silverstone.
The car proved fragile at the start of the season, with Vettel in particular, suffering some reliability issues in the early races, but lately they seem to have got on top of that. With three wins, Webber is the season’s most successful driver so far and he has scored points in every race, apart from his massive accident in Valencia. Vettel has had more pole positions with five, but has only translated that into a win on one occasion. He also won from third on the grid in Malaysia.
Red Bull are dealing with the fallout from a decision to favour Vettel with newer car parts at the British GP and it will be tough to manage the expectations of the two drivers over the remainder of the season, particularly in the final three or four races, if they are both still in it. In any other season the superb job they have done with the car would have given them a fairly clear path to the title, but with McLaren close enough on pace and its two drivers having very strong seasons, the pressure is really on.
With by far the most downforce of any car and with the F Duct wing now close to optimised, the car had a good advantage at Silverstone. The car has shown that it works well everywhere and of the upcoming circuits only Monza is a question mark.
Alonso 98 pts – 5th
Massa 67 pts – 8th
Constructors’ position – 3rd
Ferrari hasn’t troubled the other two teams anything like as much as it should have done, given that it was the fastest car in winter testing and won the first race. But it is telling that the team has only qualified once on the front row of the grid this season, at the first race.
The car’s development slumped since then as they focussed on getting the F Duct to work, but they have recently found quite a bit of performance from that and from the blown diffuser and other aerodynamic updates. In Silverstone Alonso was only a tenth off the pace of the Red Bulls until Qualifying 3, when they always seem to take a step up.
So the pace of Ferrari is better than it looks from the points table at the moment. They are on a par pace wise with McLaren from race to race, but they aren’t getting the results. The car should work well at the upcoming races, and Alonso has confidence in the package so he could be worth keeping an eye on in the next few races. I think he may start winning again.
However Alonso has fallen foul of the stewards in the last two races, losing two potential third places and he feels he could have won Canada if the flag marshals had done their job with backmarkers. Quite a few points have been dropped, in other words. Alonso’s not been able to make things happen for himself with this team yet, like he did with Renault, where he was very efficient at harvesting the points.
Massa hasn’t really been on it all season. His body language in the paddock and press conferences is rather disconsolate, shoulders down. He has struggled with the harder compound tyres this season, but he’s generally not really been on Alonso’s pace, with the exception of Bahrain qualifying and even the renewal of his contract doesn’t seem to have inspired him. Those moves Alonso made on him in Bahrain and China have cast him in the Spaniard’s shadow and he’s struggling to assert himself. He has been scoring midfield results generally but was also very unlucky in the last three races.