It’s good from time to time to glance at the Constructors’ Championship table and remind yourself of the big picture in terms of the state of play between teams. There is the usual disproportionate sharing of points with the top two or three teams hogging the majority and the new teams desperate for even a sniff of a single point.
But it’s the midfield teams which are so interesting at the moment.
Last year the top four teams were followed by Renault in fifth, then Williams, Force India, Sauber and Toro Rosso.
This year Renault has 66 points, Sauber 35, Force India 26, Toro Rosso 22. They are all reasonably close to each other on performance, either qualifying around the fringes of the top ten or, in Toro Rosso’s case, managing to get cars regularly into the points using a particular race strategy. The odd one out is Williams, with only 4 points on the board, down in 9th place in the table.
The car clearly has its difficulties, not least that in races it is quite hard on its tyres and for much of the season it has had a poor start performance, losing many places off the grid. But Pastor Maldonado has managed to qualify it in the top ten three times since Barcelona. The problem has been converting that into points. Rubens Barrichello’s two ninth places from Monaco and Canada are all the team has to show for the season so far.
I asked him over the Hungarian GP weekend whether he thought the team would be able to bridge the points gap with some strong results, as it did in the second half of last season.
“If we don’t improve the fundamental problem, if we keep on testing and experimenting then we are going to score points but not in that range,” said Barrichello. “Unless we go to a race where there are 15 cars off and you finish on the podium.
“The car has its problems. If we don’t go down under and cure the whole situation to start growing again and we keep just changing the top then it’s just like masking.
“It’s not a lack of effort that Williams isn’t bringing new things. They are bringing loads of new things, but they are not working. Last year some of them did work and then our year improved so much. Right now, we are trying new stuff and not feeling that it’s getting there.”
Last season Barrichello qualified in the top ten in nine of the last ten races and scored three top seven finishes. That’s the kind of performance Force India is showing now with its updated car.
Barrichello has been keen to volunteer to test and evaluate things, such as running without KERS in Germany to see if that helped with rear tyre issues.
And he points out that the team is actually in the fortunate position of having a new technical director, Mike Coughlan, focussed on next year’s car and the old TD, Sam Michael, working on developing this year’s car.
“We have Mike Coughlan working on next year and Sam is being paid already so we might as well use him to do something for this year. In that respect we are quite lucky. We just need to improve the damn car.”
Williams boss Adam Parr said at the start of the season that the team’s business model required them to finish in the top five or six in the championship. Currently sixth place Sauber is 31 points ahead and that looks like a very steep hill to climb from where the team is now.