This week we have been looking back at the first half of the F1 season, analysing the performances, breaking the teams down into three groups:
* GROUP 1 – Those who have matched or exceeded expectations. READ HERE
* GROUP 2 – Those who have had some success but it could have been more. READ HERE
* GROUP 3 – Those who have under-performed
Today it’s the final group: the teams who haven’t got as much out of the season so far as they – or we – were expecting.
This analysis can only start with one team.
What are we to make of Mercedes? If the season had ended after China, we would have said that they’d made the breakthrough everyone had been expecting since Norbert Haug and his board took the bold decision in 2009 to buy Brawn, just as all the other manufacturers were exiting the sport.
But as the season has gone on, Mercedes have lost their way and slipped to a distant fifth in the Constructors’ table; countless points finishes have gone astray, especially for Schumacher, who has had terrible luck. After seven rounds he had just two points on the board.
Rosberg has generally qualified in the top six or seven and then moved backwards in the race. As he’s done so, Raikkonen has generally moved forward and picked up the results Rosberg should be getting. To make matters worse Mercedes can’t rely on the cushion over the midfield teams they enjoyed in 2010 and 2011, so the likes of Williams and Sauber are beating them regularly.
Nico’s very quick in qualifying and the Mercedes double DRS system has helped at certain venues, but the car’s problem with chewing up rear tyres in the race has constricted the strategy and forced them into making more pit stops in general than their rivals.
Whereas the teams already reviewed have now got a handle on the best way to run the Pirelli tyres, Mercedes appear to still be some way off and until they master that, they cannot hope to repeat China.
MERCEDES DRIVER STATS
Rosberg: 77 points (P6), 2 podiums; 3 no-scores; 48 laps led; Average grid slot: P7
Head to head qualifying vs team mate: Rosberg 6-5 Schumacher
Schumacher: 29 points (P12); 1 podium, 6 no-scores; 0 laps led; Average grid slot: P8 (Pole at Monaco taken away due to penalty)
SAHARA FORCE INDIA
After a strong end to 2011, the team set a bold target of going one better and finishing fifth in the Constructors’ table this season. So far they are off target in 8th, due to improved performances by Lotus, Sauber and Williams.
Whereas other midfield teams have had wins and podiums, Force India has not made that step this year. The high points have been Hulkenberg’s fifth place in Valencia and his fourth grid slot in Germany, while Di Resta has had a sixth and three sevenths. They are not challenging Mercedes, as they were last season.
The car has been outside the top ten in qualifying most of the season, although there have been seven appearances in the top ten out of a possible 12 in the last six races. In pure car pace they are about a second off the front; Di Resta has looked a little frustrated as he is keen to show his quality to a top team, while Hulkenberg has stepped it up lately, mindful that the team policy is to shed one driver every year and decision time is coming up soon.
FORCE INDIA DRIVER STATS
Di Resta: 27 points (P13); 6 no-scores; 1 lap led; Average grid slot: P11
Head to head qualifying vs team mate: Hulkenberg 6-5 Di Resta
Hulkenberg: 19 points (P16); 6 no-scores; 0 laps led; Average grid slot: P11
Toro Rosso has had a nightmare start to the season, with only two points scoring finishes in the first two races and nothing since. They’ve lost technical director Giorgio Ascanelli, Jean Eric Vergne has fallen in Q1 on five races out of 11 and the team doesn’t seem to be turning it around.
Ricciardo has had some moments, like qualifying sixth in Bahrain, while Vergne finished 8th in the chaos of Malaysia, but the 41 points scored by Alguersuari and Buemi last year look a long way off.
Those two were let go because they failed to win a race, as Vettel had done in a Toro Rosso in 2008. If that is the team’s mentality, the omens aren’t good for Ricciardo and Vergne.
TORO ROSSO DRIVER STATS
Vergne: 4 points (P17); 10 no-scores; Average grid slot: P17
Head to head qualifying vs team mate: Ricciardo 9-2 Vergne
Ricciardo: 2 points (P18); 10 no-scores; Average grid slot: P13
Given that it is the best set-up of the three new teams from 2010 and is now in its third season with some strong well-known engineers, the fact that Caterham is still over a second off the midfield group is a disappointment.
Much more was expected, especially as adding the Renault engine, KERS and a Red Bull gearbox alone will have taken a big chunk off the lap time. There has been a subtle shift behind the scenes as Mark Smith has taken over more responsibility, while Mike Gascoyne has moved on to a wider brief across the Caterham group and away from F1.
Heikki Kovalainen still gives it everything, hoping one of the top teams will come calling again, while Vitaly Petrov has disappointed this year.
A key signing has been aerodynamics guru John Iley, who joined at Easter from McLaren and his updates are coming through now. The team expect his updates to lead them into the midfield pack, to get ahead of Toro Rosso at least. They need that as a minimum platform to make a big step forward in 2013.
CATERHAM DRIVER STATS
Kovalainen: 0 points (Best = P13); Average grid slot: P18
Head to head qualifying vs team mate: Kovalainen 9-2 Petrov
Petrov: 0 points (Best = P13); Average grid slot: P18
It’s been a painful year so far for Marussia, with the anguish and tragedy of Maria de Villota’s July testing accident fresh in the mind and the team failing to make an impression in the 11 Grands Prix to date.
They are stuck around 1.5 seconds behind Caterham and one second ahead of HRT; with a Cosworth engine and no KERS that’s a comparison that does more for Marussia than Caterham.
The chassis is the first from the in-house team, marshalled by Pat Symonds in Banbury after the break up with Wirth last season and the takeover by Marussia.
If they could start the whole F1 adventure again they’d do a lot of things differently, but they are still here and it’s all about making 2013 a year of progress. Timo Glock is holding on, clearly frustrated but with few other options, while Charles Pic has surprisingly out qualified his team mate four times in 11 races.
MARUSSIA DRIVER STATS
Glock 0 points (Best = P14); Average grid slot: P20
Head to head qualifying vs team mate: Glock 6-4 Pic (Glock DNS in Valencia)
Pic: 0 points (Best = P15); Average grid slot: P21
HRT started the season with a car that arrived late, they failed to get within the required 107% of the fastest lap in Q1 in Australia, but since then have had a few good days (mostly in qualifying) and many not so good days. The team is now under Spanish ownership, based near Madrid and has the stated target for the rest of 2012 to be close to 104% of the pole, which is around 3.5 seconds off the pace around a typical 1m 30sec lap.
The car uses Cosworth engine and has no KERS and seems to have reasonable mechanical grip. In Monaco they were only 2.2secs off the fastest Q1 time. The main failing is the aerodynamics; the car lacks downforce and the DRS has less power than others.
HRT DRIVER STATS
De la Rosa 0 points (Best = P17); Average grid slot: P21
Head to head qualifying vs team mate: De La Rosa 10-0 Karthikeyan
Karthikeyan: 0 points (Best = P15); Average grid slot: P23
What do you think? Do you agree with these assessments? Give us your comments below