F1 Winter Break
The Top 3 Formula 1 teams – Mid season Analysis
The Top 3 Formula 1 teams – Mid season Analysis
Posted By: James Allen  |  14 Jul 2010   |  12:16 pm GMT  |  145 comments

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
Wins: 4
Podiums: 6

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

Wins 5
Podiums 4

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

Wins 1
Podiums 4

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.

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James, would you say that Fernando has been a worthy replacement for Raikkonen?

Claudine Leclerc

I detest Alonso, he is false and unpleasant.


Mclaren now have two drivers that are at the top of their game and run a 'level' playing field for their drivers, result is massive points haul and leading both championships !


Kimi lost his position in Ferrari... Nd now im sensing the same thing is happening with Massa, he is totally over shadowed by Alonso...

N. Machiavelli

I will be very surprised if Massa drives for Ferrari

in 2011.

It's not so much a question of whether Massa is

good enough, as it is a question of whether the

fire in Massa's belly has been extinguished by thoughts

relative to the accident and his family. If so, there is no shame in that -- there is nothing more important on earth than family.


Yes. But I don't want to start a tirade from Kimi fans.


Haha I am a Kimi fan myself. Although I am rather resigned to the fact we will never see him in F1 again as long as the testing rules remain the same. It seems his heart is set on WRC and heaven nor Norbert Haug can convince him otherwise.


"for sure"


alonso and raikkonen would be the best pairing


Have you heard anything, beyond speculation about Kimi returning next year?


Very funny, yeah readers/fans can get very sensitive at times when their drivers are criticized, I'm sure you understand/forgive us 🙂 right


Yes, Hamilton fans are especially sensiitve as we have seen. 🙂

N. Machiavelli

No tirade here, but I do have a few comments.

I reckon that Kimi has enjoyed this WRC season a lot more than Fernando has his F1 season 😉

And I'll wager that if Kimi were to drive for Red Bull

in F1, Vettel would be "schooled" in a most thorough manner.

Alonso has allowed emotion to intrude into his driving and he's made at least one poor decision as a result. I doubt Kimi would have had problems of this sort. After all, they don't call him Iceman for nothing. As for sheer driving talent, I doubt there's much difference between

Kimi and Alonso. In the end, Alonso's probably a better fit for Ferrari precisely because of his Spanish temperament, which can be both an asset and a liability.


I think Alonso is suffering from DIVA syndrome. When he was back in Renault, he was a tiger, fighting for every opportunity... now with Ferrari he is more like a DIVA... "Hey, here I come with my great big RED car from the most greatest & successful F1 team, open the road!!!"

I think both Alonso & Ferrari mgmt need to approach the races in a different way, more humble, down to earth approach. Not having Alonso give the position back to Kubica was a BIG mistake. That really showed how they think... "We are Ferrari, the greatest team on earth, we make the rules & we break them"

Well, not so easy my DIVA!


Alonso is a better Ferrari driver, because he is more passionate and more inspirational which is a trait Ferrari likes in its drivers. The only problem is that Alonso has let his passion get the better of him and Ferrari have fanned the flames when they should have been cooling them.

Even Stephano seems to have realised that the problem isn't the stewards but the way the team react to them. They need to be careful they don't become as paranoid (self damaging) as McLaren where in recent seasons.....


I don't know if Freddy and Ferrari is a match made in heaven or hell. It's like the parent is trying to spoil their already spoiled kid!


are there really any Kimi fans left ?


Very good analysis 🙂


I do so hope Alonso starts winning again! I dont know how much of this I can take....!

I think we'll be hard pressed to beat Webber to the championship


Ah this has been a great season and that is the one thing we need to make it even better. Alonso back on form in a car on a par with the McLaren and Red Bull.

Imagine the duels between the swash bucklers of the teams Hamilton v Webber v Alonso. Think of them side by side heading into the first chicane in Monza.

Imagine Vettel, Button and Massa picking up their scraps, going for the wins themselves when the big three have taken each other off at the Hockenhiem hairpin.

Come on Ferrari give him a car to make the season truly mega.

PS before I get any comments I'm being deliberatly provocatove


That's exactly what we were seeing in Valencia until the race director spoiled Alonso's race.


It's not Webber you need to worry about...

Mike from Medellin, Colombia

Come on James......give us your driver rankings!!

This season has been so close in terms of performance. We would love to know your thoughts. Beyond Hamilton as No. 1 - ranking the other is going to be a very difficult task.

I feel that Alonso has definitely slipped down the order and his frustration is showing. Focusing on his nemesis Hamilton, deliberately ignoring calls to give Kubica the position back, jumping the start.

Kubica has performed superbly this season and has to be ranked near the very top. I wonder how he feels about not being able to go to Ferrari. Surely at some point he will want to force his way into one of the top teams?


I don't know about James' rankings but I personally rate Rosberg the best driver of the year, he has outdriven his car all year, far more than anyone else, I think. All of the other top drivers have been driving within the limits of their cars.


I agree Rosberg has surprised me, but not at every race. Kubica has been outstanding, so has Hamilton. Webber's peaks have been very high.


"Webber’s peaks have been very high"

Yeah, ten feet, wasn't it?


After the British Grand Prix, I'd currently rank the top 10 like this:

Lewis Hamilton

Mark Webber

Sebastian Vettel

Jenson Button

Robert Kubica

Fernando Alonso

Nico Rosberg

Felipe Massa

Adrian Sutil

Rubens Barrichello

Mike from Medellin, Colombia

In terms of demonstration of ultimate ability and getting the most out of their package in 2010 I would go with:

1. Hamilton

2. Webber

3. Kubica

4. Button

5. Vettel

6. Rosberg

7. Alonso

8. Massa

9. Kovalainen

10. Barrichello

What has Vettel really done this year that has been SO outstanding? He's had the odd good qualiying day when Webber has been compromised and walked a race victory with a vastly superior car.

People were criticising Button last year for having an easy time in a superior car. Well, I think he did a much better job Vettel and with much more panache and grace.


By you ranking Vettel 5th and me ranking him 3rd, I don't think there's a massive gulf between the way we've rated his performance so-far this season.

That being said, you have to remember that Vettel's issues so far this season have primarily come down to mechanical woes, the obvious exception being his gaff in Turkey. Look at where Vettel was in each of his un-delayed races and he has finished in a very strong position; either winning the race or out-performing Webber, with the only real exceptions being Monaco or Spain. Even in the races where he suffered a mechanical failure of some sort, be it a spark plug, wheel rim, brakes, etc., he was either leading the race or at least ahead of his teammate at the time.

Point of all this is to ask yourself this simple question: Would you still feel the same way about Vettel if he had finished out the Bahrain, Australian, Spain, or even the British rounds un-delayed by some mechanical woe? Vettel would at least have the most wins if the status-quo was maintained in just Bahrain and Australia...

The best way to sum up this entire line of thinking is that Vettel leads all drivers with a BPR AVG rating of 94.624, ahead of Webber with a 94.437. The AVG rating is the best way to rate a driver's pure performance in qualifying and the races without considering reliability. When his car has run without fault, Vettel has been quite good, albeit in a great car.


Absolutely bob-on, in my opinion, Mike.


When Lewis had a wheel failure, he was running second equivalent to 18 points, beside great article as always.


Lewis' failure also meant that Jenson picked up an extra 2 points I believe, so if Lewis had made it to the end his current lead would be 20 points larger?




ah ah no ... Button would have clawed some back if it wasent for the mechanic at Monaco


A very fair assessment... I predict the season will end with the constructors in the same order. Good news for McLaren fans (like me!)


I've said this many times before. It is harsh to criticise McLaren for their qualifying error in Malaysia, considering Ferrari, Red Bull and Mercedes all made the SAME mistake. Mercedes and Red Bull made the mistake to a larger degree, as Webber and Rosberg did not leave the pits during Q1 until after both the McLaren and Ferrari drivers.

Everyone blames McLaren and Ferrari, yet their mistake was no worse than the other two top teams they are competing against. Webber and Rosberg managed to get through Q1 with great drives. Perhaps the journalists should instead say for Malaysia "McLaren and Ferrari could have really used a Webber or Rosberg, as their drivers were not good enough to get out of Q1".


I'd argue that given their experience in F1 that McLaren and Ferrari's mistakes in Malaysia were worse than the other teams mentioned. After such a long time in the sport they had to have known the value of a banker lap in unpredictable conditions.

Made for a great race though.


Button set a time fast enough to get into Q2 but beached his car so could not take part.


Good point Tom. Jenson stuffed up. As I said the drivers were to blame more than the team. Otherwise there is strong evidence that Red Bull tried to sabotage Mark Webber's race in Malaysia, by sending out Vettel when it was dry, while Webber had to qualify in the wet.

Speaking of Mark Webber, he has done by far the most quickest laps of the season. This means for any given lap in a grand prix he has been the fastest the most - and by a MASSIVE margin. Mark Webber has 26.7%, Lewis Hamilton 11.5%, Seb Vettel 8.5%. Amazing stuff by Mark.


Ferrari seem to have a quick car, but I think they've made there own bad luck to a certain extent this season. And then complaint loudly about it which doesn't impress anybody.

McLaren are doing the most important thing with a slightly slower car, which is finishing consistently well. Don't forget that Button's issue at Monaco could easily have been avoided and he'd have plenty more points if it had been.

Red Bull I think still have to be favourites for the title though, their car is excellent and so are their drivers. There is plenty of time for them to stop bickering and start winning!


In my opinion the top 3 teams are Virgin, Lotus, HRT...as in this current poor state of the economy, they are still turning up to each race and giving it a bash, with very little income.


I agree with your sentiment. I think there is a lot of merit in that. And the new team drivers all seem to really enjoy their racing too..

I for one support the new teams whole heartedly...and don't like it when the journos (mostly ex drivers) start talking about them being too slow.


Spot on article, I also expect Ferrari to be stronger in the next few races and that could also play into McLaren's hands due to the strong drivers.

I feel that they have done the best job and as the three teams are closer the variable component (the driver) will become more important.

I hope Lewis wins as he has been the stand out driver in the first half of the season. If Lewis had been in a Red Bull the season would be all but over.

I expect that it will be still very tight and decided in Brazil at the earliest.

Can't wait for the next race!


I agree Hamilton in a Redbull and he would already have one hand on the title.

But if Ferrari get stronger i see it causing McLaren more problems because they will start taking points off them.


Agree with this analysis.


James, you say "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."

Shouldn't this be 20 points? 18 points for 2nd, and another 2 points because Jenson would have gotten 8 points instead of 10.

That would make Lewis 32 points ahead - more than a race win. Rather academic now though of course.


Well Jenson also lost an unknown amount of points in the Monaco debacle, to be fair to him ...


Probably not many though. Jenson was alreqady propping up the top 10 if not out of it altogether when his engine blew, and realistically, he wouldn't have made up many places at Monaco.


Nice Analysis.

Mine in 1 word for each team:

McLaren: Optimised

Red Bull: Inept

Ferrari: Unlucky


I agree


"without Hamilton’s wheel failure in Spain, he would be a further 15 points ahead in the table"

If we are making allowances for mechanical failures then we could also assume that Button would have scored some decent points at Monte-Carlo but for the bung accidentally left in his radiator.

Mind you as Murray would say IF is F1 spelt backwards.....


Similarly for Red Bull. Add 25+ to Vettel's score?


Yes and make the necessary alterations for the knock on effect on other's points hauls that reliability from Hamilton, Vettel and Button would have had.

Paul Heathcote

Is the fact that Massa isn't on it this year due to the fact that he may not be the same driver following his accident. Not heard it mentioned, perhaps not nice to do so, but it may be a reason. Either his brain is damaged so that he is simply not able to drive as he once did (like Sir Stirling) or maybe his bottle has gone. Both are completely understandable and in no way meant as a slight on his past ability or his character. He is also a daddy now, maybe all three combined keeps him at 95% - dont blame him really, got too much to lose now.


Don't think that is the case as any issue relating to his accident would have been more evident at the start of the year & maybe improved over time.

Massa looked fine earlier on in the year but i'd say that since then when Alonso's been outperforming him every weekend Massa's just lost a bit of confidence.

Perhaps another issue is that Ferrari have started developing the car more towards Alonso which has hurt Massa.


I don't think massa is completely back in the swing of things yet. He was never a big overtaker and i think his general race-craft is still rusty. I think he needs a few good performances to get back into it and hopefully next year he's back to 100%.

with such a big injury, and to the head, i think it's more than reasonable to expect him to take a while to get his instincts back and get to the point where things start slowing down for him.

Alonso's assertiveness certainly hasn't helped though.


I thought it was inner ear damage for Moss (rather than brain) - affecting his feel for the car and therefore his confidence...

Anyone got a definitive answer on that?


Fernando wasted no time establishing the team pecking order (overtaking him in the pit entrance, generally outperforming him) -- I wonder if that demoralized him, perhaps in combination with any aftereffects of his crash.


I think a possible explanation for Button and Hamilton's smooth relationship is that Button doesn't "hate" being beaten by a teammate.

It's not that Hamilton's was a bad sport when he dropped those two races to Button early in the season but you could see that he was utterly determined to reassert himself and he has emphatically.


I've mentioned this on here before...Jenson can't really lose the PR game. But Lewis can.

Jenson went into the team as the underdog (despite being WDC) and is peforming very well. But he's not consistently faster than Lewis and that's kind of what we all expected. But he's close to Lewis, which is perhaps more than we all expected. So he's not making a fool of himself. Far from it!

However, if Lewis was getting beaten week in and week out we'd all be wondering what is going on.

It's a perception game, and right now I think the general opinion is the balance of the world is correct. Lewis is quicker but not by very much.

This paints Jenson in a good light and he feels no pressure from it. But if he does find more speed than Lewis then Lewis will feel under a lot of pressure...because we EXPECT him to beat Jenson.

Tough for Lewis I think...but what impresses me, is he just deals with it. And just keeps driving fast.

I think the whole grid needs to look at Lewis and be afraid...he's really starting to show all the hallmarks of a true great. And if McLaren gets the car to within a couple of tenths of the red bull, he will take some beating.


Indeed - I can't see Hamilton taking being beaten consistently very well at all, though he hasn't been as yet.


Also consider that the management power balance has shifted since the days when Ron was running the show.. I believe Whitmarsh has a more balanced driver approach than Ron, based on DC's and Alonso's experiences. However, that does not explain why Kovalainen felt the same even when Whitmarsh was at the head, so maybe we have to factor Jenson's brit factor (which I think counts a lot).

Well balanced analysis, James!


I wonder how much of Ferrari's lack of development comes down to their test / reserve driver? I have always been a fan of the little Italian bloke, and his reputation for getting more out of mid-field cars. But it seems Fisi's move to Ferrari had coincided with a lack of development progress from the team. Am I being too harsh, and is it actually the lack of testing which has hurt the team more?


I guess signing as a "test driver" these days is nothing more than an option to be put into the car if something befalls one of the regular drivers. Other than that, maybe test drivers get to play in the simulator...

Zobra Wambleska

Well, Fisi can't help much if they don't test.


I don't think Fisi, Badoer or Gene have actually been behind the wheel of this year's car at all... with testing restrictions, I think it has just been Massa and Alonso. Any problems with a lack of development would then fall squarely on the two race drivers and the team itself for not using simulations to the best of their ability.


I would like to comment on Ferrari and put Red Bull and Macca on side for a bit. I think they have huge pressure on them to deliver after replacing Kimi with Fernando and having got huge cash from Santander for doing so. So far they haven`t lived up to the expectations and Kimi had squeezed out more from a car that was not developed than Alonso and Massa this year respectively. It will be interesting to see what happens in the rest of the season, whether they can turn things around.


Disagree, before Massa's accident last year it was an equal environment between the two drivers, after Massa's accident Ferrari naturally paid more attention to Raikkonen. It's unfair to judge Raikkonen last year without a good team mate like he had in Massa before Hungary. This year Alonso is proving to be in another world to Massa in pure pace.



Martin Brundle feels, as per the Valencia broadcast, that Massa hasn't been the same since driver on his own since his comeback.

Do you have any inclination toward this?


Massa's pace relative to Alonso is sort of where I expected. His demeanor is a little downbeat though.


I agree. He was still improving in 2008 when he had his accident. I've not seen data and it may just be that he's not doing as well relative to Alonso, but he doesn't look like beating Alonso any time soon


Maybe not having Schumacher around is affecting his driving and possibly the technical side too as Michael seemed to very active in getting the development team to work around Felipe.


I've just noticed that in all of the Top 4 teams, the "2nd driver" (higher number, yellow T-bar camera) is ahead of their team mate in the standings. That must be unusual.

Alonso and Massa are lucky that the Red Bull driver feud is taking up all of the attention as they have easily been the most disappointing driver pairing of this year, especially when they were originally considered as one of the strongest line-ups.

Good analysis overall James. The only thing that worries me about McLaren is that Ferrari and Williams didn't have the same issues that they did when they introduced the blown diffuser. I know Mercedes did have problems, but frankly they seem to have issues with every upgrade and McLaren usually do not.


Perhaps the Mercedes engine is a factor,having more problem dealing with the heat produced.

Has Force India got a blown diffuser?


Not yet, but I believe there is one on the way


The Force India F-Duct or whatever they want to call it looked interesting with a two part system of which the second part seemed to go to the diffuser. They seem to be feeding some air into that area. Whether its a blown diffuser could be anyone's guess...


I'd largely agree with you on the McLaren side of things. But I think your analysis of RB and Ferrari are a touch kind!

Red Bull have a better car in principle, but it's only the design that is superior, on all other fronts they are behind, their drivers have made costly mistakes, their manufacturing has let them down, there team management and PR have let them down, they are immature as an F1 team and it shows! How far ahead in both championships would McLaren be if they'd designed that car? All bets would be off me thinks!

As for Ferrari how can a team with so much backing and heritage be so stupid, emotional and naive when it comes to racing! Take Massa for example, only a mad man would give Massa another 2 years! He's the most over-rated driver out there and has done nothing this year to warrant a 2 year Ferrari deal! Ferrari must be under huge pressure from Alonso to have a whipping boy number 2 and that just doesn’t make sense for a competitive team, especially when they don't have the backroom depth in the MSC days. Then there have been tacticle errors, Alonso has been poor too, even rookies don't do jump starts! I could go on all-day about stupid Ferrari through 09/10. They need to wake up and get real!


Take a look at the last Newey Mclaren from 2005 which was miles quicker than anything else but Kimi took a long time to turn that in victories, whilst there was all sorts of distractions going on with Montoya, broken collar bones and reserve drivers being drafted in.

Kimi should have won the WDC that year, but Alonso got it by being consistant with a rleiable car.

I'm a massive Mclaren fan, but they can mess it up just as much as RB are trying to this year!


Mclaren 05 are not the same operation as Mclaren 10. They are a different animal these days!


TK has some words on RB's qualy performance:

"We learned more this weekend about how the Red Bull uses its blown diffuser. It appears that they have an engine setting that allows exhaust gases to be generated even when the driver is off the throttle, under braking or in the middle of a corner.

This is done by retarding the ignition. Renault also has the system, as it is governed through the engine's electronic control unit (ECU).

The benefit is that it delivers a more consistent gas flow through the diffuser that does not upset the car's balance, as happened to McLaren in Silverstone.

The drawback is that it overheats the engine and uses a lot of fuel, so Red Bull only use it in qualifying. This goes a long way to explaining why the RB6 is so dominant on a Saturday afternoon."

Like the friendlier/more human Macca under Martin Whitmarsh. A team transformed for the better.

Feeling alienated from Red Bull and Seb . . . the fun loving team looks shockingly duplicitous. So want Webber to do well.

Ferrari have had a lot of ill-luck or under-performance. Alonso could be right at the pointy end if he hadn't had so many duffed chances. Massa, disappointingly, seems to have faded from consciousness.


You just picked that up from Ted Kravitz's article on the BBC Sport. James had reported this during Canada or Valencia.


I saw this in James' technical piece the other day, but must have missed it being broken at the European GP.

It looks like it is the key ingredient though - Whatever it is about the RBR Q3 performance, it is this that gets them to the front row. Maybe they also use it in the first half lap of the race, that gets them to stay there.

Any word on it being added to the McLaren or Ferrari?


I think you'll find that I broke this story here on the JA on F1 site at the European GP


Apologies for my oversight.


I know I read it here first!

I also commented a bit about it and asked why some see it as damaging to the engine. The only way I can see that is if it makes the exhaust valves / seats burn out. Ted has explained it a bit further (confirming my assumptions) and highlighted the cost in terms of fuel.

Excellent articles James.


Interesting to me is 4th - Merc (Brawn). They have proven to be one-hit-wonders. With the dbl diffuser advantage and the year head start on the new car they surprised everyone. But without those advantages, they cannot seem to keep pace with the top 3. As far as drivers, Nico has been eating Michael's lunch. I don't think Michael is really that far past his prime, he just does not have the advantage of superior machinery and average teammates now. Looking at how he compares to Nico, and how Michael's old teammates perform, it seems Michael's greatness is perhaps more clearly due to his team building and car development skills than due to raw driving skills.


I agree with you to an extent. I have always admired that MS achieved his massive success by working much harder than everyone to put all the advantages in his favor. Of course, he stepped over the line from time-to-time as well. However, even though I think he was not always the absolute fastest "pure" driver, I still think he was close and his performance this year is not a true indicator of his past level.

I have sort of a perverse admiration in the way a guy who was not the absolute best driver was able to make the most competive, pressure-filled sport there is all his own.


Actually, I think MS is a long way short of his peak, however I think that he is showing that he has still got his speed when he can figure out the tyre characteristic.

A question for you James:

Do you think that the switch to Pirelli Tyres next year will act as a "leveller" that might allow Michael to perform better due to the fact that the tyres are new to everyone??


Do you still consider Ferrari in the Constructors championship James?


Looking a bit tenuous now, Problem is that both McLaren and both RBR drivers are scoring at every race


I can't stress how poorly Ferrari have performed as a team since the Bahrain Grand Prix. Ill-conceived strategy, missed opportunities, driver errors, inconsistent pace, the list is endless. At a certain point, consistent bad luck can't be described as "luck" at all...

I'd argue that Renault have performed far better than Ferrari. Considering that they have a rookie driver in Petrov, who has only managed to score 6 points due to his inexperience, Robert Kubica's 83 points is quite impressive.

Put any driver of Alonso or Massa's caliber in Petrov's car and I'd wager that Renault would be third in the constructor's championship at this stage in the game...



The Ferrari of old always made the most of each race. At silverstone the old ferrari would have ensured Massa ended up in front of the red bulls after his forced stop, from there he would have slowed the pace for Alonso.

Charlie has stated in the press that he "suggested" the Alonso let Robert past, and ferrari took no notice.

I am a life long ferrari fan, so it hurts to say this, but ferrari have little or no hope of winning unless they change their decision making process, that is the key issue for them, not speed.

What do you think?




The have made some odd mistakes this season for sure.


Just this season? I think they've been making odd mistakes ever since Todt left.


Indeed. Kimi lost victory at 2008 British gp due to poor Ferrari decisions. That affected the rest of his championship. The dream team has broken up and they haven't helped themselves by getting rid of people that were keeping them at the front...


I feel like Massa's underwhelming performance has to do with his accident last year and the fact that he now has a son.

Unfortunate for us Massa fans, but I can't really blame him.


Thanks James.

Would love to have a similar appraisal on the bottom three teams: does the all-CFD approach work; why did Bruno get the push at Silverstone; is Mike Gascoyne always that wound up? etc etc.


Still waiting for 3-Car-Monty's customary rant about slower cars getting in the way last week.


James, very good analysis as ever.

Just few ideas and comments.

McLaren has the manufacturer capability to beat Red Bulls for both Championship, I would like to remind you all last year championship.

Brawns were unbeatable on pace during quali and race until mid season.

They just won both Championship having a huge advantage at this point of the season.

McLaren turned around a dog of a car accordingly to EJ.

Therefore Red Bulls need to be at their best if they want to win and I think they just may do it with Webber but it will be very close.

Ferrari will be in the mix only with Alonso, Massa looks like he is back 3-4 years when was second fiddle to Michael Shumacher.

I personally think it has a problem with bigger than ever egos on the other side of the garage, before with MS and now with Alonso.

They have the capability to suck energy out of Massa and therefore he is unable to perform.


A bit off topic, but James what do you make of Sauber sending their car back out with a clearly broken rear wing? highly dangrerous? Surprised it wasn't discussed more on TV. He should have been shown the Black and Orange flag (if that's the right one?!)


Yes, bit strange that one.


Well if your look at it alonso should have won in canada, if he had of cheated a la Hamilton he would have finished second and he should have been on the podium at the very least in silverstone. So with little bit of luck here and there everybodys views would be totally different


Who do you blame for Alonso not being on the podium at Silverstone? And for being asleep in Canada while Button nipped past?

Some things in F1 are luck, other things just appear to be. In many cases, you make your own luck.


Spot on analysis!

McLaren (not a fan) have shown that they are truly brilliant this year. They are managing their performance and their drivers with aplomb. They have gotten everything right thus far. They have made mistakes, but they have reacted perfectly.

Ferrari could be the team to beat in the second half if they stop out-thinking themselves. Their failures this season have primarily been the result of strategic errors, which cause them to suffer massively from the smallest amount of bad luck, lap traffic or decisions against them.

Red Bull need to reign in Vettel, he is not a World Champion (yet). They have 2 amazingly talented drivers, one is wicked fast, one is very experienced. I think experience may win out in the end. In order for Red Bull to succeed they will need to extract the maximum effort from each of their drivers. Favoring one over the other will only work to bring them both down.


Great blog James, I've been reading it for some time now, but it's the first time I'm leaving a comment.

I wanted to say something about Alonso, since I'm his big fan and it really, really hurts me to see him performing the way he is this year. Everybody's talking about him being obsessed with Hamilton. I have no idea how it really is, but I somehow think it's not Lewis, but the championship itself Fernando is obsessed with. I guess that after three relatively poor years, he's so hungry to win again that he's loosing his cool. The fact that Hamilton is on top of the drivers standings is a different matter - I think that Alonso wants to beat everybody and not just Lewis as some people suggest. That's how I see it. I might be wrong on that.

Anyway, I think he needs 2 or 3 good races to restore his confidence and calmness. And I hope he will, because I would really love to see him up there fighting for the win with LH and JB till the end of the season. I also think that Ferrari shouldn't be sorry for switching Kimi for Fernando and I don't think people should jump to such conclusions after just a few races really - it's Alonso's first year with Ferrari and if he manages to restore his calmness (which I truely hope he will), he will be very strong again (if Ferrari itself manges to come to grip).

Sorry for such a long post.


James, who would be your bet to win the championship this year?


Unless one of the Red Bull drivers gets the upper hand soon, it's looking like Hamilton


Doubly so if Red Bull are hurting their engines to get the upper hand in qualifying. They may find themselves short of engines in the last few races.

Harriet and Blah Blah Nyborg

Management has been key this year, hasn't it? Not that it never is key, but with the scandals and debacles of Red Bull and Ferrari, it seems that we can put that McLaren consistency in (large?) part down to Martin Whitmarsh and his team.

Would you agree with that, James?


Well McLaren had their fair share in the last three years....but yes I think the management has a calm assurance about it at the moment


A reasonable and good analysis. I too think Alonso can start winning again, but Alonso and Ferrari need to maybe bottle their emotions a bit more. Passion is good, but it should be measured with reason.



Don't you feel that Ferrari have made a mistake to extend Massa too soon for next season?

The guy seems to have completely lost it. It's particularly shocking since he has had better times against Schumacher and Raikkonen. I think on past history that top drivers get usually better when they return from injury because they are really hungry to have a go again. I can remember Schumacher returning in 1999 in Malaysia or Kubica after his Canada crash. Even Mark Webber has beaten Vettel and the rest this weekend following his big crash the race before. With Massa, it seems to have had the opposite effect, as he's getting worse over the year. I think Ferrari have made a big mistake because they can't win the constructor's title with only one driver performing.


Schumacher didn't suffer a serious brain injury like Massa. It's not surprising he's not completely on it. He probably still doesn't feel completely right, but will never admit to it until years later.


I don't believe Massa suffered a serious brain injury - if he had, he wouldn't be racing this season. He certainly had a serious skull fracture, damage to his eye, and a small brain injury.

Mika Hakkinen suffered life threatening head injuries in 1995, he came back a lot faster in 1996, and was a much more complete and stronger driver after it.

Massa's confidence may have been knocked, he's admitted to struggling with the tyres, and just hasn't been strong in races. I'm sure we'll see him back to his best, it just may take until next season.

James - do you know if Alonso would have had any say in the development of the F10, even while under contract to Renault?


Massa outscored Alonso in 4 of the first 7 races. It's only in the last three that things have gone badly wrong.

In Canada he collided with Liuzzi and Schumacher. In Valencia he got stuck behind Alonso in the pit lane after getting stuck behind the Safety Car. At Silverstone he had his tires shredded by Alonso.

Yet none of these incidents suggest he has "lost it". He could have secured big points in all three races without these misfortunes.

F1 fans always like to tell stories, typically attributing all a driver's ups and downs to his psychology. In reality, if it's not the car, it's probably bad luck. All the F1 drivers are top drawer and it's rarely differences in driving ability that separate them.

Mike from Medellin, Colombia

Massa's accident was different in that was a life threatening head injury.

It seems that life has dealt him a very unfair hand. I really hope that he manages to recover that edge that he has been missing since that terrible accident.


What might be different in Massa's case is that he became a father more or less at the same time as having the big accident. To be reminded of ones mortality at such a moment in life must affect his approach to racing.


I'm not so sure Massa's slip in results is down to his accident. He's never been known as a driver who can get that little bit extra out of the car or score more points than he deserved from a race.

I'm not denying he can be quick but he's quick when the car is quick. Winning from pole became his trademark a couple of seasons ago but when his car is further down the grid he seems quite happy to trundle round, not pressing the guy in front, not putting together stints to get him past someone in the pits.

When conditions are difficult, say it's wet or you have a chaotic safety car to the pits scenario, Massa always seems to be losing out, not taking the most from the situation.

A piece of team radio from Canada stood out for me, during qualifying Massa got on the radio and said there was no grip on the track, it was terrible. He was blaming the track, finding excuses as to why others were faster than him. The fact was everyone had low grip not no grip like Fellipe said. A true winner would have been working out how to find the grip, how to drive better, how to up the speed on the straights or where he could jump an extra kerb. Instead he just complained.

When he did so well on his first race back in Bahrain I was delighted to see him on track and faster than the rest, however is mid table results since just show he's still the same driver as before, an average one.


Lewis and Jenson say things like that all the time. Jenson even called his car "undriveable" on Saturday. Every race we hear someone claiming to be "struggling for grip" when things go wrong.

Maybe there is an element of shirking responsibility... but more likely it's just a way of telling the engineers where the problem lies, without necessarily blaming them for that problem.


I think it's just the opposite. Massa's said there was NO grip, obviously there was and it's not going to help an engineer who'd need to know where there was grip, where there was less grip, how it felt as it was going away and so on.

Massa's radio comment was made in Montreal after he'd failed to get into Q3, I'm sure he was aware it would get aired on TV and as he'd failed to qualify it was purely an excuse as to why he'd performed badly as no amount of changes would get him into Q3.

It was a point I'd raised to complete a picture of the Massa I see, someone for whom the fault is always at someone else's door.

You're right I've heard other drivers exaggerate the state of the car or track over the radio, not particularly helpful, when you're trying to get the car to beat every other car you can't worry about upsetting the engineers by telling it like it is.

Finally, although I may be wrong, wasn't Button's undrivable comment said in post race interviews rather than on the radio?


Why does it make any difference that Jenson makes his excuses on TV rather than over the car radio? All drivers do it at some point.


Hi James,

I have a question regarding the set-up of the RedBull cars in relation to the blown diffuser and the spark plug problems encountered by Princess Petal earlier in the season;

As has been reported, the additional performance advantage that the RedBulls have in qualifying is, in part, linked to them employing a throttle trail system that effectively retards the ignition so that on entry to corners, while off the throttle or on part throttle, the exhaust gasses are maintained in order to hold onto as much downforce as possible.

Do you think that this is what may have caused the spark plug failure earlier in the season and is this throttle trail obvious when watching from the circuit?


I think that they only use this for single laps at a time in qualifying. However I wonder if Vettel may have been on this setting during the race in Istanbul when he caught and attempted to pass Webber which led to the accident.


Hasn't it been confirmed that Vettel was merely running 'rich' on his engine settings? I highly doubt Red Bull would have made such a risky move mechanically just to pass a teammate half-way through the race.

It's pretty clear that Vettel was making up ground on Webber not in the corners, but on the straights...


Interesting, and it may explain why Horner et al on the pit wall seemed to know that Vettel was about to make his move on Webber.


Hi James, Livo,

look at the lap times from Turkey from lap 34 to 40. The others (Webber, Hamilton) didn't slow, and Hamilton wasn't looking at catching Webber in a hurry. Vettel, suddenly became amazingly quick. Hmmm.


oooooohhhhh now that's interesting!!!


Where is that development pace Alonso had? At the first race they had car developed from the mid season 2009. A Raikkonen legacy. Now when he had sucked up all the air in the garage, Schumacher had gone - a wind in the back of Massa and person who always made sure Kimi never got treatment and full focus of the team, I don't see Alonso delivering. And it will get worse for him.


Great article as always James.

I'd like to see your analysis of MSC also. He has now been back for over half a season, has well under half the points of his team mate and doesn't seem to be improving.

I didn't expect miracles from the first race but I did expect more than this by now.


Credit where credit's due, Josh - James gave us this scoop, back on 4th July:

"One interesting observation is that Red Bull has a setting on the engine, whereby the ignition is retarded on the over run, which maintains exhaust gas pressure even when the driver lifts off the throttle. This maintains the performance of the blown diffuser and keeps the downforce up when it’s most needed. It’s not something you can do for more than a lap or two as it damages the engine, but it gives that vital fraction of a second which keeps Red Bull ahead of the rest in qualifying."


Yeah good article - but don't agree with this "...with a damaging feud between the drivers which cost them points in...Silverstone." The feud did not cost them points last week.

Anyway, I think it's the weather, mistakes and accidents that have made this championship interesting so far this season. Also, very talented drivers that are fairly even in really good cars. And yes, it's the different characteristics of the cars that has also made things very interesting.


I think Mcclaron are only leading the championship because poor management and poor strategy by Redbull.


James, is there any insight on how the drivers are travelling with their engine allocation?

I was worried earlier this year that Alonso would have run out of useable engines by race 9.


James, I'm hearing rumours that Webber will replace Petrov at Renault next year. Have you any news on this. I have heard his big Italian Manager has been sniffing around trying find him a drive for next year.


James, what circuits out of the remaining left this season are going to suit Red Bull, McLaren and Ferrari?


I am hugely disappointed with Ferrari's performance this year and not only. The team just doesn't seem to recover from the shock of Schumacher, Todt and Brawn's retirements and I am afraid it will take a long, long time before they can do it. I am worried because Ferrari had a similar period in the '80s before becoming "another team on the grid" at the beginning of '90s.


Ejoying the blog james

RKU says
Yeah good article – but don’t agree with this “…with a damaging feud between the drivers which cost them points in…Silverstone.” The feud did not cost them points last week.

There are arguments both ways but in my opinion the feud did cost them points. I think that if the relationship between the two drivers was more like that at Mclaren then Vettels driving off the start line and into the first corner would have been better and he would not have ened up with a puncture. It was too much about showing Webber who was boss and not about maximising points and race wins.



If Red Bull's qualifying performance is wholly due to this engine exhaust retardation setting over one lap then how do they cope for the rest of the race? Historically the exhaust blown diffuser is relatively undriveable if it wasn't for this retardation technique. How do you think they avoid this problem during race day?


Alonso’s F1 career appears to becoming a self indulgent obsessive desire to beat Hamilton at any cost. The harder he tries the more mistakes he makes and so the gulf widens and the obsession starts to consume him. He needs to sort himself out in my view. We’ve seen far more gaffs from him than outstanding racing this season and it’s out of character. Massa appears to have withdrawn into his shell and is just taking the pay cheque. Sad really as when his head is right he’s among the quickest out there.

As for team Ferrari, they’ll do well to concentrate on developing their own car rather than copy bits from others. The team does miss the like of Ross Brawn.

As for RBR, great car but the man management skills of the senior management are at best questionable and may prove to cost them the WCC. Vettel is very quick but I’m not convinced he has much else to offer. He’s certainly no Michael Schumacher. Webber is a good all rounder and now very well experienced so as with last year beating his highly regarded teammate at the half way stage.

McLaren deserve to be where they are, two solid drivers that despite rumours to the contrary work well together in a team that is behind the pair of them.


James, about RBR you are writing "when they always seem to take a step up." Of course they are ! They give full power to their engines only in Q3, at least this is what I heard on BBC during the latest GP. Can you confirm this please ?


I also would like to pick you up on one thing James. Your comments that "the feud" between the Red Bulls cost them point at Silverstone.

I heard Eddie Irvine on Talk Sport blame Webber for the puncture incident as well. It seems to me that Webber was well within his rights to use every inch of the track as he was well ahead. I would have thought it is the car's behind that are obligated to stay on the track while avoiding any collision regardless of what team they drive for. Wouldn't you agree?


Yes, I think Webber had won the corner but Vettel wasn't going to take it. This was a payback for the pass at the start in Malaysia. Vettel tried to win it back and it took him off course, which wrecked his race.

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