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The Top 3 Formula 1 teams – Mid season Analysis
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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.


McLAREN

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.


RED BULL RACING

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.

FERRARI

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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1

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?

2

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.

3

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 ?

4

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.

5

James,

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?

6

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.

7

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.

8

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

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.

10

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.

11

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

12

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.

13

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.”

14

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.

15

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.

16

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?

17

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.

18

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…

19

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.

20

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.

21

oooooohhhhh now that’s interesting!!!

22

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.

23

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.

24

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?

25

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.

26

James,

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.

27

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.

28

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?

29

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.

30
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.

31

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.

32

Possibly.

33

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.

34
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?

35

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

36

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

37

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

38

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.

39

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.

40

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.

41

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

42

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.

43

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?!)

44

Yes, bit strange that one.

45

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.

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