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JA on F1 Mid season review: Part 3
Posted By: James Allen  |  05 Aug 2012   |  9:27 am GMT  |  82 comments

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.

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)

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

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James, thanks for the reviews, always interesting.

I was also hoping you would do a F1 review, sort of a “state of play” to see what your thoughts are on the key moments and decisions. Not team specific but concorde agreements, shareholders, technical changes, etc.

For me, a big talking point has been Q3 & the number of drivers putting in hot laps. I have heard (or dreamt!!) the 107% rule to be proposed but I dont think that is sufficient to ensure drivers push for a proper qualifying lap time (6.3sec every 90sec)which is in the range of current race pace so they would only lose 1-2 laps on those tyres. Whether a percentage would work or not I am unsure but it should not be subjective – we know how the teams love subjective rules!!!

I would propose in addition to this type of rule, that for drivers failing to set a time, they should start the race on the tyres they used in Q2 to get into Q3. This would ensure all the drivers in Q3 complete laps, stress another set of tyres and maintain the “show” / intrigue of qualifying.

This should give the teams who drop out in Q2 more of a points scoring chance as currently (IMO) positions 7-10 hold the tyre strategy advantage.

I do note though,that in the last few races all Q3 drivers have been putting in decent lap times but then the rain has made it a little more of a lottery & as seen in Hungary, grid position is paramount.

Any takers / improvers on this idea or am I off on a tangent?



Interesting idea. I think as the season has gone on, with the field so close, we’ve seen quite a few top names forced to use a second set of softs to get out of Q2, so that’s why they only do one run in Q3.

Quali is now considered pretty important, I don’t sense that people “save tyres” in Q3 any more unless they find themselves in a very dominant position.


Excellent idea for a topic Richard D. It seems to be an issue that only crops up every 5 or 6 races, and as a result, its not been addressed properly.

I recall Martin Brundle suggesting that each Q3 runner be handed a specific set of Q3 tyres that have to be handed back. If they then had to start on their Q2 tyre, everyone is a winner. They all do a run on brand new tyres with low fuel so we get the spectacle we want, and the drivers dont lose a set of tyres. And they’ll still be in the same position starting the race as they would start on their fastest Q2 tyre.

Personally, I’d like to see a situation where the top 10 shootout is done as quali used to be a few years ago, back when each driver got 1 lap with no traffic. We could see the lap and the timings and I found that much better than the way it is currently. At the moment, we get to see one driver post a final Q3 lap and we see the rest of the drivers as they cross the line.

I think if the 10 drivers went out seperately at 2 minute intervals. That way we see every Q3 lap as they each get an outlap and one flying lap before going back to the pits.

I know it didnt work as a format when all the drivers were involved in this quali format but just for the top 10 could be interesting. Puts more pressure on them too. At the moment, they get this banker lap in at the start of Q3. Q3 should be a one lap, pressure filled shootout.

Im interested to hear thoughts on this from others.



thank, I think Spa should be a prime example of this (if a dry weekend) as overtaking is possible with DRS (unless you MW & overtake through Eau Rouge!!) and with new vs old tyres.



The worrisome aspect of Mercedes other than the woefull performance is despite the presence of stalwarts like Brawn, Bell, Costa. The inputs received from Michael is also of great value. Even with a team like this, and even if we say there are budget issue, the situation is def alarming. Unless of course there is management issue of mercedes vs brawn or the unwillingess of mercedes to let Michael go for the apparent fall in sponsorship or whatever….

what is you take on it…

It is abs woeful performance.


SK Anand

rob in victoria bc

I’m wondering if there has been a definitive answer on what caused the Williams’ garage fire in Spain?


James, you missed that Rosberg won in China.


I too am worried for Mercedes. If they cant pull it together before the end of the season, there will be a properly unhealthy financial shortfall compared to contsructor expectations. They were considered a top 4 team to start the year and I’m sure that they will have projected as much for 2013’s finances. How long more will the suits at Mercedes HQ put up with the underperformance. They put all their eggs in one basket when taking over the Brawn team. No longer can they be viewed as the brilliant engine supplier that they still are, all because their works team cannot deliver, despite all the resources and experience at their disposal.

If one more person bemoans Schumacher’s bad luck. He has had some, but you make your own luck and Alonso, Vettel and co. would not allow that kind of bad luck to hold them back. Schumacher has improved in certain aspects of his driving in 2012. He is T-Boning drivers and losing a front wing less often (though it still happens whenever Senna is around). His pace has also improved. Rosberg on the otherhand, qualifies well as usual, but is going backwards in the races. His win in China seems like a lifetime ago.

As for Torro Rosso, I actually think Ricciardo has done well. The car is clearly shy of the midfield battle but if anyone is to drag it into a battle in the race, it sure isnt Vergne. Im amazed that they dumped Buemi and Jaime out for Vergne. Ricciardo probably did deserve his chance in that car. But they cant really ascertain whether he is good enough or not until they give him a proper car.

Prasanna Madhavan


I am from INDIA, have been following F1 from 1997. even before people in india knew what F1 is. i am 30 yrs a analyst. never missed a race in my life. even left my GF, she wanted to meet on sunday, i had race to see. i want to Get a Job even as a truck driver with any team or as a floor cleaner. or even as security guy in ur company. i want to be part of F1. have earned enough for last 7 years in banks. not interested now. I am expert driver. even passed the FIA exam in india as a Steward.I am ok with even 2k job, any suggestions u have please mail me on prasannamdhvn@gmail.com


Silly way to run a team really- your either team principal or your not. I think Marko is drinking too many tins of Red Bull. His defense of Vettel ( albeit expected) in Germany was not accurate and poorly presented. With every team showing the importance of consistency it was a very silly thing for Torro Rosso to sack both drivers who were progressing well last year – we can only imagine where they would be now.! They cant expect a “Vettel” in every driver that comes along.. Same way Ferrari know now- all of Massas sponsorship money won’t buy them a win!


I don’t really see how Petrov has disappointed. As Kovaleinen was one of the top rated drivers last year, including by JA himself, it would seem the fact that Vitaly has almost matched Kov would be a positive indicator. As the numbers show, their qualifying results aren’t that far off and in race form, Vitaly tends to make up more places that Kov, even going so far as to run in a legitimate 10th in Europe. In fact, I think the only thing keeping Kov ahead of Vitaly in the standings is a single 14th place finish, even with Kov having two extra finishes this season.

I know he hasn’t made any friends with his comments, but to suggest he has disappointed must reflect incredibly poorly on his far more seasoned teammate.


excellent post James!

can you please also do a midseason review of driver performance this year, and drivers who you see as potential movers up the grid in the second half?


Mr Allen.

Your mid season in review,articles written in

superlative mould.

Sir, you deserve a “GOLD MEDAL “.

I thank you and keep it up Numero Uno.


GO Bart I hope you will make it


go bart de pauw hope you will make it

Tornillo Amarillo

DI RESTA seems to lose momentum, he has more contacts in the Mercecedes environment that results in Force India.

In the other hand, HULK is new in the driver seat after an entire year off as a test driver, and he is getting results lately, IMO he has the upper hand and more potential to stay in the team (and to be lure by Ferrari).


Poor old Mike ‘talk the talk’ Gascoyne.


Seems to be the case doesnt it


Slight correction James, he might be The Incredible Hulk, but Nico hasn’t scored a podium this year yet.


Force India’s team policy of “shedding one driver every year” is all well and good if there are quality drivers waiting in the wings, but the assumption that better drivers will actually want to drive for them shows what a flawed concept this is. They would be far better advised to develop their existing drivers and hope they choose to stay…


I think willingly changing one of their current drivers for Jules Bianchi would definitely be a step backwards.


How have Heikki and Vitaly ended up with the same average grid slot when Heikki has out-qualified Vitaly 9-2 and has got into Q2?!


Not sure how they’ve been calculated (whether they use qualifying positions or grid positions after penalties etc), but if penalties are taken into account I think Kovalainen had a gearbox change that dropped him to the back at one race. Also, although Heikki often wins qualifying, it’s normally only by one place, so their averages will be close. Getting into Q2 only gained him I think 2 extra grid slots over his regular 19th.


Caterham’s disappointing run so far this season seems to be the combined effect of a few factors.

First is the midfield teams they were closer to last year have simply outperformed this year. Lotus (Black) and Williams have shown remarkable improvement over last season. Thus in comparison the CT-01 seems underwhelming compared to the T-128.

The CT-01 was seen to have pretty good mechanical grip at Monaco but otherwise seems to be draggy and have insufficient downforce. Hopefully the addition of John Iley will contribute to resolving these two problems with the aero package.

Second, in the second half of 2011 the team put together a string of solid, mature performances. It seemed as though they were hitting a new level of operational function with the car speed and race operations. This year that seems to have faded some. My thought is that moving both Dieter Gass and Mike Gascoyne out of the race operations has something to do with the setback as it will take Mark Smith and Steve Neilson time to redevelop the operational maturity that was lost with the changes. For a small team I suspect it was significant to change that much leadership.

So my suggested remedies are: clean up the aero significantly; and, get the operations gelled.

For drivers, I fear they’ll lose Heikki, and Petrov needs to improve. He was mediocre at best with Lotus and seems to be continuing on that track although he doesn’t crash as much this year.

Craig in Manila

Any team that has an (apparently) stated policy of mandatory departure of one driver per year is, well, odd.

What if Force India were one&two in the WDC..

Sorry Driver2, you gotta go, it’s da policy. Please return your suit and gloves to the shelf where you found them 12months ago.


Do Force India have such a policy??


According to above report from Mr.James Allen : yes.


Yea missed that! Have they really actually stated that? Or is James just going on previous?


If you’re going to tally non-finishes then I think it best to qualify them:

Mechanical or Driver Error

It changes the outlook significantly if it’s the car or driver that cannot finish.


Mercedes with all their designers they brought in are deeply disapointing and despite his win in China one still has question marks over Rosberg.

Force India seem to have stalled while the likes of Sauber and Williams have improved. I think Paul needs to up his pace a little as Nico has begun to get the upper hand on him. The top teams won’t come knocking if he is being beaten.

Toro Rosso are embrassing at the moment. They should have kept Jamie and ran both him and Daniel in the team. Least that way it would provide a better measure of Daniel and would have kept Jamie on his toes (not to mention given them a better chance at scoring a few points than have two rookies do it for them.)

I am little fed up with Caterham. It always seems next year is the big year. While I understand that teams like Sauber and Williams have improved in the midfield making it difficult to break in I still expect far more from the team.


Hi James,

You are spot on with the mid-season review. Looking forward to the second half of the 2012, can you share your thoughts on which team will make the biggest leap forward over others?

Thanks ahead!


Small correction James, I dont think Hulkenberg has had a podium finish this year.


James what’s the story with Franz Tost- he speaks highly of drivers but strikes me as a bit of a “hard nut”.? most team Principals are pragmatic guys, but he seems open to say you get the results or your out -would be interested to know if it’s this same pragmatic approach that saw Giorgio Ascanelli go.

I’m still quiet baffled that they let Jamie Alguesuari go & kept Buemi ( as test)for me Jamie was much better driver and certainly as strong as the two he has now.

Is it some coincidence that Force India, Mercedes, and even Mclaren earlier struggled with rear tyres. The Mercedes Powerplant must have tremendous torque, as well as the advantage of more KERS ?. Is it a question of the Renault engine being more progressive and hence useable also the reason obviously RBR seeking to make it even more progressive? Would be good to get some dyno comparisons between the two engines.

Adrian Newey Jnr

Perhaps they kept Buemi because his contract was better written and therefore harder to get out of? Perhaps it shows how late the decision to drop the drivers was made.

Depsite all the bagging of Dr Marko, if you read his life story, I think you’ll appreciate that he would know how to pick a good driver.


On Marko: Last year I would have agreed. That being said… picking them is one thing, constantly changing them is foolish and and not a recipe for success…proven over and over… that is clearly not the goal at TR.

Adrian Newey Jnr

F1 is a cut throat business not a charity. With all due respect to Jamie (who’s commentary I’m really enjoying this year) and Seb B, they were given a chance in a reasonable team to prove themselves. For whatever reason, the management of the team, who have access to all the data, didn’t think they would be top tier drivers.

Its a bit like coming 4th at the Olympics, you’re still one of the best in the world, you just didn’t win a medal. RBR (and their sister team) want to win gold, not just be there.

RBR have the entire field to pick from, not just TR. Hence their choices can be seen as harsh, but they’re also the ones the ex-drivers can thank for getting them to F1 in the first place. I think the drivers would be the first to thank RB for the funding through their junior careers. Many talented drivers never get that far. However, I think Seb B and Jamie see it that way as well and to their credit have gone on with the job of advancing their careers through other channels.

I have a lot of respect for Dr Helmut. He’s not in the same category as people like Toto Wolff or VJ who have bought their way into F1. Just look at Dr Helmut’s career and you’ll agree he doesn’t need to justify his decisions.


I’m bagging the Torro Rosso decisions to sack both drivers last year and Markos comments in the press after Germany. Although Im aware that other non public factors within the team effect such decisions and comments – so I look forward to James’ insight wherever possible. I’m not particularly looking for anyone’s life story here.


I don’t think he makes the decisions, he’s part of it but it’s Marko, mainly


That was all you had to say … “Helmut Marko”.


That does not surprise me one bit. Describing Helmut as pragmatic would be a nice way of putting it… [mod]

I think Daniel has clearly had the upper hand over Vergne but has been hamstrung by a car that has had absolutely no progress from Albert Park. Daniel’s weekend in Hockenhiem was particularly impressive; always just a couple of positions or so out of the points until the later stages.

As for Schumacher, bad luck or not, with the depth of excellent young talent out there he needs to let go of that seat (as does Massa). Di Resta should surely get that seat in 2013 (or Sutil ironically).


Luke I do not agree If DI Resta is not beating the Hulk not sure he is the man, after all he has been there a season longer to get to know the team (Force India)and has not been convincing, also bear in mind someone like Schumi can sell a lot of Mercedes, for the company that is priceless. Personally I think the cars (Mercedes & Force India) have both been very dissapointing so far this year like James points out Mercedes really need to do better, have they got too many cooks I wonder


Who ever makes these decisions James, I for one am not stupid enough to understand how they are made…


:)) nicely put


Caterham’s problem this year has been the fact that they have actually closed the gap relative to the front of the grid, but are a victim of their limited resources and the fact that the cars are too reliable now. This means that there are very few opportunities for newer teams to score points. If you think about it, the last properly new team to arrive in the sport before Lotus, Virgin and HRT was Stewart. They had big bucks behind them, and only scored points in their maiden season thanks to a wet race. The three new teams have entered the sport at a bad time for the economy, and at a time when all 24 cars finishing is not unusual. How can they be seriously expected to make the breakthrough?


I seem to remember BAR, who despite buying out Tyrrel only kept the entry and built a factory and team from scratch.

Then there was Toyota.

I think your analogy holds though, these big money teams struggled in their first few years.


HRT is based in Madrid (not near) They´re based in the Caja Mágica a venue built for the Olympics that Madrid didn´t won and where the Madrid Open (tennis) is held.

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