F1 mid-season match up – Part 3: Force India vs Toro Rosso
Red Bull Racing
Posted By: Alex Kalinauckas  |  13 Aug 2015   |  9:13 pm GMT  |  20 comments

So far we’ve had a great response to our mid season assessment of teams and drivers. We’ve chosen to do it in match-ups between pairs of comparable teams, with our own JA on F1 Ratings for Drivers and teams.

Here we look at the performances of two teams fighting for ‘best of the rest’ status behind the Top 4 – Force India and Toro Rosso.

Force India vs Toro Rosso: Overview

Force India’s 2015 season got off to a less than ideal start. Financial issues over the winter meant the team skipped the initial pre-season test at Jerez and turned up to the first Barcelona test with its 2014 car. The team introduced an updated 2014 car (with 2015 nose and safety structures) on the second day of the final test, leaving the squad with just three days of running prior the start of the championship. The early races yielded a relatively impressive 31 points with that car and its pace has improved steadily, especially since the team rolled out a B-spec car at the British Grand Prix.

Toro Rosso began the year by regularly embarrassing its parent team Red Bull thanks to its efficient chassis design, but like Red Bull it has encountered huge problems with the reliability of its Renault engine. With two rookie drivers, including 17-year-old Max Verstappen, performances were always expected to be erratic. However, both drivers have already shown that they are the real deal with good qualifying speed and some strong races.


In the first six races of the season, Nico Hulkenberg made it into Q3 just once and scored points on only one occasion – with a charge up to seventh place at the Australian Grand Prix. Hulkenberg made it back into the points in the Canada, but his season was transformed after that when he won the Le Mans 24 Hours driving for Porsche in June. Since that triumph – his first win since the final feature race of his title winning GP2 season in 2009 – Hulkenberg seems to have stepped up, with a battling drive to sixth at Austria and he was the last driver on the lead lap in seventh at Silverstone. After a great start he looked set for another bumper points haul in Hungary when his front wing failed spectacularly on the pit straight and sent him into retirement. Hulkenberg has dominated his teammate Sergio Perez in qualifying but the Mexican leads 6-4 in race results. Hulkenberg has amassed more points than Perez and has been able to get much deeper into the top ten.

Nico Hulkenberg

Like Force India, Perez also started the season slightly ignominiously when he took much longer the necessary to pass Jenson Button’s underpowered McLaren-Honda for one world championship point in Australia, but for the rest of the first quarter of the year he had the better of Hulkenberg. He was back in the points in Bahrain and climbed higher than Hulkenberg during the team’s torrid Spanish Grand Prix. Perez then put in a polished performance at Monaco when he scored his best result of the year in seventh, but since Hulkenberg’s mid-year resurgence he has been largely anonymous – save for a dramatic roll in practice for the Hungarian Grand Prix and a crash with Pastor Maldonado in the race.

Despite all the hype surrounding his meteoric rise to F1, Verstappen has lived up to the billing; he looked set to score points on his debut in Australia only for his engine to fail as he ran ninth. He then became the youngest points scorer in F1 history with seventh in Malaysia – a record that will almost certainly never be bettered with the FIA requiring superlicence holders to be at least 18 years-old from 2016. He put in a stunning series of overtakes during a great race in China before mechanical issues forced his retirement again. Another engine failure masked a poor weekend in Bahrain and Verstappen then didn’t get back into the points until the Austrian Grand Prix.

That poor run included his low-light of the season so far when he clattered into the back of Romain Grosjean at Ste Devote during the Monaco Grand Prix and suffered a huge impact with barriers. After spinning out of the race at Silverstone, Verstappen was at least able to go into the summer break on a high with a career-best fourth place in Hungary. He looks a truly exciting prospect.

Max Verstappen

Carlos Sainz Jr scored points in his first two F1 races and his consistency has been impressive all year. He heads Verstappen 6-4 in qualifying and in the race, but has been unlucky with mechanical failures scuppering his chances. The standout moment of Sainz’s year so far was his fifth place on the grid for his home race in Spain and he converted that into two points, despite Toro Rosso’s poor race pace at that event. He made it into the top ten in Monaco but he lost out to mechanically induced retirements while running in the points in Austria and Britain. Sainz had the chance to score well during the chaotic race in Hungary but was unable to do so as he his car let him down once again.

JA on F1 Verdict

Hulkenberg – 7
Perez – 6
Verstappen – 7
Sainz – 7

Prospects for the rest of the season:

If Hulkenberg can carry on his good form in the second half of the year he should be able to bring home many more points for Force India – but podium finishes look a step beyond the team in normal circumstances. What will be a concern to Hulkenberg is the uncertainty surrounding his future in F1. The suspicion that he has missed the chance to race for a top team remains and rumours continue that he will join the Haas F1 team for its debut next year. His Le Mans win will also lead to speculation he could leave F1 and take his chances in the World Endurance Championship.

Perez needs to up his game if he is to match Hulkenberg’s points tally and he’ll want to put on a good show for his home fans and sponsors when the Mexican Grand Prix returns to the calendar in the final stages of the season. The uncertainty surrounding Hulkenberg’s future and the backing Perez brings should guarantee his continuation with Force India.

Sergio Perez

Verstappen needs to add consistency to his pace and overtaking skills during the second half of his rookie season. His fourth place in Hungary is a great starting point but needs to cut out the mistakes – he hit Valtteri Bottas and earned a drive through penalty in that race. A second year (at least) at Toro Rosso is inevitable and should give him plenty time to learn from his rookie errors.

Sainz will be hoping his bad luck has been and gone in the first half of the year and he can score the points that his consistency deserves. Renault are rumoured to be bringing a major upgrade to the Russian Grand Prix and if Toro Rosso’s pace increases, his overtaking skills in battle will be under more intense scrutiny.

Carlos Sainz


Force India’s pace has increased since it introduced its B-spec car at the British Grand Prix. However, like most of the independent teams on the grid, the financial stability of the team remains a concern. The updated car also endured a torrid time in Hungary – Perez’s practice crash was caused by a broken rear suspension and the team missed the second practice session while they beefed up those components and Hulkenberg’s front wing also broke spectacularly in the race.

Toro Rosso will be pleased with the aerodynamic efficiency of its chassis and the speed it has shown in qualifying. However, on nine occasions (split between the two cars) its drivers have fallen down the order in the race. The unreliability of Renault’s power unit has cost the Red Bull junior team a number of points so far this year.

Toro Rosso

JA on F1 Verdict

Force India – 7
Toro Rosso – 6.5

Prospects for the rest of the season:

If it can continue to develop its faster B-spec car, Force India should be able to hold onto fifth place in the championship but a close fight with Toro Rosso and Lotus is to be expected. The team also needs to make sure the failures that blighted the Hungarian Grand Prix aren’t repeated so it can be on track to pick up valuable points in any more races with high attrition rates.

Force India

Toro Rosso’s season will see a dramatic improvement if its cars can get to the chequered flag and if Renault’s upgrade for Sochi brings a considerable step in performance the team will hope they can go forward in races rather than backwards. More sparkling performances combined with rookie errors from its drivers are pretty inevitable. The possibility of losing technical director James Key to Red Bull will be a concern.

Why does F1 have a mid-season break? Here’s our background explanation video

Do you agree with our ratings? Leave your own, together with your comments in the section below

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I feel Max and Saibz are more or less even for now vwith Max seemingly having slight edge. 2nd half may reveal if one is better.

Toro Rosso have done a great job in building a solid chassis with a weak engine while Force India have great engine and little money to produce a package.

Hulk is well respected in mid field teams and should stick with FI. Keep performing and one day reward may come. Anything can happen like Renault build their own team and grabs Hulk or Kimi is replaced and Bottaa doesn’t do any better than Massa. Or say Rosberg melts against Lewis and needs to be replaced.


Spot on except for the remark Verstappen hit Bottas. In my opinion Bottas hit Verstappen.


I think Torro Rosso deserve a higher rating than Force India. Far play to Force India for producing a reliable, solidly engineered car in difficult circumstances, but they’re still benefiting massively from having the class of the field engine. Whereas Torro Rosso have been actually held back by their engine but produced a very good chassis.


Don’t forget the pitstops from Toro Rosso. Both drivers had their share of slow pitstops. Verstappen – Grosjean shouldn’t have happened if the pitstop wasn’t 30 seconds in Monaco. He received a lot of flak from that crash, notable from an aging driver who had difficulty parking in the right grid position with all his experience.

The chassis from TR is good, but operations and engines let them down quite a bit. I would give them no more than a six for all that wasted potential.

Verstappen lost quite a bit of points early season with the failures in Australia and China. Both times, Sainz profited from it. The points difference would be bigger between the two.


STR has easily been one of the best cars, half the time as good as Red Bull if not better. Their reliability and some rookie moments cost them some big points. Otherwise, STR vs RBR would be a better match. So would Ferrari vs Williams imo.

Racing Driver 1

Fair enough if they really need a three week break, but it’s getting longer every year. Wasn’t there a three week gap before Hungary and then we now find ourselves in a four week break between Hungary and Spa. I think this year on the whole is too fragmented. There a very few if any back to back weekends and I think there should always be at least 20 grands Prix minimum.


On the contrary, I think 20 races should be the maximum. That’s more than enough. Any higher and it starts to be all about quanity over quality…


About right regarding both team marks… except Versteppen score.

Sainz has been been consistent alot more times than Versteppen.

So Versteppen should be 6.5 especially after his mad attempt to overtake in Monaci.


Monaco 🙂


Grosjean didn’t lift early. There is proof of that too.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7goXvwbvwlg slow it down to 0,25 and judge again.

Althoug data suggest Grosjean did not brake early it says nothing on him lifting early. But the onboard says it all to me.




I think all 4 drivers and both teams are very evenly matched . ( in their diff ways of course) and quite frankly all of them deserve exactly the same -either 6.5 or 7. Theres absolutely no point guessing who might be better later and because one driver is 17 should not be given special consideration.

It is clear everybody has their favourities. I find it amazing that media/supporters will take into account tech/team failures in the assessment of certain drivers and totally “load” all the problems of the team on another driver. I was very impressed with FI performance in the 2014 mod chassis though.

Whilst Im fairly confident Max is the next big thing it should not get in the way of Sainz achievement so far!. Since his Silverstone test in 2013 I always believed he will be very quick and until Max finds his balance between speed & consistency Carlos will stay ahead. 1 or 2 great drives from Hulkenberg does Not make him better than Perez over 10.


The Hulk is one of the most consistent and polished performers on the grid, and yet the Big Teams overlook him – why they persist with “Yesterdays Men” such as Felipe Baby, Kimster, and even Rosberg Junior is beyond me……………….

All of the aforementioned drivers had had their moments, but on the whole are woefully inconsistent race to race and sometimes downright lacklustre. Massa is a case in point: brilliant in Silverstone, mediocre in Hungary…………..maybe the Hulk doesn’t have the right connections or a pushy manager. Or a combination of both………

Still, hang on in their Hulk! It took Rubino an incredible 7 years and 4 months to win his first grand prix at the 123rd time of asking and Mika Hakkinen 6 years and 7 months at the 96th attempt! So don’t give up – even if takes a decade of toil………..

Young Max is one of the best finds of recent years – he’s made of the right stuff.


with his poor performance before the b spec car came out you can’t say the hulk’s been consistent. I thought he deserved a top seat but as Ferrari chose kimi over him there must be something he’s missing that other top teams have seen too.


…how consistent are the cars/ race engineers across both garages is the question you want to be asking. Some of them I wouldnt feed..Eg Anthony Spagnolo 2014- who couldnt even communicate properly with his driver- dropped last year like yest news.You can be the best driver in the world but if your tyres get burned before you qualify, or you get sent out into a bunch of traffic race after race, is that the drivers fault– fact is teams- no matter how big their money is — cant get the same talent in both garages..or accross the whole grid!

How good is Hulkenberg really??. Perez is leading him 6-4 in finishes on Sunday. So you tell me why is everyone so enamoured with this guy. Dont get me wrong he seems a great guy and good consistent finisher, but Sao Paulo 2012 showed hes NOT a top level driver because if he was he wouldn have taken himself & Hamilton out (costing Williams a desparately needed podium) and hes clipped a number of race leaders in silly little battles that hurt him as much as others.Perez got a few podiums with Sauber which I dont think Hulk did (maybe 1). Pastor Maldonado even won a race for Williams but not Hulkenberg yet people are still strumming the violin– I dont see anyone other than FI offering him contracts and whilst alot of that is money related.Why arent Mclaren, Red Bull, Mercedes, doing the same- I heard they have a quid or 2. – I suggest maybe they know a bit more than most why-even if he does end up with the 2nd seat at the Scuderia!


Makes you think if multi 21 existed back then and DC decided not to move over and let Mika through at Melbourne whether the history books would show something different that year…was it 98? The year before DC finished ahead of Mika abeit with very unrealiable merc.


On this day (14 August) in Formula 1, Enzo Ferrari passed away after succumbing to kidney disease – in all fairness, he was 90 years old.

You would imagine the Old Man had, as his personal transport, one of his own 250 GTOs, or a Daytona, or even a Dino 246…………………but no. To commute around Modena, Signore Ferrari had a humble little Fiat 500………………

So there you go. Proof, as if ever needed, that the Fiat 500 both original and revived models, along with the Alfa Romeo GTA, the Lanica Fulvia, the Lancia Stratos and the currently on sale Alfa Romeo 4C is Italy’s greatest contributions to western civilization*……………

*Yes, the Romans pioneered chariot racing which is the ancestral DNA to today’s grand prix racing, but still…………


Or you see Hulk’s achievements as his brilliance and associate his shortcomings with his car’s weakness. Rosberg is a pretty consistent driver. But you are right about Massa and Raikkonen. They have too much ups and downs. Where was Hulk at the beginning of season up until Canada though? Is he really consistent? I remember everyone talking about how good Perez was until Canada, and how it seemed like he surpassed Nico (Hulk), and maybe Hulk wasn’t as good as people thought…


Verstappen didn’t get a penalty for the collision with Bottas, he got the drive through for speeding under the yellow flag. This was caused by miscommunication with his team.

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