With Formula One currently on ‘summer shotdown’, teams and drivers have the chance to relax, recharge and take stock of the season so far. figure out how to come back stronger after the unofficial halftime of the 2018 season.
A clearer picture is starting to emerge in that most intense of competitions; between the various team-mates in each squad. So which drivers are currently winning their battles, which ones are fighting back from a poor start to the season, and how do these outcomes compare to JAonF1’s start of the season predictions for team mate supremacy?
Leading Driver: Stroll
JA on F1 start of season prediction: Stroll
The 2018 season has remained a difficult one for Williams – almost a complete write-off for them. They’re at the foot of the standings and 14 points adrift of their nearest competitor (Sauber), who seem to have only become more competitive as the season has progressed, thanks to investment and technical support from Ferrari.
With the team having to go ‘back to the drawing board’ to undo the difficult characteristics of the car, it seems their only chances of taking anything other than tenth place in the constructors’ championship would be in a race of bizarre circumstances, preferably for them at a track with increased power unit importance, as was the case in Baku where Lance Stroll took P8, their only points of the year.
Since the previous comparison after Monaco, the battle between the drivers looks to have evened up slightly. Over the last six races, their qualifying record is 3-3, albeit with Stroll progressing into Q2 twice, and and Sergey Sirotkin once.
In the races, things appear to have favoured Stroll, but it’s been difficult to have to many direct comparisons between the two drivers. Starting as far back as they do, they’re open to variables such as first lap incidents and split pit strategies.
Stroll was out of his home Grand Prix after a collision on lap one, in France he narrowly lead Sirotkin before his tyre failed in the closing stages of the race, and he finished ahead of Sirotkin in Austria, but the two had different tyre strategies.
Stroll again finished ahead in Silverstone after the two ran almost mirror-image strategies, and was ahead at Hockenheim before both cars pitted for intermediates and retired with mechanical troubles shortly after.
The Hungarian Grand Prix was already compromised by a pit lane start for Stroll. He gradually caught up to Sirotkin over the course of the race, but was unable to pass his Russian team-mate despite having faster, fresher tyres.
Things look very difficult for Williams going forward, with Martini set to leave at the end of the season and Stroll looking around at other opportunities including Force India.
Leading Driver: Leclerc
JA on F1 start of season prediction: Leclerc
Whilst the battle at Sauber looked much closer at the start of the season, rookie driver Charles Leclerc has started to put real daylight between himself and Marcus Ericsson.
Since our last team-mate comparison piece, Leclerc has given Sauber their first Q3 appearance since the 2015 Austrian Grand Prix, a feat which he has now achieved three times this year, and led the team’s first double-points finish since the 2015 Chinese Grand Prix.
The qualifying battle since Monaco has been 5-1 to Leclerc, and the head-to-head only gets slightly easier for Ericsson, who can only really claim to have beaten his team-mate at the German Grand Prix, where his tyre calls in the adverse weather prevailed whilst Leclerc pirouetted at turn one.
The only question mark remains over Hungarian Grand Prix. Ericsson qualified ahead, but both got into tangles at turn one and probably would’ve only been battling for 13th at best.
Leclerc has really caught the eye this season and was being tipped for a move to Ferrari for 2019. That was before Ferrari chairman Sergio Marchionne suddenly passed away. Raikkonen has strong support from team principal Maurizio Arrivabene and now it will be a case of whose voice carries the strongest in the new structure at Ferrari as to whether Leclerc gets a promotion or where Raikkonen will get to approach 40 as an F1 driver.
Leading Driver: Gasly
JA on F1 start of season prediction: Gasly
Around the time of the previous team-mate comparison, Brendon Hartley was already under pressure at Toro Rosso, and reports started emerging that the team were enquiring about McLaren junior driver Lando Norris. Whilst the Red Bull stable may or may not still be looking at the Briton as an incentive for the early departure of technical director James Key to McLaren, Hartley’s situation hasn’t become any more secure, and the Kiwi will need a stellar end to the season if he’s to be retained for 2019.
Hartley has only managed to out-qualify Gasly once in the last six races, but his qualifying hour defeat at the British Grand Prix can be ignored as component damage caused him to crash heavily in FP3, which prevented him from taking part in qualifying.
In that same time frame, Hartley has had two races affected by 35-place grid penalties, whereas Gasly has had one race with a 30-place grid penalty. Therefore, it can’t be known if either driver chose to sacrifice qualifying to opt for more of a ‘race’ setup in those events.
From the better qualifying positions, Gasly has generally been able to stay ahead in the races. The drivers have one points finish each, and Hartley was impressive with his tyre calls en route to tenth place at the German Grand Prix, but Gasly’s sixth place in Hungary is by far the standout result. It was similar to his Bahrain Grand Prix exploits earlier in the year, and exactly the type of performances Toro Rosso will be looking for in their quest to keep Sauber at bay in the constructors’ championship.
Leading Driver: Alonso
JA on F1 start of season prediction: Alonso
It’s been a summer of ‘stopping the rot’ for McLaren. Since the last team-mate comparison, they’ve slid from fifth to seventh in the constructors’ championship – behind Haas and Force India – and have begun their process of restructuring the team and bringing in new recruits.
Whilst some of their early season results came through clever tactics, their form has dropped, and they’ve only scored points in half of the races they’ve entered.
Driver-wise, all points are being claimed by Fernando Alonso, and he’s enjoying a very one-sided team-mate battle at the moment. Alonso retains his perfect qualifying record against Stoffel Vandoorne and has rarely looked threatened in the races.
Many have leapt to the defence of the 2015 GP2 champion, including Alonso, and a chassis change for the Hungarian Grand Prix seems to have had a positive effect on the Belgian, who was running right behind the lead McLaren during the race when his gearbox failed, denying him his first points since the Azerbaijan Grand Prix.
Vandoorne will be hoping that any pick-up in form after the summer break wont be too late to save his Mclaren seat, which is being linked with Renault’s Carlos Sainz and McLaren junior driver Lando Norris.
Leading Driver: Tied – but Ocon in the ascendancy
JA on F1 start of season prediction: Ocon
Six races ago, it was Sergio Perez’s podium finish at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix that was the big difference between the Force India drivers. The gap between the two back then was eight points, and this has now been whittled down to just one point, with Perez still edging ahead in the drivers’ standings.
Esteban Ocon is starting to reap the rewards from the increased form. Over the last six races, he’s won the qualifying battle 5-1, with Perez only out-qualifying him in Germany, something Ocon blames on his seat being handed to somebody else in FP1.
The races follow a similar pattern, too. Ocon has finished ahead in four of the six races, with Perez’s only triumph coming at the Hockenheimring race. Both drivers retired in the French Grand Prix; Ocon was involved in a collision and Perez had power unit troubles.
Ocon’s form has caught the attention of Renault, who were reportedly close to signing the Frenchman for next season, until the Ricciardo deal was agreed, whilst Perez has been spearheading the administrative proceedings at Force India in a bid to save the team, which could possibly be his only option for next year.
By: Luke Murphy & James Allen
All images: Motorsport Images
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