Rating the Teams of the Era 1999-2009: The Top Four
My how the years have flown. It seems like only yesterday we were staring down the barrel of a new millennium of motor racing in the greatest sporting spectacle on earth: the Formula One World Championship.
Now, here we are on the verge of another decade of racing, and my how has the landscape changed!
The leading teams of the 2009 championship were nowhere near the top a scant twelve months ago. And the sport is facing another potential split over rules and regulations that the governing body seems hell bent on imposing. Ah yes, what a turbulent time indeed.
However I am not here to tell you about the future, rather to give the Formula One faithful a look into the era gone by.
This article is about the teams that have competed from the season’s 1999 through to the current season 2009 (as of the Turkish Grand Prix) and how they have fared in this time period.
So how are the teams rated? In order to limit the potential skewing of those lies, damn lies and statistics, the old ‘Cold War Olympics’ system has been adopted. That is, the best results and worst results of each team have been dropped and the average taken from the remainder of finishing positions over the years.
This system rewards consistency. It also ‘protects’ a team from receiving a poor rating due to a once-off season like McLaren’s disqualification in 2007 Therefore the better a team has done over time, the higher their rank will be.
Also, in the event that two teams are tied on ratings score, the result from the current season will be used to determine rank.
For teams that competed for no more than three season’s in this era, their full results have been averaged, however only teams that are currently competing are eligible for a top ten finish.
Also note, that if a team has changed names, it is not considered to be a new team, and the results of that team under its old name are counted along with any results under a new name.
Get all that? Then let’s begin and see where your favourite team ended up.
Keep your eyes peeled for Part 2!
Best Result in Constructor’s Championship: 1st (1999-2004, 2007-2008)
Worst Result in Constructor’s Championship: 4th (2009)*
Title: The Best in Class
Like the smartest kid in a high school class getting the top grade on a quiz, it should come as absolutely no surprise that Ferrari have indeed been the best in class over the last decade of Formula One. A towering victory total from the era (with the 2002 and 2004 seasons yielding 15 victories a piece) along with the widely known fact that (up until recently) the boys in red were the pet ‘students’ of the FIA means that this title fits particularly well.
Ferrari has been an enigma since 1999. In the years preceding the turn of the millennium Ferrari had always threatened to take the title in both the Driver’s and Constructor’s championships. However, for one reason or another McLaren and Williams managed to edge out the red cars. How dramatically that situation changed over the years to follow is one of the defining points of the era.
Ferrari finally converted their late 90’s form into a Constructor’s Championship in 1999, clinching the title from McLaren. This was the beginning of an unprecedented run of success, with the Scuderia taking Constructor’s honours every year through to 2004, and the Driver’s title thanks to Michael Schumacher’s brilliance in the five seasons from 2000 through to 2004.
The team went through a troubled year in 2005 with the car ultimately suffering from Bridgstone’s inability to produce a tyre that could maintain consistent pace for an entire race (the rules for this season did not permit tyre changes in pit stops) and the new rules demanding reduced aerodynamic downforce. 2006 saw the team return to form with a well designed car and the venerable Michael Schumacher putting in one of his best performances over a season to take both Championships down to the wire in Brazil, only narrowly losing out to Renault.
With Ferrari’s champion driver now retired, it was Kimi Raikonnen and Filipe Massa who brought the team their 2007 Constructor’s victory, which was helped in no small part thanks to McLaren’s disqualification (it should be pointed out Ferrari would have won anyway, taking enough points in the final round to overhaul McLaren). To sweeten the success even further, Kimi snatched the title from Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton at the last gasp. This success was backed up in 2008 with Ferrari taking yet another Constructor’s title in Brazil, however this time the title was a much more closely fought affair with McLaren nipping at their heals all the way. This victory however, was more than a little soured by the fact that Fillipe Massa was pipped for the world championship by Lewis Hamilton at the last corner of the entire season.
If any other proof were needed that this has been the best team of the past decade is this: only in 2009 are they facing the possibility of not being inside the top three constructers, currently sitting in a respectable fourth (and it is looking likely that they may be able to improve upon this at this stage). Without a shadow of a doubt, Ferrari truly are the very best in the Formula One class. Forza Ferrari!
* NOTE: Result has been obtained during the season currently in progress.
Best Result in Constructor’s Championship: 2nd (1999-2002, 2005, 2008)
Worst Result in Constructor’s Championship: 11th (2007)**
Title: The Bridesmaid
Poor Old McLaren. Like the young woman who sees all of her friends getting married and never seeming to have the big day herself, such has been the fate of McLaren in the decade passed. McLaren’s tale is one of many, many missed opportunities. Ritually near the front of the grid in the seasons since 1999, the Woking team just never seem to be able to convert all of their good work on the track into a win. Nonetheless, this team has a proven track record and many others on the grid would do well to even get near their results.
Coming off a dominant display in 1998 McLaren were again the team to beat in 1999, taking the Driver’s Championship with Mika Hakkinnen clinching the title from Ferrari’s Eddie Irvine. This victory was not as convincing as it could have been however, thanks to the Maranello Fellows taking the Constructor’s title back to Italy with them. With another near miss in 2000, McLaren really didn’t get a look in until the middle of the decade, slipping down the order in 2003, and finishing a dismal fifth in 2004.
2005 saw the team bounce back with style. Adrian Newey’s 05 car had all the right parts on it from an aero side, however appalling reliability from the Mercedes engine saw the team hand the title to Renault (a car many believed was slower). Compounding this problem was Juan Pablo Montoya’s apparent inability to finish the race when both cars were in good positions. Still, second in 2005 was a far better achievement than a distant third in 2006, with the team seeing Raikonnen drive the wheels off an inferior car to make the team look better than it really was.
Despite those disappointments, nothing could possibly have prepared the team for the rollercoaster ride that was 2007. World Champion Fernando Alonso and wunderkind Lewis Hamilton were set to take the F1 world by storm (on paper at least). Things were looking good with McLaren taking the fight to Ferrari to be leading by mid-season, only to have their two drivers resort to petty bickering. This on its own nearly caused the team to implode, but the real disaster showed itself in the form of ‘spy-gate’ (the team were found guilty of possessing stolen Ferrari data). US$100,000,000 and a big fat zero constructor’s points later (they were disqualified) from the Constructor’s championship) both drivers nearly took the Driver’s title only to lose it to Raikonnen at the last hurdle.
McLaren did redeem itself in 2008 somewhat. Lewis took the title at the final corner of the final race, yet the team still lost out to Ferrari on the constructor’s front ever more justifying their ‘Bridesmaid’ tag.
2009 has seen the team plummet down the grid at an astonishing rate, languishing in 7th thanks to the team’s inability to come to grips with the 2009 rule changes. It would appear not even the capable Lewis Hamilton and Heikki Kovalienen can overcome the lack of pace in the car. Regardless of this no one can deny the racing pedigree of this team and the results they have achieved.
** NOTE: This result was due to the team being disqualified in the 2007 Constructor’s Championship.
Renault / Benetton
Best Result in Constructor’s World Championship: 1st (2005-2006)
Worst Result in Constructor’s World Championship: 7th (2001, 2009)*
Title: The Upstart
In every walk of life you will meet at least one person who will manage at some point to punch above their weight and hang it with the big boys even if they don’t appear to have the tools at their disposal to do so. The Renault team nee Benetton is that ‘person’ in the world of F1. The Renault team has always been there or thereabouts near the front of the grid, however they haven’t challenged the bug boys at Ferrari and McLaren as much as they would have liked to. Nevertheless, when the Renault team is on a roll they are usually very hard to beat, often pulling a surprise result from no where to wow the world.
The 1999 season failed to return the then Benetton team to their glory days in 1994 and 1995, with good results few and far between. 2000 was a slight improvement however, with the very capable Giancarlo Fisichella taking the team to some good results. 2001 saw the team plummet with Fisichella and a very disappointed Jenson Button suffering a great number of reliability issues troughout the season.
2002 saw the team renamed Renault and the results immediately started to improve, with the squad fighting all year with Sauber to take a respectable fourth in the Championship thanks to Jarno Trulli and Button’s steady driving. Things really started to look up in 2003 when the team took its first win in Hungary with prodigy Fernando Alonso to clinch fourth again. Third beckoned in 2004 with the team really starting to worry Ferrari regularly in McLaren’s absence (taking another win in Monaco, this time with Jarno Trulli).
2005 was the watershed year though. A win in both the Constructor’s and Driver’s championships thanks to Fernando Alonso and Fisichella after a season-long tussle with the McLaren’s was a just reward. This was consolidated in 2006 when Alonso took the fight to an in-form Schumacher, taking both titles at the last gasp.
After the lofty heights of 2006, 2007 was to prove a disappointment. Renault’s hero (Alonso) was off to McLaren and it was up to newcomer Heiki Kovalinein and steady hand Giancarlo Fisichella to take the fight to the resurgent McLaren and Ferrari. The team didn’t challenge as often as they would have liked, ‘only’ taking third. Their fortunes would improve in 2008, with Alonso returning to the stable to nab two impressive wins in what was widely regarded as an underpowered car, however fourth was all the team could manage in the face of a serious assault from BMW.
The team has, by comparisons, had a shocking year thus far in 2009, with Alonso fighting the car every step of the way to land on a meagre haul of points. Piquet Jr. has also been sadly unimpressive despite some dogged driving. With the team sitting seventh and the competition getting further ahead every race the French squad have their work cut out. Still, if any team can do it, it’s bound to be Renault. Just when you think they’re down and out the squad has a habit of pulling a miracle and finding the form to slog it with the big guys.
* NOTE: Result has been obtained during the season currently in progress.
Williams / BMW Williams
Best Result in Constructor’s World Championship: 2nd (2003)
Worst Result in Constructor’s World Championship: 7th (2006, 2008)
Title: The Fallen Hero
The Williams team were and still are, one of the old guard of stalwarts who are racing for racing’s sake. This admirable trait makes the team one of the last bastions of the motorsport purity. Like a fallen hero fighting a losing battle, the Williams teams fortunes have failed them of late, yet they never give up fighting with all of their strength in the hope that they survive long enough to see the good times again.
The team had tasted much success in the 90’s, however their 1999 season was far from satisfying, finishing a distant fifth with Ralf Schumacher and racing legend Alessandro Zanardi fighting with an underpowered car. Their fortuned would bounce back incredibly in 2000 though with the British squad becoming the BMW works team. The newfound engine power and a well-designed chassis saw the team catapault up the grid with Ralf Schumacher and new English hero Jenson Button.
2001 saw the team return to the winner’s circle with Juan Pablo Montoya and Ralf taking wins and regularly fighting at the top and the momentum was carried into 2002 with the team taking their second third placing in a row. The team’s real golden age of the last decase however, was 2002 when they challenged for the Drivers and Constructor’s titles with both drivers performing well. Second was a just reward for the team who had a few poor results in the tail of the season to miss Ferrari by a handful of points.
2004 was to be considered a step backwards with Renault and BAR Honda finding form. Although the car did take a win, fourth wasn’t what was expected. 2005 was yet another disappointment. Despite excellent driving from both Mark Webber and Nick Heidfeld throughout the year the car just could not contain the Renault’s, McLaren’s, Ferrari’s and even the Toyota’s to finish fifth. But the real shock came in 2006. BMW up Swiss pastures at Sauber and the team were left to find engines with Cosworth at the 11th hour. The season was a disaster with Webber and Rosberg wringing the neck of the car on several occasions, only to finish under half of the season’s races with both cars due to the incredible unreliability of the FW30.
Despite an improvement to fourth with Toyota engines in 2007 (Alexander Wurz and Rosberg took podiums), the team hit rock bottom again in 2008 with the car not developing quickly enough to contain the mid-field Red Bull’s and Toro Rosso’s. It must be mentioned that Rosberg landed a podium and points throughout and Nakajima put in some decent performances.
2009 was lauded as the year Williams returned to their brilliant best, however the results have just not arrived. The team currently sits in sixth and has threatened to take the field by storm on numerous occasions (based on Friday practice anyway), yet for one reason or another it just hasn’t materialised. Still, with a team as doggedly determined and motivated as Williams, anything is possible.
Part Two coming soon!