Rating the Teams of the 1999-2009 Era: The Tail Enders
Part Three of the series.
In this edition the teams who haven’t quite made it to the top of the grid are rated and their histories discussed in detail. Once more, the teams are rated over the period 1999 up to an including 2009 post Turkish GP.
Once again, the system used to rate the teams is this:
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.
In the event that two teams are tied on ratings score, the result from the current season will be used to determine rank.
Note that teams no longer competing are not eligible for a top ten result despite their average rating. Also note that teams that have changes names are not consider new teams, rather these are a continuation of the previous team.
See Part One to see who made it into the Top Four and Part Two for those teams making up the Mid-Field.
Part Four coming soon!
Red Bull / Jaguar / Stewart
Red Bull / Jaguar / Stewart
Best Result in Constructor’s World Championship: 2nd (2009)*
Worst Result in Constructor’s World Championship: 9th (2000)
Title: The Rebellious Child
Funky, headstrong and a little misguided. These traits are that of the Red Bull team hailing from the roots of Jaguar and the Stewart team. Like the rebellious child in the classroom, this team has always insisted on competing in its own distinctive style rather than taking the tried and tested path.
Lacking the discipline of purpose of the big teams, and not content to follow the leader in the mid-field the crew from Milton Keynes have pushed the boundaries time and time again with scant success.
However, all of that pushing and non-conformance has finally started to yield results, with the team launching a serious assault on the front of the grid.
With the ‘sensible’ teams all falling by the wayside, the street-wise Red Bull outfit is really shaking the establishment.
Of course, the team’s reputation for doing it different had to come from somewhere or someone, and that someone was the legendary Sir Jackie Stewart. The Stewart Grand Prix team was established in 1997 and suffered numerous reliability problems in its first few years of existence.
This was again the case in 1999 with engine supplier Ford (that is, Cosworth) producing a V10 engine that was fragile at best. Despite this, the chassis was quick enough to be near the front and Rubens Barichello took a number of points results throughout the season, while Johnny Herbert gave the team its first win at the European GP.
All of this led to the team finishing a fantastic fourth for the year and many could be forgiven in thinking that Ford’s purchase of the team in full for 2000 would see many more results like this.
The reality of course, was very different. The team was now called Jaguar and not even the near Driver’s champion of 1999 Eddie Irvine could drag this car up the grid (when it wasn’t on fire or losing bodywork), with Johnny Herbert failing to take points.
The culmination of 2000’s effort was an uncompetitive ninth place. In Ford’s eagerness to off-set this result the team’s rebellious streak began to shine through in it appointment of Bobby Rahal from the US as team principle in 2001.
The honchos at Ford touted this as a winning arrangement despite the fact that there were regular disagreements within the team. A slightly improved eighth was all Eddie Irvine and Pedro De La Rosa could salvage.
2002 saw the team send Rahal back to the US and the results did improve slightly with Irvine and De La Rosa picking up some opportunistic points at some races to drag the team to seventh.
The real improvements began to materialise in 2003 though.
New hot talent Mark Webber along with Antonio Pizzonia were teamed up, with the former excelling in the new one lap qualifying system to drag what was essentially a bad car further up the grid then it should have been, while Pizzonia was dumped in favour of Justin Wilson mid-season.
Seventh was again the result but some promising signs were in place.
Many were hopeful for 2004 with Austrian Christian Klein picked up thanks to Red Bull backing. The season was a disaster however with the car being terribly unreliable and too slow at many circuits despite Webber taking the car to its limit nearly every weekend. The string of poor results saw Ford’s interest wane and Red Bull bought the team in full for 2005 taking on old hand David Coulthard and retaining Klein. Both drivers put in some solid performances to score points regularly yet still only finishing seventh. It was more of the same in 2006, however, as the teams non-to-serious approach to racing saw it squander a great number of opportunities for points on poor strategy, with a podium at Monaco being a highlight on the way to another seventh place.
With the team seemingly rooted to seventh spot Red Bull appeared to have pulled a masterstroke in recruiting star designer Adrian Newey from McLaren, with Mark Webber ‘coming home’ to partner Coulthard. The team scrapped for points at most races of the season in a radically designed car (thanks to Newey’s input), with Webber taking a brilliant podium at Nurburgring. Yet again the fragility of the car proved to be their undoing, missing many opportunities for strong finishes despite finishing an improved fifth. Thankfully for all involved 2008 was a far more reliable with Webber finishing strongly in most races early in the season, however the team was to be thrawted by an underdeveloped Renault engine. This to the team being usurped by sister team Scuderia Torro Rosso at years end to finish seventh yet again.
The 2009 season has seen the team make a remarkable turnaround from an also-ran to a serious contender for the top. Only Brawn appears to have Red Bull’s measure with 2008 hero Sebastien Vettel and the evergreen Mark Webber challenging for podiums on every race weekend. Indeed, the potential of this team was somewhat realised with Sebastien’s fantastic Chinese GP win with Mark making it a one-two. And all of this without the famed diffuser and KERS, the car relying on its radical Newey design alone.
So it appears finally after years of doing things differently to the rest of the world that Red Bull have sped into the limelight. And as they say, they did it their way.
* NOTE: Result has been obtained during the season currently in progress.
Force India / Spyker / MF1 / Jordan
Best Result in Constructor’s World Championship: 3rd (1999)
Worst Result in Constructor’s World Championship: 10th (2006-2009)*
Title: The Foster Child
Force India. Spyker. Midland (MF1). Jordan. No other currently competing team on the F1 grid has had more ‘parents’ than the Silverstone-based squad with Irish origins. In fact it could be said that this team is the foster child of the grid.
Despite being loved by the founding father (Eddie Jordan), money pressures saw this team change hands from owner to owner, until it found its new home in Vijjay Mallaya’s very capable hands.
But, like a child who has experienced to much change in so short a team, there have been some learning difficulties in recent times.
Still, the very fact that the team is even here today is a testament to the undying spirit of those who are part of it.
The 1999 season was one where the Jordan team was at the height of its powers. Coming off the back of its first win in 1998, the skilled former world champion Damon Hill and the German Ace Heinz-Harald Frentzen continued the strong run of the iconic yellow cars.
Between them they took a number of podiums, with Frentzen taking two wins and coming home a remarkable third in the driver’s championship with the team taking third in the constructor’s.
The stage was thus set for a shake at the world championship in 2000 with Fretzen and Jarno Trulli. The year was an incredible disappointment however, with the Mugen Honda engines were to prove unreliable and the team dropped to sixth in the standings behind BAR.
There is usually silver lining with every cloud though and Honda decided to give the struggling team works engines.
Despite this small victory, the team began 2001 with a large number of their prized technical team, including Mike Gascoygne, jumping ship.
To compound this issue, Jordan’s money troubles surfaced for the first time. Despite this Jordan managed to finish a respectable fifth thanks to both Trulli and Frentzen putting in some respectable performances.
2002 was again to turn into another relatively uncompetitive year as the affect of the big manufacturers began to squeeze the smaller privateers out of the sport.
With sponsorship hard to come by and the budget required to win spiralling out of reach, Jordan had to be content with taking a fighting sixth.
2003 was to see the team’s fortunes plummet dramatically. The team’s association with Honda came to an abrupt end with Ford-badged Cosworth engines making an appearance in the back of the yellow cars.
These engines were essentially slower versions of those used by Jaguar and were far from competitive or reliable. Coupled with a chassis that was designed on a meagre budget, the Jordan team would crash to ninth by years end.
The only highlight was Giancarlo Fisichella’s remarkable win in Brazil under red flag conditions.
With the money problem worsening, Jordan’s 2004 competitor driven by the underrated, yet quick Nick Heidfeld and F3000 graduate Giorgio Pantano (with a points paying cameo mid-year by Timo Glock) was even slower than the previous car relative to the competition.
Even the Minardis were finishing ahead at some events and not even Heidfeld’s excellent and dogged performances could push the team into the points often enough to escape ninth place.
Sadly this was to prove the final straw for the beleaguered Eddie Jordan, who sold his team to Midland in 2005 who would retain the Jordan name for one more season.
This would prove to be the first of many masters for this team of battlers and this change wasn’t the only one for the new season. Toyota replaced Ford as engine supplier and Formula One saw its first Indian and Portuguese drivers with Narain Kartihikeyan and Tiago Monteiro joining the fray. Although the Toyota engine was an improvement, a paltry points haul was to ensue.
Only Monteiro’s podium at Indianapolis was worth talking about, however the only reason it occurred was due to the six Bridgstone shod cars being the only ones taking part.
Yet again, ninth did not seem like a just reward for a team that tried so hard.
And so Jordan bade goodbye to F1 and the iconic yellow gave way to a corporate grey/orange mix. The Midland owners renamed the team MF1 and much was hoped for. With a bigger budget (not by much) the team was touted as making a comeback of sorts in 2006.
However it was apparent after the first third of the season that Midland clearly didn’t understand the demands of F1 and soon the whole deal went pear-shaped. Poor result after poor result saw the team sell to Dutch car maker Spyker before the season had even ended. Monteiro and Dutchman Christjian Albers failed to score a point all year long, only just beating the all new and rapidly improving Super Aguri to tenth place.
Unfortunately for Spyker, 2007 was more of the same again. The Orange cars were unimpressive all year long, again scoring no points and only avoiding the disgrace of last place thanks to McLaren’s disqualification. All of this saw Spyker bail out at year’s end.
With their future in doubt and the cost of competing becoming nightmarish it took Indian billionaire Vijay Mallaya’s intervention to save the team. His purchase involved the team being renamed Force India.
It was immediately apparent that Mallaya meant business and his cars, although struggling for most of the year, did perform well on occasion, with Adrian Sutil’s Monaco performance being the standout (it did end in tears though: DNF).
Still, no points at years end were little consolation, and the team finished tenth.
In 2009 Force India is really starting to look like a professional racing outfit. The car is fighting in the midfield regularly and it appears only a matter of time before they finish in the points.
Although it is too little too late to be a serious contender this year, one can’t help but sensing the team is doing well given the scars of its turbulent history. Being passed from owner to owner couldn’t have been a healthy thing and this year’s zero points and current tenth place show this.
Still, with some consistency in management, a steady cash flow and a little luck, the team that carries the hope of India can only improve.
* NOTE: Result has been obtained during the season currently in progress.
Scuderia Toro Rosso / Minardi
Best Result in Constructor’s World Championship: 6th (2008)
Worst Result in Constructor’s World Championship: 11th (2001)
Title: The Poorer Cousin
And so we reach the last of the competing teams, and perhaps the most determined team in the history of the sport. Scuderia Toro Rosso and before that Minardi has had nothing but hardship in its history. No team has competed for so long in the sport and achieved so little. While this might seem like a negative thing to say, the reality is that this team embodies something that endears it to so many people across the world: resilience, determination and hope. This team has always found the will and the way to compete no matter the odds despite living in the shadow of its peers and more recently its sister (of course I refer to the Red Bull team). For this reason this little Italian band is F1’s poorer cousin.
Even as far back as 1999 Minardi had money troubles. Its long-suffering owner Giancarlo Minardi, had by this stage been racing for well over fifteen years with little in the way of success.
Using a slower, less reliable version of Stewart’s Ford engine, the Italian’s Mark Gene and Luca Badoer hauled their incredibly slow car around track after track, yet always seeming to be able to battle with cars much faster and more capable.
This resulted in Gene taking a solitary point to beat BAR to tenth. Another year, another struggle to get to the grid in 2000.
The money was becoming even more scarce and the team battled all year long to contain the Prosts and finish 10th again. With the coffers dried up, Minardi had no choice but to sell his beloved team to Australian businessman Paul Stoddard for 2001. Although Stoddard wasn’t the wealthiest person on the grid, he did posses a cunning business-sense that saw some sponsorship forthcoming.
He also had the foresight to accept a young Fernado Alonso (on loan from Flavio Briatorie) who outshone his cumbersome car to be earmarked as a champion of the future.
The team finished eleventh and last, but the foundations for improvement were laid and were built upon in 2002 with the signing of Mark Webber and the production of a tidy chassis which managed to consistently beat teams like Arrows (before their money troubles) and Jaguar throughout the season. The result was, all things considered, a superb ninth.
In 2003 Stoddart hoped to build on the momentum from the previous year in the hiring of Justin Wilson and veteran Jos Verstappen. Both drivers wrung every ounce of speed out of the chassis, but the lack of wind tunnel time showed and the car struggled at the faster circuits to complete the season in eleventh. Unfortunately the team’s perpetual money troubles began to deepen in 2004.
The team’s only sponsor Wilux (other than Stoddart’s own airline business European) pulled out without paying a cent.
Zsolt Baumgartner and Gianmaria Bruni had a torrid time throughout the year, the car again languishing due to a lack or aerodynamic development. Tenth again.
The 2005 season began controversially for the team who decided to take Max Mosley’s aero rule changes head on just says before the Australian Grand Prix.
Stoddart argued that the constant rule changes were slowly destroying the privateer teams who couldn’t hope to be competitive when facing the might of the big manufacturers (ahh, the irony).
The team were unsuccessful in their challenge and were forced to race in an underdeveloped car all season long to take yet another last place in the standings.
Having poured his heart and soul into the team for five years, Stoddart had no choice but to sell the team to Red Bull before the 2006 season to save it from going Bankrupt.
The team was renamed Scuderia Toro Rosso, and although there was little time to develop the chassis prior to the start of the season, the instant influx of cash saw some noticeable performance gains.
Scott Speed and the highly rated Tonio Luizzi took the team to a satisfying ninth place. With the money and momentum coming into 2007, Speed and Luizzi pushed the car to some decent results, taking points at a number of races and taking the team’s first double points finish since the early 90’s.
Despite this leading to a seventh place finish, both drivers were fired, with Speed going mid-way through the season.
With the team now looking far more competitive than it was in the Minardi days the 2008 season was looking quietly promising thanks to ex-Champ Car hero Sebastian Bourdais and Wunderkind Sebastien Vettel signing on.
Although initially points finishes were few and far between, both cars threatened the points on almost every weekend towards the end of the season. Despite the form building, a breakthrough victory at the Italian Grand Prix was far from foreseen, and somewhat completed the rags to riches fairytale that no one expected, but everyone loved to see.
The net result at season’s end: sixth in front of the much better financed main Red Bull outfit.
2009 has seen the fortunes of the little team that could decline somewhat thanks to the radical new rule changes. However, the cursory ninth place in which the Faenza based team sits is in no way comparable to the dreadfully uncompetitive Minardi days.
In fact, the team’s two points finishes thus far would be seen as miraculous in the days of yore and it is only down to the sheer competitiveness of this year’s field that they are not higher up. Whatever the result though, no one can take away from what this team has achieved with so little at its disposal.
Toro Rosso, we salute you!
Watch out for Part Four, coming soon!