Power Ranking the Formula 1 Teams After 2014 Austrian Grand Prix
The 2014 Formula One Austrian Grand Prix wasn't a terrible follow-up to the action- and drama-packed race in Canada two weeks ago.
Nico Rosberg won for Mercedes with team-mate Lewis Hamilton in second, but for once the Silver Arrows had to work for their win. Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas could easily have spoiled the party as Williams put in their best performance of the year so far.
Further back, Red Bull had a dreadful homecoming, Ferrari showed some promise and Force India demonstrated impressive pace for the second race in a row.
If only they could qualify better...
Looking at reliability, single lap and race pace, here's how the teams currently rank.
Caterham were again at the back, but looked a little closer to their main rival.
Kamui Kobayashi did at least out-qualify Max Chilton, but Marcus Ericsson was way off the pace, almost a second shy of the englishman's Marussia.
In the race, Kobayashi ran a lopsided one-stopper which saw him do 55 laps on a single set of soft tyres. He had track position on the Marussias at one stage, but the age of his tyres left him unable to defend against Bianchi, and he ended up over half a minute behind.
Ericsson had another poor showing in qualifying, but did at least manage to stick close to Chilton for the race duration.
They remain at the bottom of the pile in 11th.
Marussia will have been hoping to push closer to the rear of the midfield, but instead took a small step back.
The quickest Sauber was eight-tenths of a second faster than team leader Jules Bianchi's best in qualifying. On such a short lap, that's a lifetime.
The race went no better for the Russian squad. Max Chilton was beaten by Kamui Kobayashi, while Bianchi could manage no higher than 15th.
But they'll take solace in how well both drivers managed their tyres on one-stop strategies. Marussia will go forward to Silverstone again hoping to challenge the Saubers.
For now, they remain 10th.
Sauber lost both cars in Q1. The quickest of the pair, Adrian Sutil, was four-tenths of a second away from making it through, while Esteban Gutierrez was half a second slower than his team-mate.
But the real disaster turned up on Sunday.
On Lap 13, Gutierrez was released from his first stop with a wheel attached incorrectly. The team got on the radio to tell him to stop, but accidentally got through to Sutil.
The German did what the team asked, and though Sauber quickly realised their mistake and told him to continue, he still lost eight seconds.
Gutierrez lost a little more. In addition to the time he spent being pushed back for the wheel to be attached, he received a 10-second stop-go penalty and a grid drop for the next race. These multiple delays meant he finished last.
But their pace was similar to Lotus and significantly quicker than Marussia, suggesting that Sauber might have taken a step forward in performance.
They remain ninth.
Austria proved another dismal weekend for Lotus and, in particular, the man most would expect to be leading their charge.
Romain Grosjean was out-qualified for the first time in 2014 by Pastor Maldonado, and lost his 16th place due to a gearbox change. He started in the pit lane on super-soft tyres, made a very early switch to the softs and was on the back foot from then on.
His pace was never much better than the back-markers, and he slowed even more towards the end. Jules Bianchi in the Marussia was less than 10 seconds behind at the chequered flag.
Maldonado had a better race, but didn't have the raw speed either. Though he finished 12th, he was 40 seconds away from the points.
If we hunt for a positive, Silverstone should suit them a little better.
Lotus stay eighth.
7. Toro Rosso
While the main Red Bull team were struggling, Toro Rosso again exceeded expectations.
For a little while, anyway.
Daniil Kvyat lined up an excellent seventh on the grid. He lost a few places in the opening laps, but an opportunistic move on Daniel Ricciardo's Red Bull moved him back up to ninth.
Despite its Renault engine, his STR9 didn't look out of place mixing near the front, but an apparent suspension failure took him out of the race.
Jean-Eric Vergne had been outperformed all weekend by his younger teammate and struggled in the race with a brake problem. He was forced to retire the car 12 laps from the end, capping off a miserable weekend for the team.
It was his fifth retirement of the year.
They have the pace to beat at least one Mercedes runner, but to finish first (or sixth, seventh or eighth), you first have to finish.
Toro Rosso drop one place to seventh.
McLaren were closer to the teams they're fighting with, but it's hard to argue that the MP4-29 is not the slowest of the four Mercedes-powered cars.
Kevin Magnussen put in a storming lap to qualify in sixth, but Jenson Button could only manage the 12th-fastest time. He lined up 11th after Sergio Perez took a grid penalty.
Neither man moved far from his qualifying slot in the race. Magnussen lost sixth to Perez a few laps from the end, while Button couldn't quite make the alternative strategy work (he started on soft tyres, while most went for super-softs). He finished where he started.
They're probably not as quick as Toro Rosso on an "average" circuit, and may be found out by the Baby Bulls at Silverstone.
But at least McLarens tend to finish what they start.
They move up to sixth.
5. Force India
Sergio Perez was one of the drivers of the race as he showed off Force India's impressive race pace in Austria—but qualifying remains a weakness.
Nico Hulkenberg got through to Q3, but had his only lap time deleted after running wide at Turn 8. It would have been good enough for only eighth. He started 10th, and after a race in which he struggled with the balance of the car, came home ninth.
Sergio Perez had a five-place grid penalty for causing a collision at the previous race in Canada and, after taking the drop, he lined up 15th. Perez opted for the alternate strategy, starting on softs.
A great start saw him 11th after the first lap, and when the super-soft runners made their stops, he led the race.
When his own pit stop came around he exited in eighth, and was significantly quicker than his team-mate. He set the fastest lap of the race on super-softs later on, and finished an impressive sixth.
If they could fix qualifying, they'd be regular podium contenders.
Force India remain fifth.
The Ferrari is better at corners than it is at straights, so we might have expected them to struggle at the corner-light, straight-heavy Red Bull Ring.
Surprisingly, they didn't do too badly. Or at least, one of them didn't.
Fernando Alonso qualified a season-best fourth. He didn't have great pace on the super-soft tyres, but on the softs he lapped at a similar pace to the leading Mercedes of Nico Rosberg.
Late on he caught Felipe Massa, but lacked the straight-line speed to get by.
Kimi Raikkonen had another nightmare. He just can't set the car up to his liking, and after qualifying eighth he slipped back in the race.
He finished 10th, almost half a minute down on Alonso.
The Spaniard showed Ferrari have made a bit of progress, and can look forward to Silverstone with renewed optimism.
But Raikkonen showed the F14 T is still difficult to set up correctly, and someone else has improved even more.
Ferrari drop one spot to fourth.
A combination of errors from Mercedes and a pair of excellent laps saw Williams achieve their first front-row lockout since the 2003 French Grand Prix. Felipe Massa started from pole with Valtteri Bottas in second.
And if pit stops did not exist, they might have had the pace to keep the two Mercedes' behind all day on Sunday. Even with the aid of DRS, the two Williams' were proving impossible to overtake.
But they do exist. A couple of questionable strategy calls (and a moment of careless inattention from Massa) let Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton through, allowing the German cars to record another one-two finish.
Bottas took his first-ever podium in third, only eight seconds behind the leader. Massa held off Fernando Alonso for fourth.
No team in 2014 has pushed Mercedes as closely as Williams did in Austria.
Though it seems unlikely they'll be able to challenge the Silver Arrows on a circuit like Silverstone, it's clear the Grove outfit have made a step forward in recent races.
Williams go up one place to third.
2. Red Bull
It's bad enough having a poor race in your home country.
It's a little worse having one on a track you own.
But having one on a track bearing your name? Ouch. If Dietrich Mateschitz has his way, by the time the 2015 Austrian Grand Prix rolls around, the Red Bull Ring might look a little something like this.
Sebastian Vettel qualified a lowly 13th. He made up a few places at the start but lost power and stopped on the track. By the time it came back he was a lap down, and he retired a little before half race distance after breaking his front wing on the back of Esteban Gutierrez's Sauber.
Daniel Ricciardo once more led the charge but could not hold on to the fifth place he had qualified in. Tenth after two laps, he had a decent but difficult afternoon and eventually came home in eighth.
But they can take solace from the fact this was a one-off. The track couldn't have suited the car less, and they'll be back as best of the rest at the next race.
Red Bull stay second.
Mercedes (or rather, their drivers) messed up qualifying and, for the first time in 2014, were not on pole. Nico Rosberg equalled his season-worst performance with third, while Lewis Hamilton failed to set a time and started ninth.
But in the race, they were once more the class of the field.
They were held up by the Williams' early on, then by Sergio Perez's Force India. Once past, the Mercedes advantage did not seem as great as it had been in other races.
Not on the surface, at least. But they were both managing brake issues in the latter half of the race, and Hamilton put in a lap of 1 minute, 12.217 seconds 30 laps before the end. The best set by a Williams was four-tenths of a second slower, 22 laps (older tyres, but much lighter on fuel) later.
Expect them to steamroll the competition again at Silverstone.
Mercedes remain in the top spot.
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