Power Ranking the Formula 1 Teams After 2014 German Grand Prix
The German Grand Prix marked the halfway point of the 2014 Formula One season.
Most of the talk going into the weekend was centred on the banning of FRIC suspension systems, and one major question in particular.
Would the ban affect Mercedes' dominance?
By Sunday night we had the answer. Nico Rosberg had cruised to an unopposed victory while Lewis Hamilton had recovered from 20th on the grid to finish third.
The running order elsewhere didn't seem to have been affected much either. Williams continued their excellent run of form, Ferrari continued to struggle a bit and Caterham were still last.
Looking at reliability, qualifying and race pace, here's how the teams currently rank. Position changes are relative to those in the previous rankings, published here.
More of the same, and little sign anything is going to change soon.
Kamui Kobayashi narrowly edged out Max Chilton by a few hundredths of a second to qualify 20th, while Marcus Ericsson failed to set a time.
On Sunday, Kobayashi managed to get ahead of Chilton early on by stopping twice to the Marussia's once. Though the Brit was quicker, Kobayashi managed to keep him behind all the way to the chequered flag.
Ericsson wasn't much slower than his team-mate, but an early stop-go for a parc ferme infringement dropped him half a minute behind, and he never recovered.
Caterham remain 11th.
Marussia have seemed closer to the rear of the midfield in recent races, but even Jules Bianchi ended up a long way down in Germany.
He set the 18th-fastest time in qualifying—ahead of Pastor Maldonado's Lotus—and started 17th after Lewis Hamilton's grid-drop. After the first-corner chaos he emerged in the same position and settled in for a long, lonely race.
He was way behind the midfield but even further ahead of the other back-markers. He came home 15th.
Max Chilton got stuck behind Kamui Kobayashi early on and, though he was clearly faster, was unable to pass the Japanese racer. He finished 17th.
They performed well with high-downforce settings at Monaco earlier in the year, so the Russian team will be aiming to close the gap again at the Hungaroring.
Marussia stay 10th.
Though the results don't suggest as much, the German Grand Prix may have been the turning point in Sauber's season.
Esteban Gutierrez again qualified ahead of Adrian Sutil, setting the 14th-fastest time. A grid-drop for causing a collision in Britain dropped him to 17th. Sutil qualified 17th but jumped a few spots thanks to grid penalties for other drivers.
Once the race got under way, both cars had reasonable pace. They ran in a group with the Toro Rossos and Romain Grosjean's Lotus, and they looked an outside shot for points.
But by the time the chequered flag fell, it was another pointless race. Sutil spun on the 48th lap and retired, while Gutierrez dropped back and could only manage 14th.
Sauber remain ninth.
Lotus were among the teams with the most highly developed FRIC systems, so confidence may have been low heading into the German Grand Prix.
Pastor Maldonado could only manage the 19th-fastest time in qualifying, behind the Marussia of Jules Bianchi; Romain Grosjean fared little better with 15th. The team admitted on their website that losing FRIC had contributed to the poor display.
But while their single-lap pace has suffered, their race pace seems to have improved.
Grosjean retired early with a cooling system issue, but Maldonado raced on. He lapped at a similar pace to the Toro Rossos, McLarens, Sergio Perez's Force India and Kimi Raikkonen's Ferrari on his way to a 12th-place finish.
Had he started a few places higher on the grid, he could easily have scored points.
Lotus remain eighth, but will have a little more optimism moving forward.
7. Toro Rosso
As has often been the case in 2014, Toro Rosso went into the race on Sunday with high hopes of scoring some strong points. Daniil Kvyat qualified an impressive eighth with Jean-Eric Vergne down in 13th.
But failing to capitalise on decent Saturday showings has become a Toro Rosso specialty.
Kvyat gained one place at the start but lost it to Sergio Perez after the safety car came in. He set about trying to get back past and certainly had the pace to do so.
But after getting his nose ahead around the outside of Turn 8, he turned in on the Mexican and was sent into a spin. With only himself to blame, he resumed close to the rear and later retired with an oil leak.
Vergne wasn't as quick. Having run as high as ninth early on, he dropped back and spent most of the race duking it out with the Saubers. He finished 13th.
The team have now recorded nine retirements and may well rue the lost points opportunities at the end of the year.
Toro Rosso remain seventh.
6. Force India
Force India had one of their best qualifying performances of the year. Both cars got through to Q3 in dry conditions for the first time in 2014.
Nico Hulkenberg started ninth and was up to fifth after the first lap. Battles raged all around but he spent most of the race driving against the clock. An engine issue might have taken him out, but the German and his team got through it; seventh was their reward.
Sergio Perez's race was a little more combative. He struggled for balance even more than Hulkenberg and was lucky to survive an early clash with Daniil Kvyat.
Further time was lost fighting his way through a tight midfield battle, but the Mexican eventually got into some relatively clean air and jumped Kimi Raikkonen when the pair made their third and final stops.
He came home in 10th and the team recorded a double points finish—but their race pace seems to have suffered slightly.
Force India drop one spot to sixth.
McLaren made a significant step forward at Silverstone and their good form continued in Germany.
Kevin Magnussen put in perhaps the best qualifying lap of his brief F1 career to line up fourth on the grid, ahead of both Red Bulls and both Ferraris. Jenson Button fared a little worse and could manage no higher than 11th.
Button emerged as the team's leading driver after the first corner. His early pace was good, but he couldn't keep his tyres alive towards the end. A late third stop dropped him to eighth behind Nico Hulkenberg's Force India.
Magnussen fell to the rear of the field after his first-corner clash with Felipe Massa. But despite the setback his pace was very good. The young Dane fought through the field and ended up right on Button's tail at the end.
It's very close between McLaren and Force India, but for now the Woking boys edge it.
McLaren go up one place to fifth.
It has been a tale of two Ferraris in 2014, and the story continued at Hockenheim.
Fernando Alonso qualified seventh, a long way down on the leading Mercedes but close to Sebastian Vettel's Red Bull. Kimi Raikkonen could only manage 12th.
The speed disparity continued into the race. Alonso spent the entire afternoon battling Red Bulls—first Vettel, then Daniel Ricciardo. Fifth was his reward.
Raikkonen had a tougher time. Twice involved in collisions as quicker cars attempted to pass him, he suffered damage to his front wing. This left him struggling for pace even more than he had been with a healthy car.
At the end he was a lap down in 11th, nearly 50 seconds behind Alonso.
They remain fourth, but the car is probably no better than the two behind.
3. Red Bull
So often the kings of mid-season development, Red Bull appear to be dropping back.
Daniel Ricciardo pulled a good lap out of the bag to qualify in fifth, behind cars from three other teams. Sebastian Vettel was three-tenths of a second further back and a whole second off Nico Rosberg's pole time.
The German became the lead driver at Turn 1, settling in to third place. This became fourth thanks to the recovering Lewis Hamilton. Vettel held off a challenge from Fernando Alonso's Ferrari and held on to finish fourth—but he was 24 seconds behind Valtteri Bottas' Williams.
Ricciardo dropped to 15th at the start after running wide to avoid the Felipe Massa-Kevin Magnussen crash. A long afternoon of recovery stretched ahead of the Australian, but his display will have given the team hope.
At the end he was just eight seconds behind Vettel. Though he probably couldn't have challenged Bottas, he'd certainly have run him closer than Vettel did.
Red Bull drop one spot to third.
Williams once more put Red Bull in the shade.
With Lewis Hamilton out of the way, a slot on the front row was up for grabs. It was seized by Valtteri Bottas, who put in a scorching lap only two-tenths of a second slower than Nico Rosberg's pole.
The Hockenheim lap is short, but it was still an incredible display.
Felipe Massa was three-tenths down on Bottas, but his lap was still good enough for third. The stage was set for the team to go for their first double podium since the 2005 Monaco Grand Prix.
The dream ended in the first corner. Massa collided with Kevin Magnussen, spectacularly flipped and was out on the spot. Bottas survived a poor start to settle in to second.
He quickly left the Red Bulls and Ferraris in his wake. Hamilton caught him late on and tried to pass, but the Finn defended with relative ease to record his third consecutive podium finish.
If they can outperform the Bulls again at the high-downforce Hungaroring, second in the Constructors' Championship is an achievable goal.
Williams rise one place to second.
Another race, another win, another pole and another fastest lap.
Nico Rosberg started from pole and cruised around to take his fourth win of the season. From the moment the safety car came in at the end of Lap 2, there was never any doubt over who would win.
He didn't need to push, and didn't.
Lewis Hamilton had a tougher race, and it was he who demonstrated the awesome pace of the W05. Starting from 20th after a brake failure in qualifying, Hamilton drove through the field like a hot knife through butter.
Despite losing several tenths per lap due to front wing damage and having to stop three times instead of the planned two, he finished just two seconds behind Valtteri Bottas.
The Finn had started on the front row, had not encountered traffic and had been driving the second-best car. "Dominant" doesn't really do this display justice.
FRIC or no FRIC, Mercedes remain on top.