2011 F1 Mid-Season Team Review: The Winners and Losers so Far
The F1 2011 summer break has arrived and the first half of the season has seen some of the best racing that the sport has witnessed for many years.
So which teams have been the winners and losers so far and who is likely to emerge victorious when the season draws to a close in November?
Please feel free to comment on any teams which you think might spring a surprise in the second half of the season.
Red Bull: 383 Points
Red Bull have clearly had the fastest overall package in the first half of this season. This has helped them to win six races and have at least one driver on the podium at every race.
This form has taken Sebastian Vettel to a seemingly unassailable lead in the drivers’ championship. This success is built upon an ability to qualify consistently on the front row, a characteristic which they have carried over from last season.
In fact, their qualifying pace has often been significantly better than their race pace, particularly in wet conditions, such as in Canada and Hungary.
It does appear that Red Bull does not currently enjoy the same superiority that it did at the beginning of the season. However, they have now built up such a significant lead in both the constructors’ championship and the drivers’ championship with Vettel that they should go on to win both.
McLaren: 280 Points
McLaren have established themselves as the main challengers to Red Bull by winning four races. However, they have not had the pace on Saturdays to disrupt the dominance of the Red Bulls in qualifying.
Their race pace has usually been quite good, but it has not been enough to get the necessary results to lead either championship.
McLaren have made too many errors as a team, in terms of both strategy and driving, by getting involved in collisions.
However, they do now seem to have matched the pace of the Red Bulls. If they can cut out these errors then they may still have a small chance of winning a championship come the end of the season.
Ferrari: 215 Points
After the disappointment of narrowly missing out on the drivers’ championship last season, Ferrari needed to come back strong this year to keep the Tifosi happy. However, initially it appeared as if they would be unable to do so.
Thankfully for Ferrari they have managed to develop the car and it is now capable of winning, as Fernando Alonso showed at the British GP.
It appears that their car performs best in warm conditions, so they have been hampered by the weather recently. But there are bound to be some warm races in the second half of the season and Ferrari would expect to win in these conditions.
However, they will need McLaren to take points off Red Bull in addition to winning races in order to stand a chance in either championship.
Mercedes: 80 Points
So far it has been another disappointing season for Mercedes. They have not been able to mix it with the big three teams.
Although Michael Schumacher’s return has disappointed many people, Mercedes still has a strong driver line up. In Nico Rosberg they have a potential future world champion, and they have one of the most successful team principles in the paddock with Ross Brawn.
Taking these factors into account, Mercedes will not be satisfied with their showing so far this season and they will probably now start focusing on next years car. After all, that strategy helped the team to win both championships when it was Brawn in 2009.
Even if their focus does shift to next season, they will probably still expect to finish best of the rest of the teams in fourth place, because they are significantly faster than any of their close rivals at this stage.
Renault: 66 Points
Despite the loss of their lead driver Robert Kubica before the start of the season, Renault actually began the year in promising style with two podiums in the first two races.
However, since then their pace has gradually dropped away and they simply do not seem to be able to develop their car at the same rate as the big three teams.
Another problem that the team has is the tendency of their car to catch fire and even partly explode, as Nick Heidfeld discovered in Hungary.
Luckily, the season so far has not been exclusively negative thanks to the improved form of Vitaly Petrov, who now looks like he could be a competitive teammate for Kubica when he returns. This will probably not be till next season, however, and that is probably where the team should now focus their efforts.
Sauber: 35 Points
Sauber has enjoyed a good season so far, thanks to their car’s characteristic of being very gentle on its tyres.
This has meant that despite not always performing particularly strongly in qualifying, Sauber has often been able to make up places during races by using differing strategies on their rivals.
They have two relatively inexperienced drivers in Kamui Kobayashi and Sergio Perez, but both seem to be performing well and have already been signed up for next year, which is very good news for the team.
They are certainly moving in the right direction and should continue to perform well in the second half of the season.
Force India: 26 Points
It does not seem very long since Force India were the slowest team on the grid, but they are now well established within the midfield pack and have enjoyed a strong first half of the season.
They appear to have a well balanced driver line up with Paul Di Resta impressing in his first season, as well as the experienced Adrian Sutil and a strong reserve in Nico Hulkenberg, which bodes well for the team going forward.
They have developed the car well through the season and have had good results in the last two races in Germany and Hungary.
If this form continues then they could climb a place or two in the constructor’s championship before the end of the season.
Torro Rosso: 22 Points
Torro Rosso will be fairly pleased with the first half of their season, having scored points in seven out of 11 races so far. They are currently the strongest they have been since the departure of Sebastian Vettel at the end of the 2008 season.
Like nearly all of the midfield teams, their drivers seem to be fairly evenly matched. Both Sebastian Buemi and Jaime Alguersuari will be hoping that they can one day make the transition to the senior Red Bull team, as Vettel did with great success.
Although qualifying pace has been a problem for Torro Rosso they have often managed to make significant gains during races. They should be pushing the teams above them in the championship during the second half of the season.
Williams: 4 Points
Williams have had a very disappointing season so far and the team seams set to continue to decline, as it has done since its heyday in the 90s.
It appears that the team made a mistake in replacing the promising Nico Hulkenberg with Pastor Maldonado, who does not seem to have quite the same pace as Rubens Barrichello.
The midfield of F1 is strong and the team will have to work extremely hard if they want to make up places in the championship. However, it is hard to see that happening this season. It would probably by wise for Williams to start focusing on next year.
Lotus: 0 Points
Last year Lotus were the strongest of the new teams to join F1. They have continued that form into the current season.
They are still not quite on the pace of the established teams, but that gap continues to narrow. If they continue to improve at the current rate they should be looking to score regular points within the next few years.
They have the most experienced drivers of any of the new teams and this should help them to continue to put in solid results as the season progresses.
Virgin: 0 Points
When Virgin joined F1 last season it seemed that they would provide competition for Lotus at the back of the grid, and would eventually start to push the established teams.
However, they have not made the necessary improvements during their short time in the sport and they now seem to be competing with Hispania more than Lotus.
They have signed up Timo Glock for next season which shows that they are serious about their future in F1, but significant investment is needed if they are going to make progress up the grid.
Hispania: 0 Points
As with their first season in F1, Hispania find themselves at the back of the grid. At least they are fast enough to race, given that their pace is within 107 percent of the leaders, which could be counted as a small achievement.
Their profile has recently been raised by having Daniel Ricciardo in the car on loan from Torro Rosso. It will be interesting to see if he can match the speed of Vitantonio Liuzzi during the rest of the season.
However, the car is so far off the pace that it will make little difference who is in the driver's seat. Do not expect either of these drivers to be scoring points in the near future.