Mon 24 Mar 2008
Two races in and it’s hard to really assess how this season is going to pan out given that the two races have led to six different people on the podium, but already there are some clear winners and losers among the teams.
This is how I think the teams have faired in the season openers:
Ferrari : Last year’s champions, but they are going to struggle to retain the title if they carry on as they are. Uncharacteristic mechanical failures have resulted in a lot of the drivers’ time being spent off the track. The drivers haven’t covered themselves in glory either, with both falling off the track in Melbourne before Massa repeated the mistake in Malaysia.
The Italian team love winning the constructors title, so they will not be happy with Massa if his errors result in them losing their crown. Kimi has made mistakes too, but to a lesser extent and only when he has been under pressure. The majority vote seems to be that he will continue to improve and is on course to add a second drivers title to his collection, but whether Massa will also improve is open to debate.
McLaren : A bit of a mixed bag so far. The perfect start to the season for Lewis Hamilton, but this weekend must have brought him and the team back down to earth with a bump. A car that either wasn’t suited to the track or wasn’t set up properly meant it was always going to be a tough weekend for the team, but they shot themselves in the foot with their stupidity in qualifying.
The race was a bit hit and miss as well. Both Hamilton and Kovailainen drove reasonably well, with only a bit of bad luck in the pitstop hindering Hamilton’s push for a podium. Considering all that’s gone on this weekend they will be happy to forget it ever happened and look forward to the coming races.
Having two decent drivers bodes well for their chances of claiming the constructors crown, but the drivers have still to prove they have what it takes to challenge for their own championship.
BMW : The best of the rest - so far at least. Both drivers have shown they are capable of finishing in the top three given the chance - but neither visit came in a race where the top four drivers from Ferrari and McLaren were all starting from the front of the grid. It will be interesting to see if the BMWs can break into this elite group when that happens - which is surely how it will be at most grand prix unless some drivers go light in qualifying.
Things are looking good for the team to claim third spot, however their drivers will need a bit of luck if they are to claim any wins this year.
Renault : A bit like Ferrari, so far they have had one driver in Alonso who is doing pretty well, and another in Piquet Jnr who hasn’t faired so well. From this it’s hard to judge how good the car is - should it be down where Piquet is and Alonso is driving his socks off to outperform in it, or should it be up where Alonso is and Piquet is really struggling?
The truth is it’s probably somewhere in the middle. Alonso has probably finished higher than he really should have done so far, flattering the team’s true performance - especially given the high attrition rate in Melbourne. Piquet on the other hand isn’t acclimatising to F1 very well, although his second race was much better than his debut.
How the season pans out really depends on how much the team can develop the car. If they can improve at a faster rate than their competitors then I’ve a feeling Alonso could cause a few upsets and feature in the points regularly.
Red Bull : A terrible start to the season so far, with the cars falling to pieces at the slightest contact with anything at all - other cars, kerbs, the track, blades of grass…
Red Bull better hope they can get this ironed out as their raw pace doesn’t seem too bad. They are definitely in there mixing it with Renault and the other mid-table teams, but are nowhere near BMW Sauber at the moment. Newey cars are renowned for being fast but fragile - at the moment this car is mainly fragile, but if he can make it fast as well then I’m sure the odd failure will be tolerated a bit more easily. Given thir main objective this season was to be more reliable, they must have their heads in their hands at the moment!
Williams : A bit of an enigma - heralded as being in for a great season after Melbourne, things have turned a bit sour this weekend. But just as one good race doesn’t make them world beaters, one bad race shouldn’t make things all doom and gloom.
Their car is certainly one of the best looking cars in the pitlane, and they have a huge support with most fans willing them on to return to their “rightful” place up at the front of the grid. They have an excellent driver in Rosberg and a promising, if inexperienced, one in Nakajima so I think they have a great chance of featuring on the podium again - albeit with a lot of good fortune.
Toyota : They supply the engines to the Williams team so it must have hurt to see Rosberg up on the podum in Melbourne when they are so desperate for results this year.
Trulli has been his usual self in qualifying, lining up fairly high on the grid as normal but the races are usually a different story. Prior to the season he was pretty confident that Toyota would put in a good showing and it would appear he is maybe right, much to everyone’s surprise!
I thought his new teammate, Timo Glock, would be a pretty good addition to the F1 grid however he hasn’t done too well so far - but to be fair he hasn’t really had much chance to shine. Hopefully he will be able to steer clear of trouble in the upcoming grand prix and show us what he can really do.
It’s going to be hard for Toyota to find their way onto the top step of the podium this year, but perhaps a visit to a lower step is possible - we’ve seen already this year how unpredictable some races will be, especially if it rains, and Trulli is pretty nifty in the wet…
Toro Rosso : Hard to guage their progress given they are still racing with last year’s car. If I was them I’d stick with it at least until Red Bull can get this year’s car sorted out!
Having Ferrari engines hasn’t been much of a bonus when they seem to want to expire at the first available opportunity. Despite this, Bourdais had a strong run in his debut race amd Vettel is showing pretty strong form too.
If the car can stay strong, especially the new chassis when they get it, then they may trouble the scorers but again without a really crazy race or wild weather they will be incredibly unlikely to get up the top end of the podium.
Honda : Another team who looked absolutely terrible pre-season but aren’t actually as bad as we all feared - perhaps it’s a Japanese thing.
Button and Barrichello should be a known quantity, give them a decent car and they will get you a result, but Rubens has done everything in his power to ensure this is his last season with an F1 drive. On the track itself he is fine, but both races have led to him facing punishments for events which have happened in the pits. First he left the pits when the red light meant that was forbidden, and this weekend he was pulled up for speeding.
Button has been pretty steady and has managed to keep his nose clean, but is still struggling to get anywhere near the points. A team like Honda must have huge resources so let’s hope they can improve things to at least give their drivers a chance of getting into the top eight.
The team is due a pretty substantial update on the car in Barcelona which should help, but the downside is that most other teams will be updating their cars then too!
Force India : Bringing Fisichella onboard may be the best move this team could have done - or it could be the worst. They will be hoping to follow the Red Bull example where Coulthard came in and used his experience to help the new team develop and go forward, Force India will be hoping for much the same from Fisi. I’m not sure Fisi is the same kind of driver, or indeed person, as DC so this may backfire.
Adrian Sutil is a decent driver, if not outstanding, so between them they should manage to progress the team a little but perhaps not enough compared to the others around them - not that they are likely to improve enough to get very much further up the grid this season anyway.
Super Aguri : The team have done well just to get as far as they have done - even making it onto the grid in Melbourne wasn’t a certainty!
Destined to be at the tail-end, it must be really demoralising for their drivers but if they can muster up some money to fund the testing they need then they may just be able to spring a surprise in a few races - not that I think they will win any but then again they aren’t expecting to.
Or at least I hope not!