Dunbar: F1 Half Time Review Part 1

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As the Hungarian Grand Prix drew to a close on 27 July, thoughts in Formula 1 racing turned to the well-earned summer break, which sees an enforced shut-down of all F1 teams and factories. The next race isn’t until 24 August, but it’s a classic – the historic Spa Francorchamps in Belgium.

The summer break was introduced in response to the increased number of races in the F1 calendar, and the shut-down was created to ensure the break was respected and that team members really could spend time with their families rather than just continuing the never-ending development work. Such is the pace and intensity of development in F1, that simply having a pause between races is not enough to guarantee time off.  With the number of consecutive race weekends in IndyCar at the moment, I’m sure a summer break would be a nice idea for some of the employees in that series too, but the decision has been taken to wrap up the 2014 season by the end of August, so continue they must.

Personally, as a viewer in Europe, I’m enjoying the pace of the season, even the double header weekends. And, because I am in Europe, the races are on TV in the evening, so they don’t interrupt my summer weekend days. I have read comments that two consecutive afternoons spent in front of the TV is hard to justify for some.

But back to F1. I thought it would be worth taking some time to consider how the teams and drivers have performed so far this season, and look ahead to how they may fare in the second half of the season.

So in the first of three posts during the half time break, let’s look at the teams. Here’s how they stand after Hungary:

1              Mercedes (M) 393

2              Red Bull (R) 219

3              Ferrari   (F) 142

4              Williams (M) 135

5              Force India (M) 98

6              McLaren (M) 97

7              STR (R) 17

8              Lotus (R) 8

9              Marussia (F) 2

10           Sauber (F) 0

11           Caterham (R) 0

The obvious story here is about Mercedes success, which is thought to be largely a result of clever configuration of their power unit and in particular the positioning of the various turbo components. It is generally considered that Mercedes have produced the best engine, with Ferrari in second place and Renault third.

That being the case, Red Bull’s second place performance and Ferrari’s third place actually start to look pretty good, because it means they are outperforming all the other Mercedes teams despite having engines which are generally regarded as inferior. This also suggests that other aspects of the Mercedes car are as strong as the engine and packaging.

However there isn’t much between Williams and Ferrari, and until recently Williams were ahead. Although they’ve had really bad luck with Massa in particular missing out on a chunk of potential points, they are clearly the best of the rest, and the best non-factory Mercedes team. This is a stunning performance compared to the last few years and Williams have quickly become my favourite team of 2014.

Another thing worth thinking about is the amount of negativity and complaining coming from Red Bull and Ferrari, which, given that they are in second and third, simply highlights their deep sense of entitlement. If they were 7th and 8th it would be easier to understand their unhappiness.

The fight between McLaren and Force India continues with Force India just one point ahead, but seriously in a development-led series like F1, McLaren, a well-funded supercar producer with the world’s most advanced race team factory, should not be trading last place among the Merc teams with a relatively poorly funded privateer team.

I can’t get excited about Toro Rosso, in fact most of the time I forget they are there, but one thing they do have (like IndyCar this season) is a surprisingly fast Russian rookie. Danil Kvyat is doing the business for the team, and must surely move on to better things soon.

This brings us to Lotus. Oh boy. First off, let’s remember the old story – they aren’t really Lotus, but because of a sponsorship deal gone bad the former Renault team now uses the name Lotus even though no money is paid by Lotus for the privilege. Weird. Their money worries are well publicised, and they are now highly dependent upon Venezuelan cash from Maldonado. Let’s hope they are getting enough to cover his spare parts bill. In one season Lotus has gone from real contender to also ran.

Marussia’s two points thanks to a fantastic Bianchi drive in Monaco makes this a fantastic season for the team which bears the name of a defunct Russian sports car manufacturer. I hope they can find new ownership and funding to take them to the next level. They seem like a nice group of guys and deserve their success.

Speaking of new ownership, Caterham is now owned by a mysterious group of Middle Eastern investors via Switzerland who have decided to remain anonymous, helped by ex-HRT man Colin Kolles who has brought his 80-year-old father into the team as a Director. One of their first actions has been to terminate a group of the team’s staff and then threaten to sue them. Classy. Interestingly one of their sponsors, GE, removed their branding as soon as the takeover had taken place. I wonder why? No need to mention their on track performance, because they haven’t had any.

NEXT TIME – The drivers, who’s on top, who’s upside down, and who’s in the wall.

Tony Tellez

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