Mid term report
The naughty corner
Look out of the window and what do you see. Clouds? Maybe rain in the air?
Can only mean one thing. The British Grand Prix is just around the corner and the midway point of the season is almost upon us. So what will the mid term report look like? Who’s in and who’s out. Who’s hot and who’s not?
Well if Austria was anything to go by who can tell? Vettel potentially robbed of his first victory this season by a Mansell style blow out while leading. The boys from Silver Arrows once again doing their best to shoot the team and their respective championship efforts. While behind them, Red Bull keep on coming with a team pairing that might just be the hottest on the block? You have to ask are Ricciardo and Verstappen taking Red Bull intravenously?
Then there are the men from Woking. Are they finally getting it together with their Japanese partners? Or is this a flash in the pan for Ron Dennis and his merry men. Did we say Ron Dennis and merry in the same sentence? Surely not.
But perhaps the team who most seem to have lost their way this season are Williams, with another weekend where they failed to live up to their assumed potential.
Wehrlein’s first point in Austria for Manor was a truly awesome achievement
More worrying than that though is the true health of Formula One. Looking at the grid there are now four teams operating without a major sponsor – some with seemingly hardly any backers at all. How long can Ron continue to carry McLaren? Or Haas Haas. Or indeed Sauber Sauber? You have to look back a long way to find so many cars lacking any substantive corporate support and equally find them having to rely so heavily on driver-delivered budgets.
The reality is that Formula One isn’t getting any easier or cheaper. Indeed has it ever? The gulf between front runners and the tail end charlies grows ever wider. But interestingly and encouragingly, those newcomers and tail enders that you might have expected to struggle have somehow started to come good. Wehrlein’s first point in Austria for Manor was a truly awesome achievement, especially as it was on merit rather than being gifted.
Equally over at Haas, the team have earned every point that has come their way, not least through the outstanding efforts of Grosjean. So credit where credit is due. Few would have expected them to have 28 points on the board by the end of the season, let alone at the mid point. So somehow it seems the performance gap has closed. Or has it?
We know it’s pretty certain Vettel would veto any sign of Hamilton coming to Modena. But Rosberg?
What about up front? Has Ferrari been able to put its engine credits to good use? Are they finally closing down on Mercedes or do Hamilton and Rosberg have it all under control (except of course the race between themselves). Again that too seems difficult to call. Vettel is driving the wheels off his Prancing Horse in a bid to get on terms, but you get the feeling that he still needs more pace from the car. Meanwhile Raikkonen often seems to be in a separate race, one which will surely come to an end this season. So it seems that for the Finn it’s too late to try harder which leads to another question…
If Kimi sets sail from Ferrari and F1, what effect will that have on the driver merry go round? It seems a lot of teams in anticipation of Raikkonen’s departure have signed their lead drivers, Ricciardo being a case in point. Both Perez and Sainz have been linked to Ferrari, but with other teams having stronger pairings, it seems unlikely that Ferrari would settle for less. But where could they go shopping?
Surely not Mercedes? We know it’s pretty certain Vettel would veto any sign of Hamilton coming to Modena. But Rosberg? Could the Italians countenance having a German pairing? Hmmm.
Of course that would then mean who gets Nico’s seat. Bottas maybe? Or perhaps one of the young guns though, for the same reasons as Ferrari, it seems unlikely that Mercedes would settle for anything less than two potential winners. So Grosjean maybe?
Which leaves us with Force India, Renault and Sauber. Once again Force India have had their moments but it remains to be seen if they can maintain their momentum and their drivers. Hulkenberg would no doubt like to move up the class as he feels that F1 has not allowed him to deliver on his potential. Over at Renault both drivers have struggled with the car. Perhaps lack of experience is holding back the team’s development so they need at least one older head to help drive them forward next year?
Wouldn’t you love it if Flavio made a come back!
At Sauber budget is almost definitely the problem for the future of the team and its drivers. It’s a name that has graced the F1 grid for many a long year so their departure would be keenly felt, but something will have to give for them to move forward.
Which brings us back to the other team that could really shake things up in the driver market. McLaren. What kind of promise will Honda and Ron have to make to keep either driver? Can they promise enough? Can they indeed deliver on the promise? Or will both walk. Maybe Alonso to Renault if he still has the desire. After all that’s who powered his Benetton to deliver his first championship title.
Which finally brings us round to managers. Is that what Renault lacks to make the next step on? Wouldn’t you love it if Flavio made a come back! Or perhaps Mr Brawn could be tempted back for one last hurrah. That would be worth watching as indeed we suspect will be the rest of the season. Sometimes just when Formula One appears to be committing Hari Kari it steps back from the brink and gets down to the business of racing.
So maybe Mercedes should just let Hamilton and Roseberg out of the naughty corner and let them battle it out. Gloves off the rest of the season. It might well do more to make the brand exciting and aspirational than any AMG badge engineering could ever do.