their best ever weekend as a team
, but for the majority of the season, they’ve been fighting with Toro Rosso and McLaren for the minor points. Not sure whether their lack of funds mean they can’t develop like McLaren and some of the other more established outfits, but I think they need to regroup after the Summer break, coming off both drivers making big driver errors and crashing, resulting in their first double DNF of the season. Also, their tactical play this season has been iffy, at times running a little too long for their own good. (Like Hulk in Germany)
Remember, they are DESPERATE to crack the Top 5 this season, hence the all-out play for Perez and Hulkenberg, and if it doesn’t work out, where the heck do they go from here? They HAVE to beat McLaren at ALL costs.
Nico Hulkenberg: 8.5/10 – Until his crazy collision with his teammate in Hungary, he was one of only two men in the field to have scored points in every single Grand Prix (Fernando Alonso being the other), and The Hulk continues to do what he does best – Be the guy who will consistently give you a 7-8/10 performance and generally do very little wrong. The fact he’s in 7th in the Championship with 69 points is way above where he should be, but it’s that consistency that makes him the most under-utilized driver in the paddock. He DOES have 70% of Force India’s haul.
Sergio Perez: 5.5/10 – Sergio last week described Nico as “The best teammate I’ve ever had” and “almost flawless”. Interesting, because Sergio, to me, is starting to run out of excuses. He had a raw deal at McLaren, with them expecting him to surpass Jenson Button, but to be outscored 69-29 (Nearly 2.5:1), through 11 rounds is a surprise to me. This is why Nico and Sergio are polar opposites. Nico is the consistent 8/10 guy, while Perez will break out a 10/10 once every 10 races or so (See Bahrain), then be pretty medicore the rest of the time. When over half of your points have come from one race, it’s cause for concern. I don’t think he’s racing for his job, but given this is his 4th season, you’d expect some improvement by now.
McLaren (6th, 97 points) – 6/10
2013 wasn’t a blip. McLaren are now officially a midfield team now. They started out VERY strong in Australia, wth a double podium for rookie Kevin Magnussen and Jenson Button, but have fallen back into mediocrity every since, as said before, battling for minor points the majority of the team. Surprising as, like Ferrari, they had a very strong package out of the box to start out.
If the track is right, they can get into the Top 6, but this doesn’t happen often, and they are stuck in another fight with Force India for 5th in the Constructors. What should help out, is that McLaren do have the financial support to help them develop over the long run, but I’m not sure they have the resources and man power to compete at the highest level due to their car firm expanding to produce more cars. Where the heck is their title sponsor?
McLaren seem to be in full rebuilding mode for 2015 and the Honda partnership, and they’ll be the guinea pig to see if they’re a viable contender to Mercedes power, but for now, McLaren are stuck in midfield purgatory for the time being, and a team of their size could, and probably should be doing better. Is it time to cut bait with Jenson and see what else is out there?
Jenson Button: 7.5/10 – Don’t get me wrong, I’m not sure he’s viable at this point for being one of the highest paid drivers on the grid, but I think a LOT of people are giving Jenson a bad wrap, when in actuality, he’s been pretty good. A podium finish and two 4th places for a total of 60 points and 8th in the Championship is actually pretty good given where their car performance is, ie – Borderline Q3 quality. He’s not been magnificent by any stretch, but as a team leader, he’s doing what he needs to do, and deserves props for that, he’s ahead of dudes in better machinery like Felipe Massa and Kimi Raikkonen.
Kevin Magnussen: 6.5/10 – This kid is good. People forget he’s a 20 year old rookie, and he opened up with a mature showing in Australia to qualify 4th and finish 2nd, like he’d been here 5 years already. He’s made a few blunders here and there (Like that Hungary Q3 crash), but he’s a rookie, that’s expected. And he’s only going to get better. And being in the points in 7 out of 11 rounds so far is pretty good going.
Toro Rosso (7th, 17 points) – 5/10
We expect Toro Rosso to be the bottom feeders of the teams that have a chance of scoring points, and 2014 has been no exception. The biggest issue with Toro Rosso this year has been their reliability, with multiple engine blowouts and other mechanical failures standing between them and more regular points finishes.
A shame, as it’s really hurt their drivers. Jean-Eric Vergne’s driving for his future, while Danill Kyvat’s been very impressive for a rookie in the 7th best car available so far. Obviously, we expect this from Red Bull’s feeder team, but a little bit more and they could be challenging Lotus, McLaren, Force India for more frequent points. Obviously, being on Renault power doesn’t help, but yeah…Could be doing better.
Jean-Eric Vergne – 7/10: Like with Massa and Vettel, it’s very hard to give Vergne a true score, as he’s probably been the most unlucky of all the drivers on the grid. Count them, FIVE mechanical failures this season in 11 rounds. What can you do when your car keeps letting you down? He showed great defensive driving at Hungary last round, and has been in the points 4 out of the 6 times the car has been reliable, which is pretty good all things considered. Will it be enough for him to keep his job, remains to be seen.
Danill Kyvat – 6.5/10: Young Danny Kyvat made history on his debut, beating Sebastian Vettel’s 8 year record as the youngest point scorer in the sports history, and has been in the points 4 times this season so far this season. Impressive work from the young Russian to blend into the team rather seamlessly so far. One to watch for the future from the class of 2014 I reckon.
Lotus (8th, 8 points) – 2/10
Oh how the mighty have fallen. Considering where Lotus were last year, this is a major disappointment. I had a feeling the dream period was going to run out, especially when Kimi Raikkonen was announced to be leaving for Ferrari, but not to this extent. This is in no way the fault of the drivers, this is on a team badly in debt, shackled with a bad engine in Renault, and a car that looks borderline undriveable.
Every time I’ve seen a Lotus closely or onboard, they look like they’re fighting the steering wheel for dear life, and the whole car looks fundamentally flawed, down to the double forklift tusks on the front wing. And as I said before, because they’re badly in debt, they’ll struggle to develop their way out of this one.
Looks like all the eggs for Lotus will be in the 2015 basket when they switch to Mercedes power. Hopefully then, can they start to claw their way back up the field, but for now, it’s going to be a tough grind for the rest of the season, and I’m glad Pastor was re-signed for 2015 as he was pretty much owed a year given Lotus’ awful car.
Romain Grosjean: 8/10 – Pretty much a walking miracle he’s managed even 8 points in this car this season, with back to back 8th places in Spain and Monaco. Throw in a couple of Q3’s and he’s done a superb job given the tools provided. He’s a very talented kid, who just needs a better car at this point. See the end of 2013 for proof of that.
Pastor Maldonado – 6.5/10: Pastor’s pretty much the Internet’s whipping boy at this point, but he’s been perfectly fine this season so far. Yes, he had the crazy Esteban flip at Bahrain, but besides that, he’s been able to keep himself under control, and his results have been fine, roughly in the 12-15 range, which is about right, again, given the car he’s in.
Marussia (9th, 2 points) – 9/10
Marussia can very proud of themselves. Going back to the Jerez tests, they pretty much had to go back to the drawing board given the car was nowhere near even their direct rivals in Caterham. But they did that, and have come back with their best package in F1 to date, finishing well and even achieved something I personally never thought possible, their first points finish at Monaco this season.
If they can keep 9th in the Championship, the extra $60m in revenue would be a tremendous boost to the little team who could, and it would be an amazing turn around given their car firm had just gone bust. Even if Sauber come back, 10th place and ACTUAL bonus money would be great. But overall, Marussia have done a great job and deserve great praise for their improvement.
Jules Bianchi – 9/10: Avoided the danger of the other cars at Monaco and cracked the points for the first time. That alone deserves a high score because it may have changed the future of the team forever. Struggled early on, but has come into his own again in the last 4 or 5 races, with 5 finishes in the Top 15, in the last 6 races.
Max Chilton – 7/10: Max deserves some credit too, for greatly improving. He may still not be on the measure of Jules, but he started the season strong with two 13th placed finishes. You got to remember, you’re comparing him to Jules “Locked into a Ferrari seat for 2016” Bianchi here, and I think his consistency and small improvement is showing he’s earned his place. Just tell him not to go into the pit lane when there’s a red flag.
Sauber (10th, 0 points) – 3/10
If there isn’t Alarm Bells aren’t ringing for Monisha Kaltenborn right now, they friggin’ should be. Sauber going 11 straight rounds without scoring is alarming and shows they may very well have gone backwards from testing where the car looked mostly reliable and had solid pace.
Sauber’s got problems across the board, and has every box ticked on the list of things that would make for a shaky team. Money problems? Check. Unreliable car? Check. Average (or worse) drivers that can’t bail you out in a pinch? Check.
There’s a serious chance that Sauber may go the distance without scoring, and given how a lot of their funding is based off of their reserves (Di Silvestro, Sirotkin, Van Der Garde), some difficult decisions may be on the horizon for the Swiss outfit, because 10th in the constructors for Sauber is a real possibility, and without a doubt, would be an unprecedented disaster for the team.
Adrian Sutil – 6.5/10: To be fair to Adrian, he’s doing his best out there, has come 11th on two occasions and gets the car into the 11-13 range a lot, and clearly has the measure of his teammate Esteban, so if Sauber can come come back, I don’t think it’ll take too much more from Adrian to get there. Silly mistakes like the spin in Germany though, could go a miss.
Esteban Gutiérrez – 5/10: Not much to really see here folks. Again, awful reliability means I’m being a bit more generous with the score, but the man’s not done anything in my opinion, to justify his seat. The mediocre finishes, the spins and accidents…It all just screams “Meh”, to everyone outside of Telmex.
Caterham (11th, 0 points) – 4/10
This was the make or break year for Caterham in its current state. Tony Fernandes had already made it quite clear he’d be selling the team if there wasn’t an improvement this season. Turns out, Tony didn’t even wait for the end of the season before selling off his team to a bunch of Swiss and Middle Eastern backers (Who have remained anonymous because why the heck not), but now, those laid off employees are now sueing. Great. Not to mention, their top prospect in Alexander Rossi, defected to Marussia. Welp.
As for the team itself, well, simply put, the car just isn’t good enough. They’ve had their strongest driver line-up to date, but the car has held them back from any major success, and as I mentioned earlier, they seemed to be ahead of direct rivals Marussia at the tests, but in translation, have lagged behind ever since.
Marcus Ericsson has been okay at best, and there’s no point in taking on a guy like Kamui if the car is so slow that you could stick any half decent driver in there and pretty much be locked into 19th place.
Marcus Ericcson: 5/10 – Believe it or not, Marcus has an 11th placed finish in Monaco, matching the best in team history. Just a shame it was the same race that Jules finished 9th. Whoops. Ericcson’s made numerous spins, and errors, but y’know, Caterham, so who cares?
Kamui Kobayashi: 6/10 – Would you believe that he’s the bottom of the Driver’s Championship right now? Only one 13th placed finish to Max Chilton’s two. His reliability and consistency gives him the nod over Marcus, but for a guy of his established quality, has he really been that good?
Overall Thoughts on the Season so far
This season has proved, that even in the era of uncertainty and political drama on and off the track, the quality in the racing always shines through, and this season has been spectacular in terms of pure race entertainment. Three races this season have been scored a 9/10 or better on my scale, and 2 others have scored an 8 or better. And this is WITH a team that’s a better part of a second a lap faster than everyone else.
The title race has been exactly what the media wanted, an artifically enhanced blood feud between the Mercedes drivers, with team orders, arguments and maximum awkwardness while the media stirs the pot. On top of that, we’ve had new stars made in Daniel Ricciardo and Valterri Bottas, with the future of the sport looking in safe hands with Kevin Magnussen and Danill Kyvat waiting in the wings. It’s established the greatness of others too, like Fernando Alonso and Nico Hulkenberg, and we still have another 8 rounds to go.
So sit back, and stay tuned, because it’s only going to get more heated as we head through the Asian block of the season. Oh, and don’t forget, we DO have a double points finale in the end…
Until then, I’ve been Andre Harrison, and thank you very much for reading. Sayonara!