Posted by Carrot on January 12, 2011 | No Comments
Part two concerns the midfield of Formula 1, those teams hoping for a good day to luck into a podium and those desperately hoping not to slip to the back of the field. In 2010 the midfield consisted of four distinct teams that ran between the three new teams at the back of the field and the five frontrunners that managed to score podiums during the year.
9. Toro Rosso – 13 pts
Toro Rosso’s first year without being able to ‘borrow’ the design from the senior Red Bull team, and it really showed. Two years ago this team scored its maiden win, before the senior team, this year the very best they could manage was eighth. Building their own car has really hurt them. The difficulty of creating a whole design department is a major task for any team, but you’d think a team owned by Red Bull would have an easier learning curve than a fresh team.
The driver line-up is simply poor. With a host of talent knocking on the door of F1 and former drivers screaming to get back in, Jaime Alguesuari and Sebastien Buemi have been less than impressive. Why then do they keep their seats? Red Bull’s Young Driver Programme. Both are graduates of the scheme through lower series and it’s good PR for Red Bull to have them in F1. If they were in any other team however, they’d both be shown the door after this season. Neither have shown flashes of brilliance or exemplary pace to deserve their seat, and while another graduate of the same programme won the drivers’ crown this year, Red Bull need to be looking elsewhere in their young driver pool to fill the Toro Rosso cockpits.
The combination of a new design department, reliability problems with the car and the Ferrari engine and a lacklustre driver line-up has led to a dismal year with the team returning to the kind of form we expected when they were called Minardi. A massive improvement is needed for next year to justify the money the team is spending, there must be cheaper ways to advertise an energy drink.
8. BMW Sauber – 44 pts
It’s been a year of extremes for the Swiss team. The were the last official entry to the grid, even after the three new teams thanks to BMW pulling the plug and forcing Peter Sauber and his team to have a tentative wait until Toyota followed BMW out of the sport. Then they started the season with abysmal form before turning it around to score consistent points in the last few races. Though their pace was never close to the extraordinary pace they showed in pre-season testing, due to running almost empty fuel tanks to attract sponsors, their recovery was excellent.
Utilising veteran drivers Pedro de la Rosa and Nick Heidfeld to drive the development of their car is an example to those new teams running all rookie line-ups. Kamui Kobayashi started to impress by the mid-season when he’d found his feet in the team and the car started to come to him. Particularly impressive was his Valencia drive, running long on the prime tyre and then running fast on the options to overtake Fernando Alonso on the final lap.
Sauber seem to be universally liked by the paddock and fans alike, even if the fans support other teams they all seem to have a soft spot for the Swiss outfit. This is probably down to Peter Sauber’s honest and sportsman like approach to racing. In a sport full of politics and multimillion pound businessmen his humble old school competitor engenders respect from all. Under his leadership again 2010 became a season to rebuild the team on its lower budget after BMW’s withdrawal. Even with the problems they’ve had there was still a major on-track improvement, should this be representative of the team’s capabilities in its new form then 2011 looks to be good for Sauber. They might not be winning races next year, but regular points finishes should be expected.
7. Force India – 68 pts
Only a single point behind Williams, 2010 will still be remembered as poor by the Force India team. In 2009 at Spa the team nearly scored their first race win, in 2010 the highest they could manage was eighth place in a race where most of the frontrunners ran into each other or the track. After Spa they could only manage two more points finishes for the rest of the season, nine points from the final six races of the year. It’s not a good statistic, and when you look at their pace towards the end of the year it’s nothing to do with random circumstances, the car wasn’t fast enough.
Adrian Sutil led the team but seemed to be suffering from the same lack of interest that plagued Timo Glock at Virgin. When the car isn’t working he just seems to be ‘phoning it in’, people in the paddock have tipped him for Felipe Massa’s Ferrari cockpit more than once this season, as well as Michael Schumacher’s Mercedes drive if he decided to go back to his retirement but based on his performances this year he’s not impressed me. He should have been beating his team mate by a much larger margin to deserve such praise, similar to the way Kimi Raikkonen did to whomever was in the second Ferrari last year after Massa’s accident. On his day he’s fast, but as the last four World Championships have shown us, you need to be fighting every single lap on the track, even when the car feels like a bus.
Vitantonio Liuzzi did a respectable job this season in my opinion. Yes he was behind his team mate for much of the season, but he also managed the pressure that came as a result and didn’t degenerate on the track. He does need to demonstrate the ability to get more speed out of the car to keep his drive for the 2011 season, but 2010 wasn’t a complete failure for him.
The thing is that Force India are running around the midfield and have been for a few seasons now, and there’s no need for them to do so. Vijay Mallya is called the Indian Richard Branson, which is accurate until you realise that Mallya’s orders of magnitude richer than Branson. Dietrich Mateschitz, owner of Red Bull has been aggressively financing the team to allow them to build the infrastructure and recruit the people needed to take them to the front, after the 2009 Belgian Grand Prix Mallya should have been doing the same thing. Either he isn’t, or he is in the same way Toyota threw money at problems without success. 2011 will be Force India’s fourth F1 season, unfortunately I still don’t feel like they’re a permanent fixture to the grid, it’s like Mallya will get rid of the outfit as soon as he becomes tired of it. Until there’s some serious and obvious commitment from him, the team will have a hard time head-hunting the people it needs to be anything other than a midfield team with the occasional stand out year.
6. Williams – 69 pts
Managing to finish ahead of Force India was something Williams desperately needed, simply for the prize money. At the end of 2009 a minority of the company was sold to another firm purely for commercial reasons, the end of 2010 saw the departure of most of the team’s money as major contributors ended their involvement. We could be looking at the beginning of a Jordan style decline before a sale with the former World Championship winning team.
There’s not much to say about the car, it was average over the season. The fact that the development continued allowed them to take significant points in the second half of the season, but there’s nothing revolutionary on there and nothing that other teams need in order to stay on the pace. Williams used to be at the forefront of innovation in the sport, the two such developments of this year, the F-duct and the blown diffuser, both came from other teams. In the 80s it’d be unthinkable that something like this would happen. With the return of KERS in 2011 we might finally get a chance to see their much talked about flywheel KERS, but something needs to be done be the experienced design department to force the team up the standings before the cost of running the team forces a sale.
Rubens Barrichello seemed to be a lifeline for team morale, after Nico Rosberg rightly jumped to Mercedes GP. Barrichello has used his experience to drive the car development as well as unite a team that seemed lost. Barrichello moves into his second season at the team as the most experienced F1 driver ever and hoping that the team can match his commitment. Though he did get a great achievement that no other F1 driver before him had managed during the 2010 season, he beat The Stig.
Nico Hulkenberg, GP2 Champion and supposed second coming spends one season in the top flight before be summarily dropped by his team for a pay driver to make ends meet. Of course he was more than impressive in Brazil, ending up over a second faster than the rest of the field on basis of pure pace, but apart from that there’s not much to shout about in his first, and seemingly only, season. The benchmark for GP2 winners coming into F1 has to be Lewis Hamilton, who managed to maintain pace against a double champion with inertia on his side, in comparison Hulkenberg was a let down and it’s understandable that Williams let him go.
2011 is going to be hard for the team. Stuck with the breathless Cosworth engine while Lotus Racing managed to score a supply of Renault units, anyone else remember what happened the last time Williams had a Renault engine? They’re now selling their systems to the back markers to get some more funds. With the midfield of 2011 likely to be even busier with the elevation of Lotus to the middle of the pack, Williams are going to have to come out of their factory with something impressive for 2011 or the end could be near.