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Carrot’s Team By Team Season Review: Part 3 – The Frontrunners

Posted by Carrot on February 26, 2011 | No Comments

Of the twelve teams that began the 2010 Formula 1 season, only five made the podium. These five teams were the ones setting the pace, the ones considered threats to whoever was favourite for the win in a particular race weekend, these are the frontrunners of 2010.

5. Renault – 163 pts

At the end of 2009, with echoes of the race fixing scandal still ringing fresh in the air and major sponsors having left the team, Renault decided they’d had enough. They left the sport, selling the majority of their team to an investment company and agreed to continue to supply their engines to the sport. The company that had taken over Benetton and delivered back to back championships in 2006 and 2007 had gone and what we the fans had was a team of the same name run by businessmen. Lots of people, including myself, weren’t optimistic, teams taken over by businessmen with no major motor sport experience have had a habit of going under in the past. All of us were wrong.

Rallying behind promising Polish driver Robert Kubica the team rebuilt over the winter and came out with a conservative car that actually had a lot of potential. Rookie Vitaly Petrov filled the holes in their sponsorship portfolio and allowed the team to maintain development throughout the season. Kubica continually dragged the car higher in the standings than it should have been and, when he finally got to grips with the top flight towards the end of the season, Petrov was able to bring more to the team than money. Particularly impressive was Petrov’s drive in the final race, it takes some nerve for a rookie not to slip up when under pressure from Fernando Alonso chasing another crown.

The approach from this new team that carries the Renault name has been impressive in their first campaign, but the true test is going to be the 2011 season. In 2010 they were still using the leftovers of the Renault company’s financing in design and development, the new car is going to be all their own, it is this year that we will see whether or not they have what it takes to build a team to move for a championship in a few years.

Unfortunately the off-season hasn’t been kind to the team. Firstly they’ve entered into partnership with Group Lotus, the car manufacturer, and some of the interviews they’ve been giving attacking Team Lotus have been disappointing. In becoming hand puppets for the owners of Group Lotus they’ve thrown away all the goodwill they’d managed to build up with fans over last year. Secondly is Robert Kubica’s rally crash. For those that haven’t heard, Kubica was on his way to the start of a rally when his car crashed. He suffer a broken leg, arm and a hand so badly damaged that the initial assessment was that he was going to lose it. His surgeon say his recovery could take a year, so the earliest I’m expecting to see him in a car again is at the last few races of the year using the race weekends as a test session, provided of course that the team aren’t involved in a close fight in the standings. Kubica’s former team mate Nick Heidfeld will be taking his seat, bringing his years of race experience, his knowledge of developing a car with Kubica from their time at BMW Sauber and his knowledge of the new Pirelli tyres having been one of their development drivers.

All of us here at F1Blog.co.uk wish Robert a fast and full recovery and hope to see him back in the car as soon as possible.

4. Mercedes GP – 214 pts

The former Brawn team came into 2010 having won both titles in 2009 and with the returning Michael Schumacher, what could go wrong? Well, almost everything. Over the entire 2010 season they managed only three podiums, all of them for 3rd place and none of them came from Schumacher. In comparison to what had been achieved the year before and in Schumacher’s earlier career, 2010 was a disaster for Mercedes.

Schumacher’s performance over the season was lacklustre to say the least. There were flashes of the great driver we all used to watch, notably at Monaco in his opportunist manoeuvre on Alonso, but otherwise we’ve seen reckless aggression, against Barrichello in Hungary, and mistakes a rookie would be ashamed of, the unprovoked spin in the final race. The former seven time champion needs to seriously up his game for the 2011 season if he wants to run at the front of modern F1. Team mate Nico Rosberg was much more impressive, consistently leading the charge for the team to the point where everyone was expecting him to beat Schumacher in both qualifying and the race. Rosberg just needs to continue to race in the way he has done and he’ll be well entrenched at the team for when they’re ready to mount a championship challenge, he needs to make Mercedes his team in the same way that Alonso has made Ferrari his team and Kubica was making Renault his.

The car was not up to scratch for most of the year, the team spent most of the mid-season stuck in the midfield due to poor qualifying performance. It got to the point where the fast improving Renault team were close to taking fourth in the standing from them before the late season upgrades allowed them to get clear. The new car for 2011 seems to be even worse however, apart from a few glory runs for the German press, it looks like the machine is flawed and will need a lot of work just so Mercedes can maintain their fourth in the standings at the end of 2011 let alone improve. The new season is going to be trying for Mercedes, performance is needed, Renault, Toyota, Honda and BMW all pulled the plug on their teams when the performance fell below the level their respective boards felt made it pointless to continue funding. While Mercedes have been more committed to the sport than most manufacturers, there’s a world of difference between making engines and funding your own team.

3. Ferrari – 396 pts

Ferrari had a poor 2009 by their standards, but things were looking up in 2010. Signing double champion Alonso and with the return of 2008 title challenger Felipe Massa signalled a march back to the front for the Scuderia. Having the fastest car in pre-season testing and winning the first race of the year boded well for them. Then it seemed like they had swapped that car and those drivers for something much slower, it would not be until the middle of the season that they started to show the same kind of pace. The second half of their season was particularly impressive, when Alonso said they’d win the title in the middle of the season I laughed, by Korea everyone was taking him very seriously.

The car started strong, but within a few races it was being easily outmatched and Ferrari seemed all adrift. By mid-season though they’d managed development that far outstripped the other teams and were actively hunting down Red Bull. This car was the most improved machine over the course of the season.

On the driver side we saw the entrance of Alonso, no doubt hoping to build himself a super team like Schumacher did at the Scuderia, after failing to do so at McLaren. He started strong by winning the first race but then seemed to be whining an awful lot in the middle of the year, particularly after the Valencia race, although he was justified there. The second half of the season proved his quality not only as a racing driver but as a team leader. He was unrelenting in his pursuit of Red Bull and came very close to taking the laurels, if Ferrari had been able to deliver the upgraded car one or two races earlier I have no doubt he’d be a three time champion right now. Massa’s return after his dreadful accident was excellent, no matter whether you love or hate a driver, no-one wants to see a driver’s career ended due to an accident. The 2010 season didn’t go well for him though, I don’t think he’s recovered enough to go as fast as he was going in 2008 when he took the championship to the last 200 yards of racetrack. Being put into clear second driver status seems to have dented his confidence and resolve, in a way that’s damaging his overall pace. Even when he was racing with Schumacher and the contractual number two he didn’t seem as despondent.

No review of Ferrari in 2010 can be complete without bringing up Germany. I’ve already written about my views of the incident, but I think the whole thing was good for F1. Getting the idiotic rule put in the spotlight was needed and wouldn’t have happened if Toro Rosso had done it with their cars for 9th and 10th in the finishing order. We now have clarification of the rule, namely it’s been thrown out and been made clear that doing swaps stupidly will see teams punished for bringing the sport into disrepute. The only thing I hold against Ferrari is their game of musical excuses after the race, a simple line of “We didn’t issue a team order, check the radio transmissions” would have done fine.

2. McLaren – 454 pts

In the last ten years McLaren haven’t won a constructors’ crown, they’ve come second four times and third four times, but even with all the race wins their grand total of titles in the last decade has been Lewis Hamilton’s 2008 championship. 2010 was another bridesmaid year for the team. At no time did they show the dominance of Red Bull or the development pace of Ferrari. 2010 will ultimately be a year to forget for them.

There’s not much to criticise on the driver front, they’ve got two World Champions in their team, so they’ve both got pace and the ability to win. The only thing they did wrong this year was a return to old mistakes, Hamilton being impetuous and making what amounts to rookie mistakes and Jenson Button lacking form in qualifying which ultimately damaged his ability to move forward in the race. Both drivers have overcome these problems in the past, so it should be simple enough for them to do so again in 2011 and challenge Red Bull and Ferrari should their car allow them to.

The car itself was never the force we tend to expect from McLaren. The F-Duct was a marvellous innovation, but even though there’s was the most advanced and integrated in the field it was never enough to compensate for the car’s other flaws and allow it to dominate the rest of the pack. The fabled McLaren development machine that I spent most of the summer predicting the arrival of never materialised, the same leap forward in 2009, that could have led to them seriously challenging Red Bull just wasn’t in evidence this year.

The thing about four second places and four third places in the championship is that McLaren are continuously in a frontrunning battle, and are continually in the losing effort. Over the last decade they’ve had to fight with Ferrari, Renault, Brawn and Red Bull. While these teams have had off years to regroup and begin development early and attack the next year with an advantage, McLaren have never taken this approach and ultimately it’s hurting them when it comes to the final standings. In the last ten years whatever they’ve been doing brings in race wins, but they need to reassess unless they want to be the continual bridesmaid when it comes to the final championship standings.

1. Red Bull – 498 pts

Two years ago Red Bull had yet to win a race, they’d been beaten to that by their junior team Toro Rosso and their rookie upstart driver Sebastian Vettel. After trying to push Brawn in 2009 the team finally took their first championships in 2010. Unfortunately this year was a disaster for them.

Think about it, they had a car that was nearly a second a lap faster than anything else in the field at some races. That’s the kind of dominance we’ve seen from such cars as the Ferrari F2002, the Williams FW18 and of course the McLaren MP4/4. Of the 19 races this year, Red Bull won 9, less than half. For a car to have such massive performance and such a poor record is terrible. If you look at the pole position stats for the year it shows what the car could have achieved. having taking 15 poles out of the 19 races for a success rate of over 75%. The fault lies entirely with poor team management, faulty strategy calls, favouring one driver over the other for a nonsensical reason mid-season and then failing to be consistent later and the season and taking overall risks that are just unfathomable.

Take the Turkish Grand Prix for example, there had been very vocal doubts about Sebastian Vettel’s ability to overtake and his overly aggressive nature when when attempting to do so, nearly pushing Hamilton into an accident in the pit lane in Spain. Given all of this, why would you allow him to engage in a high pressure battle with his own team mate? The inevitable happened with Vettel turning into Mark Webber and Red Bull throwing away a 1-2 finish and gifting the win and second place to their main rivals McLaren. This is, of course, simple lack of experience in being in such tense championship altering events, and they’ll get better at it over time, but 2010 could have been completely record-breaking in F1 history and they failed to achieve their potential.

Both the team’s drivers are in the best form of their careers, Vettel’s pole form being particularly impressive. Vettel is only going to get better, his skill in overtaking will improve, well it’d be hard for it to deteriorate. Webber needs to maintain his focus on his racing, his extracurricular sports are great for getting him in shape, except for when they’re seriously impacting his chances of taking the drivers’ laurels, in 2009 his bicycle snapped his leg and, the first time he gets on it since that accident, he breaks his shoulder in 2010. Seriously Mark, save the pedalling for your retirement.

The future looks good for Red Bull, with driver consistency and both drivers delivering consistent high point finishes over the calender it’s hard to discount them from challenging the front for the next few years. Adrian Newey isn’t known for making errors when he’s found form at a team that believes in him so the next few cars that leave his drawing board should be fast, whether they’ll have the same advantage the RB6 had remains to be seen though.

Here ends my review of each team’s performance during the 2010 season. In the end I elected to spread the posts out over the off-season so that we all wouldn’t go ‘cold turkey’ in case there was a lack of news. There’s been a lot of news however, Kubica’s crash, the delayed start of the season due to the trouble in the Middle East and the whole ongoing saga between Team Lotus and Group Lotus. We’re a month from going racing again, looking forward to it yet?

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  • Drivers Championship 2013

    1 Kimi Raikkonen 25
    2 Fernando Alonso 18
    3 Sebastian Vettel 15
    4 Felipe Massa 12
    5 Lewis Hamilton 10
    6 Mark Webber 8
    7 Adrian Sutil 6
    8 Paul Di Resta 4
    9 Jenson Button 2
    10 Romain Grosjean 1

  • Constructors Championship 2013

    1 Ferrari 30
    2 Lotus 26
    3 Red Bull 23
    4 Mercedes 10
    5 Force India 10
    6 McLaren 2
    7 Toro Rosso 0
    8 Sauber 0
    9 Williams 0
    10 Marussia 0
    11 Caterham 0