2013 F1 Half-Term Team Rankings: Part 1

It’s time to take a breath. The 2013 Formula One season has reached its mid-season break, and the teams and drivers are enjoying a well-earned rest after a feverish opening ten races.

So far, it has been an unpredictable tale filled with unexpected twists, explosive rumours and the customary bickering about tyres and regulations. At a glance, it would not appear that a great deal has changed since last year, however if you delve deeper into the saga, the sport is as fascinating and mysterious as it has ever been.

Pre-season expectations insinuate a great deal in Formula One. If you read every speculative article prior to the green lights illuminating in Melbourne, one would be forgiven for prophesising how the entire season would play out before a single lap was recorded.

Nevertheless, we are all guilty of formulating a rough team hierarchy based entirely on testing lap times and dubious stories from the rumour mill. Hence, in this mid-season report card, we will rank the performance of each team from least impressive to most impressive based entirely on the widely held pre-season expectations of most Formula 1 fans.

Here are our bottom-ranked performing teams:

11. McLaren-Mercedes

Jenson Button Martin Whitmarsh Sergio Perez

In recent times, we’ve come to expect McLaren being present at the pointy end of the field in every race on the calendar. Year after year, the Woking-based team has produced a car capable of propelling their fortuitous pilots to numerous wins and realistic championship campaigns.

So what went wrong this year? The MP4-28 was supposed to be “the best McLaren [they had] ever made”, according to Jenson Button. It was right on the mark on the opening day of testing, with Button setting the quickest time of anyone on the opening day at Jerez. Fans of the team were left salivating at the thought of finally knocking Red Bull Racing off their seemingly unassailable perch.

Since then, it has been almost uninterrupted free-fall for McLaren. Their initial testing pace was simply an illusion resulting from an incorrectly fitted suspension component, with the lower ride height completely unrealistic with a heavy fuel load.

And as the sun faded in Melbourne, Button brutally admitted that the off-the-shelf package “[was] not going to win a race” in 2013. Rumours began to surface that the team was contemplating whether or not to revert to their highly successful 2012 entry. Many saw this is move as a necessity, however the team’s engineers argued that the MP4-27 could not be developed any further, and would be largely ineffective running the new compound tyre.

Fans have stuck by the ailing outfit, and the team is refusing to say die on their dogged 2013 entry when many believe their efforts would best be diverted to gaining a head start on the level playing field in 2014.

  • Highlight: Button’s fifth place finish in China from eighth on the grid has been one of the team’s few successes in 2013, where the Brit successfully conserved his volatile Pirelli rubber and subsequently negated the need for a customary third pit-stop. But to call a fifth-placed finish a ‘hlighlight’ really shows how far the team has fallen.
  • Lowlight: The Canadian Grand Prix, where for the first time in 64 races, neither McLaren driver managed to reach a point-scoring position at the chequered flag.
Drivers: Jenson Button, Sergio Pérez
Grands Prix: 10 Non-Starts: 0 Championship: 6th
Wins: 0 Best Finish: 5th Best Qualifying: 7th
Fastest Laps: 1 Points: 57 Retirements: 3

McLaren Mercedes MP4-28

9. Jenson Button 9 17^ 5 10 8 6 12 13 6 7 39
12. Sergio Pérez 11 9 11 6 9 16^ 11 20^ 8 9 18

* Bold denotes pole position; italics denote fastest lap
^ Did not finish the Grand Prix, but were classified as they completed over 90% of the race distance.

10. Williams-Renault

Valtteri Bottas Sir Frank Williams Pastor Maldonado

Many would argue that Williams’ 2013 campaign was a doomed mission from the start.

The iconic Oxfordshire-based outfit failed to complete the FW35 in time for the opening test at Jerez, and when it was finally unveiled, the FIA immediately forced the implementation of a revised exhaust system after their original configuration was deemed to be prohibited.

Prior to the start of the 2013 season, the general consensus among Formula 1 fans was that the team would carry on the momentum created by their fruitful 2012 entry. There was little doubt that Williams was aiming for multiple Grand Prix victories, a step up from Pastor Maldonado’s single win at the 2012 Spanish Grand Prix. But it was not to be, and the team is suffering through the worst year in its history as a Constructor…

Newly-promoted Deputy Team Principal Claire Williams insisted that her team would not give up salvaging respectable performances from the FW35, even after Pastor Maldonado described the entry as “undriveable” following the Australian Grand Prix.

Technology wise, their 2013 entry was an evolution on the 2012 car. That said, as much as 80% of the car was considered to be brand new, including a new gearbox, exhaust configuration and rear suspension among other alterations. In searching for answers as to why the team is supposedly “back to three years ago” according to Maldonado, the impact of missing an entire pre-season test cannot be underestimated. Just before the mid-season, the team confirmed the immediate departure of principal designer Mike Coughlan, which suggests he was made the fall guy…

The team’s first point was salvaged by Pastor Maldonado at the Hungarian Grand Prix, however this time last year; Williams already had eight point scoring finishes and one victory to their name. While we expected performances in the top echelon of the mid-field teams, it’s hard to imagine such a recovery over this season’s concluding nine races.

  • Highlight: A flash of brilliance at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve where rookie Valtteri Bottas qualified his FW35 in third position after setting a series of stunning lap times in treacherous conditions.
  • Lowlight: A crushing blow at the Spanish Grand Prix, where both drivers failed to make it through to Q2 at the scene of their race victory in 2012.
Drivers: Pastor Maldonado, Valtteri Bottas
Grands Prix: 10 Non-Starts: 0 Championship: 9th
Wins: 0 Best Finish: 10th Best Qualifying: 3rd
Fastest Laps: 0 Points: 1 Retirements: 4

Williams Renault FW35

16. Pastor Maldonado DNF DNF 14 11 14 DNF 16 11 15 10 1
17. Valtteri Bottas 14 11 13 14 16 12 14 12 16 DNF 0

* Bold denotes pole position; italics denote fastest lap
^ Did not finish the Grand Prix, but were classified as they completed over 90% of the race distance.

9. Sauber-Ferrari

Esteban Gutierrez Monisha Kaltenborn Nico Hulkenberg

Much like Williams, the general pre-season consensus among the Formula One community was that Sauber would continue to build on their lucrative 2012 campaign. Although the highly-rated Sergio Pérez was lost to McLaren, Nico Hülkenberg and Esteban Gutiérrez appeared to be more than capable pilots to ride the team’s wave of success. After all, four podium finishes in 2012 saw Sauber take sixth position in the Constructors’ Standings, just 16 points off the underachieving but highly-funded Mercedes GP outfit.

Upon the release of the 2013 C32, Team Principal Monisha Kaltenborn made no secret of the fact that this year’s entry was based on its highly successful predecessor. It appeared to be a defensible move, given that they could build on their previous entries’ strengths and work to eliminate its weaknesses. Certainly the car’s radical narrow sidepods and tricky exhaust system earned it many envious glances in pre-season testing…

However, the opening ten races of this season have seen their ambition to improve on last year’s campaign largely unfulfilled. Sauber is currently stalling in eighth place in the Constructors’ Standings, and have lost significant ground to their mid-field rivals in Force India and Toro Rosso. Furthermore, it has not been an even contribution by both entries, with all seven points scored by Germany’s Nico Hülkenberg.

That said, Sauber’s less than impressive on track performance has been the least of their worries in recent times, with strong rumours suggesting that the Swiss squad was close to bankruptcy before taking on significant funding from numerous Russian entities.

  • Highlight: A Glimmer of hope in an otherwise gloomy season thus far was Nico Hülkenberg’s eighth-placed finish at the Malaysian Grand Prix, where during the race, many of the pundits were suggesting that a podium finish was on the cards before a lacklustre stint on the soft tyre relegated the German to a lower points finish.
  • Lowlight: That clumsy error by Esteban Gutiérrez on the fifth lap of the Chinese Grand Prix. The Mexican earned a five-place grid penalty for the Bahrain Grand Prix after a mistake under braking destroyed his C32 as well as the Force India of Adrian Sutil.
Drivers: Nico Hülkenberg, Esteban Gutiérrez
Grands Prix: 10 Non-Starts: 1 Championship: 8th
Wins: 0 Best Finish: 8th Best Qualifying: 10th
Fastest Laps: 1 Points: 7 Retirements: 4

Sauber Ferrari C32

15. Nico Hülkenberg DNS 8 10 12 15 11 DNF 10 10 11 7
18. Esteban Gutiérrez 13 12 DNF 18 11 13 20^ 14 14 DNF 0

* Bold denotes pole position; italics denote fastest lap
^ Did not finish the Grand Prix, but were classified as they completed over 90% of the race distance.

8. Caterham-Renault

Giedo van der Garde Cyril Abiteboul Charles Pic

After snatching tenth in the Constructors’ Championship from the jaws of defeat at last year’s Brazilian Grand Prix, it was fair to assume that Caterham would press home their advantage over arch-rival Marussia in 2013.

Working from a greater budget as well as a higher 2012 financial reward than their Russian rivals, most would presume that a far superior car would roll out of their Leafield factory come the start of 2013. However, with reference to their early-season performances and position in the Constructors’ standings, it hasn’t played out that way.

Following the release of Caterham’s CT03, the FIA deemed that their use of bodywork within a defined area surrounding the exhaust outlet was in breach of technical regulations. It was a bad omen for their “work in progress” machine, with Heikki Kovalianen observing that the CT03 was almost identical to their 2012 entry following a stint behind the wheel in practice for this year’s Bahrain Grand Prix. The Malaysian-owned outfit was soundly beaten by Marussia in the opening three races of the season, however since then; they have arguably held the upper hand pending the mid-season break.

Their renewed ascendancy has, however, yet to translate in the Constructors’ Championship, with one of the dark green cars needing to better the 13th-placed finish of Marussia’s Jules Bianchi in order to conclusively sew up the second-to-last position and avoid wooden spoon honours.

  • Highlight: Both Charles Pic and Giedo van der Garde unequivocally trounced their Marussia rivals at the Hungarian Grand Prix, finishing 14th and 15th respectively and subsequently hinting that the CT03 may thrive under the reformed dry-weather tyre compound.
  • Lowlight: The curtain-raising event in Melbourne, with both Pic and van der Garde giving the spare parts team a workout with an alarming ability to hit the concrete barriers during a wet qualifying session. Consequently, both green entries occupied the final two places on the starting grid come race day
Drivers: Charles Pic, Giedo van der Garde
Grands Prix: 10 Non-Starts: 0 Championship: 11th
Wins: 0 Best Finish: 14th Best Qualifying: 15th
Fastest Laps: 0 Points: 0 Retirements: 3

Caterham Renault CT03

20. Charles Pic 16 14 16 17 17 DNF 18 15 17 15 0
21. Giedo van der Garde* 18 15 18 21 DNF 15 DNF 18 18 14 0
  Ma Qinghua     TD                
  Heikki Kovalainen       TD TD            
  Alexander Rossi             TD        

* Bold denotes pole position; italics denote fastest lap
^ Did not finish the Grand Prix, but were classified as they completed over 90% of the race distance.

7. Marussia-Cosworth

Jules Bianchi John Booth Max Chilton

Would the Banbury based-outfit be disheartened and insolvent following their shattering Brazilian Grand Prix in 2012?

The general consensus was that the gap to Caterham would grow, however the Anglo-Russian squad has by no means lost sight of the striking colours of their arch-rival this year.

Expectations were relatively low in regards to the projected performance of Marussia in 2013. They had sacked the cash-strapped Luiz Razia frighteningly close to the Australian Grand Prix, signifying their acute need for funding in order to keep the operation alive.

With two inexperienced pilots at the helm, Marussia has made their diminutive bank balance work wonders. The MR02 is undoubtedly a step forward on last year’s entry, and includes a KERS device for the first time in the team’s short history. As the Formula One circus toured Asia and Oceania, Marussia clearly held the upper hand over Caterham, and steadily exceeded the expectations of most Formula One aficionados.

However, with Caterham’s perpetual improvement as the category leapfrogged across Europe, one can’t help but feel that Marussia is clinging on to the 13th place finish of Jules Bianchi, which is currently earning them an advantage in the Constructors’ Championship standings.

The question remains as to whether Bianchi’s performance will be enough to secure the Banbury squad 10th position in the Constructors’ standings in order to send off Cosworth power in the best possible fashion…

  • Highlight: Razia’s replacement, Jules Bianchi, netting Marussia its 2013 highest finish at the Malaysian Grand Prix. The Frenchman was simply superb at Sepang, and capitalised on a string of retirements to steer his MR02 to a richly deserved 13th placed finish.
  • Lowlight: In contrast to their Caterham rivals, Marussia’s most deflating moment of 2013 came at the Hungarian Grand Prix, with Bianchi and Chilton comprehensively outpaced at the Hungaroring throughout the entire weekend. The extent of the discrepancy in pace was significant, with both Marussia drivers lapped once more than the Caterhams of Pic and van der Garde.
Drivers: Jules Bianchi, Max Chilton
Grands Prix: 10 Non-Starts: 0 Championship: 10th
Wins: 0 Best Finish: 13th Best Qualifying: 18th
Fastest Laps: 0 Points: 0 Retirements: 2

Marussia Cosworth MR02

19. Jules Bianchi 15 13 15 19 18 DNF 17 16 DNF 16 0
22. Max Chilton 17 16 17 20 19 14 19 17 19 17 0
  Rodolfo González       TD TD       TD    

* Bold denotes pole position; italics denote fastest lap
^ Did not finish the Grand Prix, but were classified as they completed over 90% of the race distance.

Which teams will occupy the top-six positions in Part 2 of our review? Check back soon!

Tristan Clark
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Richard Bailey

Founder & Chief Editor at MotorsportM8
Hasn't missed a Grand Prix since 1989. Has a soft spot for Minardi. Tattooed with 35+ Grand Prix circuits.