Which six teams finish atop the pile in our mid-year review of the 2013 Formula 1 season?

In ‘Part 2’ of his mid-season team by team rankings feature, Tristan Clark counts down the top-performing Formula 1 teams in the first half of 2013.

To check out who he reckons are the bottom performers, click here – otherwise, read on and start the debate…

6. Ferrari

Fernando Alonso Stefano Domenicali Felipe Massa

Expectation is always high surrounding the Maranello-based team. This anticipation is often self-inflicted by the team’s fanatical supporters, and the unrelenting hype around Ferrari simply means that they are constantly under pressure to deliver race wins and world titles. Frankly, it’s what we’ve come to expect. After Fernando Alonso narrowly missed last year’s Drivers’ Championship title, Ferrari was once again projected to realistically threaten Red Bull for this year’s Drivers and Constructors’ Championship ascendancy.

Heading into the Australian Grand Prix, team principal, Stefano Domenicali, believed that his team was in better shape as compared to 2012. His belief immediately rang true, with Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa showing menacing race-pace to finish second and fourth respectively.

The F138 was labelled an “evolution” on last year’s entry; however the slightly revised aerodynamics and exhaust layout appeared to explain why it was immediately on the pace and slightly easier to tame as compared to the F2012.

Wins for Fernando Alonso at the Chinese and Spanish Grands Prix appeared to denote a legitimate title challenge from the illustrious team, however, a series of slightly baffling performances from both drivers have impeded any momentum gained by the Italian squad.

The Ferrari technical chiefs are currently hard at work during their mid-season break after Domenicali ordered an investigation into the F138’s lack of race-pace at the Hungaroring.

To say that the Maranello team is panicking may be an overdramatised assessment of their current frame of mind, however they know as well as anybody that the pre-season hype may not amount to what we all predicted.

  • Highlight: Undoubtedly, the Spanish Grand Prix. From fifth on the grid, Alonso’s superior tyre management obliterated the competition, and he cruised to a nine second victory over Kimi Raikkonen. Felipe Massa was also outstanding, rounding out the podium in the second F138.
  • Lowlight: Two weeks later at Monaco, the team suffered its worst race of the season: Felipe Massa crashed out of the race, and Fernando Alonso uncharacteristically fell back from his starting position to cross the finish line in seventh.
Drivers: Fernando Alonso, Felipe Massa
Grands Prix: 10 Non-Starts: 0 Championship: 3rd
Wins: 2 Podiums: 5 Best Qualifying: 2nd
Fastest Laps: 1 Points: 194 Retirements: 3

Ferrari F138

3. Fernando Alonso 2 DNF 1 8 1 7 2 3 4 5 133
7. Felipe Massa 4 5 6 15 3 DNF 8 6 DNF 8 61

* 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.

5. Scuderia Toro Rosso – Ferrari

Daniel Ricciardo Franz Tost Jean-Éric Vergne

The Scuderia Toro Rosso outfit has generally flown under the radar of most Formula One fans since its inception in 2006. To put it bluntly, they’ve always been considered as Red Bull’s gentle younger sibling.

Hence, after losing out in the mid-field battle last year and placing ninth in the Constructors’ Championship standings, not a great deal was expected from the Faenza-based squad in 2013. We unashamedly underestimated Toro Rosso this year, however for the most part, they have proven us wrong.

Despite its naff name, the STR8 was bold from the start. In a couple of key design areas, Toro Rosso chose not to follow the lead of their lucrative sister team. Initially, it seemed a puzzling move with Daniel Ricciardo and Jean-Éric Vergne struggling throughout the early rounds.

However, the tables began to turn at the Chinese Grand Prix, with Ricciardo notching up seventh place, and in doing so, surpassing the team’s best result for the entire 2012 season.

In Monaco, Vergne slotted into eighth position at the chequered flag, and then backed up his performance with a stellar drive to sixth place at the Canadian Grand Prix.

It was part of a run of four consecutive Grands Prix with a points’ finish, however their ascent has slightly stalled in recent times, and although they are just two points off their finishing tally in last year’s Constructors’ Championship standings, consistency and reliability are becoming issues.

  • Highlight: Vergne’s tremendous drive at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve has been the high point of Toro Rosso’s season thus far. In dry conditions, the Frenchman did not make a mistake for their entire race, and achieved the team’s best result since Sebastian Vettel’s break out year for the feeder team in 2008.
  • Lowlight: Result-wise, the Hungarian Grand Prix should not have been Toro Rosso’s low point of the season, however on the reformed Pirelli tyre; morale would’ve taken a severe hit at the Hungaroring. Having qualified in eighth, Daniel Ricciardo fell back to 13th after struggling to find pace in the hot conditions, while Vergne made a handful of positions from 15th on the grid. With the majority of the upcoming races taking place in hot weather, the most recent grand prix was an ominous lowlight for the team from Faenza.
Drivers: Daniel Ricciardo, Jean-Éric Vergne
Grands Prix: 10 Non-Starts: 0 Championship: 7th
Wins: 0 Best Finish: 6th Best Qualifying: 6th
Fastest Laps: 0 Points: 24 Retirements: 7

Scuderia Toro Rosso Ferrari STR8

13. Jean-Éric Vergne 12 10 12 DNF DNF 8 6 DNF DNF 12 13
14. Daniel Ricciardo DNF 18^ 7 16 10 DNF 15 8 12 13 11

* 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.

4. Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team

Nico Rosberg Ross Brawn Lewis Hamillton

Mercedes GP has been Formula One’s conundrum for the past three years. To conclusively fulfill the pre-season hype for 2013, they would need to have won at least half of this year’s races.

We all appeared to forget that points are rewarded at the end of a multi-lap event, rather than for raw pace over a single lap. While scintillating qualifying speed followed by pedestrian race-pace has been an obvious trend for the Silver Arrows in recent seasons, Mercedes was categorically expected to be a front-runner all season and to make a large step forward this year.

With a host of engineering changes for 2013, the Brackley-based outfit produced a “sophisticated evolution of last year’s car”. The F1W04 included a new front wing, improved exhaust system and modified rear suspension. Tyre degradation would be the key determinant of their performance, and fans of the marque were praying that their 2013 entry would not be plagued by the recurrent issue.

The Australian Grand Prix was underwhelming, however signs of form began surface with their first top-five finishes at Malaysia and China. The same old Mercedes was present at Bahrain and Barcelona, with Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg plummeting through the field after churning through their Pirelli rubber.

However, three wins amongst six podium finishes for the Silver Arrows signifies a substantial breakthrough for the German marque, which as of the mid-season break, occupies second in the constructors standings.

  • Highlight: Easily, the Monaco Grand Prix produced Mercedes’ 2013 highlight thus far. After the two F1W04s secured a front row lockout in qualifying, Nico Rosberg claimed a stirring lights to flag victory, whilst Lewis Hamilton took fourth after running in the top three for much of the race.
  • Lowlight: The previous event in Barcelona delivered the low point of Mercedes’ season, where after a front row lockout, Rosberg and Hamilton spectacularly fell through the field to finish in sixth and twelfth respectively. An unsanctioned tyre-test and subsequent ban from the mid-season ‘Young Drivers’ Test would initially have appeared to be rock-bottom for Mercedes; however Lewis Hamilton’s victory in the subsequent Grand Prix dispelled any hint of a disadvantage for his team.
Drivers: Nico Rosberg, Lewis Hamilton
Grands Prix: 10 Non-Starts: 0 Championship: 2nd
Wins: 3 Podiums: 6 Pole Positions: 6
Fastest Laps: 0 Points: 208 Retirements: 3

Mercedes AMG F1W04

4. Lewis Hamilton 5 3 3 5 12 4 3 4 5 1 124
6. Nico Rosberg DNF 4 DNF 9 6 1 5 1 9 19^ 84

* 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.

3. Lotus–Renault

Romain Grosjean Eric Boullier Kimi Raikkonen

After a successful 2012 season, pundits were predicting Lotus F1 Team would carry their momentum into this season; however, nobody was categorically sure where exactly that would leave them.

Kimi Räikkönen and Romain Grosjean were once again charged with the responsibility of leading the British marque to its former glory in the sport. While Räikkönen has always been a widely adored and proven figure in Formula 1, the pre-season jury was out on Grosjean following his nimble yet erratic driving style last year. Nevertheless, Lotus was expected to deliver.

James Allison, the technical director of Lotus’ E21 chassis, has produced arguably the best chassis weighted to the limited funds at his disposal as compared to the big spending Red Bull Racing, McLaren, Ferrari and Mercedes. He recognised the fragility of Pirelli’s 2013 dry-weather tyre composition, and developed a car that could nurse its tyres better than any other on the grid.

It wouldn’t be a threat in qualifying, however, it was designed to allow the drivers to quietly climb through the field when the points were up for grabs on race day.

Räikkönen demonstrated the E21’s tyre superiority to perfection at the Australian Grand Prix, where he only required two pit-stops when the rest of the field needed three, and drew first blood for his team in 2013. Since then, despite a couple of DNFs and unfortunate situations, Grosjean and Räikkönen have led the ‘underdog’ charge among the contending teams to what appears to be another successful championship campaign.

Don’t be deceived, their current fourth position in the Constructors’ Championship standings is not truly representative of how impressive they’ve been this year under reportedly considerable financial strain.

But quite what Allison’s mid-season departure will have on the team’s momentum remains to be seen, and it will be fascinating to see how the second half of the season pans out and whether it can maintain its early-season momentum.

  • Highlight: While Raikkonen’s victory in Melbourne was fantastic for the team, the second and third placed finishes at Bahrain and Germany were the most comprehensive performances from the British squad thus far in 2013, and arguably provided the greatest pleasure for team principal, Eric Boullier.
  • Lowlight: Lotus’ most dejecting period of the season was the cooler rounds in Monaco, Canada and Great Britain, where a mixture of undesirable conditions and misfortune stalled their charge toward second place in the Constructors’ standings.
Drivers: Romain Grosjean, Kimi Räikkönen
Grands Prix: 10 Non-Starts: 0 Championship: 4th
Wins: 1 Best Finish: 8 Best Qualifying: 2nd
Fastest Laps: 1 Points: 183 Retirements: 3

Lotus Renault E21

2. Kimi Räikkönen 1 7 2 2 2 10 9 5 2 2 134
8. Romain Grosjean 10 6 9 3 DNF DNF 13 19^ 3 6 49

* 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.

2. Sahara Force India – Mercedes

Adrian Sutil Vijay Mallya Paul di Resta

Force India has, without any shadow of doubt, been the surprise packet of 2013. In many ways, Vijay Mallya’s squad has snuck up on Formula 1 aficionados for the past couple of years, yet we have never truly given the Silverstone-based team credit for their perpetual improvement.

Nevertheless, the return of Adrian Sutil and the presence of a continually maturing Paul Di Resta is a solid driver line-up capable of delivering the team its best World Championship campaign to date.

Even so, most pundits in the pre-season didn’t envisage such a well-rounded start to a season from a team that is progressively finding its feet among the top contenders.

Like many other teams, Force India chose not to start from scratch with their 2013 entry. The VJM06 was very much an evolution of last year’s chassis, with efforts directed around providing greater consistency and a wider spectrum with which to create a tyre-friendly setup.

Out of nowhere, Adrian Sutil found himself leading the Australian Grand Prix on his return to Formula One racing, and with both Force Indias running in the top-10 at the finish, all and sundry began to take notice.

Despite a handful of hiccups along the way, Force India has found itself locked in a tight battle with McLaren in the Constructors’ Championship standings, tremendously exceeding the widely held pre-season expectations of all in Formula One. Currently, they have taken 59 points from the opening ten races and occupy fifth in the Constructors’ standings, leap-frogging two positions since their 2012 campaign.

Unfortunately, under the altered Pirelli tyre, Force India’s staggering progress appears to have stalled, with no points yielded from the past two rounds. Is this a slump in form that could prove their undoing, or will the mid-season break give the team the extra impetus to remain ahead of the much-better-funded outfit from Woking?

  • Highlight: The streets of Albert Park delivered their highpoint of 2013, where Sutil briefly led the race and both entries garnered healthy points at the chequered flag.
  • Lowlight: While they are currently in somewhat of a slump, their 2013 lowlight came at the Malaysian Grand Prix, where both Di Resta and Sutil were forced to retire after a ‘captive wheelnut failure’, which was worsened by the fact that both entries had shown notable pace throughout the weekend.
Drivers: Paul di Resta, Adrian Sutil
Grands Prix: 10 Non-Starts: 0 Championship: 5th
Wins: 0 Best Finish: 4th Best Qualifying: 5th
Fastest Laps: 0 Points: 59 Retirements: 5

Sahara Force India Mercedes VJM06

10. Paul di Resta 8 DNF 8 4 7 9 7 9 11 18^ 36
11. Adrian Sutil 7 DNF DNF 13 13 5 10 7 13 DNF 23

* 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.

1. Red Bull Racing – Renault

Sebastian Vettel Christian Horner Mark Webber

Every year, the analysts search for Red Bull Racing’s predator. Usually, the pursuit is in vain.

However, with Red Bull pushed all the way to the final Grand Prix last year, many were questioning whether development of their 2013 entry would be compromised. The theory was that instead of devoting resources to this year’s car, they were forced to prolong the search for greater speed in their 2012 entry in order to secure Vettel’s third successive Drivers’ Championship title. With the emergence of Mercedes and Ferrari as the front-runners in pre-season testing, expectations surrounding Red Bull this year were marginally slackened.

In a tighter timeframe, the lucrative Milton Keynes-based team produced the RB9. While it wasn’t an all-conquering force in testing, Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber were immediately on the pace in practice for the Australian Grand Prix. It didn’t eventuate as their best event thus far; however the customary dominance of Red Bull Racing was strikingly clear at the Malaysian Grand Prix despite significant unrest within the team.

Mercedes and Lotus have laid down the gauntlet to Christian Horner’s team at times; however, they remain the fastest and most consistent outfit of any on the grid this year, and subsequently lead the Constructors’ Championship standings by 69 points after only ten races this season.

Despite pre-season queries from pundits and supporters alike, the team is merrily heading toward yet another Drivers’ and Constructors’ championship sweep. They are an unstoppable force, appearing to thrive on doubt where the only threat to its juggernaut appears to come from within.

By sheer consistency (a quality which rival outfits do not have), the team is once again on track for yet another drivers and constructors championship, again dispelling expectations about finally falling from their towering perch.

  • Highlight: The Malaysian Grand Prix saw Sebastian Vettel lead home Mark Webber in an utterly dominant one-two finish. It was one of their regular performances which prompt every team on the grid to question how they can compete with the irresistible Red Bull Racing combination.
  • Lowlight: Uniquely, the team’s 2013 highlight can equally be adjudged as their lowlight., as the race – perhaps a rather similar manner to where its drivers have been pitched in an ulgly head-to-head battle – also highlighted serious management deficiencies within the team. Sebastian Vettel palpably disregarded a clear order from team principal Christian Horner to remain behind Mark Webber, who was leading the race at the time. Webber Vettel have a fractious relationship at the best of times, and Horner’s authority of his drivers was significantly undermined in the entire episode.
Drivers: Sebastian Vettel, Mark Webber
Grands Prix: 10 Non-Starts: 0 Championship: 1st
Wins: 4 Podiums: 10 Pole Positions: 2
Fastest Laps: 6 Points: 277 Retirements: 2

Red Bull Racing Renault RB9

1. Sebastian Vettel 3 1 4 1 4 2 1 DNF 1 3 172
5. Mark Webber 6 2 DNF 7 5 3 4 2 7 4 105

* 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.

There are still many questions are still to be answered in the second half of the season. Which teams will thrive under the reformed Pirelli tyre? Who is devoting their resources toward the new regulations next year? Will the dire financial situation for the smaller teams cripple the grid as we know it?

Stay tuned as Formula One gears up for a compelling send off to V8 power!

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.