While the Formula 1 field takes a well-earned moment to rest and recharges its batteries ahead of the second half of the season, the RichardsF1.com team has taken the opportunity to review each driver and team and their performances over the first eleven rounds of the season.
Logically, we kick off our run of feature articles with a look at the runaway championship leaders, Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team.
Few wouldn’t have anticipated that the Silver Arrows were the team to beat heading into the 2014 Formula 1 season, but it’s doubtful that anyone would have predicted that the Brackley team would have enjoyed such a dominant run.
The team has won all but two of the eleven races held to-date – and claimed six 1-2 finishes in the process – as well as won pole position at all but one of the Grands Prix so far. Not winning last time out in Hungary guaranteed that McLaren’s ‘all but one’ record from 1988 remains unbroken, but the team can still break the record for the most wins in a single season. Few would be surprised if they did actually manage that on their form to-date.
The Constructors’ Championship is all but in the bag, and the battle for Drivers’ Championship honours will come down to which of its two drivers can have the most consistent second half of the season, and the fewest errors or reliability hiccups.
Reliability has not been perfect, and where it has taken its toll, it’s generally been on Lewis Hamilton’s side of the garage. Hows of favouritism against the Englishman are laughably misplaced; it simply highlights the challenge that any team has of running equal machinery at the front of the field all of the time.
The team’s leadership is strong – Paddy Lowe, Toto Wolff and Niki Lauda all seem to know the boundaries of their responsibilities – but, it seems, not quite strong enough to avoid a few blow-ups between its drivers. Monaco and Hungary were two such cases in point, and one can’t help but feel that – despite shoving Ross Brawn out the door at the end of last year – the team could do with a single leader at the top of the pile who has the final say. Things are only going to get tenser in the team’s ranks as the year wears on.
RichardsF1.com Rating: 9/10
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Nico Rosberg heads into the summer break with a slender 11-point lead over his nearest championship rival, his teammate Lewis Hamilton. The German’s lead in the points comes courtesy of two key factors: he’s had one failure to finish in comparison to Hamilton’s two, and he’s been incredibly consistent in qualifying and the races.
That being said, it took him a while to get to grips with the F1W05 racer. It wasn’t until the sixth round of the championship – Monaco – where he beat his teammate in a straight fight.
While he’s lacked a few vital tenths of a second at the opening flyaway rounds where he only once qualified on the front row, more recently he’s been the ‘form man’ on Saturday.
His consistency extended to Sunday’s races as well, where’s he’s consistently racked up heavy points hauls. Only once has he failed to finish off the podium when he’s seen the chequered flag, underlining the mechanical sympathy and level-headedness that could prove vital in getting him over the line.
He doesn’t have the racecraft or flamboyance of his teammate – his inability to overtake Hamilton in Bahrain despite his tyre advantage was one example – but his raw speed had kept the Englishman on his toes, as well as ensured Rosberg is there to capitalise when Hamilton trips up.
Unlike Hamilton, this is the first time that Rosberg has been in serious contention for the Formula 1 championship, so it will be fascinating to see how he holds up as the screws begin to tighten when the season wears on.
RichardsF1.com Rating: 9/10
Undoubtedly, Lewis Hamilton has endured the worse of the luck in the heated battle for championship honours with his teammate. Retirements in Australia and Canada proved costly, but so did critical qualifying errors in Austria and Silverstone – plus dramas not of his own making in the two races that followed – which have given him more work to do on Sunday’s races. In those occasions, he’s been spectacular to watch and has delivered some performances truly worthy of an aspiring multiple champion.
Where the cards have fallen his way, he’s been almost unbeatable – four wins on the trot from Malaysia through to Spain are proof – and he’s shown tremendous flair behind the wheel. His defensive drives to victory in Bahrain and Spain were top class, particularly given he didn’t enjoy quite the pace of Rosberg in their last-lap battles.
However, the battle for the final trophy is as much about mental toughness as it is speed and reliability, and this remains an area where Hamilton is perhaps lacking.
He wears his heart on his sleeve and it’s a characteristic that is much-admired, but it’s once again been his undoing with a couple of missteps with the press and a few tantrums to boot.
Monaco was a case in point and it ultimately led to his defeat as he allowed Rosberg to get under his skin. His own qualifying errors in Canada, Austria and Britain (inexplicably backing off on his final lap) were also worrying, as it still showed a driver who felt the pressure of the occasion.
The second half of the season will be telling. Reliability issues will prove costly if Rosberg collects points – and vice-versa – but he’ll need to make sure he remains in the hunt right to the end, where the all important ‘double’ points haul is on offer at the Abu Dhabi finale.