As Formula 1 enjoys its traditional summer shutdown before regrouping in Belgium at the end of August, our team of experts offer their two cents on each of the teams.
In Part 1 of our mid-year review, we rate the fortunes of the teams mired in the midfield and languishing on the last row of the grid, namely Scuderia Toro Rosso, Haas, Renault, McLaren and Sauber. Some of our feedback isn’t pretty…
Scuderia Toro Rosso
|Qualifying Head-to-Head:||Sainz 7 – 4 Kvyat|
|Race Head-to-Head:||Sainz 5 (35 pts) – 0 Kvyat (4 pts)|
This is shaping up to be another season where Toro Rosso has failed to fully exploit the package it has underneath it. The STR12 is widely considered to be a standout chassis – albeit hampered by its Renault powerplant – and with two hungry drivers it should be a regular points-scorer.
That in a large part has proven true for Carlos Sainz Jr, who has finished in the points every time he’s seen the chequered flag. The Spaniard has been one of the stars of the season in both qualifying and in his racecraft, where he has proven to be a daring and brave overtaker.
Seeing the chequered flag, however, remains the team’s bugbear. There have been eight failures to finish – a statistic where only the lamentable McLaren-Honda is worse – and not all of that can be put down to the car.
The British Grand Prix was a case in point, where Sainz was punted out of the race on the opening lap by his teammate Daniil Kvyat in a daft move that ruined both drivers’ prospects of points.
Kvyat’s fall from grace after being demoted from Red Bull Racing continues. The Russian has a pair of ninth-placed finishes to his name to-date in 2017, and is a regular visitor to the FIA Stewards’ office over his erratic driving.
He might well claim he’s being harshly treated, but the sort of errors he repeatedly makes are far from what is expected of a driver in his fourth season of Formula 1. With Red Bull protégé Pierre Gasly waiting in the wings, the pressure is clearly showing and Kvyat is starting to crack.
- Team: C-
- Carlos Sainz Jr: A-
- Daniil Kvyat: F
Haas F1 Team
|Qualifying Head-to-Head:||Grosjean 7 – 4 Magnussen|
|Race Head-to-Head:||Grosjean 3 (18 pts) – 3 Magnussen (11 pts)|
It’s typical for a new team to lose ground in its second season. Not only does it have the challenge of racing a new car, it also has to allocate enough resources to design next year’s machine as well.
Fair credit to Haas, which managed to do both and remained an occasional points-scorer in its sophomore year. Seventh in the Constructors’ Championship standings, firmly in a tight midfield battle, is no mean feat.
Its two biggest challenges are in chassis handling and brakes, with the latter a constant source of complaint for Romain Grosjean. The VF-17 has been among the most inconsistent in its performance from circuit to circuit – it went from being a top-ten qualifier in Austria to being absolutely nowhere a week later at Silverstone.
In Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen, the team has a good driver pairing, although neither are doing themselves many favours in earning respect among their peers.
Grosjean’s constant radio complaints verge on being ‘Mansell-esque’, while Magnussen’s reputation for having the widest car in Formula 1 shows little sign of diminishing.
- Team: C
- Romain Grosjean: B-
- Kevin Magnussen: B-
|Qualifying Head-to-Head:||Hülkenberg 11 – 0 Palmer|
|Race Head-to-Head:||Hülkenberg 4 (26 pts) – 2 Palmer (0 pts)|
Renault is in its second year of rebuilding after buying the team back from Genii Capital, but in essence 2017 is the first where it is running its own car design after carrying a ‘mule’ Lotus chassis last year.
The 2017 season didn’t start particularly well, but of late the RS17’s performance has been steadily unlocked as developments and updates have come through.
That in particular has allowed Nico Hülkenberg to shine. The German – who is still inexplicably being shafted for a top-line drive – has delivered some sensational results that are now putting the team within a realistic shot of claiming fifth in the Constructors’ Championship standings.
Lying just 15 points adrift of Williams, the team will need to maintain its current car development and hope that the former World Champions – along with Toro Rosso and Haas – slip up along the way. It’s a tight midfield battle.
What the team desperately needs, however, is to become a proper two-car effort given Hulkenberg has been the outfit’s sole points-scorer this year. His teammate Jolyon Palmer had a tough rookie campaign and somehow salvaged a second season with the squad, but on the basis of his performances to-date they are clearly questioning their decision.
Granted, Palmer has borne the brunt of the car’s reliability issues, but far too often he has thrown the car at the scenery. He has to turn his performances around and start to match Hülkenberg or his F1 career is finished.
The team’s continued testing of Robert Kubica would suggest that it is taking the Polish driver’s prospects of a miraculous F1 comeback very seriously indeed…
- Team: B-
- Nico Hülkenberg: B+
- Jolyon Palmer: F
|Qualifying Head-to-Head:||Alonso 10 – 0 Vandoorne
Vandoorne 1 – 0 Button
|Race Head-to-Head:||Alonso 2 (10 pts) – 1 Vandoorne (1 pt)|
After a woeful two years in development with Honda, fans of McLaren (and F1 in general) hoped 2017 would be a major change for the sport’s second most successful team.
Alas, in a way which could only reflect the Woking squad’s run of luck, this season has been one of their worst in recent history as the team is trying desperately to make the finish, let alone score a win, podium or even points.
Fernando Alonso has been highly critical, and cynical, of his team while new boy Stoffel Vandoorne has kept his lips sealed, a wise move for a driver at the start of his career. The MCL32 chassis is one of the best in the pack but the hand-grenade behind the driver couldn’t blend a banana.
Vandoorne has one point to his name thanks to a tenth place finish in Hungary while Alonso has ten, although should earn more for his radio exploits and self-awareness (see Hungarian GP podium on a deck chair). Without Alonso, you’d wonder where McLaren would be, even if they did let him try his hand at the Indy 500 which more than proved he’s not finished just yet.
Zak Brown must be wondering what kind of mess he has inherited while simultaneously understanding how Ron Dennis gained so many more grey hairs since 2015.
- Team: C-
- Fernando Alonso: B+
- Stoffel Vandoorne: B-
- Jenson Button: C
|Qualifying Head-to-Head:||Wehrlein 7 – 2 Ericsson
Giovinazzi 0 – 2 Ericsson
|Race Head-to-Head:||Wehrlein 5 (5 pts) – 3 Ericsson (0 pts)|
Sauber’s season has been a tale of survival ever since their disastrous 2014 campaign. The Swiss outfit was once the most exciting of the midfield teams but have since struggled to find their feet amid financial and administrative woes that leave them scrapping for crumbs at the bottom of the F1 food chain.
Despite having outscored McLaren for the better part of the season so far, Sauber knew they were punching way above their weight and with a year-old Ferrari power unit at the back of an underdeveloped chassis.
Administrative ineffectiveness found few ideas to get out of this quagmire, leading to a power vacuum only filled in Hungary by the seemingly equally ineffective Frank Vasseur. The Swiss now-minnows need to do something extraordinary to convince their backers to keep pouring a healthy dose of cash into what was once the biggest upcoming teams with a still-state-of-the-art wind tunnel and a lot of heart for the sport.
The only upside to their season are the consistent performances of Pascal Wehrlein and – more surprisingly – Marcus Ericsson which led to a points tally that put them in a David-and-Goliath place ahead of McLaren for much of the year so far. But as McLaren showed them in Hungary, in F1 it’s eat or be eaten.
- Team: D
- Pascal Wehrlein: B+
- Marcus Ericsson: C+
- Antonio Giovinazzi: C
Images via LAT Images, McLaren-Honda, Renault Sport F1, XPB Images
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