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2019 F1 Mid Season Review - The Runaway Favourite

Its 12 races down and 9 to go in the 2019 F1 Season. This isn't the midpoint of the season but the sport is enjoying its Summer Break and it gives us ample time to unwind and take stock of whats gone by and whats in store.  

The second half of the season is a fortnight away and we shall also enter a phase where resources of some will get strained and grid penalties will start to become a common feature.


Lets have a quick look of how the teams have fared going into the break.


Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team :

Mercedes, can they ever put a foot wrong? Yes Germany, their home race and their 200th in F1 was a fiasco but put that aside and its very difficult to find faults with the team. Lewis Hamilton looks set to lift his 6th title sooner than expected while Valtteri Bottas who started a season on a strong note is gone into a lean patch, a patch that could jeopardize his chances of retaining his seat for 2020. Lewis leads the Championship with 250 points, 62 points clear of his team-mate who is in 2nd. Lewis is on 8 wins to Bottas' 2. He started strong but Lewis flexed his muscles and started pulling away from the Spanish GP. Valtteri had a great chance of reducing the deficit in Germany but a driving error put him into the wall and retirement from the race. The Finn will now be looking over his shoulder and has only a 7 point buffer to Max. He cannot afford mediocre drives. There is a lot riding on the second half of the season ( his seat included ). I do hope he has a good second half.

Mercedes are in a league of their own. Their greatest strength ( besides the car ) has been the strategic calls from the pit wall. They are a comfortable 150 points ahead of Ferrari. Their car has been more reliable too. There aren't many tracks in the second half which would make life difficult for them. Constructors' Championship is theirs already!


Scuderia Ferrari F1 Team :

Ferrari has had a horrid first half of the season. They were the fastest car in the Pre-season tests and even had the fastest car in straight line. However they are yet to win a race this season! They came close with Charles LeClerc in Bahrain and Sebastian Vettel in Canada but fell short, reliability in the first case, controversy in the second. Their Achilles heel has been cornering speed and the lack of downforce. There still are some power circuits left on the calendar so we could see some wins coming their way but the team has gone down the wrong path of development. Sebastian Vettel was given preference but Charles LeClerc showed he is equally capable of being number 1 in the team. Vettel is going through a resurgence of sorts and should be stronger in the 2nd half of the year. He enjoys a 24 point cushion to LeClerc and has finished all races in the points with 6 podiums. Charles rookie errors in Monaco and Germany cost him dearhad he kept it clean he would have won in Germany. He is quick but needs to stop overdriving. Baku is another example. He will come around eventually but Ferrari's shot at glory is done and dusted. The Mercs will have to self-destruct at multiple races to bring Ferrari back into contention. 

Ferrari's focus should be to win a couple of races in the 2nd half of the year and keep Red Bull off their backs. They also need to shift focus to development for 2020 and 21. Shambolic calls on Race Strategies have cost them time and again. The lesson is to stick to their plans and not be unnerved or unsettled by what their competitors are doing around them. A lot has to be mended for the glory days to return. 


Aston Martin Red Bull Racing F1 Team :

Red Bull Racing lost a great driver in Daniel Ricciardo to Renault. Pierre Gasly got promoted to partner Max Verstappen for 2019 and he has been nowhere near the performance level of Max. Red Bull has run out of patience and demoted him to Toro Rosso from the Belgian GP while Alexander Albon has inherited the seat ( more on that later ). Max Verstappen's performances have given Honda enough reasons to celebrate. He won in Austria & Germany besides finishing on the Podium in Australia, Spain and Hungary. Max also grabbed his maiden pole in Hungary and would have won but for a strategic masterplan from Mercedes. He sits in 3rd with 181 points, breathing down Valtteri Bottas' neck. He should be able to finish 2nd in the championship with the momentum he has going into the break. Gasly is languishing in 6th place in the standings with just 63 points to his name and no podiums. 4th was the best he could conjure at the British GP. 

Red Bull Racing are on the up and the general consensus is that they are the 2nd best team on the grid. Red Bull's resurgence in the past few races means that Ferrari's P2 in the Constructors is under serious threat. Its imperative for Red Bull to ensure that both sides of the garage have optimum equipment and can produce optimum results. Finishing P2 would give them a major boost for 2020. Gasly scored only a third of the points so far and Red Bull can't afford to have mediocre days, specially when his team-mate is producing stellar drives week in week out. Patience is something that teams don't have in abundance, such is the nature of the sport. Gasly was unable to deliver what was asked of him and as cruel as it may sound, I believe the team did what was in their best interests. I am skeptical about the replacement though. I personally feel that Kvyat was a safer bet than Albon ( no disrespect to him ). Albon is a rookie and he could end up making rookie errors while pushing too hard. Honda is due to bring upgrades in the second half and there is a possibility of Red Bull copping penalties. This is a golden opportunity for Red Bull to beat Ferrari to P2.


McLaren Racing F1 Team :

McLaren promoted their Protegee Lando Norris from F2 while Carlos Sainz Jr came in to replace his childhood hero Fernando Alonso. Its really amazing to see McLaren in P4 going into the summer break. The Turbo Era has been tough on them and even with an unreliable Renault engine, they are doing a fine job. Carlos has been more consistent of the two with 8 points finishes to Lando's 4. Carlos sits P7 in the Championship ( leading the B Championship as folks in the media like to call it ) while Lando is 10th. Carlos has been one of the top performers on the grid. Lando is going from strength to strength in his rookie season and will be a force to reckon with in the coming races. 

I believe McLaren won't be able to better P4 by the end of the year. Toro Rosso in P5 aren't really a threat inspite of their strong performances going into the break. McLaren however must aim to reduce the pace deficit to the front runners to improve their chances for 2020 and also for a podium at one of the races in the second half of the season. They aren't there yet but they will be..soon enough!


Scuderia Toro Rosso F1 Team :

Toro Rosso in in fine form in 2019. The Honda Customer team and Red Bull's B Team is sitting 5th in the Constructors Championship with 43 points, 4 Points clear of Renault Sport F1 Team. Its amazing to see two Honda Powered teams in the top 6. The Japanese manufacturer has been at the receiving end of a lot of criticism and this is like a redemption of sorts. There will be penalties due when performance upgrades are brought in but the issue of reliability seems addressed. 

Daniil Kvyat leads the intra-team battle in 9th with 27 points. The best result was the podium ( 3rd ) in Germany! It was nice to see an unlikely podium for Toro Rosso, a great drive by the Russian after returning to the team this year. Alexander Albon is 15th with 5 points finishes and 6th being his best in Germany. Albon has now been promoted to Red Bull with Gasly making his way back to Toro Rosso. The majority are unhappy with the decision as they believe Kvyat should have been the ideal replacement for Gasly. The Top Brass at Red Bull share a different opinion and I hope they haven't made an error with this decision. Gasly will need a couple of races to settle into the team so the onus will be on Kvyat to carry them forward and if possible retain 5th. Their biggest challenge is staying ahead of Renault and Red Bull will cherish this if the same is accomplished. The Toro Rosso has a great package and once again they have shown that they are no pushovers.


Renault Sport F1 Team :

Its disheartening to see, Renault, a works team languishing in 6th in the Constructors. They finished 2018 in 4th and the team would have hoped to be closer to Red Bull if not beating them. 2019 seems to be anything but that. Daniel Ricciardo was signed in from Red Bull ( a prize catch ) to partner Nico Hulkenberg. Both are talented drivers, the former a multi-race winner but retirements and mechanical failures are affecting their performances. Daniel is on 22 points and 11th in the Championship while Nico is 14th in the Championship with 17 points. Many experts believe that Daniel will be regretting his decision to leave Red Bull. Citing the current situation it seems they are right but Renault is a works team and are bringing in a lot of capable people to overturn this rut.

Renault's best shot is at P5 by the end of the season. McLaren seem clear favourites to retain P4. Renault must iron out their reliability issues and aero performance over the summer break if they are to make any headway into the points deficit. I don't see them go better than P5 or P6 at the races in the 2nd half of the season ( unless we have a chaotic race like Germany ). Mediocre performances in F1 can cause a lot of damage to a brand and it shall be interesting to see how patient Renault is willing to be in their quest to be the best again. The clock is ticking....they better get their act together and fast.


Alfa Romeo Racing F1 Team :

Alfa Romeo made a return to F1 in 2019, acquiring the majority stake in Sauber F1 Team. The acquisition led to better R&D facilities, hiring new staff and the results are starting to show on the racetrack. Kimi Raikkonen returned to the team he started his F1 career with in 2001. Antonio Giovinazzi was roped in as well for 2019.Antonio has scored just a solitary point for the team ( Austria ), the Italian struggling to make it work. Hopefully he is able to turn things around in the second half. He has the talent and needs to gain confidence by scoring more points at the races. He has a great mentor in Kimi and I wish the best for him. 

Kimi is a transformed racer at Alfa. He is enjoying his time racing in the midfield, free from politics that existed at Ferrari and living his life to the full with his family. He sits 8th in the Championship with 31 points, having scored almost all the points for the team. His best finish is P7 but will be looking to improve on that in the 2nd half. As a fan, I am so glad to see Kimi racing unhindered and showcasing his skill and racecraft.

Alfa is a great team with a capable set of people. The upgrades are coming in at a steady pace and bringing the desired results. Pit Stops and Strategy calls are hurting the team and if they can iron those out, even finishing P5 is a possibility. The Ferrari engine at the back is an ideal weapon for attack or defense in straight line and we have seen many instances of these this year. Alfa trail Renault and Toro Rosso by 7 and 11 points respectively and a lot can change in just one weekend. Keep an eye out for those Red and White Stallions!



Sportpesa Racing Point F1 Team :

Racing Point is an old team in new colours and new ownership in 2019. Sergio Perez was joined by Lance Stroll for this yearThe team currently sits in 8th, on 31 points, 5 clear of Haas F1 Team. Stroll is currently leading the intra-team battle with 18 points to Perez' 13. Stroll's best finish was P4 in Germany, a strategic masterstroke by the team in variable conditions. His drive to P9 at his home race in Canada was a memorable one too. Perez' scored his maximum with P6 in Baku followed by 8th and 10th in China and Bahrain respectively. His form has waned a little and the summer break will be a good time for him to rest and recuperate. The team is hot on the heels of Alfa Romeo, only a point separating the 2 teams. Unlike last year, financially they are in safe hands and that might prove to be decisive in this midfield melee. If they keep this development curve alive then snatching 7th or even 6th place in Constructors is a possibility. 


Haas F1 Team :

Haas F1 is going through a tough year in F1. They are struggling to make the car work and the tussle offtrack with their Title Sponsor Rich Energy was an unwelcome hassle . Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen aren't the best of friends and the former seems to be under immense pressure fighting for his seat. Kevin Magnussen has amassed 18 points to Grosjean's 8 and its pretty evident that the latter needs to arrest this decline. Romain has finished in the points in 3 races with 7th being his best result in Germany. He needs to stop making mistakes and build on his confidence..finishing in points will follow. Kevin's best finish was P6 in the season opener in Australia followed by points finishes in 7th and 8th in Spain & Germany respectively. Kevin's crash in Canada during qualifying was one of his rare mistakes. He needs to stay consistent if Haas has to have any chance of moving up the order. In a mid-field where the competition is intense, its the fine margins that decide who comes out on top and who doesn't. The Team is aware of this and needs the duo to follow the same vein of thought. I see them being banned from racing each other in the second half. Beating Racing Point in 8th seems to be the only realistic target for them. 


Rokit Williams F1 Racing Team :

Williams was the 3rd best team on the grid in 2014. One Bad Decision sent them into a downward spiral and the team have never been able to reverse this. George Russell teamed up with Robert Kubica after Lance Stroll's switch to Racing Point F1 Team at the start of 2019. Stroll's switch also caused a heavy financial blow. Russell and Kubica have struggled to even keep up with the rest of the field, lapping 3 to 4 seconds slower than the others at certain tracks. The more recent rounds offer a ray of hope but the possibility of finishing better than last at the end of the year seems bleak. Russell has performed better over the first half of the year but its Kubica who has bagged the team's only point after finishing 10th in the chaotic German Grand Prix. Russell is a star in the making and I hope he has a car to showcase his talent.


The titles seem decided at the summer break. Such has been the dominance of the Three Pointed Star. However there is a lot to play for in the midfield and this season has seen one of the tightest battles. Who will be the best of the rest? It still is difficult to predict. One thing is certain though, Mercedes and Lewis Hamilton are the Runaway Favourites!

2018 F1 Season Review - It's not how you begin, It's how you finish!

2018 was the equal-longest season in the history of F1. It was also the year when HALO was introduced ( a safety feature added for open cockpit racing ) not just for F1 but also for the feeder series. 2018 also saw a new alliance between McLaren F1 and Renault ( as engine suppliers for the team ). Sergei Sirotkin, Charles LeClerc were the new kids on the block. 

How did the season pan out? Was a New driver and team crowned Champions at the end of 2018 or was status quo maintained?

Lets have a quick look.


Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team 

Mercedes AMG F1 are the best in the business since the Turbo Era. However the competitors are quickly catching up and creating a more level playing field. 2018 was a classic example of the same. Ferrari were the fastest in the Pre-season testing and had the upper hand in the first half of 2018. However uncharacteristic mistakes coupled with strategic errors allowed Mercedes to close in on them and eventually take the lead in both the Drivers' and the Constructors' Titles. The Team in Brackley worked round the clock to reduce the performance deficit over the season and their efforts did pay off. 

Lewis Hamilton's flawless drives got them the wins, his pole lap in Singapore ( the team's bogey track ) was one of the highlights of the season. Valtteri Bottas was presented with a couple of good opportunities for a victory but luck and team orders didn't go his way as he played 2nd fiddle for the majority of the season. Lewis Hamilton was playing catch up up until Germany, post which he simply moved into another gear. Hamilton won 11 races and 6 podiums on his way to the title. Bottas failed to win a race but finished on the podium in 8 races. Hamilton ended the season on a mammoth 408 points while Bottas finished in 5th with 247. Mercedes took home the Constructors' crown yet again! Lewis Hamilton was now a 5 Time World Champion!


Scuderia Ferrari F1 Team :

Ferrari was the team to beat in 2018. The year that promised a lot became yet another season of "what could have been". I have begun to think that the team has forgotten the way of winning championships, a drought that continues from 2007 ( Drivers' ) and 2008 ( Constructors' ). Incidents on track, Driver errors, Strategic howlers by the pit wall marred the performances and eventually cost the team top honours. Some updates introduced later in the year were a disaster, points were lost and this turned the tide in the Drivers' Title fight. 2018 revealed that Sebastian Vettel can also buckle under pressure and make mistakes. 

Vettel won 5 Races and bagged 7 podiums to finish P2 in the standings with 320 points. Kimi Raikkonen had a very strong 2018, as successful as his championship winning year in 2007. He finally won a race since Australia 2013 at the US GP in Austin in fine fashion. His 11 podiums helped him reach 251 points and P3 in the Championship. Scuderia Ferrari finished P2 in the Constructors' with 571 points. 

If Ferrari wants to pose a serious challenge to Mercedes in 2019 then they must ensure that everyone operates within their designated fields / professions and the decision making process must not be interfered with. The Power struggle within the team didn't help matters either. The passing away of the FCA CEO Mr. Sergio Marchionne was a big loss for the team as well. 

It was a much better year in terms of performances, however "yet so near..yet so far". Charles LeClerc steps in to partner Vettel in 2019. It will be interesting to see how they get along as team-mates and whether they can bring back the glory days or not.


Red Bull Racing F1 Team :

Red Bull Racing finished P3 in the Standings with 419 Points. It was like a lonely season for them with no competitor to challenge for P3 and the Top 2 teams in a league of their own. Red Bull attributed a lot of blame to Renault power for their performance deficit in 2018. Will it change after their switch to Honda in 2019? Lets see. 

Max Verstappen missed P3 in the Championship by 2 points. The Dutchman was the recipient of a lot of bad luck in the first half of the season but he won in Austria, benefiting from the retirements suffered by the Mercedes duo. He drove flawlessly to win in Mexico the cooler temperatures and higher altitude allowed the Renault to perform better. He also finished on the podium 9 times, a fantastic feat nonetheless. Daniel Ricciardo struggled on the other hand, specially after the announcement of his decision to leave Red Bull for Renault in 2019. The Australian bagged 170 points with wins in China and Monaco, the latter redemption for the Pit Stop fiasco that robbed him victory in 2016. He didn't finish on the podium in the other races, something he will be looking to improve in 2019. P6 in the Standings does not justify the talent of the man.

Red Bull will be backing Verstappen in 2019 as Gasly ( Ricciardo's replacement ) finds his feet. Hopefully we will have a great contest!


Renault Sport F1 Team :

Renault Sport F1 was P4 in the Standings at the mid season break and they maintained their momentum till the end of the year. It wasn't smooth sailing with Haas F1 breathing down their necks but the Enstone based team prevailed.The disparity with the Top 3 Runners was huge but their ability to beat customer teams with faster engines will serve as good encouragement in 2019. 

Nico Hulkenberg and Carlos Sainz Jr. finished P7 and P10 respectively. Hulkenberg finished in the points in 11 races, P5 in Germany being his best result. Sainz finished in the points on 13 occasions with P5 in Baku being his best result. Hulkenberg was the best of the rest or as the media terms it the B Championship. A Podium still eludes him. Sainz switches to McLaren with Renault roping in the services of Ricciardo. Renault has the funding as a works team and are expanding their R&D on war footing. 2019 will be fun. Go Renault!!


Haas F1 Team :

Haas F1 once again proved to be the strongest Ferrari customer team. Achieving P5 in the Constructors' standings is a big achievement; a potent chassis coupled with a fantastic powertrain the main reasons. Gene Haas will be hoping to go one better next year. The Team finished on 93 points. The Team also have the FIA to thank who stripped Racing Point of their points up until the Hungarian GP, else they would have been leapfrogged. ( Elaborated later )

Kevin Magnussen scored the majority of the points for the team, finishing in the points in 11 races with P5 in Bahrain and Austria being his best results. He was P9 in the Championship with 56 points. Romain Grosjean's travails with the braking system didn't seem to end as he suffered from many non - finishes and struggled to find the right setups at most of the races. He only had 7 finishes in the points with P4 being his best effort at the Austrian Grand Prix. The Frenchmen scored a total of 37 points in P14, an underachiever in all honesty. A lot will be expected of him in 2019 considering the amount of experience he has racing in F1. 

The battle in the midfield is always a case of fine margins, the team has to iron out the issues and ensure both drivers finish well to bridge the gap above.


McLaren Renault F1 Team :

McLaren began 2018 with a lot of hope..a hope that their switch to Renault power would address their performance issues and put them on the road to recovery. Sadly it was anything but that. Renault power was the saving grace wherever it could be but the design flaws in the car were magnified on most tracks. McLaren were left red faced on most occasions as the car suffered from reliability and performance issues and failed to bring home the expected results. It became quite evident to the world that it wasn't Honda to blame entirely for McLaren's miseries but their chassis design. 

Fernando Alonso did what Fernando Alonso does best, extracting every ounce of performance out of the car. His best finish was P5 in the opening round in Australia. He finished in the points at 8 other races and P11 in the Championship with 50 points. The Spaniard made no secret of the criticism of the car over the course of the year. It also led him to the decision of taking a sabbatical from the sport. The Double World Champion had not seen a race victory since 2013 and a podium since 2014. We wish him the best in his future endeavours and hope to see him on the grid again! Stoffel Vandoorne had a mediocre 2018. He was unable to beat his team-mate in Qualifying and finished in the points in only 4 races. P16 with 12 points, a horrendous year for the Belgian

The team ended the season in P6 on 62 Points, better than where they were in 2017 but not where they hoped to be. 

They have a lot of work to do in 2019.


Racing Point Force India F1 Team :

Racing Point Force India, ( now Racing Point F1 saw a change in ownership over the mid-season break. The Team name changed from Sahara Force India to Racing Point with Vijay Mallya and the Sahara group selling their team assets to a consortium of businessmen lead by Lawrence Stroll, Lance Stroll's father. Perez even sued Force India, sending the team into administration before they were acquired by the investors. The consequence of the acquisition was that the team lost all the points scored up until the mid-season break i.e. up until Hungarian GP and had to enter the season as a new entrant. The team scored a total of 52 points from the Belgian Grand Prix and had their points been retained, they would have finished P5 in the Championship with 111 points ahead of Haas F1. The Drivers were allowed to retain their points. 

Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon weren't the best of mates and there was a fair bit of rivalry between the two. Incidents between the duo on track also cost the team some valuable points, specially vs McLaren F1. There was even news about Ocon being replaced in season by Lance Stroll from Williams but better sense prevailed and the Frenchman was allowed to continue racing. Sergio Perez was P8 in the Championship with 62 points grabbing a P3 once again at Baku, Racing Point's favourite track. Esteban Ocon had 10 finishes in the Points with P6 being his best finish in Monaco, Austria, Belgium and Italy. He finished P12 in the Championship with 49 points. 

2019 promises a lot, will the investors be repaid for their efforts? We shall see.



Alfa Romeo Sauber F1 Team :

Sauber F1 Team was on the rise since the start of 2018. Their results improved with each passing race and they finished on 48 points and P8 in the Constructors' at the end of the year. The Team has also benefited from a faster Ferrari engine in 2018. Charles LeClerc spearheaded their challenge with points finishes in 14 races and P6 was his best finish ( Baku ). He had 39 points to his name at the end of the year. Marcus Ericsson in comparison massively under-performed and finished in the points in only 6 races, P9 being his best finish. Sauber F1 will be thankful for LeClerc and for what he achieved since a better finish means more money to use for next year. 

Sauber is now Alfa Romeo F1, so hopefully they wont be as cash strapped as they were at the end of 2017.


Scuderia Toro Rosso F1 Team :

Toro Rosso had a very mediocre 2018. Honda power and its reliability issues are to blame ( to some extent ). The team scored only 33 points in 2018 and finished P9 in the Championship, losing P8 to Sauber post the mid season break. The Red Bull B Team will have to pull up their socks if they want to bring any respectability to their tally in 2019. Pierre Gasly performed well enough to warrant a seat in the A Team for 2019. Brendon Hartley not so. The Frechman scored in 5 races and P4 was his best finish ( Bahrain ). Brendon Hartley struggled all year round with mechanical failures, incidents and setup issues. He only managed 4 points in 2018, 9th in the US GP and 10th in Baku and Germany. 

Toro Rosso will be hoping for a better outing in 2019.


Williams Martini Racing F1 Team :

Williams, a name that is well known in the annals of F1. The team is now a mere shadow of its former glory days. Its truly a sad situation within the team, be it the lack of finances, sponsors or direction in terms of development. The progress curve stagnated for the team in 2018. The results were poor, even though a top man like Paddy Lowe was added to the management. The team also said goodbye to Rob Smedley who decided to call it a day on his career and spend time with his young family ( for now at least ). Sergei Sirotkin and Lance Stroll were the drivers hired for 2018 ( pay drivers purely ) and the funding they carried helped the team last the year. 7 points was all they could conjure, best being 8th for Lance Stroll in Baku. 

Williams need a revamp for 2019. They need to become appealing again and ensure their driver portfolio boasts of that too. We wish them well.



A lot has happened over the course of 2018.  

I had the opportunity of attending 3 races - Germany, Belgium and Abu Dhabi and I must say that Liberty Media should be commended for revitalizing F1 as a sport and modernizing it. They also improved Fan interaction and involvement.


We said goodbye to Fernando Alonso, a legend of the sport, his absence will definitely leave a void. Esteban Ocon, Stoffel Vandoorne, Brendon Hartley, Sergei Sirotkin and Marcus Ericsson will not be on the grid in 2019. Charles LeClerc was a revelation and the Tifosi will hope to see a new champion in Scarlet Red in 2019. 

Kimi Raikkonen finally won a race again and can bow out of Ferrari with his head held high! 


McLaren started strong hoping the trend would continue into the season..sadly it didn't, Sahara Force India were already in the red ( financially ) and hoped to weather the storm..the management couldn't; Ferrari was the fastest car on the grid and they hoped this would be the year of top honours..sadly it wasn't.


This season served as a good reminder for us, be it in life or Motorsport..it doesn't matter how you begin, what matters is how you finish! Mercedes AMG F1 and Lewis Hamilton ran the race well and deserved to be on the top step. 

Other contenders have a lot to learn..still...

2018 F1 Mid Season Review - The Contenders, The Wingmen & The Also-Rans

12 Races done, 9 to go and we are already in the Summer Break. The 2018 F1 Season has flown by!

This season is the longest in the Calendar with 21 rounds and there will be a lot to fight for in the 2nd half. We shall also be entering into a phase where grid penalties will become a common feature and resources for many will get strained.


How is 2018 treating teams and drivers? Lets have a quick peek :


Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team :

Mercedes, the kings of the Turbo Era are nervously looking over their shoulder in 2018. Clearly this is the toughest battle they have faced. Unlike the years gone by, they have been unable to break free from the Prancing Horse and the limits of their cars are being tested. One slip up and the contenders are ready to pounce. They are also aware that inspite of being the fastest, they aren't the best car on the grid. Lack of composure in the dirty air of the car in front, faster tyre degradation are 2 major challenges faced by them this year.  They had a slow start to the year but the team gained momentum from Baku. They currently lead the Constructors' battle by a slender 10 points but with 43 points up for grabs every weekend, the lead can disappear with one bad race. 

Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas have had their fair share of ups and downs this season. Bottas is yet to win a race and suffered some bad luck with retirements in Baku and Austria ( while leading ) and being tagged by Vettel in France. However he is 4th in the Championship with 132 points, 14 points behind Kimi in 3rd. Lewis leads the Championship ( after playing catch-up for most of the first half ) with 5 wins to his name ( Baku, Spain, France, Germany, Hungary ). He has a sizeable lead of 24 points over Vettel, the latter's DNF in Germany costing him big time. Lewis must maximize results in Belgium and Italy before the fly-aways commence and the F1 circus heads to circuits which aren't the kindest to a Mercedes. Bottas, although in contention, is already being considered a wingman for Lewis' title charge. 

Can Mercedes hold onto both titles in 2018? I highly doubt. 


Scuderia Ferrari F1 Team :

Ferrari, a team that has been playing catch up in the Turbo era is slowly turning the tables on Mercedes. Clearly the most balanced, kindest on tyres and very close to a Merc in outright pace, Ferrari have the car and the tools for making this THE YEAR. Only 10 points separate them from Mercedes and its turning out to be one of the most closely contested fights in recent history. A lot of credit goes to the duo of Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen, the latter more so. Kimi got learner over the winter, faster and is enjoying having a more aggresive front-end to his car and that is bringing home the results. He looks hungrier than ever is really enjoying life in F1. Vettel on the other hand is the well-oiled German Machine that never stops being consistent. 

Sebastian Vettel sits 2nd in the Championship with 189 points, trailing Hamilton by 24 while Kimi Raikkonen is 3rd with 146 to his name. Vettel has had 4 wins ( Australia, Bahrain, Canada, Britain ), two 2nd places and one 3rd place, total of 7 podiums. 

Kimi Raikkonen is yet to win a race in 2018 but has 8 podiums, one more than Seb's. The Botched pit-stop in Bahrain and the PU failure in Spain cost the Iceman valuable points and podium finishes which would have brought him closer to his team-mate's tally of 189. He is still running the earlier-spec engine and should finally receive an upgraded unit in Belgium ( confirmed to me by a Ferrari Insider ). Qualifying still remains his Achilles heel and this is one major reason why a win still eludes him. However this is the best year since his return to the team and his 3rd strongest season overall ( both stints at Ferrari combined )

Vettel on the other hand had a very strong start to the year but his drives have not been flawless. The Big Mistake came in Germany when he aquaplaned in changing conditions knocking him out of the race and handing Lewis a big win in the grander scheme of things. The lock-up in Baku at the safety car restart, coming together in France with Bottas and the unfortunate tag by Max in China have added to the "points lost" tally. 

Ferrari have two world champions racing for them vs Mercedes' one. Their combined experience is better than the Merc duo. Ferrari should win the Constructors' Title in 2018 in my opinion...but then anything can happen in the world of motorsport! This definitely is Ferrari's Title to lose.

  

Red Bull Racing F1 Team :

Red Bull predicted at the start of 2018 that it will be difficult to stay in touch with the Mercedes and the Ferraris. The Constructors' table does suggest that but Red Bull have enjoyed their moments of glory in the first half of 2018. Daniel Ricciardo's win in China was exploiting the conditions on offer and applying a master strategy. His win in Monaco ( a track suited to Red Bull ) was a memorable one, redemption for the debacle in 2016. Many argue that Max would have won in the Principality. He was a step ahead of everyone but a crash in qualifying blew his chances and probably denied the team the chance of a famous 1-2. Come Austria, Red Bull's home race and Max took an unexpected win. Austria is a power circuit where the lack of top end grunt in the Tag Heuer branded Renault Power Unit is massively exposed and the what would have been damage limitation for the team turned into ecstasy. Retirements and PU failures have cost the team badly. Both drivers have 4 retirements each to their name, retirements from podium positions in the race, costing the team valuable points in the Constructors. Daniel Ricciardo is 5th in the Championship with 118 points while Max is 6th with 105. Ricciardo has 2 wins to his name while Max has 1 win and 3 podiums. It seems like Red Bull will finish P3 again in the Championship. They have enough breathing space from Renault and trail Ferrari by a massive 112 points. A lot can change in the final 9 rounds with Singapore being the major points scoring opportunity for Red Bull but giving Ferrari a run for P2 is highly unlikely.


Renault Sport F1 Team :

Renault, who made a return to F1 as a full works team in 2016 is making a steady climb up the ladder. 4th in the standings at the summer break is a massive achievement. They have already bettered their tally of a meagre 57 points in 2017 before the summer break this year. The Facilities in Oxfordshire are expanding, personnel being hired and updates to the car coming at the pivotal moments. Nico Hulkenberg and loanee Carlos Sainz Jr. offer a great combination of youth and speed to the team. Hulkenberg leads the Intra-team battle with 52 points on the board while Sainz Jr has 30. Will Renault be able to better their current position by the end of the year? No. The gap ahead is still large and there is a lot of work to do but they will definitely extend their lead to the chasers by the end of the year. The challenge has just begun for Renault Sport F1, to challenge those in the big league is no mean task but the recruitment of Daniel Ricciardo for 2019 is a step in the right direction!


Haas F1 Team :

Haas F1, the strongest Ferrari customer team on the grid is improving each weekend. Haas' improvement curve since their entry into the sport is really inspiring. Working closely with the Ferrari Power units, the chassis is very balanced and performs pretty well at most circuits. The only thing eluding them is a podium, which I still think is at least an year away. Kevin Magnussen has borne the responsibility of scoring the chunk of the points. He is currently 8th in the Drivers' Championship with 45 points, his best finish being 5th in Bahrain and Austria. Romain Grosjean is having a torrid time with crashes and DNFs ( thanks to a ghost version of Marcus Ericsson :P ). He has amassed only 21 points, scoring in 3 of the last 4 rounds of going into the summer break. 4th in Austria was his best finish, a drive which showed that the Frenchman has it in him and he just needs to keep it clean. The mid-table battle between Haas, Force India and McLaren is very intense and its imperative for both drivers to finish races in the points consistently. A non-finish for both and the tables can turn drastically. Haas don't have the resources of a McLaren but they know to invest wisely. I believe they will eventually come out on top in this 3 way bout.


Sahara Force India F1 Team :

Force India is going through some really testing times. One of the creditors went to the court for dissolution of the team and the team is destined to go into administration until the new owners take charge. Their challenger on track isn't having the best outing either. The team is currently 6th in the standings, 2 places lower than their best position in the recent years. Renault and Haas have jumped them, although overtaking Haas by the end of the year should still be an achievable task. A 3rd place by Perez in Baku brought some joy to the team but both Perez and Ocon have scored 59 points combined, too few going into the summer break. Perez leads his team-mate by a point with Ocon finishing in the points on 6 occasions compared to Perez's 5. The lack of funding is hurting the team bad and I doubt they might finish 6th by the end of the year. Anything lower than 4th is a disaster but that is the reality and the team must ride the tide and hope for fortunes to change in 2019.  Astonishingly, Force India remains the most successful Mercedes Customer Team on the grid.


McLaren F1 Team :

McLaren switched to Renault power for 2018 and hoped for a better outing. Its been anything but that. The experts always believed that McLaren had an excellent chassis but their design flaws have been exposed this year. One can argue that its only their first year with Renault and every team needs time to completely adjust to a new engine manufacturer. Fernando Alonso is digging deep to bring home the results and after a strong start to the year, is now struggling to keep McLaren in the fight. Stoffel Vandoorne seems to be struggling with multiple issues and is nowhere near the level of racing he has been. Alonso sits 9th in the Standings with 44 points while Vandoorne is in 16th with just 8 points. Fernando is one driver who will give his 110 % week in week out and is unbeatable when it comes to race wit. Vandoorne must drive better to save his seat, a shame if he was to lose his. Eric Boullier, the Racing Director at McLaren resigned during the triple header and that didn't help matters. McLaren needs to start afresh, begin from scratch and have the right people in the right positions with the legitimate authority to make some tough decisions. 2018 is a good lesson for the team but they still have time to turn things around. Force India is only 7 points ahead and with the issues they face off-track and on it, McLaren must capitalize on every opportunity to put pressure on them in the races and steal P6 off them. Its a long road ahead and we have seen many stories being re-written, so all is not lost for the Woking based outfit. 


Scuderia Toro Rosso F1 Team :

Toro Rosso made the big leap from Renault to Honda for 2018, practically becoming the guinea pig for feasibility and amalgamation with a Red Bull Chassis for 2019. Pierre Gasly and Brendan Hartley drive for the men in blue and both had their share of retirements and incidents. Gasly is the better performer of the two with 26 points in the championship and 3 finishes in the points. ( 4th being his best ). Hartley on the other hand scored two 10th places in Baku and Germany. His F1 career is under serious scrutiny and the WEC World Champion is finding it difficult to establish himself in the sport. The Duo need to be on the top of their game and hope that the Honda Power Unit at the back doesn't let up ( like it has in the first half ) to ensure they keep the Saubers at bay. Gasly's aim will be to impress the bosses in the A team and make a strong case for himself to be seen as an ideal fit for the outgoing Daniel Ricciardo, a move that has put the cat amongst the pigeons ( will explore this in the Driver Markets post ). Toro Rosso are known for having a balanced chassis and this might prove to be the winning card in their quest to stay P8 in the Championship.


Alfa-Romeo Sauber F1 Team :

Sauber sits 9th in the Standings with 18 points to their name. Charles Leclerc, the Scuderia Ferrari Academy Driver has led the charge with 5 points finishes, 6th in Baku his best result; while Marcus Ericsson finished in the points only thrice with 9th being his best finish in Bahrain and Germany. Its a closely contested battle with Scuderia Toro Rosso who have 10 more than them and ideally, Sauber should have been ahead but mistakes and reliability issues in the recent rounds hit them hard. On the financial side, they are in better waters thanks to Alfa-Romeo and will have enough resources to give Toro Rosso a serious headache. Charles Leclerc is making a name for himself in the paddock while Marcus Ericsson's credentials are being questioned. The Swede needs to pull up his socks in the second half else his financial backing wont be able to get him a drive in 2019.


Williams Martini F1 Racing Team :

Williams is going through a very tough phase in their history. The Team has gone backwards and seem a bit lost in their quest to close up on competitors. Incidents, Non-finishes and a single points finish to show for their efforts leaves them languishing in 10th and last in the Constructors' table. Lance Stroll managed the best finish for the team in Baku with 8th, a stark contrast from the podium they bagged the year before.They claimed to have identified the source of their problems but amends can only be made in 2019. Williams are destined to finish last in 2018 and also bound to lose their title sponsor in Martini at the end of the year. Williams will only be able to score if misfortunes hit the cars closest to them.The Future looks grim and we hope for the best for one of the most decorated teams of F1.


The title battle is wide open this year and all 4 drivers ( Mercedes and Ferrari ) are in contention for the crown...which begs the question : Will the teams allow Bottas and Raikkonen to challenge Hamilton and Vettel respectively? Parity between team-mates is claimed by both team but what happens on-track is contrary to claims. We are nearing that stage of the season when its wise to choose the real contenders for the crown; at this stage its a tough call to make since the Finns are not too far in terms of points. However one bad race or non-finish will seal them as the number 2 in their respective team. Their jobs will be reduced to Mere Wingmen, snippets of which were showed in Germany and Hungary.

Mercedes and Ferrari are in a class of their own. They are the True Contenders for the crown. Red Bull can only capitalize on the mistakes made up front and they have exploited it on a few occasions. The rest of the field will continue to contend amongst themselves to be the best of the rest.


A lot is still at stake...I can't wait for Round 2 of the Bout!