Sidepodcast // All for F1 and F1 for all

Class of the Field
Adam Barton

A Formula One fan since he was six, back while Häkkinen and Schumacher were having many an epic battle, Adam has seen a great deal. From German domination (twice), to British determination (once) and a Spanish invasion. A near compulsive fan who one day hopes to write about the sport for a living, outside of F1 Adam also authors his own blog One Guy's Opinion.

The (almost) pointless teams // A midseason report for the backmarker outfits

Published

Don’t read anything into the title, but the truth is that these four teams receiving my grade for their season so far have scored just eight in ten races, that’s eight points from eighty starts. That’s far below expectations for sure. My views on Caterham and Marussia have been made clear: what are they adding to the sport if they are running nearly three seconds off the pace three years into their campaign?

But Sauber and Williams are miles away from where they were even last year. What’s worse is the abomination that is 2013 comes after a great year for both teams. More so for Williams, it really looked like they had turned the corner last year after the seasons in the wilderness, only to hit worse form this year.

Caterham

Caterham grade B+
Team grades
Caterham F1 TeamB+
Charles PicB
Giedo van der GardeC

They may be last in the championship but Caterham have a leg up in the battle for tenth. All thoughts were that Marussia would blast past Caterham as Marussia got their hands on KERS. and they did. But Caterham have fought back strong, and have the edge at the moment.

The team are still over a second behind the back of the midfield, and unless they grab a thirteenth place in the final nine races, none of it will matter.

Charles Pic: Pic’s switch looked like a misstep, but as the season goes on, it looks better and better. He is consistently the best of the worst and is locked in a season long battle with Jules Bianchi to prove that they are worth their shot, long term in F1. This is his chance to prove his worth in F1, continue his current form, and he will be a popular man in the paddock.

Giedo van der Garde: I know he’s a rookie but van der Garde has struggled to match his teammate all season. He has had his moments, and may have the pace to secure a second season in F1. But I have my doubts that he is the answer to Caterham’s problems, dependent on his sponsor’s budget of course. His form is improving, but the Dutchman still has to convince me.

Marussia

Marussia grade B
Team grades
Marussia F1 TeamB
Jules BianchiA
Max ChiltonD

All the optimism of the early season has abandoned the team as they have regressed. They are now fighting Caterham from behind and the truth is the most explosive they've looked on the track was Jules Bianchi's spectacular exit from the German Grand Prix. Yes, rolling in the wrong direction sums this team up very well.

Jules Bianchi: Where would this team be without the Frenchman? Bianchi has made a real impression, and I think a solid candidacy for a 2014 drive with Ferrari. No mean feat in such a slow car, let alone in his rookie year. The kid is special. He blew the Caterhams and teammate Max Chilton away early in the year and now is showing his talents as he battles with the Caterhams in a weaker car. Make a note of the name, this guy could spell the end for Fernando Alonso.

Max Chilton: Chilton is an unlucky guy. He's trying to make his name by competing against a man who could very well win a world championship in the future. That said, he hasn't impressed at all this year. I follow his races and he seems to stay within sight of Bianchi and in a flash he's forty seconds behind. Not only that, he’s proved to be careless and dangerous, his clash with Pastor Maldonado wasn’t malicious but could have caused one of the worst accidents in recent history.

I hate to cut short a rookie's one shot in F1, but I can't help but feel that F1 is one step too far for the Brit and that he is holding a seat that Tio Ellinas deserves.

Williams

Williams grade D
Team grades
Williams F1 TeamD
Pastor MaldonadoB-
Valtteri BottasB+

It's frustrating, infuriating even, seeing a once great team like Williams struggle so much. I can only hope that they make a huge leap forward with Mercedes power but I'll settle for them being back in the midfield as it is.

Their lack of pace is baffling, after such an improvement last year, but they have to take a very bitter sensible pill and realise that 2013 should be used solely to understand the flaws of the car and then to start development of next year's car.

Pastor Maldonado: Well on the plus side, the Venezuelan seems to have learnt how to avoid other cars, as well as the walls. On the other hand, he's a shadow of his 2012 form. Maldonado has been on the record saying that this year's car benefits Bottas, but that's beside the point, he should have the pace to beat the Finn anyway. A rookie teammate is usually allowed a four tenth margin to an experienced teammate, but Maldonado has qualified a place behind Bottas on average (14.9 compared to 16), although he has beaten the Finn in the race four times in the six races they’ve both finished.

If it weren't for his Venezuelan state money, I would seriously consider Susie Wolff to replace him next year.

Valtteri Bottas: Bottas is in a very similar position to teammate Pastor Maldonado back in 2011, learning F1 in a terrible Williams, though putting in good performances against his experienced teammate. His third place on the grid in Canada was stunning, and it was a real shame he couldn't cash in on it with a maiden point. Still, it was exactly the kind of wet weather performance that so many future stars have made, making their name in the sport. He has come close a couple times, but rotten luck, such as a faulty wheel gun, has cost him. It's been a good start for the Finn but he'll need to prove himself again when he gets a stronger car.

Sauber

Sauber grade C-
Team grades
Sauber F1 TeamC-
Nico HülkenbergC
Esteban GutiérrezC-

Sauber are Williams only competitor for disappointment of the season. Poor Nico Hülkenberg moved there, seeing it as the up and coming team, a doubly smart move considering Force India's Vijay Mallya's legal issues, not to mention the financial issues of a key sponsor at the time. But the tide has turned this year and Sauber have scored just seven points, a far cry from the podiums of last year.

The key issue of financial security is assured so now the Swiss underdogs can focus on improving on the track ahead of 2014.

Nico Hülkenberg: Hülkenberg has very occasionally reminded us why he was such hot property, although I can't help but feel that his form has dipped in a weaker car. I'm near certain that he'll be pressing for a Lotus or Ferrari seat for next year but he needs to start outperforming the car to assure a move up the F1 grid. That said, the German must stay with a team for more than a year to continue his growth in the sport. Hopefully he can find a strong team to join and settle in at, because he's had the worst luck in picking so far.

Esteban Gutiérrez: Another underperforming rookie. Far too often he is lumped in with the back markers, out in Q1, and lapped in the race. Gutiérrez appeared to be proceeded by his reputation even in GP2, so he could well have graduated one step too far. What the Mexican does have in his corner is a huge amount of Mexican money that will be very hard for Sauber to walk away from. A huge improvement is needed before he is taken seriously.