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.

Top and bottom meet in the middle // A mixture of joy and extreme frustration leaves these three in the midfield abyss

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Hands up who thought that these three teams would fill the awkward middle slot of my midseason review. McLaren would never have imagined that they’d be in the second half of teams in the constructors’ championship, while Toro Rosso would probably have bit your hand off if they were offered form like this time last year. As for Force India, they are still stuck in midfield, but must surely be happy to have jumped two teams up to fifth; their big rivals of 2012, Sauber as well as giants McLaren, whom they share an engine supplier with, just to make it that much sweeter.

Now, aside from the unexpected midfield battle between these three, each have some fascinating intra-team battles that could shape the way that F1 looks over the next few years. Let’s start with the Red Bull juniors, Scuderia Toro Rosso.

Toro Rosso

Toro
Team grades
Scuderia Toro RossoB
Daniel RicciardoB+
Jean-Éric VergneB-

One of these guys is the real deal, I’m sure of it. At the moment, Ricciardo is the frontrunner, and that is reflected by the amount of speculation linking him to the Red Bull senior team. But the fact is that Vergne has scored more points than the Aussie, as he did last year.

The team has taken a step forward, having jumped past Sauber and Williams in the past year, the problem is that it isn’t reflected in the championship. So far this season, they’ve scored 24 points, 18 more than last year at the summer break. But they are still a long way behind the next best team, McLaren, on 57 points. They need to continue their development and hope that they can continue their growth into 2014. One more thing, they must improve their reliability, seven retirements is too many so far this season and it is really hampering them.

Daniel Ricciardo: Ricciardo has been impressive this year, having got the maximum out of the car and providing good speed, particularly in qualifying. But Vergne appears to be the better racer, having outraced Ricciardo three to one (this stat is skewed because both have had their fair share of car failures this season, leaving only four results to compare). Regardless, I really want to see what Webber’s protégé can do in a fast, reliable car.

Jean-Éric Vergne: Vergne appears to be out of the running for Webber’s Red Bull seat, despite better results than his teammate. Vergne’s problem is his qualifying. He starts more than three places behind Ricciardo on average, and has only made Q3 twice. On the plus side, his qualifying has certainly improved from last year. If he is to get the career jump that he aims for, he needs to make a name for himself for good results and great pace.

McLaren

McLaren grade C
Team grades
Vodafone McLaren MercedesC
Jenson ButtonA
Sergio PérezB

It’s frustrating watching McLaren struggling with a poor car without the benefit of a star driver who can hustle a bad car to a good result, as Lewis Hamilton would do. The battle between Pérez and Button is a close one, and really came to light during the Bahrain GP as the two came to blows. But Jenson Button’s experience seems to be making the difference, particularly when you look at the Monaco GP, where Sergio Pérez threw away a great result because he was too aggressive when battling with Kimi Räikkönen. But, he still has the pace to oust Jenson Button and make this his team in the future.

Jenson Button: Button was never going to manhandle this poor McLaren around to great results, he’s never had that skill. What he has done is use his nous. He knows when to pick a fight and when he’s better off letting a faster car by because a battle for position will cost them both time, and in this day and age crucial tyre degradation.

This was best shown in Hungary, where he could have let Vettel through easily, but knew that keeping the guys who pitted early behind him for as long as possible was a crucial part of his strategy. He could have had a podium in Malaysia, were it not for a botched pitstop and then managed a strong fifth in China, a crucial result that could help the Woking squad leapfrog Force India in the coming races.

Sergio Pérez: The Mexican is taking a little time to learn the ‘McLaren way’ but he does have talent .It was clear in Bahrain that they loved his aggressiveness in battling with Jenson Button and others, although they did want to reign him in a little. If he can beat Jenson Button on a regular basis over the next eighteen months, Pérez could be leading this team by the time Honda is producing their power train.

Force India

Force India grade B
Team grades
Sahara Force India F1 TeamB
Paul di RestaA
Adrian SutilB

The Silverstone-based team have had a stunning start in order to be best of the rest behind the so called title challengers. They began the season with a coming out party for Adrian Sutil (remember that?), although di Resta would have beaten him without the influence of team orders.

Since then, di Resta has had a great season, recovering often from poor qualifying, while Sutil has had a good, if a touch quiet season. But the German can really fight back if di Resta continues to get stuck in Q1.

Paul di Resta: Di Resta’s Saturday’s have been abysmal, largely because of team errors rather than his own, although he was simply off the pace in Hungary. To his credit though, he has responded well to the struggles and scored points every time he has been knocked out in Q1, excluding Hungary.

I think that he is in a head to head battle with Nico Hülkenberg to replace Kimi Räikkönen at Lotus, so he better step up on Saturdays as well as Sundays to prove that he is worthy of the opportunity.

Adrian Sutil: Sutil is no longer the next big thing. He is what he is, a fast midfield driver who struggles with consistency. His error count has reduced this year, to be fair, but he still appears to be in di Resta’s shadow. I think that he will remain loyal to the team that gave him a second chance but he needs to become more of a challenger to the Scot on raceday. Fifth in Monaco shows his credentials, now he must back it up more regularly.