Ahead of F1’s return from the summer break, Matt Tuson and James Casey have been reviewing each team’s performance so far this season and handing out their half-term grades for every driver, car and team.
In the second part they will be covering the top five teams in the constructors’ championship.
Red Bull Toro Rosso Honda – 5th – 43pts
- Daniil Kvyat – 9th – 27pts
- Alexander Albon – 15th – 16pts
Toro Rosso have had a strong first half of the season, with the returning Daniil Kvyat and rookie Alexander Albon consistently racing well and bringing points back to Faenza. Their peak came in Germany when Kvyat scored an unlikely podium, the first for the team since 2008. Pierre Gasly has been moved to Toro Rosso for the rest of the season after struggling at Red Bull, whilst Albon steps ups to Red Bull.
MT: For me the strong point of Toro Rosso has been their drivers this year. The car is around a similar pace to last year but I believe both drivers have completely outperformed the car. Daniil Kvyat has clearly benefited from having a year’s break after being dropped and is driving the best he has ever driven. While Alexander Albon, who was unexpectedly given the seat and had barely driven an F1 car until testing, has pulled off some incredible drives (particularly in China). Obviously Albon will be in a Red Bull in Spa and Pierre Gasly will be returning to the team. It will be interesting to see if his confidence has been knocked or if he can return to the form that got him so highly rated last year.
Grades – KVY: A*, ALB: A*, Car: C, Team: C
JC: Toro Rosso haven’t quite fulfilled their potential in the last two years, with one driver (Sainz in 2017 & Gasly in 2018) scoring a large majority of their points. This season both Kvyat and Albon have been performing well and getting the most out of the car. The team don’t have the resources to fight right at the front, so fifth in the constructors’ championship is about as good as it can get for them. The car is a solid package, but isn’t the fifth fastest car on the grid. That big Germany points haul has helped their season a lot. I have a feeling the drama of the Albon/Gasly swap will negatively impact on the team’s season, but this first half has been very good. Grades – KVY: B, ALB: A, Car: B, Team: B
McLaren F1 Team – 4th – 82pts
- Carlos Sainz – 7th – 58pts
- Lando Norris – 10th – 24pts
McLaren have been the biggest movers in comparison to their performance last year. After a number of disappointing seasons, they are comfortably clear at the top of the midfield battle at the mid-season break. A strong car and impressive new driver line-up of Carlos Sainz and Lando Norris has meant the team has had a regular presence in the points.
MT: For me the standout team of the first half of the season. After the switch from Honda didn’t give them the boost they’d hope, it was clear change was needed and it seems to have worked in their favour as they have a MUCH better car, their best since 2014. Like Toro Rosso, their drivers have also given them a boost. After trying a couple of teams for size, McLaren seems to be the perfect team for Carlos Sainz and he currently has a clear lead in the midfield battle. I have to be honest, I thought Lando Norris was a bit overrated when he got his promotion from F2 last year despite finishing second. However, the guy has completely ripped up those thoughts and has completely proven me wrong with some incredible drives. Both drivers have had their contracts extended to next year, but I believe both drivers are there for the long haul, way beyond next season, as they deliver and there is clear harmony between them and the team.
Grades – SAI: A*, NOR: A*, Car: B, Team: B
JC: McLaren are this season’s good news story and also have the best driver bromance on the grid. After years of over-promising and under-delivering, the team approached this season with humility and have started to rebuild. The car has developed nicely, becoming easily the fourth fastest car in the last few rounds. Norris has done an incredible job in his rookie season, but has been at the brunt of a majority of the team’s mistakes/reliability issues this season. He has been a good challenge for Sainz, who himself is in very good form and showing his quality. The positive driver relationship and team’s upturn in fortunate has sent morale through the roof and I expect the resurgence to continue.
Grades – SAI: A*, NOR: A, Car: A-, Team: B
Aston Martin Red Bull Racing – 3rd – 244pts
- Max Verstappen – 3rd – 181pts
- Pierre Gasly – 6th – 63pts
Many thought Red Bull’s switch to Honda power was a bit of a risk, but the team is currently occupying third in the constructors and looking to overhaul Ferrari. They initially struggled to come to terms with the new aero rules, but since they cracked them Max Verstappen has taken 2 wins and his first ever pole position. Pierre Gasly has failed to match his Dutch teammate and not stood on the podium. This of course has led to his demotion to Toro Rosso.
MT: Who would’ve thought 2 years ago that the Honda engine would be raved and anticipated by Red Bull and then go on to improve the team rather than hold it back. There is clear harmony between them, reliability issues have been scarce and the engine appears to have been integrated to the car well. They suffered with aerodynamic issues at the start of the year, but they have been fixed and I believe they now have their best car since they were winning championships. That, along with Max Verstappen consistently delivering, has obviously led to race wins. Their main flaw, as I have mentioned in a previous article, has been their reliance on junior drivers. Despite many experienced drivers being on the market last year, they promoted Pierre Gasly from Toro Rosso after just one year in F1. The guy has talent, but being in a front running car alongside an in-form Verstappen in only his second year was a MASSIVE ask. Being demoted to Toro Rosso could end up being the best ever thing to happen to him, providing his confidence hasn’t been knocked, but they have promoted Albon, who had barely ever driven an F1 car 6 months ago, so it could easily go the same way. If he underperforms, they have a massive problem that could hurt their chances of second in the constructors.
Grades – VER: A*, GAS: E, Car: A, Team: C
JC: Red Bull have had a very positive season so far, starting the year as the third fastest car but now challenging Mercedes for race wins. However, while Verstappen has been challenging Hamilton, Gasly has struggled to beat the midfield runners, which has been very bizarre to watch. I’m afraid Gasly’s season can only be described as shambolic. He had to be demoted to give Red Bull the best opportunity of coming second in the championship, which they should currently hold. There really isn’t much to say about Verstappen, he’s been really quick, hasn’t made any big mistakes and has got the most out of the car every race. He’s really living up to his potential now. Grades – VER: A*, GAS: U, Car: A, Team: A
Scuderia Ferrari – 2nd – 288pts
- Sebastian Vettel – 4th – 156pts
- Charles Leclerc – 5th – 132pts
Pre-season testing was all about Ferrari. They looked like the team to beat. However, they have fallen behind in development and failed to capitalise on races where they have been quick, which means they enter the mid-season break 150 points behind Mercedes. The team are also yet to pick up a win this season, which they will desperately want to put right before the end of the year.
MT: Ferrari looked to be the team to beat in testing, but this obviously didn’t materialise as Mercedes pulled ahead. However, for me their issue has not been their car. Yes, the Mercedes is faster despite Ferrari having a more powerful engine, but they aren’t that far off and are capable of beating them on tracks that suit them. Their issue has been self inflicted errors, mainly from the team (although the drivers have made mistakes as well). Charles Leclerc has been a vital asset to the team. In only his second year he has beaten his four time champion team-mate Sebastian Vettel on many occasions and pulled off some incredible drives, almost taking a maiden win in both Bahrain and Austria. In the former, he was cruelly denied by a mechanical issue. However, Leclerc’s rise has undoubtedly had an effect on Sebastian Vettel, who has crumbled a lot. Leclerc matching and beating him could well be a reason for it. The team’s biggest weakpoint has been some outrageous errors strategy wise, which included poor use of team orders in both China and Spain and a Q1 elimination for Leclerc in Monaco due to him not being sent back out despite him clearly being in danger.
Grades – VET: C, LEC: A*, Car: A, Team: U
JC: Ferrari aren’t having a disastrous season, but it’s fallen way short of expectation. They appeared to have the fastest car in testing and looked very good at some power tracks early on, but have fallen away and are now being beaten by Red Bull in the hands of Verstappen. Vettel has looked the slightly quicker driver at most tracks, but Leclerc has been superfast on a number of rounds. Both have been robbed of a win, with reliability cruelly denying Leclerc in Bahrain and Vettel receiving a very harsh penalty in Canada, but both have also made too many mistakes. These driver mistakes, together with reliability and strategic issues, have resulted in a huge number of points being dropped and Mercedes sailing off into the distance. Grades – VET: B, LEC: B, Car: A, Team: C
Mercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport – 1st – 438pts
- Lewis Hamilton – 1st – 250pts
- Valtteri Bottas – 2nd – 181pts
Leading the constructors by 150 points, with seven 1-2 finishes out of 12, it is safe to say things are looking good for the Silver Arrows to take their sixth consecutive constructors’ championship. Lewis Hamilton leads the drivers standings by 62 points, having won eight races, whilst Valtteri Bottas sits in second with two wins, albeit under pressure from Verstappen.
MT: For me the only team with As across the board in my grades, and with good reason. The way they conducted pre-season testing was really skilled, gradually adding bits to the car which culminated in the Melbourne spec that proved unbeatable. The car looks incredible in the corners. When it looks like its about to break traction the downforce kicks in and firmly stops that. The W10 is clearly ahead of everyone else in terms of cornering speed, and their drivers have delivered as well. Lewis Hamilton, as always, has been constantly delivering and looks the title favourite. Valtteri Bottas appears to have improved, taking two wins at the start of the year, but is unlikely to pose a major threat to his team-mate. However, he is still a dependable second driver. They aren’t anywhere near as dominant as 2014-2016, but there is still nothing but praise that can be given to the Silver Arrows this year.
Grades – HAM: A*, BOT: A, Car: A*, Team: A*
JC: If it wasn’t already clear after five consecutive’championship doubles, Mercedes have proven why they are a truly great F1 outfit this year. The season was literally perfect until Monaco, with five 1-2 finishes in the first five races, and has continued in a strong fashion, with just two race wins slipping through their fingers so far. Hamilton has continued to prove that he is one of F1’s greatest ever drivers and Bottas has been a very able assistant, even taking the fight to him early on. Germany was a very bad day at the office for everyone at the team, but excluding that they have been almost perfect. Grades – HAM: A*, BOT: A, Car: A*, Team: A*