Mid-season review: Fighting for the title

By on Tuesday, August 13, 2013

The final part of our mid-season review reflects on the fortunes of those fighting for wins and the world title.

Lotus: Title challenge hanging in the balance

Constructors' Championship: 4th, 183 points | Kimi Raikkonen: 2nd, 134 points | Romain Grosjean: 8th, 49 points

Lotus AUS MAL CHN BAH ESP MON CAN GBR GER HUN
RAI 7/1 10/7 2/2 8/2 4/2 5/10 10/9 8/5 4/2 6/2
GRO 8/10 11/6 6/9 11/3 6/R 13/R 22/13 7/19 5/3 3/6
Lotus F1 Team

Lotus F1 Team

A case of overachieving or one of missed opportunities? Lotus has enjoyed a second season of success but the big question now is how resources are split with 2014 in mind. Lotus has an inherently strong car but is undoubtedly assisted by its kind tyre wear. The team has frequently gained positions by running longer stints and making fewer visits to the pits than their rivals: will such a tactic work once the second half of the season gets underway? Pace in wet conditions remains questionable – both drivers slithered down the field at the start in Malaysia – while a few strategy calls have resulted in lost points. As with 2012, qualifying remains the key weakness, leaving the drivers to play catch up. The pace for the win was there in Bahrain, Germany and Hungary but chinks in the armour means more victories remain elusive. Pace in Monaco and Montreal, where grip was at a premium, was also sub-par. Kimi Raikkonen has once again been a figure of consistency and speed as he emerges from the first half of the season as Sebastian Vettel’s nearest challenger. Romain Grosjean has had a more difficult season. A mysterious problem with the car limited his progress during the first three races but he bounced back with a podium in Bahrain. His issues returned as suspension failure forced him out in Spain before a horrendous weekend in Monaco. His form has picked up in recent races and the speed is still there. Yet there remains a clumsy aspect of his driving; he’s getting better but history means he is never given the benefit of the doubt in any contact. The second half of the season could be fruitful for Lotus if Grosjean can keep up his form from the previous two events.

Ferrari: Questions mount after drop in form

Constructors' Championship: 3rd, 194 points | Fernando Alonso: 3rd, 133 points | Felipe Massa: 7th, 61 points

Ferrari AUS MAL CHN BAH ESP MON CAN GBR GER HUN
ALO 5/2 3/R 3/1 3/8 5/1 6/7 6/2 9/3 8/4 5/5
MAS 4/4 2/5 5/6 4/15 9/3 21/R 16/8 11/6 7/R 7/8
Alonso-wins-Spanish-GP

Scuderia Ferrari

Trouble in paradise? Comments made by Fernando Alonso in Hungary were not well received by President Luca di Montezemolo and the Italian publicly rebuked his driver. 2013 has quickly gone downhill for Ferrari, whose pace shown even as recently as May has rapidly disappeared. Alonso won in China and Spain – comfortably – but has recently struggled to mount the podium. Unusually for Alonso there have also been errors. The baffling decision not to pit in Malaysia cost the Spaniard a podium while in Monaco he seemed a shadow of his usual self. It’s only two races, but it’s not the way to win a title. More concerning though will be the recent lack of pace, particularly in qualifying. Form on Saturdays has restricted Alonso to a best qualifying result of fifth across the past six races. Ferrari needs urgent improvements if they are to avoid a fifth successive season without a title. Felipe Massa picked up from where he left off in 2012 as the stronger Ferrari driver, but his early season form has deserted him as the F138 becomes less competitive. His accidents in Monaco were unusual as Ferrari blamed a suspension failure for one and driver error for the other; the cynic would suggest that both shunts were caused by car failure, such was the bizarre nature of the accidents. His race-ending spin in Germany was also unusual, although a lack of sufficient camera angles restricts proper conclusions. The perennial question of Massa’s future at the team will crop up repeatedly until Ferrari makes an announcement, but a more pressing issue should be improving the car. Di Montezemolo continually blames others for Ferrari’s shortcomings, but it’s time for the Italian to be decisive and sort out his own team if they want to win the title. Alonso is 39 points behind Vettel; a surmountable target if Ferrari responds rapidly. History, though, suggests they won't.

Mercedes: Vast improvements for Silver Arrows

Constructors' Championship: 2nd, 208 points | Lewis Hamilton: 4th, 124 points | Nico Rosberg: 6th, 84 points

Mercedes AUS MAL CHN BAH ESP MON CAN GBR GER HUN
ROS 6/R 6/4 4/R 1/9 1/6 1/1 4/5 2/1 11/9 4/19
HAM 3/5 4/3 1/3 9/5 2/12 2/4 2/3 1/4 1/5 1/1
Nurburgring Mercedes

Mercedes AMG Petronas

Back when Mercedes undertook a recruitment drive in the middle of 2011, team Principal Ross Brawn warned that it would be 2013 before Mercedes reaped the benefits. The Silver Arrows began the season with a competitive car, even if it was still no match for the Red Bull, Ferrari or Lotus across a normal race weekend. But very quickly, Mercedes has emerged as a genuine title contender. The W04 has been the car to have on a Saturday – with seven of this year’s 10 pole positions – but the victory in Hungary may have been a turning point in terms of the car’s tyre wear. The private test with Pirelli irked Mercedes’s rivals and the decision of the International Tribunal did little to appease them. In that respect, Mercedes perhaps got away with it. Executive director Toto Wolff has struck a cautious note about Mercedes’s title challenge – and how it could affect their 2014 plans – but he’d do well to remember BMW’s master plan. On the driver front, both Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton have excelled at times this season. Rosberg was untouchable in Monaco and also recorded three consecutive pole positions. The bulk of mechanical problems have also struck Rosberg, although at least they happened when he was in lowly positions. For Hamilton, his biggest failure of the year came when he was in prime position to win the British Grand Prix. It’s 2-1 to Rosberg on the win count, but it was a tyre failure away from being advantage Hamilton. The Brit had a fairly quiet start to his Mercedes career but has approached his new challenge with a mature attitude. Rosberg is an intelligent and quick racing driver who has finally been given a car to justify his talents, but since the Canadian Grand Prix it’s been Hamilton who has been on top. If Rosberg is to emerge as a title contender, he needs to display his prodigious speed on a consistent basis. Breaking Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull’s stranglehold on the championship will be tough, but it’s not an impossible proposition.

Red Bull: Charging towards a fourth double

Constructors' Championship: 1st, 277 points | Sebastian Vettel: 1st, 172 points | Mark Webber: 5th, 105 points

RBR AUS MAL CHN BAH ESP MON CAN GBR GER HUN
VET 1/3 1/1 9/4 2/1 3/4 3/2 1/1 3/R 2/1 2/3
WEB 2/6 5/2 22/R 7/7 7/5 4/3 5/4 4/2 3/7 10/4
FORMULA 1 - Malaysian GP

Red Bull/Getty Images

Red Bull has continued their supremacy at the top of the standings and look set to bring home a fourth consecutive double championship. The RB9 is quick enough in qualifying and has proved to be the best all round machine in the race. The only real struggles came in China and Spain, where the front limited nature of the circuit forced Red Bull into damage limitation. Reliability remains a minor issue, as Sebastian Vettel’s retirement in Britain and his KERS issue a week later in Germany testifies. Nonetheless, it’s difficult to see Red Bull losing the championship, especially considering the typically Bull-favourable circuits that Formula 1 has still to visit. Like a fine wine, Sebastian Vettel keeps improving with age as the reigning world champion has barely put a foot wrong in 2013. Not only has Vettel put in some dominant performances – such as in Bahrain and Canada – but he has been consistent, with all of his nine finishes being in the top four. Webber has had a sub-par season, with his only chance of victory coming in Malaysia, before the ‘Multi 21’ saga exploded. That incident shattered any trust that was lingering between the drivers, even if Webber’s transition to the World Endurance Championship with Porsche was already in advanced stages. Aside from a calamitous weekend in China, Webber has still done a competent job and has picked up handfuls of points to ensure that Red Bull’s Constructors’ Championship should be retained. The job is not yet done for the reigning champions, but the first half of 2013 has been much better than in 2012: Vettel has won four of the 10 races and has a 38 point lead in the championship; last season he was 40 points in arrears with just a single win, yet he still came through to become the champion.

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