Category Archives: Opinon

2010 final driver rankings: 5 – 1

This is the final post in a 3-part series, ranking the Formula 1 drivers of 2010 according to their seasonal performance. Here are the final 5 drivers:

5: Lewis Hamilton

Several retirements shot down Lewis' title hopes

Several retirements shot down Lewis' title hopes

4 months ago:

“In 2010 (he) has matured incredibly, with a hint of caution to his speed and aggression, which has turned him into a more complete racing driver, and one of the favourites for the title.”

Now:

Despite the dominance of the Red Bulls, and the resurgence of Fernando Alonso, Lewis Hamilton was still able to push for the title in the last race, a considerable achievement when you notice how much their car has struggled at times this year.

A shaky few races, where he didn’t look at all like winning, was not the best start, and not helped by his erratic driving in Malaysia. On the other hand though, he was ready to capitalise in Turkey when the Red Bulls failed, and was the outright best driver in Canada. Two second places in Valencia and Britain, and Hamilton looked to be back in the hunt.

However, his over-exuberant driving got in the way of him again. Needless retirements occured in Italy and Singapore, when Hamilton was too close to the other car when fighting for position. One mechanical DNF in Hungary didn’t help matters either.

Two more second places in Korea and Abu Dhabi pushed him closer to the top, but in neither of these races did he look like winning. While Lewis showed good pace this year, he let himself down when he needed results most.

4: Robert Kubica

Once again, Kubica excelled in an unimpressive car

Once again, Kubica excelled in an unimpressive car

4 months ago:

“Has proven multiple times that he is one of the best drivers on the grid, just without the best car.

Now:

With Renault struggling in the midfield for most of the season, an average driver would similarly stay in the middle of the pack, occasionally getting points. But as we all know, Robert Kubica is no ordinary driver.

His talent is difficult to see when his car lags behind others, but in a situation like Monaco, where car performance is equalled to an extent, Robert is easily spotted as one of the best drivers around. He nearly took pole position, then tried to cling onto the Red Bulls in the race, finishing 3rd.

Spa-Francorchamps, a real driver’s track, will also provide evidence to this. Throughout the race, Kubica was dicing it with the McLarens, Ferraris and Red Bulls, and was rewarded with another podium. These 2 races were the best of the year for him, but in other situations he could not reach to the top, mostly down to the car.

On the positive side, though, is the fact that he was also bulletproof in reliability. All three of his retirements were out of his control, and only one of these was related to car reliability.

In fact, the only bad thing I can find about Kubica is his questionable move on Adrian Sutil in Canada, where he swerved around the Force India entering the pits. This is only a small matter though, and 2010 was still another impressive year for Kubica.

3: Fernando Alonso

Despite the controversies, Alonso is still a driver to be feared

Despite the controversies, Alonso is still a driver to be feared

4 months ago:

“The controversies just seem to follow him around.”

“Fernando is well on course to challenge for the championship, but needs to do so without using Massa.”

Now:

Even his biggest detractors will still admit that Fernando Alonso is a force to be reckoned with. It takes a daring and brilliant driver to claim they will win the world title, at a point where they are nearly 50 points behind the leader.

But of course, that is not all there is to Alonso. His ascension to the top in 2010 was not without huge controversy in Germany, where Felipe Massa was shoved aside to allow Fernando win. In my opinion, without that order by Ferrari (and the subsequent win), Alonso wouldn’t have gotten the psychological motivation to challenge for the championship. If Massa had held his ground, then Fernando would have struggled much more in the second half of the season.

3 out of his 5 victories came in situations where his rivals missed their opportunities to win, be that reliability or team orders, once again awakening the argument of the lack of overtaking executed by Alonso. He could well have passed Massa, easily so if he was “much faster”, but played it safe and used the team instead.

Don’t take all of this the wrong way though. Fernando is still unbeatable on his day. Just look at Singapore, where he became the first driver out of all the championship contenders to take a Grand Slam (led every lap of the race from pole position, then take the win with fastest lap) result. Michael Schumacher is the only F1 driver still racing who has done this achievement.

At the end of the day though, his lack of overtaking was is downfall, spending 40 laps stuck behind a rookie in Abu Dhabi. Instead of making a move, he waited for a mistake from Petrov, which never happened, and then proceeded to complain aggressively to Vitaly after the race. Was he supposed to just jump out of the way? Not every driver is Felipe Massa, and this ultimately caused Alonso’s title loss this year.

2: Mark Webber

Dominant at times, disappointing at others, but still a wonderful campaign

Dominant at times, disappointing at others, but still a wonderful campaign

4 months ago:

“While he deservedly leads the championship at the moment, improvements must be made to secure the title.”

Now:

Recent revelations have shown us that Mark was racing with a fractured shoulder over the last 4 races of the season. The improvements that I spoke of could well have happened, but unfortunately bad luck never seems to leave Mark Webber.

The first 4 races were not very impressive for the Red Bull driver. With Sebastian Vettel taking (then sometimes losing) the lead at almost every race, Webber was being outperformed massively, and only a few races in, and I was wondering would he be replaced for 2011.

How he proved me wrong. Spain and Monaco were two of the best drives I’ve seen in recent times, completely dominant without a hint of over-aggression. Watching his post-race celebrations in Monaco, a new world champion was becoming apparent in many people’s views. Then, he was suddenly brought crashing back down to earth, as a badly-orchestrated move by his team-mate ruined a 1-2 finish in Turkey, and the team rounded around Sebastian, leaving Webber in the cold.

Silverstone saw Webber’s fightback, and “Not bad for a number 2 driver” was his way at getting back for Turkey, and the front wing controversy which overshadowed his British GP win to an extent. While Vettel was more heavily supported by the team, Webber seemed to have the overall strength to pull through.

Hungary demonstrated this well. While Vettel fell asleep at the race restart, and suffered a drive-through penalty, losing him the race win, Webber carved himself a 25 second lead to Alonso, and even with another pit stop, took a magnificent win.

Then came the shoulder injury, which surely hampered his performances from Japan onwards. While he was 2nd in Suzuka, Vettel was 1st, and this only got worse. He crashed out on his own in Korea, handing 43 points effectively to Sebastian, who subsequently lost those advantage points to Alonso. It seemed as if the Red Bulls were about to have the title ripped out of their hands, if Brazil hadn’t saved them all.

Another 1-2 finish was excellent, but there were hints that the team were going to get Vettel to allow Webber through, seeing as Sebastian was so far behind in the title race. This never came to fruition, and a possible lifeline to Mark was cut. Despite that though, he made his own fate in Abu Dhabi, being horribly off the pace all weekend. This disastrous race handed the title on a plate to Vettel, and Webber had nobody but himself to blame.

Maybe it’s over-analysis, but I think that Webber had plenty of opportunities to take the title, and the shoulder injury can only account for so many of these.

1: Sebastian Vettel

Despite slip-ups, Vettel is deservedly the world champion

Despite slip-ups, Vettel is deservedly the world champion

4 months ago:

“4 races were lost because of driver failure, and that is unacceptable from a potential world champion.”

Now:

What an incredibly topsy-turvy season it has been for Sebastian Vettel. From being public enemy no. 1 in Turkey and Belgium, to the stunning race wins which sealed him the title. Despite everything that has happened, there is no denying that Vettel was invincible at his best.

The amount of obstacles in Sebastian’s way was certainly a huge challenge, reliability being one of them. Bahrain, Australia, Spain and Korea all saw him lose the lead (or 2nd in Barcelona’s case) thanks to problems with the car. And yet, he fought his way back countless times from these.

In fact, the main obstacle was himself. A badly-placed move on Webber in Turkey showed he needed to mature, and the same story is clear in Spa, where he managed to T-bone Button in a straight line. He then followed this up with a poor move on Vitantonio Liuzzi, giving him a puncture, and killing all chances of points that day.

From that, I count 6 races ruined by either of those problems. And yet, he managed 5 victories in the other 13 races, every single one of those being the same, as when Sebastian is on form, he is an unstoppable force. If car troubles hadn’t got in the way, he could have taken 8 wins this year.

But that wouldn’t have made the championship very fun, would it? These troubles were simply challenges to be overcome, and so he did in spectacular fashion. As he did in 2009, he finished the 2010 season in stunning form, taking 3 out of 4 wins, and so very nearly 4 out of 5, if Alonso hasn’t held him off in Singapore.

With such dominant driving at his disposal, the world championship was the least he deserved. True, he  nearly bottled it on so many occasions, if he can fight back to clinch the title like that, then I believe he truly is the best driver of 2010.

2010 final driver rankings: 27 – 16

Just like the series of posts halfway through the season, these articles are to rank all of the drivers’ performances this season. Across the next few weeks, more detailed analysis will be written on each driver and team. For the moment, here are the lowest ranked 13 drivers of the year:

27: Sakon Yamamoto

Sakon has shown little to prove himself in F1

Sakon has shown little to prove himself in F1

4 months ago:

“His comic driving is coming at the expense of Chandhok and Senna”

Now:

With Hispania’s financial situation consistently becoming worse and worse, Yamamoto was an obvious choice to keep on for the rest of the year. However, despite the extra time in the car, he has shown absolutely no improvement, and has been vastly out-performed by all of his fellow drivers.

A 15th place finish out of 7 races is all Sakon has to show for this year, and unfortunately this simply won’t do, if HRT are to have any chance of catching up to Virgin and Lotus. Christian Klien, who similarly brings in quite a substansial financial package, has proved himself to be much faster, and it would be in the team’s best interests to switch the drivers for 2011.

26: Lucas di Grassi

Lucas has not stood up to Timo's pace

Lucas has not stood up to Timo's pace

4 months ago:

“While he has not been terrible, he needs to show his potential to stay in F1.”

Now:

His 14th-placed drive in Malaysia was his best of the year, and it must be considered that he did this even with the under-sized fuel tank that Virgin were struggling with earlier on. However, despite this, a lack of pace compared to Timo Glock has put his seat in doubt for next year.

In every race of 2010 where both Virgins finished, Di Grassi was beaten by Glock in every single one. While Timo has plenty of experience in F1, and I wouldn’t have been expecting Lucas to beat him, he still hasn’t proved his mettle to deserve a 2011 spot, which follows on from what I said 4 months ago.

25: Karun Chandhok

Chandhok has had no racing time since July

Chandhok has had no racing time since July

4 months ago:

“He has not been given the car to prove himself in the races.”

Now:

With much disappointment, my end-of season review for Karun Chandhok is exactly the same for his mid-season one, simply because he hasn’t been in an F1 car since.

Two 14th place results are slightly better than what Bruno Senna had to offer, but Karun has still been left on the sidelines since Germany, thanks to Yamamoto and Klien taking his place to keep HRT financially afloat.

Rumours have been moving about that Force India were considering Chandhok for next season, but Vijay Mallya has since snubbed the idea, leaving many in doubt as to whether the Indian can remain in Formula 1.

24: Bruno Senna

Senna has done well against Yamamoto, but less so against Klien

Senna has done well against Yamamoto, but less so against Klien

4 months ago:

“Showing his potential is nearly impossible, but it is certainly visible to see that Senna is the faster of the two Hispania drivers.”

Now:

A painful end to the year for Chandhok has completely evaded Bruno Senna, as he has managed to keep his race seat in all but one race. The HRT car has held him back, but he has at least comprehensively beaten Sakon Yamamoto.

A 14th place result in Korea was the best of the season, in difficult conditions for the Brazilian to survive. Rumours of him being replaced by pay drivers never surfaced, and he has done his best in a car that is rooted to the back of the grid. On the other hand though, Christian Klien has certainly pulled out a few surprises on Senna, particularly in qualifying, so Senna’s potential is still unclear.

23: Christian Klien

Christian Klien has shown good potential in qualifying

Christian Klien has shown good potential in qualifying

Was not racing by the time of the previous review.

Now:

Several impressive qualifying results have been heartening for Klien, but with only 3 races under his belt this year, it is still tough to judge his performance.

Both in Singapore and Brazil, Christian out-qualified Senna by huge margins (up to a second). However, in the races, all he has to show for himself is a 20th place finish. On two occasions out of three, his lack of race pace was down to the reliability of the car. Therefore, it would be very difficult to evaluate his drives just yet, but based on his Q3 pace, I would say that Klien made the best of what he had.

22: Vitantonio Liuzzi

4 months ago:

“In no way has Liuzzi justified his race seat this year.”
Now:

Liuzzi was at the back far too often in 2010

Liuzzi was at the back far too often in 2010

A 6th-placed finish was a good end to a dismal season for Liuzzi. While team-mate Adrian Sutil gave Michael Schumacher trouble in the championship table, Vitantonio has been lagging at the back with the Toro Rossos.

6 points finishes in a row was the highlight of Sutil’s season. Yet those 6 top 10 places are all that Liuzzi mustered over the entire year. The Force India car is not up to the pace of the Mercedes or Renault teams, but was well ahead of Williams and Sauber throughout most races. Adrian showed this, yet Tonio was consistently knocked out of Q1. He didn’t start too badly, with 9th and 7th in Bahrain and Australia, but another couple of 9ths were all he could manage until Belgium.

Retiring 4 times in the last 5 races (every time in a collision) was a disastrous end to a year to forget for Liuzzi. I would be hugely surprised if Force India were to retain him for 2011, with talent like Paul di Resta struggling to enter F1.

21: Timo Glock

Glock has not been given the car to succeed

Glock has not been given the car to succeed

4 months ago:

“Now is the time for Virgin and Glock to seize the initiative and get ahead of Lotus.”

Now:

With Lotus starting work on their 2011 car amazingly early, a lot of focus was on Virgin, to see if they could bridge the gap to the best new team of 2010. But, with their testing woes, undersized fuel tank saga, and endless reliability gremlins, the year never developed successfully for Virgin, which left Glock unable to prove his value to the team.

True, Timo only retired 3 times in the last 11 races, but in the other 8 cases, he never finished higher than 14th, and was nearly always stuck back in 17th or 18th place. In both 2008 and 2009, Timo stood up well to team-mate Jarno Trulli, so pace doesn’t seem to be the problem.

A much faster and reliable car is what Timo needs to get himself back up the grid next year.

20: Pedro de la Rosa

De la Rosa was miles off Kobayashi's pace

De la Rosa was miles off Kobayashi's pace

4 months ago:

“If Sauber are to move up the grid, they need a younger and certainly faster driver. Nick Heidfeld would do fine.”

Now:

Not a bad prediction, if I may say so. Pedro de la Rosa was completely lacklustre with the Sauber car this year, despite team-mate Kobayashi often having stunning performances.

One single points-scoring finish is all Pedro has to offer after 14 races, and that simply won’t do. Sauber gave up, and replaced him with Nick Heidfeld, who promptly equalled De la Rosa’s 14-race points tally after only 3 races.

He ended the season without a drive, and 5 times less points than Kamui. HRT are reported to be looking at the Spaniard for 2011, but despite this, his future is in serious doubt.

19: Jaime Alguersuari

Jaime was consistently very close to points

Jaime was consistently very close to points

4 months ago:

“One good points performance is not good enough to prove your place in Formula 1″

Now:

Unfortunately, this review is more of the same for Jaime Alguersuari. Three points finishes is all he could do, with a car that never really looked like pushing for points.

However, he also managed 5 11th-placed results, which shows he was on the pace quite often, and consistently beat Sebastien Buemi in the last 5 races. Therefore, it’s a little bit more difficult to assess Alguersuari compared to Buemi.

Franz Tost has praised Jaime over Sebastien, but I feel that, despite everything, Buemi did earn more points in the end, which is why Jaime ends the year lower down.

18: Jarno Trulli

Jarno has done well, but was still beaten by Kovalainen

Jarno has done well, but was still beaten by Kovalainen

4 months ago:

“While he is not off the pace, retirement seems to be looming for Trulli.”

Now:

With hindsight, retirement may not come so soon. Jarno has hinted at staying at Lotus for 2011, and with a much improved car expected, Trulli seems to remain a valuable asset to the team.

Excellent qualifying pace, but poor race pace, has always been Trulli’s downfall. However, now being near the back of the grid, this no longer occurs, as Jarno balanced out his pace between qualifying and races this year.

Japan is where the Lotuses performed best, with Kovalainen leading Trulli to 12th and 13th. In the races where both finished, Heikki was mostly ahead of Jarno, so despite his improvements, Trulli was still beaten by his team-mate. 2011 will tell us if he still has what it takes.

17: Sebastien Buemi

Buemi out-scored Alguersuari in 2010

Buemi out-scored Alguersuari in 2010

4 months ago:

“Maybe some good luck could show his real potential in the second half of 2010.”

Now:

The good luck never arrived for Buemi. A poor car, teamed with dissappointing pace in the final few races, left the Toro Rosso driver with only one points-scoring finish in the last 10 races.

On the other hand, he gave us a glimpse of his potential, by leading the Canadian Grand Prix, and holding back Hamilton and Alonso considerably well. He finished 8th, which was the best of the year for him. Despite this though, he was out-performed by Alguersuari near the end of the year, and has been critisised by the team for his lack of pace.

Daniel Ricciardo was being pushed to replace him, but after he was assigned the test driver role, 2011 is Buemi’s last chance to keep his race seat at Toro Rosso.

16: Nick Heifeld

Heidfeld impressed in only 5 races

Heidfeld impressed in only 5 races

Was not racing at time of last review.

Now:

A replacement for Pedro de la Rosa rather than a driver for next year, Nick Heidfeld still impressed many by beating Kamui Kobayashi in the final few races.

Arriving back to the paddock at the Singapore Grand Prix, after testing for Pirelli, Heidfeld was swiftly hit by the news that he would not be racing for Sauber in 2011, as rookie Sergio Perez was being brought in. Nevertheless, Nick got to work, getting more points than rookie sensation Kobayashi in the last 5 races. While he was overtaken easily by his team-mate in Japan, Nick still obtained 8th and 9th places in Suzuka and Korea.

I still believe Nick is a hugely talented driver, who richly deserves his first race win, but he will need to work fast just to get a drive for next year.

Part 2 will be up soon.

Thoughts on the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

So, the season finale of the 2010 Formula 1 season gave us our youngest ever world champion, but that’s not half of the story. Both Mark Webber and Fernando Alonso fell prey to mistakes in Abu Dhabi, though not through driver error.

First of all, when rating this race, it’s important to separate the title battle from the actual race. In the context, I would have said that the Abu Dhabi GP was actually very poor, as like last year, the track prevented overtaking, and restricted activity to strategy and not the driver skill.

However, it was the strategy aspect which threw away the title for Alonso today. His team opted to pit him early to cover Mark Webber, which deposited the Ferrari in a line of traffic, from which he never recovered. While Fernando can easily blame the team for putting him into this situation, the fact of the matter is that he failed to make a single overtaking move, not even on a rookie driver in a Renault.

Fernando’s actions after the race were simply disgraceful. To blame a fellow driver for doing his job demeans the entire sport. Not every driver on the track is like Felipe Massa, Vitaly was driving to secure a seat for next year, and he is expected to simply move out of the way? Any driver who expects this does not deserve the championship.

Meanwhile, as Alonso was stuck in 7th, the opportunity was present for Mark Webber to capitalise on this, but he too failed. He was struggling for pace all weekend, and never even looked like progressing up the field. Again, a performance like that does not earn you any titles.

A title well deserved for Sebastian Vettel

A title well deserved for Sebastian Vettel

Sebastian, on the other hand, put in a dominant performance like we have seen so many other times this year. He never looked like letting go of the lead, and with his title rivals slipping when they had to push, gave Vettel a well deserved world championship. I’ll have a separate post on this later.

But of course, there was more than the title to settle here. As I said earlier, Vitaly Petrov did extremely well to keep Fernando Alonso back for nearly the entire race, just like he did in Turkey. He has impressed me in his rookie season, and definitely deserves to keep his seat for 2011. His team-mate Robert Kubica also did well, starting from his worst qualifying spot of the year, to leap as high as second in the race, and he too did well in keeping back a much faster car, in the form of Lewis Hamilton.

Jaime Alguersuari is another driver who deserve a shout-out for his performance. Starting 17th, he progressed calmly up the field, almost invisible to the viewers, and ended up 9th, only 6 seconds behind Mark Webber. Both Toro Rosso drivers have disappointed in recent races, but this was a good way to end the year for the Red Bull sister team.

Schumacher's and Liuzzi's crash was far too close for comfort

Schumacher's and Liuzzi's crash was far too close for comfort

Nico Rosberg did very well to jump up to 4th, and was one of several drivers who threw the spanner in the works of Alonso’s title bid. Even before the race, he told journalists that he was planning to pit early, and so he did, utilising his strategy perfectly to move from 9th to 4th. His collision with Michael Schumacher at the start could have been avoidable, but I don’t think it was anyone’s fault, just the lightest of contact. However, the subsequent crash with Vitantonio Liuzzi needs to be scrutineered more closely, as the Force India came to a rest just centimetres from Schumacher’s head.

 

At the end of it all, there wasn’t very much racing action, yet plenty to keep our nails being bitten right to the very last lap. The podium was a lovely spectacle, I thought, as the three champions from the last 3 years were 1st, 2nd and 3rd. To make it better, Lewis Hamilton had the pressure off him for this race, so there were no sullen faces, just happiness for Vettel’s victory, which is great to see.

These 24 drivers have made 2010 a legendary Formula 1 season

These 24 drivers have made 2010 a legendary Formula 1 season

And finally, I’d just like to say that this has been one of the greatest Formula 1 seasons in history, and most certainly the best that I have ever watched. Never before has the world championship been so enthralling for me, and at the end of the day, the best man won, and the cheaters fell at the final hurdle.

Not that this is the end of my work. Throughout the winter, I hope to keep the blog well alive, keep writing all the way through the off-season, and also the introduction of a new series, which I’ll post about later. Stay tuned!

Thoughts on the Korean Grand Prix

The first ever Korean GP took place last week, and saw the tipping of the championship pendulum at least twice – with the retirements of Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber.The rain played havoc with the newly laid track, leading to a chaotic race with a lot to comment on. So, after it all, what’s the verdict?

The track

The track itself is certainly impressive, albeit in parts only. Much of the middle sector featured high-speed corners, testing car and driver. The first sector proved easy to overtake on, and the final sector looked very difficult, with unforgiving walls and little run-off area, as Mark Webber and Lucas di Grassi found out.

However, as we all know, this was all turned on its head by the rain. Because the tarmac was freshly laid, as well as the dust and oil from construction work, the water simply sat on top of the track instead of sloping off. This meant that, with low but persistent rain, the race was postponed for nearly an hour before racing commenced. Personally, I thought that the drivers could have handled the conditions from around Lap 10 onwards, but that’s another story.

Another interesting thing to note was that changes were being made on Saturday night, after complaints about several corners. The kerb on Turn 16, for example, was actually lower than the track, and the cars were running over the kerb, spitting up dust onto the track.

The circuit could well have been better prepared for the race

The circuit could well have been better prepared for the race

With that in mind, we may have to remember what we thought before the Korean GP: That the organisers were not prepared for a sporting event of this magnitude. The pit lane entry and exit were both unsafe and didn’t contribute anything positive to the race. The pit entry sported a huge bump on turn-in, causing Lewis Hamilton to nearly lose control in qualifying, while pit exit deposited the cars in the middle of a heavy braking zone, which is not a smart move if there is a car out of control under braking.

Despite all of this however, the track stood up to the test on race day, and hopefully these problems will be sorted out by next year.

The race

When I first watched the race on Sunday morning, I feared it would be a mix of Suzuka qualifying and Malaysia 2009. The Suzuka aspect certainly came true, with the race being red-flagged for the wet track. The Malaysia aspect was the fear of the F1 grid running out of sunlight before the race ended, which I’ll talk about later.

I thought that many of the drivers were being far too cautious when they were calling for the safety car to stay out. As Lewis Hamilton said, it was approaching intermediate tyre conditions, and if a Formula 1 driver can’t control their car in those sort of conditions, there is something seriously wrong.

The race, when it finally got underway, was a great one. Immediately, there were good spots to overtake, as well as a few we didn’t expect, like Turns 6 and 7. The Mercedes drivers certainly impressed me with their driving abilities, and if it wasn’t for Mark Webber taking out Nico Rosberg, I’m sure he would have got on the podium, if not even better.

This is the lap where Sebastian Vettel described the track as "undrivable" - Looks fine to me

This is the lap where Sebastian Vettel described the track as "undrivable" - Looks fine to me

Speaking of Webber’s crash, his actions were more than slightly dangerous, when he veered his car back across the track after he crashed. There was plenty of run-off area behind where he crashed, so he should have reversed his car back, instead of the stupidly dangerous move of turning back across. If that move was done by Michael Schumacher, I’d guarantee that an almightly storm of accusations would be flying around.

The Red Bulls, meanwhile, proved our fears that they simply cannot capitalise on their advantages. A 1-2 qualification was the bare minimum of their expectations, given their pace. Not for the first time this year, rain has thrown away a Red Bull lockout (China), and this time it has resulted in the team walking away empty-handed from a race they should have dominated. Only Red Bull could suffer this sort of luck…

On the other hand, after the race ended, conditions got much worse

On the other hand, after the race ended, conditions got much worse

As the race entered the closing stages, much was made of the lack of sunlight. I’ve been watching the onboard footage from the last few laps, and to be honest, can’t really see what the problem was about. Yes, there was less sunlight than the drivers may have wanted, but nowhere near bad enough to stop the race early. As I said earlier, if the drivers cannot handle these challenges, then Formula 1 is treating drivers too softly. On the other hand, right after the race ended, visibility dropped massively within a matter of minutes, so maybe we got off incredibly lucky with the timing.

My verdict

Despite all of the media’s speculation of the race not going ahead, the Yeongam circuit has put up a great show, and presented us a race to remember. It dealt many twists and turns to the championship battle, and has set us up for an epic showdown in Interlagos. Therefore, I would call it good excuse to declare the inaugural Korean Grand Prix a success.

 

F1 2010 game: My review

So, I got hold of my copy of F1 2010 last Friday, and have been testing away at it ever since. After a week, I’m ready to say that I’m hugely impressed by Codemasters’ work, and that this is by far the best Formula 1 game in recent times.

Before we get into the specifics about the game, first of all I’ll talk about how I played the game, just for reference. I didn’t have a steering wheel, which I’m told is absolutely fantastic fun, and this is for the Xbox 360 version, though I’m sure the PS3 variant can’t be too different. I haven’t tried out Xbox Live on it, as my connection is off (moving house if you’re wondering) until November. Also, I was racing on 20% race distance, hard level for AI drivers, and all driver aids switched off. Now on with the game…

Graphics

F1 2010 is a complete revolution, a massive leap from F1 Championship Edition, back in 2007. I don’t have a HD TV, but the graphics are still hugely impressive. Driving in the rain is not only a challenge, but extremely realistic as well. Spray is thrown onto your helmet, especially with the in-car camera, giving it all of the real-life effects of Formula 1.

Even when it’s not raining, the game stands out in a way never seen before. The dry racing line begins to develop once the rain stops, and it is precise and detailed down to the nearest millimetre.

Driving the car / Handling

Driving an F1 car is precision artwork, and you will soon find that out. While the traction control option is there, it is heavily advised you keep it off, it’s much more fun that way. The slightest twitch, mistake or spin of the wheels will leave you back-to-front and red in the face. Trust me, in the first few laps of playing the game, if you’re even remotely pushing, multiple spins will be on the cards.

We were promised “Authentic, predictable and consistent handling” and that’s just what we got. Once you get used to driving the car, you can eventually get into a routine, though it’s still very difficult to keep the car going. When the tyres go off, the car becomes an ice-skating rink, just as you’d expect.

Clipping the kerbs too hard, or putting a wheel in the gravel trap, will 100% of the time turn you the wrong way, and it’s a harsh but fun way of playing the game.

Damage

This is the one sector where I thought Codemasters cut the corner. While the front wing is beautifully fragile, and will come off in an instant, that seems to be the only part of the car you can get damage on. If you fly into the barriers at 100mph, you will take off the front of the car, but otherwise there isn’t much else.

Once, another car stopped on track, and I deliberately hit it on the side, just to see would it cause damage. It did, shards of carbon fibre went everywhere, but this appears to be difficult to achieve when racing on track. The back of the car is impervious to damage, and punctures are not caused by hitting another front wing, rather slamming into the barriers.

It’s not bad, but not great either, although it’s enough to keep me happy. It will need to be improved for future F1 games though.

Wet weather driving

This portion of the game is so brilliant it deserves its own review, never mind section. Wet races are what brings F1 2010 into a league of its own, bringing a whole new level of difficulty and realism.

First of all, your rules on tyre traction will need to be looked at. One small slip of the throttle, and you’re backwards into the barriers. Run too wide, or turn in too deep, and the same fate awaits. Opponents are more likely to make mistakes (and can also crash on their own), giving a whole new depth of true racing.

Of course, once the rain stops, the track will slowly dry out, and the fun continues. Here, the racing line starts to dry out, and you will be forced to run on the damp parts of the track to cool the tyres down.

You have to experience it yourself to get an idea of how good it is, as it’s undoubtedly the best part of this game.

The paddock

One of the most pushed features of F1 201o has been “live the life of an F1 driver”, and Codemasters have tried to do this by incorporating the life inside the paddock. I was looking forward to this a lot, but it seems to be mostly interviews, which can affect your relationship with the team, thereby assisting or damaging hopes for a contract next year.

The interviews are good, if a little unpunishing if you bad-mouth the team. Unfortunately there isn’t much else in the paddock section of note.

Other

The in-garage menus are excellent, allowing a huge range of changes to be made to the car, as well as a live timing-style screen, weather reports, tyre managment, and stats on your team-mate. The animations leaving and entering the garage before and after runs are also very well done.

I heard that pit stops can be fully manually controlled, but I can’t find the setting for it, so at the moment the only things you do for a pit stop are brake for the pit lane entry, brake again for the box, and disengage the limiter leaving the pits. I’ll edit this once I find out about the manual stops.

There are some very small problems with this game, but I really can’t deny that F1 2010 is a huge leap forward for Codemasters, and I’m certainly looking forward to their next release. I don’t have a marking system, but I’ll give it 92%.

The only glitch I've seen - The pit lane was blocked from a stranded car ahead

The only glitch I've seen - The pit lane was blocked from a stranded car ahead

Pros

  • Stunning graphics
  • Tyres are realistic
  • Wet weather driving is supremely difficult and entertaining
  • A new level of car handling

Cons

  • Reports of a few small glitches
  • A crowded pit lane will result in you being stuck waiting to be released for far too long
  • Not enough detail in the paddock, more features needed

Vettel destroying title bid with his own immaturity

Where, you may ask, is the driver that took his first victory at the Italian Grand Prix? The driver that, with an inferior car, could drive so calmly and yet commandingly to his first victory in the wet conditions? Well, he is still there, but Sebastian Vettel has begun to undermine his own talent with a series of impetuous and impatient mistakes.

When Vettel leads a race, very few will claim that he is anything but brilliant. When the track is clear in front of him, he can take control of the race and never look back, with unbeatable pace and consistency to match. But this is where the problem comes in. While his talent is obvious, wheel-to-wheel incidents have ruined Sebastian’s title challenge this year.

At yesterday’s Belgian Grand Prix, a dozen laps of sitting behind Jenson Button wore down the young German’s patience, and a silly mistake under braking left the world champion out, and the Red Bull with a broken front wing and a drive-through penalty. After analysis, it has been asserted that Sebastian made his mistake when he swerved out to the outside too quickly, and then went out of control.

This is the sort of mistake that a world champion would not make. Can you see Jenson Button making such a slip? No, because Jenson is able to calculate and strategise his every move, and while this sometimes leads to him lacking in pace, it is what won him the title last year.

Vettel, on the other hand, has a stream of gaffes to his name, the most memorable of which being the collision between him and team-mate Mark Webber in Turkey. It was a simple overtaking move for the lead, and Sebastian defended too vigorously, moving into the side of Webber, and forcing him into a crash. Since then of course, he has been in the news for completely unnecessarily sustaining a  drive-through penalty in Hungary, for holding up many of the cars at the restart.

Sure, many of his points losses this and last year can be accredited to reliability troubles, but the point is that he lacks the discipline and mental calmness to become Formula 1 World Champion – for the moment anyway. The 23-year-old has plenty of time to learn in his career, but for the moment any world championship would come undeserved.

Sebastian reminds me of Gilles Villeneuve in a way, as both of these drivers can, on  special occasions, produce blistering performances that leave their rivals in awe. What Sebastian lacks is the emotional control that pulls the driver through difficult situations, such as wheel-to-wheel races like we saw on Sunday. A true world champion would soon realise this.

A look at the F1 2011 applicants

The FIA has opened the process to accept one more team into the Formula 1 paddock for 2011. After the epic failure of USF1, more stringent measures are being put in place this time to ensure the same does not happen again. It has not, however, deterred teams from their interest, and we will now have a look at their applications.

Durango/Villeneuve Racing


This application is a tie-up between the racing team Durango, who currently compete in the AutoGP series (formerly European Formula 3000), and 1997 World Champion Jacques Villeneuve. It is understood that this team would be named after Villeneuve if they are successful.

AutoGP isn’t a bad place for a racing team, but Durango only ran 1 car in this series, which will damage their application. However, they have previously raced in Formula 3 and sports cars. They also competed in GP2 between 2005 and 2008, where they took 3 wins. While this is good, they have since dropped out of the 2009-2010 GP2 Asia Series, due to financial problems. However, despite winning races in GP2, they blatantly broke the rules regarding standard-spec parts.

In 2006, they manufactured their own parts, instead of using Dallara’s own spec equipment. At Silverstone that year, Lucas di Grassi’s rear wing came off, and it emerged that instead of sending the car back to Dallara, Durnago decided to repair it themselves, and did a terrible job of it.

Then, it got even worse in Spa 2008, when Stefano Coletti’s steering column snapped (probably another botched repair job) at Eau Rouge. When the team turned up at the next race in Monza, Dallara had impounded one of their cars, as it was too unsafe for use, as the team had badly repaired it once too many. Interestingly enough, no official explanation came out for either of these 2 incidents I mentioned, I had to dig deep to get a hold of them. Therefore, you can’t rule out Durango trying to cover up this farce, which wouldn’t surprise me at all.

It gets even worse. Last year, it emerged that Durango was being investigated for criminal tax evasion and fraud, and that it had been using a system of companies which constantly changed their names to issue bills with inflated figures in order to reduce costs and lower the payable tax. It has been reported that Durango has €12m of unreported revenue, €11m of false invoicing, €3m of unpaid tax, and they reduced their base tax illegally by €16m. Nice.

Despite all of this, the team still believes they have the funds to enter F1 (even if they can’t afford to stay in GP2), and claim that they have 2 major international finance suppliers or sponsors. It is believed that one of these is Russian.

However, Durango is the last team I would look at for an F1 spot. They look completely unprofessional, may well have covered up their troubles (I can’t allege it though, no proof), and at the end of the day, they can’t even properly repair their own car. They look as viable as USF1.

Pros: Good experience in a variation of motorsport categories. And a nice livery.

Cons: Can’t repair their own car, huge amounts of tax evasion and fraud, broke GP2’s standard-spec equipment rule multiple times, no clear investment, very little known about their actual team.

Overall: Not a hope in hell of them getting through.

Stefan GP


A name that should be easily remembered, if you were following this blog in January-March.  Stefan GP has not raced in any other categories of motorsport at all, but have more technical partnerships to prop them up than Durango. Toyota’s technical details, as well as the chassis  from their 2010 car which was never raced, has been obtained by the Serbian team. It certainly wasn’t a bad piece of kit for them to get themselves experienced, as the TF110 features a triple-decker diffuser, and a radical aerodynamic profile.

Stefan GP had obtained this car before the 2010 season began, but were turned away by the FIA, as they felt they wouldn’t have time to get up to speed. However, the team are trying again next year with the same car, and they have talked to many drivers, such as Sebastien Loeb.

However, like Durango, Stefan GP have a shady background which does not inspire confidence. The team owner, Zoran Stefanovich, owns a Serbian engineering company called AMCO. This company convinced Toyota that they were involved with space and military technology, to get Toyota to support Stefan GP.

To convince Toyota, they set up web pages, that said that AMCO worked with Germany’s Federal Defence Force on flight drones and contributed to the European Space Agency’s orbit launch rocket Ariane 5. But, the German Defense Force then responded that “there are no technologies of the AMCO”.

Furthermore, after looking at the company’s registry, it emerged that the AMCO was founded with capital of… €500. The company has only one employee, took in €3315 in 2009, and after deductions (no info available), ended up with a net total of €42 profit. Yeah!

So, it is obvious that Zoran Stefanovich and his companies are complete frauds, and I’m praying that this is the reason why the FIA turned them down. Of course, the FIA cannot allege what I said, since concrete facts cannot be obtained without a criminal investigation, and I’m not convinced the Serbian government can get that done.

Pros: Very eager to get into F1, despite the probability that they wouldn’t get in, excellent technical partnership with Toyota.

Cons: A fraud company owned by the team owner, too aggressive towards FIA.

Overall: Up to a while ago I wanted them to get in, but never again.

Epsilon Euskadi


While there are very suspicious operations behind Durango and Stefan GP, no such problems occur with Epsilon Euskadi (try saying that 5 times quickly). At the moment, this team competes in the Le Mans Series, World Series by Renault, Formula Renault 2.0 West, and the European Cup.

The team have a history of promoting well known and sometimes very successful drivers, such as Robert Kubica (won the 2005 World Series by Renault with the team), Jaime Alguersuari (won the Formula Renault 2.0 Italia Winter Series), Brendon Hartley ( winner of the 2007 Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0) and Albert Costa (winner of 2009 Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0).

The team itself it fantastically well-equipped, with an Innovation and Technology Centre to design their F1 car if they are accepted. Also, they have backing from Carlos Garcia, the president of the Spanish Automobile Association, which is an important factor when considering the teams.

On the other hand, their financial situation is unclear, so we will have to wait and see can they get any sponsors on board. Despite this, I firmly believe that Epsilon Euskadi are the best team for the job, and I would also love to see them replace the disastrous Hispania team, which throws out its perfectly good race drivers just to stay financially afloat.

Pros: Impressive technical facilities, huge experience in motorsport, great eye for upcoming young drivers, titles in many racing categories, well supported from the region.

Cons: Unclear financial situation may hamper their budget.

Overall: The best option for the empty grid slot, and even if they were somehow rejected, they could replace Hispania instead.

2010 Half-way driver rankings: 5-1

Over the last two days I have looked at 20 of the grid’s drivers, so here are the final top 5 drivers of 2010 so far:

5: Sebastian Vettel

A review of Vettel’s season will always begin with the same question: Why isn’t he leading the championship? True, he lost 38 points in the first two races thanks to mechanical failures, but the truth is that Sebastian has bottled nearly every chance he has had of taking the lead of the drivers’ championship.

It has been starting from 1st position that has been his weak point, as after 7 pole positions this year, he has only won one of those races. His other win was back in Malaysia, when he took Mark Webber on the first corner. By my calculations, Vettel has had 8 chances to win races this year. 2 of those were hampered by reliability, 2 of them were actually won, while the other 4 races were lost because of driver failure, and that is unacceptable from a potential world champion.

Perhaps the most disappointing part of Sebastian’s season so far has been the fact that, when the team is split, the bosses always backed Vettel. Take the crash between in Turkey for example. While the crash was completely Sebastian’s fault, the team still instantly sided with him, and blamed Webber for the crash, with no evidence to do so. After huge pressure from the fans (I was going to point out an article on Red Bull’s site after Turkey where thousands of fans blasted the team for favouritism, but they removed the comments section recently), the team eventually said that both drivers were at fault, then moved on.

It wasn’t over though. When the team opted to take Mark Webber’s front wing and give it to Sebastian in Britain, it set off the same argument again. To summarise, while Sebastian would technically have been in the lead without reliability gremlins, he needs to win the championship through consistency and equality in the team something which is lacking at the moment.

4: Jenson Button

Many claimed that the 2009 champion would be slaughtered by Lewis Hamilton by moving to McLaren. This move, they claimed, would prove that his championship success was purely because of the Brawn car, and not the driver. After only half a year at McLaren, Jenson Button has proved his critics completely wrong, and has made the best possible move to defend his title.

While it surely takes time for drivers to adapt to a new team, Button has settled in remarkably well in McLaren, being only 10 points off Lewis Hamilton after 12 races. He was beating him earlier in the year, after victories in Australia and China, both through excellent strategy and tyre managment. However, a recent slump in form is damaging his championship hopes. His raw pace is simply not good enough, and in dry-weather races with low tyre degradation, Button has stood no chance. His consistency has helped him though, in the fact that, except Monaco, he has finished every single race in the top 8.

But again, there is no point in being consistent when your team-mate keeps out-performing you. Jenson hasn’t qualified ahead of Lewis since China, a gap of 8 races. This has given Lewis a massive advantage in races, as Jenson generally can’t keep up. While there aren’t many drivers faster than Hamilton when he is on the pace, Button still needs to counter this and get his way back up the field.

3: Mark Webber

In the top 5 drivers of the championship, 4 of these have scored 2 wins each, a respectable amount considering the topsy-turvy form this season. However, Mark Webber has scored 4 wins so far, every single one of them convincingly. When Webber is in top form, he has been simply unstoppable, and is a deserving 1st place in the championship.

So why, you may ask, is he only 3rd in the rankings? Well, when he is on form he is brilliant, but when he is off form, it is dire to watch. His scrappy form in Australia was awful, and he ended up crashing into Lewis Hamilton for no explainable reason. A horrible start in Valencia ruined his race there, before it was sealed with a collision with Heikki Kovalainen, which in my view was more Mark’s fault.

But, he is still leading the championship, and with good reason. His dominant performances in Monaco and Spain were fantastic, and he overcame team bias to win in Britain. In Hungary, a massive stint on the super-softs paid off, although he was helped by Vettel’s penalty. Another excellent drive was qualifying in Malaysia, where a gamble on the intermidiate tyres paid off, to take pole position.

So, while he deservedly leads the championship (just) at the moment, improvements must be made to secure the title for Mark Webber.

2: Robert Kubica

The Polish driver is in a situation very similar to 2008. He is in a car that is unable to challenge for wins, yet he is smashing his way up to the top of the grid when he can, and has proven multiple times that he is one of the best drivers on the grid, just without the best car.

His results, on paper, don’t look to impressive to the average F1 fan, with only two podium positions. But, when you consider the fact that he is in only the 5th or 6th best car, Robert Kubica is driving the R30 out of its skin. He does so by avoiding the mistakes the frontrunners have made, such as qualifying in Malaysia, tyre choice in Australia and China, and when that doesn’t suffice, he can outperform some of the best drivers in terms of sheer pace.

He got 2nd place in Australia, by simply combining good strategy with a fast pace, something most of the championship contenders couldn’t do. He beat the Ferraris in Turkey, simply through raw pace. All of this has been done with remarkable consistency, as Robert Kubica has never spun or crashed this year. All of his retirements or his one race outside the points were caused by mechanical failures or Adrian Sutil.

After another season mixing it with the top drivers, you would wonder why the main teams haven’t tried to get him on board. his best shot is at Ferrari, where there might be an opening as Felipe Massa struggles for pace.

1: Lewis Hamilton

I’ve never really liked Lewis Hamilton, to be honest. The massive media attention from the second he entered the sport, to the stuck-up attitude he showed all through 2007. However, since then, Lewis has been improving and improving, and in 2010 has matured incredibly, with a hint of caution to his speed and aggression, which has turned him into a more complete racing driver, and one of the favourites for the title.

When he has found himself down the field in Australia, Malaysia or China, he has fought his way back up the grid, and does so in breathtaking fashion. In Spain, he was on course to split the Red Bulls, after they had out-qualified the grid by an entire second, before a broken wheel nut forced him out at the very end. His first win of 201o was obtained by sticking behind the Red Bulls, and when they crashed out, the win was Lewis’ for the taking. Then, in Canada, he got an excellent pole position, the only non-Red Bull one so far, and stayed calm throughout a chaotic race to take one of the best wins of his career.

A slightly sluggish start was odd for him, and brushed a little to close to the stewards in Malaysia, but these are very small instances when you compare them to the troubles of the other top drivers. There is no blatant favouritism at McLaren, so if Lewis wins the title, it is because of his work. His car will need to improve in the next few races though.

2010 Half-way driver rankings: 12-6

This is the second part of the half-way rankings of all of the drivers so far this year. I wasn’t able to fit all 12 top drivers in one post, so these are drivers 12-6:

12: Vitaly Petrov

The Vyborg Rocket has had a tough time trying to keep up with his extremely talented team-mate Robert Kubica, but Vitaly hasn’t let himself down either. The first few races were difficult, as only one points position in the first 10 races was below expectations. However, his defensive driving certainly impressed me, most notably in Turkey against Fernando Alonso, who he held off for most of the race. They eventually clashed, with Petrov coming off worse, but he had still made an impact.

However, it soon became clear that he would have to up his game to keep his seat for 2011, and he has done exactly that. A 10th place in Germany was the start, then he qualified 7th and finished 5th in Hungary, a career best. On both occasions these finishes were because of his driving skill, not getting lucky with the safety car like others have done. A few more points finishes will seal his seat for next year.

11: Felipe Massa

For most of the first half of the season, very little mention was made of Felipe’s recovery from his crash in Hungary, which he only returned from this year. He started impressively, with 2 podium positions in the first 2 races, but since then has been well outpaced by Fernando Alonso. It wasn’t too notable until Canada onwards, when a string of poor performances mixed with bad luck shot down his chances for the championship.

With this in mind, the team decided to push Fernando Alonso’s assault for the title instead, and used Massa to hand the lead of the German Grand Prix. Massa has since received critisism worldwide, especially in Brazil, for being weak and spineless in handing his position over. In my view, the team orders scandal could have been avoided if Massa had just been driving as fast as, or faster than, Alonso. At the moment, Felipe is 63 points behind Mark Webber. Significant improvement is needed to justify his new 2012 contract.

10: Adrian Sutil

2010 saw the arrival of something completely unprecedented: Adrian Sutil hasn’t crashed into anything yet this season. This has been his main weakness so far in his F1 career, so now we can truly see Sutil’s potential. So far, he has 35 points, more than double that of team-mate Vitantonio Liuzzi. Adrian is driving very much like Nico Rosberg did last year, getting consistent points finishes in a midfield car, while their fumbling team-mates held the team back.

Adrian has every reason to be happy with his performances so far, as he is only 3 points behind Michael Schumacher. While the Mercedes’ understeering nature doesn’t suit Schumacher, it must still be a good feeling to be close to overtaking a 7-times world champion. 6 points-scoring positions in a row has been Sutil’s highlights so far, and Belgium and Italy are up next, so there is a great chance of his first ever Formula 1 podium finish.

9: Kamui Kobayashi

I can still clearly remember last year in Brazil and Abu Dhabi, when this Toyota test driver suddenly became a Formula 1 favourite, thanks to his “absolutely crazy, very aggressive” driving, as Jenson Button called it. His overtake on the Brawn in Abu Dhabi single-handedly granted him a drive with Sauber this year. At the start, it seemed as if it was just a one-hit wonder, as  until Turkey he only had one single, unimpressive finish. But, he didn’t let us down that easily, and as the car has improved, has shown us dazzling performances that makes him one of my favourite drivers.

His first points finish was 10th in Turkey, with not much to report. However, in Valencia, he pulled off a risky hard-tyre strategy to leap up to 7th place, after overtaking Fernando Alonso and Sebastien Buemi (on the last corner of the last lap). Then, at Silverstone, he got another impressive 6th place, and has since gt 9th in Hungary as well. All of this has come from a car with dire performance and reliability (and the worst livery on the grid). Kamui has overcome all of these obstacles to fully justify his place on the F1 grid.

8: Rubens Barrichello

Like Adrian Sutil and Kamui Kobayashi, Rubens Barrichello has impressed me this year, comfortably beating his team-mate to be the driving force of the Williams team. 6 points finishes out of 11 finishes overall, in a mediocre car, is certainly a good performance. Valencia was by far his best drive this year, where he valiantly held off Robert Kubica to finish 4th. Another impressive race in Great Britain left him 5th, and he was also 10th in Hungary.

With exactly 3 times the points tally of Nico Hulkenberg, Barrichello has proved that his experience in his 299 Grands Prix has not affected his pace at all, and he is still able to mix it with the frontrunners. If it wasn’t for a loose drain cover in Monaco, he would have finished every race as well, meaning he is bulletproof reliable as well. The only main problem he still needs to face is the difficulty he faces with the starts, more specifically he needs to stop releasing the clutch too early, as he has done a few times in recent years.

7: Nico Rosberg

As previously mentioned, this year’s Mercedes car has suffered chronic understeer, mainly as it was designed for Jenson Button’s driving style. While Michael Schumacher has toiled with the W01, Rosberg has kept his head down and got on with the job, and has hugely impressed me by his ability to pull podium positions out of a extremely disappointing car.

If it wasn’t for 13th place in Spain, where he struggled with the new longer-wheelbase car, and the mistake from the pit crew in Hungary, Nico would have finished in the points in every race so far, which is what he was doing for a lot of the season back at Williams. Three podium positions, in Malaysia, China and Britain, as well as three 5th places, show his potential. He has twice as many points as Schumacher, and before Hungary had more points than Felipe Massa, which is a huge achievement considering how much faster the Ferrari is. However, competition from Renault and Force India may well dampen Rosberg’s second half of 2010, as the car appears to go backwards.

6:  Fernando Alonso

At the start of the season, Alonso said that titles may well take time with Ferrari. While this was probably being pessimistic, Alonso has done well in his first season so far for Ferrari, but the controversies just seem to follow him around.

Alonso’s return to a top Formula 1 team started well with a win in Bahrain, thanks to Sebastian Vettel’s reliability woes. However, by Malaysia, Alonso fell prey to problems, with a gearbox problem and engine failure forcing him out after battling his way up the grid. From then on, a string of 6 high-scoring positions followed, as the car was unable to challenge for wins just yet. But, within 2 races, 2 different controversies circulated around Alonso. First of all, he was blamed for getting a drive-through penalty in Britain, after cutting a corner to pass Robert Kubica.

Then in Germany, his team blatantly handed him the win by getting Felipe Massa to allow him past. Fernando has the pace to win, and should not have to resort to pushing his team-mate past to win. However, he also has a characteristic that, when he is surrounded in controversy, he often produces a great result. He did so in Hungary, when he split the dominant Red Bulls to finish 2nd. Fernando is well on course to challenge for the championship, but needs to do so without using Massa.

Part 3 of my half-way driver rankings will be up tomorrow.

2010 Half-way driver rankings: 25-13

This article, and one to follow, will rank this year’s drivers depending on how well they have done, in my opinion. I was planning to have this up before the Hungarian GP, but a delay forced me to move it back, but it’s up now:

(All facts and figures were written before the Hungarian Grand Prix)

25: Sakon Yamamoto

It would have been very funny, except for the fact that his comic driving is coming at the expense of Karun Chandhok and Bruno Senna, who have been forced to give up their driver seats at certain races. He is only here because of extra sponsorship, which the team needs, and he is completely wasting their time, never getting out of last place, and miles off the pace of anyone else. In Germany, he started the race with the pit limiter on dropping him miles back, then later hit the engine fire switch instead of the brake bias lever, causing him to retire. An absolute joke.

24: Lucas di Grassi

At the start of the season, Lucas and Timo were unable to finish races, mostly because of Virgin’s terrible reliability, but also because of the fuel tank, which was too small to last until the finish. A fix for this only came for Lucas in Turkey,and since then he has not been granted much opportunity to prove himself.

Timo Glock has been leading the attack against Lotus, to no prevail, while Di Grassi has mostly been behind Timo, as shown by the fact that he has been out-qualified 10 times by Glock this season so far. While he has not been terrible, he needs to show his potential to stay in F1.

23: Karun Chandhok

Karun is probably the nicest driver you will ever meet in the paddock, although unfortunately has not been given the car to prove himself in the races. The Hispania car is miles off the pace, and Karun has only Bruno Senna to race for position. Mostly, Bruno has won, leaving Chandhok further down the order. However, recently the team have decided that they don’t need performance as much as money, so Chandhok has been ditched in favour of Yamamoto, leaving Chandhok on the sidelines, and now unable to gain experience.

22: Vitantonio Liuzzi

In no way has Liuzzi justified his race seat this year, and with a car like the Force India, it is a complete waste of time with Vitantonio there. One good qualifying performance in Canada is all he has mustered, and a first-lap collision with Felipe Massa took him straight out of contention, although he was able to grab a point.

He has been out-qualified 9 times out of 11 by Adrian Sutil, and has been completely off the pace compared to his team-mate. In some races, h was up to 0.8 seconds slower, and Force India cannot afford this any longer. Paul di Resta is waiting on the sidelines, and after a few impressive Friday Practice runs, has gained good experience to deserve Liuzzi’s place.

21: Pedro de la Rosa

There has only been one points-scoring position so far this year for de la Rosa, while rookie team-mate Kamui Kobayashi has (deservedly) taken all the glory with impressive performances and excellent strategies. Pedro was on course for points in Valencia, but a 5-second penalty after the race brought him down to 12th. It has taken him until Hungary to get himself on the points board. Put simply, he is not on the pace enough to justify his race seat.

His experience must have helped the team out in testing, but in the races De la Rosa has been unable to deliver the goods when the opportunity arises, unlike Kobayashi. Because of poor reliability, he has only finished 5 races, 4 of these have been outside the points. In my view, Pedro won’t be able to keep improving in the car like Kobayashi, and if Sauber are to move up the grid, they need a younger and certainly faster driver. Nick Heidfeld would do fine.

20: Timo Glock

When the opportunity arises, sometimes the Virgin cars have the opportunity to challenge the Lotus cars. In these cases, it has been Timo Glock leading the charge. While the fuel tank saga held him back for the first quarter of the year, since then he has continued to out-qualify his team-mate and consistently finish well.

While Lotus are developing next year’s car from now on, now is the time for Virgin and Glock to seize the initiative and get ahead of Lotus, and extend the gap to Hispania.

19: Jaime Alguersuari

One good points performance is not good enough to prove your place in Formula 1. For the Toro Rosso drivers, consistent points finishes is what is required, and Alguersuari hasn’t scored a single point since Spain, while team-mate Sebastien Buemi has led a race, got more points-scoring positions, and better finishes than Jaime.

A 9th and 10th is all Jaime has to his name, giving him a total of 3 points, while Buemi has 7. With the Hungarian Grand Prix approaching, it has now been exactly a year since Alguersuari entered F1, and he has not proved himself yet. He has been out-qualified 9 times so far by Buemi, and is falling out of contention for the 2012 Red Bull seat.

While his defensive driving has occasionally been impressive, his form must improve if he is to prove his potential in Formula 1.

18: Bruno Senna

Having out-qualified team-mate Karun Chandhok 7 times comprehensively so far, Bruno is completing his first steps in F1 well. With a dog of a car at his disposal, showing his potential is nearly impossible, but it is certainly visible to see that Senna is the faster of the two Hispania drivers.

While a 16th place is his highest finish so far, Senna has also suffered more reliability problems, and that has hampered his assault on the Virgin cars. To be honest, staying in HRT after this year would be a complete waste of time, so it is up to Bruno to get the attention of a better team, and jump ship before his chance goes away.

17: Nico Hulkenberg

Before the season began, Nico Hulkenberg was my favourite rookie, and the one driver I was tipping to cause an upset. Unfortunately I was wrong on both counts, as Hulkenberg’s drives so far have been disappointing at best. Two measly points is all he can offer, while team-mate Barrichello has been challenging as high as 4th place in some races.

His lack of maturity has let him down on occasions, such as pointlessly crashing in Friday Practice in Spain. Two 10th place finishes is all he can offer, and so far I can’t see why he would have deserved anything better. He has been out-qualified 8 times by Barrichello, and put simply his pace is not good enough. It seems as if he will be retained for one more year by Williams, but improvement is needed.

16: Jarno Trulli

The “Trulli Train” has not appeared so far this season, to my relief, which means that, even in the races, Jarno Trulli can now race at the same pace with the other new teams. Traditionally, he would qualify well, and then fall away. While this has happened this year when racing with his team-mate, it is not as profound as it used to be.

However, on the other hand, qualifying, where Jarno is supposed to be better than Heikki, has not gone entirely his way. He is currently leading 6-5 to Heikki, but has been consistently been out-performed in the races. Trulli is now one of F1’s most experienced drivers, but I can’t help but feel that his heart is not in it any more, as he is not driving with as much heart these days.

A senseless lunge at Chandhok in Monaco showed that he didn’t analyse the situation properly. While he is not off the pace, retirement seems to be looming for Trulli.

15: Sebastien Buemi

An excellent qualifying record against his team-mate has helped Sebastien Buemi improve in his second year of F1, and he is well on course to challenge for the Red Bull seat in 2012, so long as he continues improving. To do this, more points finishes are required.

That may be difficult with the Toro Rosso car he has at the moment, but 3 points-scoring finishes so far proves that it is possible. He led the race in Canada for a lap, and managed to just about hold off Alonso and Hamilton at the same time, which shows how well he is improving in his second year.

While bad luck hampered the first half of his season, especially in Australia and Spain, he has comprehensively beaten his team-mate, and maybe some good luck could show his real potential in the second half of 2010.

14: Heikki Kovalainen

Heikki has been the best driver out of the new teams so far, and with good reason. He has always been the driver to challenge the midfield, whenever the opportunity arises, and got within 2 tenths of out-qualifying Kamui Kobayashi in Canada. After two troubled seasons with McLaren, where he was well beaten by Lewis Hamilton, he seems much happier at Lotus.

His best finish has been a 13th place, the best of the new teams so far. Without a doubt, I would put my money on Kovalainen to out-qualify some of the drivers in the midfield this year, and maybe get a point.

13: Michael Schumacher

Even before the season, Michael was making his presence felt, by taking the number 3 car off Nico Rosberg, simply to try and intimidate him. However, in the first half of 2010, Schumacher has turned into a laughing stock, as he has been slaughtered by Rosberg, made stupid dangerous defensive moves, and has been knocked out of Q2 countless times.

Schumacher’s tendency to follow Ross Brawn around, wherever he goes, has backfired on Schumacher, as the Mercedes car is not good enough to challenge for wins yet. However, Nico has got 3 podium finishes so far, while Michael is the only driver out of the top 4 teams to not have stepped on the podium this year. Clearly, Michael simply doesn’t have the pace any more, and is embarrassing himself, and his list of records, every race he competes in. He doesn’t have the pace, has simply shoved other drivers off the road, and simply does not deserve the Mercedes seat any more. His lethal move on Rubens Barrichello in Hungary was the icing on the cake of his retirement party.

Part 2 will be up soon.

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