Tag Archives: F1 2011

2011 final driver rankings: 28th – 19th

This will be the complete ranking of each driver in 2011 based on their performances throughout the season. These rankings also contain clippings from previous reviews from 2011 and 2010. Without further delay, here are the first 10 drivers to be examined:

28th – Karun Chandhok

Chandhok had one chance for redemption and failed

Chandhok had one chance for redemption and failed

Previous ranking: 25th (2010 final rankings)

Review from last ranking: He has not been given the car to prove himself in the races.” (2010 half-way review)

The popular Indian driver’s season got off to a miserable start in Melbourne, crashing three turns into his out lap.

He was drafted in for a one-off drive at the Nurburgring, and was completely off the pace, spinning several times and resulting in Chandhok finishing 2 laps behind his teammate.

He made no impact at all during his practice session runs during the season, and his rejected attempt to drive at the Indian Grand Prix was embarrassing to say the least.

27th – Jarno Trulli

Retirement is still knocking on Jarno's door

Retirement is still knocking on Jarno's door

Previous ranking: 23rd

Review from last ranking: “Retirement may not be too far off the horizon for Trulli.”

After another season considerably out-paced by his teammate, its a wonder as to why Caterham will retain Trulli for next season.

Blaming most of his problems on a strange power steering issue, Jarno was still miles off the pace of Heikki Kovalainen after this had been fixed. The former one-lap master was out-qualified 16 times out of 19 this year.

He performed reasonably well in Monaco, but apart from this, it was a truly dismal season for Jarno. After Vitaly Petrov was ousted from his Renault seat, it makes you wonder will the Italian be seen in the paddock in 2012.

26th – Narain Karthikeyan

Karthikeyan impressed in India, but that was about it

Karthikeyan impressed in India, but that was about it

Previous ranking: 24th

Review from last ranking: “With disappointing pace in a lacklustre car, a replacement driver was inevitable.”

Many were very surprised to see Narain return in Australia after a 5-year absence, but that was basically all the impact the Indian had all year.

He was ousted after 8 races, but I was rather impressed with his one-off return at the Indian Grand Prix. Karthikeyan performed reasonably well in a car he had to re-acquaint himself with, and finished ahead of his teammate.

However, this was the only shining moment in a dull and uninspired season for Narain.

25th – Pastor Maldonado

It has been a dreadful debut for Maldonado

It has been a dreadful debut for Maldonado

Previous ranking: 22nd

Review from previous ranking: “If he is unable to turn this form into results, then there will be little future for Maldonado in Formula 1.”

The 2010 GP2 champion has given no reason as to why he deserves to be in Formula 1, relying solely on a substantial paycheck by his fellow Venezuelan backers.

Williams are known to be in trouble financially, and with their decision to float an IPO failing also, they turned to Maldonado to keep the team afloat. He may have done that, but Pastor hasn’t done much else. A single solitary point is all Maldonado has to offer at the end of 2011.

He performed well in Monaco, and was on course for a 6th-placed finish before clashing with Lewis Hamilton. However, he was less friendly with Lewis at Spa, deliberately trying to punt the McLaren off the track.

The last time a driver deliberately crashed in Formula 1, he was disgraced and essentially thrown out of the sport. I wouldn’t have minded if the same happened to Maldonado.

24th – Vitantonio Liuzzi

Liuzzi was well out-performed in the second half of 2011

Liuzzi was well out-performed in the second half of 2011

Previous ranking: 20th

Review from previous ranking: “Vitantonio has done well to demonstrate his prowess in a dismal car.”

In the first half of the season, it appeared as if Liuzzi had driven well, comprehensively beating Karthikeyan and giving HRT their best ever finish in Canada.

But, once Daniel Ricciardo was ordered to replace Karthikeyan, Tonio’s lack of pace was revealed, and his season began to unravel. In the 6 times where both HRTs finished, Liuzzi only beat the rookie twice.

Even when he was in front of Ricciardo, he was never definitively faster than him, and causing a multiple-car crash in Monza was the low point of what could be the last season for Liuzzi.

23rd – Jerome D’Ambrosio

D'Ambrosio has not done badly, but not well enough

D'Ambrosio has not done badly, but not well enough

Previous ranking: 21st

Review from previous ranking: “A first foray into F1 has not gone disastrously just yet for Jerome D’Ambrosio.”

For a rookie, D’Ambrosio was unusually quiet – and that’s not a good thing.

He failed to make a considerable impact at Virgin, but never disgraced himself either. A pair of 14th place finishes kept him ahead of Timo Glock in the drivers’ standings. His worst moment was probably Hungary, where he spun in the pit lane, almost taking his mechanics out with him.

An oddly anonymous debut is not what a rookie driver needs, although I’m still surprised to see him replaced by another rookie. Jerome had the potential to do better, and it’s been disappointing to see him leave F1 so soon.

22nd – Timo Glock

Glock deserves better after 2 lacklustre Virgin cars

Glock deserves better after 2 lacklustre Virgin cars

Previous ranking: 18th

Review from previous ranking: “He has consistently out-qualified D’Ambrosio, and is set to perform better as the season progresses.”

Another season languishing at the back is not what a talented driver like Timo Glock needs to progress his career.

He did his best to prove his worth – particularly in Monaco – but the lack of pace from the MVR-02 held him back.

While Lotus/Caterham continued their ascent to the midfield, all Glock could do was circulate ahead of D’Ambrosio and the HRT cars, and he generally did just that. We all know Timo deserves better, and with a move to a better team out of the question for 2011, next season looks like a similar struggle.

21st – Rubens Barrichello

Not much to talk about for Barrichello

Not much to talk about this year for Barrichello

Previous ranking: 17th

Review from previous ranking: “A horribly uncompetitive Williams is to blame for Barrichello’s slump, but being pushed by underperforming rookie Maldonado does not bode well for Rubens.”

Only two years ago the thought of placing Barrichello this far down the rankings would be unthinkable – the likable Brazilian has retained good pace throughout his 19-season career. However, 2011 was the indicator that Rubens’ career is on its last legs.

Two 9th places in a row was all that Rubens could manage for points. It was still better than teammate Maldonado, but Barrichello doesn’t come with financial backing, and that’s why he is most likely on the way out at Williams.

Uncharacteristic errors, most notably in Australia, marred Rubens’ season. It’s  been a strange few years for the veteran, having experienced the highs of Ferrari and Brawn, contrasting with the lows of Honda and Williams. Unfortunately, I suspect that we may have seen the last of Rubens Barrichello.

20th – Daniel Ricciardo

Ricciardo excelled where others could not

Ricciardo excelled where others could not

Previous ranking: N/A

Review from previous ranking: N/A

Many rookie drivers deliberately avoid joining an F1 team halfway through the season, to avoid being thrown out of the sport mere months later. I highly doubt this will occur to Daniel Ricciardo.

Drafted in at Silverstone, Ricciardo was on the pace from the get-go, and was beating Vitantonio Liuzzi after only 3 races. Red Bull are well known for backing the Australian’s move into F1, and it seems that their decision has been justified.

Daniel made no catastrophic errors, and mixed it with the Virgins and Liuzzi throughout qualifying and the races. Racing for Toro Rosso next season, I feel he can succeed where Buemi and Alguersuari failed.

19th – Pedro de la Rosa

Pedro de la Rosa did what was expected of him

Pedro de la Rosa did what was expected of him

Previous ranking: 19th (2010 final ranking)

Review from previous ranking: “HRT are reported to be looking at the Spaniard for 2011, but despite this, his future is in serious doubt.”

It may have been a year late this time around, but I seem to have developed a knack for predicting De la Rosa’s future moves in these rankings!

Pedro had little to do this year, making a sole appearance in Canada, substituting for the injured Sergio Perez. He performed the job as expected, finishing a rather impressive 12th in difficult circumstances.

Considering he had never driven the Sauber C30 before, praise is certainly deserved for De la Rosa. He will drive for HRT next year, and it will be interesting to see how he performs there. To make an attempt at 3 correct predictions in a row, I believe that he won’t make much impact in such a poor car  - and knowing HRT, he’ll likely get replaced halfway through the year.

My top 5 drives of the season

After looking at the finest races and overtakes of 2011, it’s time to move on to the best race performances by any driver. This is judged by looking at raw pace, clever use of strategy and sheer brilliant driving.

5th – Sebastian Vettel – Monaco Grand Prix

After a scintillating drive in qualifying, a clean getaway would normally have sealed the race for Sebastian.

But, a mistake at his first pit stop put Vettel at a disadvantage – and on the wrong tyres. He emerged on the soft compound instead of the super-softs.

To make matters worse, the Red Bull was later reeled in by both Alonso and Button. His Pirelli tyres were nearly shredded to pieces, but Sebastian hung on lap after lap, keeping the Ferrari and McLaren at bay.

A red flag with 6 laps to go calmed the battle, and ensured the Red Bull would cruise to the chequered flag on new tyres, but it was by no means easy for Vettel.

4th – Mark Webber – Chinese Grand Prix

A torrid performance in qualifying left the Aussie in 18th place on the grid. Clearly a fightback was the order of the day.

Slicing through the field, Mark made it up to 4th place, then overtook Jenson Button on the final lap to take a brilliant podium position. Unfortunately much of his racing action was missed by the cameras.

It was a sweet ending to a poor weekend, marred by electrical and KERS problems.

3rd – Fernando Alonso – Spanish Grand Prix

By the Spanish GP, it was well known that the 2011 Ferrari challenger was hopeless against the Red Bulls – it’s a good thing nobody told Fernando Alonso.

A trademark demon start put Fernando in the lead of his home Grand Prix, to the delight of the fans. He held the position until the first pit stop, where his race began to unravel.

After being pipped by Vettel in the first set of stops, Alonso eventually had to put on the prime tyres, which killed his charge completely. He slipped to 5th, and was a lap down by the chequered flag.

So why is this drive on the list? Because nobody else on the grid would have been able to do what Fernando did in the opening stages. He thrashed the car to the absolute limit, and was beating a significantly faster car. A ferocious drive from the Spaniard.

2nd – Jenson Button – Japanese Grand Prix

In a year of Sebastian Vettel domination, it was quite a considerable achievement to beat the double world champion on a trademark Red Bull track.

By missing pole position by less than 0.01 seconds, it was clear he had the pace. After Button undercut Vettel at the first set of stops, there was no stopping him.

Fernando Alonso chased the McLaren to the flag, so much so that Jenson nearly burned out the minimum fuel sample required after the race. He pulled over after the final lap, finishing just a second ahead of Alonso.

Still, it was a fantastic drive to out-perform the Red Bulls at one of their strongest circuits…

1st – Jenson Button – Canadian Grand Prix

But not as good a drive as in Canada. Disaster after disaster couldn’t stop the Briton’s charge through the field – twice.

A puncture after clashing with his teammate, a drive-through penalty for speeding, followed up by another accident – this time with Fernando Alonso – and another puncture.

Most drivers’ races would end here. But for Jenson, he took it on himself to make another final dash from last to first, and took the lead on the final lap for icing on the cake.

On a difficult damp track, to lap over 2 seconds a lap faster than anyone else is simply incredible, and that’s why Button has earned the drive of the year.

My top 5 races of the year

With a review of the top overtaking moves a few days ago, let’s move on to my favourite 5 races of 2011:

5th – British Grand Prix

With a one-off ban on off-throttle blown diffusers, and rain falling on only one half of the circuit, we were always for a great race at Silverstone.

Tyre strategy proved crucial in the opening 15 laps, as the drivers struggled their way back onto the soft tyres. Once Red Bull made a mistake at their pit stop, Fernando Alonso wasted no time in snatching a victory in unlikely circumstances.

Further back, we saw battles between Button, Webber, Hamilton and Massa throughout. Lewis in particular was in the wars, making a brilliant move on Alonso in the early stages, then tussling with Massa all the way to the finish line:

4th – Hungarian Grand Prix

Another rain-affected start here – Hungary has a penchant for throwing up excellent races in tricky conditions.

Lewis Hamilton took the lead from Vettel in the opening laps, tearing out a lead over everyone else. Once Button got past the Red Bull, he grew closer and closer to his teammate’s rear wing.

Eventually, the rain had a say in the matter, causing Hamilton to spin and lose the lead – but not for long. The two McLarens slid off the track several times battling for the lead, with Lewis ending up on top.

However, a faulty radio resulted in him pitting before the track was fully wet, destroying his chances of winning the race, and a drive-through penalty sealed his fate. It wasn’t all at the front, though, as there was exciting racing throughout the entire field:

3rd – German Grand Prix

With Vettel uncharacteristically off the pace, we were treated to a fantastic 3-way battle for the lead throughout the German Grand Prix.

In between pit stop battles, a brilliant move by Hamilton on Alonso (which I named my favourite move of the year) gave him the lead, which he took with pleasure.

It was an enthralling battle of wits and guts against Alonso and Webber, and the highlight of a disappointing year for Lewis.

2nd – Chinese Grand Prix

After a problem with his car nearly stopped him starting the race, Hamilton (clearly the star of this article!) was again on top form, passing Rosberg, Massa and Vettel en route to victory.

Mark Webber sliced up to 3rd from 18th on the grid – an unlikely achievement after his dismal qualifying.

Button provided the entertainment in another form, making a bizarre mistake in the pit lane, nearly stopping in the Red Bull box.

But it was Lewis who stole the show, taking the lead on the final lap without using DRS, which is just what we want to see:

1st – Canadian Grand Prix

You knew this was coming – a 4 hour race in Canada was always going to be epic.

After Turn 1, Webber had already been taken out of the frontrunner action, with both McLarens in the wars only a few laps later. A calamitous collision between Hamilton and Button left the former out of the race, and the latter in last place:

Jenson was in for further trouble – breaking the safety car speed limit earned him a drive-through penalty. A later collision with Fernando Alonso, sending him right back down the field – should have ended his day.

But Button is a master of the tricky conditions, and the drying track in Montreal allowed him to scythe back up the field, going from last to first in only 30 laps.

Again, we were never short of racing action, with Michael Schumacher showing us why he is still a driver to be feared, only just missing out on a podium finish. Felipe Massa once again provided a photo finish, this time with Kamui Kobayashi.

Despite the 2-hour red flag, it was one of the most enjoyable F1 races I have ever seen, and that’s all that needs to be said.

My top 5 overtakes of the year

With the Pirelli tyres and KERS providing a welcome new element to on-track racing, 2011 saw some fantastic battles between the drivers.   Although DRS grew slightly stale in its repetitive passes, we were in no shortage of wheel-to-wheel action. Here are my favourite overtaking moves from this season:

5th – Michael Schumacher on Kamui Kobayashi and Felipe Massa – Canada

This year saw an improvement from Schumacher, after struggling for much of his return so far. After Felipe Massa got held up by Kamui Kobayashi in Canada, we saw a glimpse of the old Schumacher as he sliced through to take 2nd place.

4th – Sebastian Vettel on Fernando Alonso – Italy

Seeing one driver dominate at the front is no fun, it’s much more entertaining for everyone when Vettel has had to fight for the win. This pass on Fernando Alonso after a safety car restart showed Sebastian at his very best, racing at the limit even when the title had been neatly wrapped up.

3rd – Fernando Alonso on Jenson Button – Brazil

The surprised expressions from Brundle and Coulthard says it all – very few could imagine overtaking around the outside of Turn 6 in Brazil, but Fernando Alonso made it look easy.

2nd – Mark Webber on Fernando Alonso – Spa

An incredibly committed move by Mark Webber, shoving Alonso aside as the two cars entered Eau Rouge. This was a pass achieved through sheer bravery – and hoping that Fernando would give Mark space, which thankfully he did.

1st – Lewis Hamilton on Fernando Alonso – Germany

Victory for Lewis Hamilton at the Nurburgring was sweet, but the moment of the day had to be this fantastic opportunistic pass on Fernando Alonso. As the Spaniard exited the pits on cold tyres, Lewis swept around the outside to take the lead – and later the win.

Pirelli to drop hard tyre for rest of 2011

Pirelli's hard tyre will soon be replaced

Pirelli's hard tyre will soon be replaced

Pirelli has stated that it is unlikely to use the hard compound tyre again in 2011.

After announcing tyre compounds for the next 3 races (a mix of super-soft, soft and medium), it was becoming increasingly likely that the unpopular compound would not be used again.

Today, Pirelli’s motorsport boss Paul Hembery has explained that the medium as effectively replaced the harder tyre:

"I don't think we'll see the hard compound again. I think it's probably too hard and 
that the medium is proving sufficiently robust for the aggressive circuits we've 
still got to come. So don't think we'll be going the hard route."

This will prove beneficial to Fernando Alonso’s title hopes, as his Ferrari team has struggled massively on the harder compound this season, with particular problems bringing the rubber up to temperature.

Hembery also revealed that the hard tyre probably will not make an appearance in 2012, with the medium taking up that role:

"Probably next season the medium will become the hard. We'll probably slot something 
in between the current softs and mediums - We want to keep about one second between 
each. The super soft and soft gap is about right to be honest, because you've got a 1s 
speed advantage but you've got a clear degradation and limitation on use. If we could 
replicate that now with a new medium and a new hard then I think we'll be well placed."

2011 mid-way driver rankings: 5 – 1

This is the final article in a 3-part review of the drivers’ performances so far this season.

5 – Nico Rosberg

Rosberg continues to lead Mercedes instead of Schumacher

Rosberg continues to lead Mercedes instead of Schumacher

Ranking in 2010: 6th

Review from 2010 ranking: “He never crashed on his own, only finished out of the points twice, and a brilliant qualifying in soaking conditions in Malaysia proved he has the talent when it counts most.”

Like 2010, Rosberg has never retired of his own accord. He drives as consistently as Nick Heidfeld, with the pace to match. It’s just a pity he still can’t race for wins.

Within firing range of Felipe Massa, Rosberg has the chance to finish in the top 6 for the first time – but this won’t be enough. Nico won’t rest until he gets a championship-winning car, and Mercedes doesn’t look up to the task.

With this in mind, a switch to Red Bull replacing Mark Webber could be on the cards. But what would Rosberg have to show for his performances so far? For one, he has trounced a 7-time world championship race after race for the past season and a half.

It’s not a move that’s out of the question – personally, I’d love to see it happen. But in the meantime, consistently beating Schumacher will do his reputation a world of good.

4 – Lewis Hamilton

A troubled year amid controversy for Hamilton

A troubled year amid controversy for Hamilton

Ranking in 2010: 5th

Review from 2010 ranking: “While Lewis showed good pace this year, he let himself down when he needed results most.”

Every year, we see a new improvement to who is undoubtedly a fantastically talented driver. Still, Lewis Hamilton’s reputation has taken a battering this year.

Outbursts against the press and the stewards have done him no good. Questionable driving in Monaco earned him stern words by past champions, to which he responded petulantly.

To make matters worse, the collision between him and Button in Canada has fractured what was a very good team relationship. Lewis’ anger at the team was also at boiling point last race, where it was revealed he wanted drastic reductions in the number of sponsor events in his next contract.

Perhaps this is too harsh on Hamilton. To be fair, he was doing 4 sponsor appearances every day for 2 weeks between Valencia and Britain.

Also, his spirited driving has not left him, as shown at Silverstone, where he wowed the crowd with a splendid comeback from 10th to 4th.

He is currently level with Button on points, but Lewis will never be satisfied being nearly 100 off Vettel.

You can be guaranteed some dramatic performances – good or bad – this season, and every one after. Despite this, Hamilton needs to ease off at times, and learn which battles to fight and which to avoid.

3 – Jenson Button

Button has improved in many sectors compared to 2010

Button has improved in many sectors compared to 2010

Ranking in 2010: 7th

Review from 2010 ranking: “The McLaren car was far better than what Button delivered, and this must be improved on for 2011.”

Aside from his retirement at Silverstone, Button has finished in the top 6 at every race so far. He has been stronger at McLaren than last year, where he constantly struggled for race pace.

Holding back slightly in Monaco may have cost him the race win, but his performance was still excellent. He produced one of the greatest drives in years in Canada, getting a taste of every single position, before scything through the field with blistering pace.

Strangely enough, his wet weather pace was rather poor in Britain, where he slipped behind Massa, Hamilton and Di Resta, before fighting back in the dry conditions.

Still, he has shown himself as a more complete driver this year, and unlike his teammate, shows restraint where necessary. Unfortunately, the title is probably well out of reach by now, but beating Hamilton in the standings would still be a good achievement.

2 – Fernando Alonso

Is Alonso the only man who can take down Vettel?

Is Alonso the only man who can take down Vettel?

Ranking in 2010: 3rd

Review from 2010 ranking: “Despite the controversies, Alonso is still a driver to be feared.”

Many were against Alonso last year, after Ferrari manipulated Massa to grant Fernando extra points. This year, no such controversy exists, as Fernando may well be the only driver with the skill to take down Vettel.

The Ferrari car has been inconsistent to say the least. Within 30 laps, Alonso went from leading the Spanish Grand Prix to being lapped, thanks to unpredictable behaviour on the hard tyres.

In the hands of a normal driver, this would be no car to challenge the championship with. However, Fernando is no ordinary driver. His fiercest enemies and rivals still fear him, and for good reason. Alonso has thrashed the Ferrari to its absolute max in the search for performance, and recently his endeavours have been rewarded.

When granted a sniff at victory in Britain, Alonso took it and ran, stretching out a 20-second lead to Vettel. At times, he was up to a second a lap faster than the Red Bull.

Still, a 92-point gap exists between Fernando and the championship leader. Don’t rule the Ferrari out, though. 2010 saw a similar situation, where, after Silverstone, he declared he would win the championship, despite a massive points deficit. We all know what happened next – he came perilously close to clinching the title – a defiant Renault standing in his way being the only obstacle.

It would be the stuff of legends if anyone were to still take the title fight to Vettel. But if there’s anyone on the grid who can do it – it will be Fernando Alonso.

1 – Sebastian Vettel

Clever and calculating - Vettel has managed his lead perfectly

Clever and calculating - Vettel has managed his lead perfectly

Ranking in 2010: 1st

Review from 2010 ranking: “I believe he truly is the best driver of 2010.”

It’s an accepted fact that drivers will always make a mistake. Jenson Button failed to see Lewis Hamilton in Canada, and squeezed him into the wall. Lewis made a badly judged move on Felipe Massa in Monaco. Fernando Alonso pushed Button too close to the kerbs in Canada, while Mark Webber has struggled for pace on occasions.

And Sebastian Vettel? He slipped wide and lost a place. That’s it.

That slip, of course, occurred on the final lap of the Canadian Grand Prix, costing him the win. But compared to the mistakes others have made, Vettel has proven himself as almost bulletproof in reliability.

In a complete contrast to 2010, clean, consistent and careful races are the order of the day. Never cracking under pressure, Sebastian has utilised the Red Bull’s searing pace to the maximum, slicing out an 80-point lead over his teammate.

Nearly utterly faultless all season, Sebastian is more complete a racing driver. With a favourable position in the team, the stage is set for back-to-back championships.

Or is it? Fernando Alonso took a valiant victory at Silverstone, and marked his return to the very top. With Ferrari pushing to surpass Red Bull, there may well still be a fight for the title.

In which case, Vettel’s mettle will be tested severely. Or, Alonso’s charge may fail to materialise, and Vettel may cruise to the title. Hopefully it will be the former, and we will see Sebastian’s true talent tested.

2011 mid-way driver rankings: 14 – 6

Here is part 2 of the mid-season review of all the Formula 1 drivers. This article tackles drivers ranked 14th up to 6th.

14 – Felipe Massa

Massa has found himself being beaten by all his rivals

Massa has found himself being beaten by all his rivals

Ranking in 2010: 14th

Review from 2010 ranking: “No race wins, no pole positions, no fastest laps, and no hope for 2012 if he doesn’t improve fast.”

To lag behind Sebastian Vettel in 2011 is to be expected. But to have only a quarter of the German’s points, while driving a Ferrari, is nothing short of laughable.

This year was where the Pirelli tyres would leap Massa back through the field. Nothing of the sort has occurred. Take the Spanish Grand Prix for example – Fernando Alonso tussled for the lead in the early stages, while Massa was being beaten by the Force Indias in the envious battle for 10th.

With less than half of Alonso’s points, and not even a sniff at a podium finish, Felipe has been completely dominated. He has yet to out-qualify Fernando at any point in 2011.

While it would be incredibly difficult for Ferrari to find a driver as talented as Alonso, they need a second driver who can consistently take podiums, not struggle for 6th.

13 – Paul di Resta

Di Resta has had a solid start in F1

Di Resta has had a solid start in F1

Ranking in 2010: N/A

Review from 2010 ranking: N/A

Ragged drives have lost him points, but nevertheless a decent start to his F1 career for the Scot.

Di Resta’s best performances so far have been in qualifying, as he has out-qualified teammate Sutil 7 times in 9 races, with over 0.6 seconds in the average gap between the two.

However, despite spending more laps in front of Sutil than vice-versa, Paul has struggled for results, with only 2 points to his name. He was on course for a large points haul in Britain, before a tyre mix-up ruined his chances.

Poorly-judged moves, particularly in Monaco and Canada, have also cost Di Resta. However, with more consistency and experience, he may be able to challenge Sutil in the driver’s championship.

12 – Jaime Alguersuari

Alguersuari has improved in recent races

Alguersuari has improved in recent races

Ranking in 2010: 19th

Review from 2010 ranking: “Three points finishes is all he could do, with a car that never really looked like pushing for points.”

Alguersuari came very close to being replaced, but several good drives have rescued his career.

3 points-scoring finishes in a row have kept Jaime his Toro Rosso race seat from going to Daniel Ricciardo. The Spaniard now lies one point ahead of Sebastien Buemi.

His qualifying results have been poor, but in recent races Alguersuari has been able to turn Q1 knockouts into points on race day.

Both of the Toro Rosso drivers’ futures still hang in the balance though, so it will be interesting to see which driver ends the season on top.

11 – Nick Heidfeld

Heidfeld has not performed up to expectations

Heidfeld has not performed up to expectations

Ranking in 2010: 16th (Only 5 races)

Review from 2010 ranking: “He will need to work fast just to get a drive for next year.”

Hailed as a consistent replacement for the injured Kubica, Heidfeld has not had the required impact at Renault so far.

The German has only just taken the lead in the championship standings battle with Vitaly Petrov. With 11 years of F1 experience, much more was expected, especially going up against a rookie driver.

Heidfeld has been soundly beaten in qualifying, being knocked out in Q1 on more than one occasion. Reliable driving as always has helped him in the races, but a lack of raw pace is holding Nick back.

10 – Michael Schumacher

Driver errors are still an issue for Schumacher

Driver errors are still an issue for Schumacher

Ranking in 2010: 12th

Review from 2010 ranking: “Schumacher’s 2011 campaign entirely hinges on the W02.”

Expected to be soundly beaten this year, Michael Schumacher has surprised some by showing much improvement from last year.

While his qualifying record against Nico Rosberg is still extremely poor, race day has allowed Schumacher to make huge progress, often held back by misfortune.

Punctures in Australia and Britain, DRS difficulties in China, as well as being swamped near the end of the Canadian GP, show that Michael’s points tally doesn’t reflect his occasionally great drives this year.

12 points is a gap that could be easily bridged with good luck. Further improvement this year would be the main aim for Schumacher.

9 – Vitaly Petrov

Petrov has improved compared to last year

Petrov has improved compared to last year

Ranking in 2010: 10th

Review from 2010 ranking: “2011 should see Petrov improve even more.”

A first-ever podium in Australia, followed by leading Heidfeld for most of this year – 2011 has not gone badly for the Russian.

Consistently out-qualifying Nick, often by huge margins, shows that Petrov has improved alongside Renault this year. However, it is still apparent that neither driver could hold a candle to Robert Kubica, who surely would be dicing it with the Red Bulls at this stage.

The hot-blown diffuser crackdown has hugely hurt the team, so expect to see Petrov and Heidfeld slip down the order. Still, it will be up to Petrov to take the majority of Renault’s points this year.

8 – Sergio Perez

Perez is arguably the rookie of the year

Perez is arguably the rookie of the year

Ranking in 2010: N/A

Review from 2010 ranking: N/A

Already a master of the 1-stop strategy, impressive pace has led many to praise Perez as rookie of the year.

With 7th place in his first ever F1 race, his talent was clearly apparent. Poor luck in Malaysia and China held him back, before another points finish in Spain.

His year was disrupted by a heavy crash in Monaco, ruling him out for 2 races. However, the smash did nothing to faze the Mexican, taking 11th on his return, then a career-best 7th in Britain.

A large tally of points could have been taken in Monaco and Canada, so Perez’s current total doesn’t reflect his excellent performances so far.

Two energetic rookies may not seem like an intelligent combo, but it has worked wonders for Sauber so far. With luck, Perez could even challenge to finish in the top 10 in the championship.

7 – Mark Webber

Webber has been dominated by his teammate

Webber has been dominated by his teammate

Ranking in 2010: 2nd

Review from 2010 ranking: “Dominant at times, disappointing at others, but still a wonderful campaign.”

While Sebastian Vettel continues to rip up tarmac at the front, Mark Webber seems to be lacking in pace, and is at risk of being overtaken by Fernando Alonso. What’s going on?

It’s not like the days of Ferrari domination, though. Back then, when Schumacher crushed his opponents to win, Barrichello would come around in 2nd place. This year, a single 2nd place is all Webber can muster so far.

In Australia, for example, Mark had absolutely no pace. His first pole position (Spain) was ruined by a bad start, relegating him to 4th after the chequered flag.

Webber has had good moments though. A spirited charge through the field in China saw him take 15 places back after a qualifying disaster.

However, his second pole saw him suffer a similar fate, slipping to 3rd during the race.

On the plus side, the Australian is yet to finish outside the top 5. Still, that doesn’t mean much when your teammate hasn’t fallen lower than 2nd at any point.

6 – Kamui Kobayashi

Kobayashi is as impressive as ever

Kobayashi is as impressive as ever

Ranking in 2010: 9th

Review from 2010 ranking: “Kobayashi has breathed fresh life into Formula 1 with his “unique” [driving] style.

Still as exciting to watch as ever, Kobayashi continues to punch well above his weight with scintillating drives.

If people were asked which car was quicker – the Mercedes or the Sauber – there would be little doubt that the Mercedes has much better pace. Because of this, seeing Kobayashi only 3 points behind 7-time world champion Schumacher will demonstrate how much Kamui is extracting from the car.

6 points finishes in a row is much better and more consistent than many drivers – only the Red Bulls, McLarens and Alonso can claim better records.

While teammate Perez is taking headlines for his special 1-stoppers, Kobayashi tends to take the 2-stop route. Compared to the rest of the grid, both Perez and Kobayashi have taken the least pit stops this year, which is a massive advantage.

Like Perez, a top 10 finish in the championship is well within Kamui’s reach.

2011 mid-way driver rankings: 24-15

This is the bi-annual review of driver’s performances over the season. Improvements have been made from last year’s review, with an indication towards a driver’s performance the year beforehand being added.

This first article will tackle drivers from 25th to 16th place. Here are the bottom ranked 10 drivers:

Note: This article was written before the British GP, and so stats will not be fully up to date, and any performance from Silverstone will not be taken into account.

24 – Narain Karthikeyan

Karthikeyan was never going to set the world ablaze in a HRT

Karthikeyan was never going to set the world ablaze in a HRT

Ranking in 2010: N/A

Review from 2010 ranking: N/A

The 34-year-old’s return to F1 racing was never going to set the world ablaze, but with disappointing pace in a lacklustre car, a replacement driver was inevitable.

However, this may still be too harsh on Karthikeyan. The only driver he had to compete with was teammate Liuzzi. But, he has qualified behind Vitantonio at every race, and the average gap between the two is 0.639 seconds.

It is common knowledge that Narain excels in wet conditions. The only race where he has had an opportunity in this sense was Canada, but he still finished in last place, whereas Liuzzi scored HRT’s best ever finish.

With Daniel Ricciardo now at the wheel, perhaps both of HRT’s drivers can take the challenge to Virgin.

23 – Jarno Trulli

Trulli has lost out in his best skill - qualifying

Trulli has lost out in his best skill - qualifying

Ranking in 2010: 18th

Review from 2010 ranking: “2011 will tell us if he still has what it takes.”

Formerly regarded as a master of the one-lap qualifying run, Trulli has succumbed to being regularly beaten at every course by Heikki Kovalainen.

Long gone are the glory days of pole position and the win back in Monaco 2004. Jarno has been out-qualified by Kovalainen 6 out of 7 races so far, with the average gap being 0.34 seconds.

Two 13th places are better than Heikki’s best, but if his best asset is being soundly beaten, then retirement may not be too far off the horizon for Trulli.

22 – Pastor Maldonado

Without a single point, a bad review was always on the cards

Without a single point, a bad review was always on the cards

Ranking in 2010: N/A

Review from 2010 ranking: N/A

The 2010 GP2 champion had huge expectations on his shoulders entering the season, replacing Nico Hulkenberg. Unfortunately a disastrous start to his F1 career has left Maldonado second last in the driver’s championship.

A points finish was on the cards in Monaco, before a collision with Lewis Hamilton ruled the Williams out of 7th place. That kind of form has not been repeated anywhere else, with a 15th place in Spain being Pastor’s best result to date.

An impressive qualifying record has kept Maldonado from finishing last in this article. Pastor has qualified ahead of Rubens Barrichello 4 times, on average 3 tenths faster than the Brazilian.

However, if he is unable to turn this form into results, then there will be little future for Maldonado in Formula 1.

21 – Jerome D’Ambrosio

D'Ambrosio has been respectable so far

D'Ambrosio has been respectable so far

Ranking in 2010: N/A

Review from 2010 ranking: N/A

A first foray into F1 has not gone disastrously just yet for Jerome D’Ambrosio, with respectable results to his name, as well as occasionally beating his experienced teammate.

Two 14th places are slightly better than a solitary 15th managed by Timo Glock. In the 4 occasions where both Virgins have finished a race, D’Ambrosio has finished ahead of Glock 50% of the time.

He has out-qualified Timo on two occasions; however he has struggled in terms of the average qualifying gap (+0.56 seconds).

20 – Vitantonio Liuzzi

Liuzzi has done well in a poor car

Liuzzi has done well in a poor car

Ranking in 2010: 22nd

Review from 2010 ranking: “I would be hugely surprised if Force India were to retain him for 2011.”

The only car Liuzzi has properly raced against is Karthikeyan, and the Italian has done well in asserting himself as the number 1 driver in the team.

A clean sheet in qualifying, combined with beating Narain 4 times out of 5 in the races, proves Liuzzi’s good form. He managed a 13th position in the chaotic Canadian Grand Prix, achieving Hispania’s best ever result, one place off Lotus’ highest finish.

Many questioned the point of remaining in F1 after being ditched by Force India, but Vitantonio has done well to demonstrate his prowess in a dismal car.

19 – Heikki Kovalainen

Dominance over Trulli as expected, but Kovalainen is yet to challenge the midfield

Dominance over Trulli as expected, but Kovalainen is yet to challenge the midfield

Ranking in 2010: 15th

Review from 2010 ranking: “If Lotus deliver on their long-developed 2011 car, then Heikki will be the one to challenge the midfield.”

In 3 out the last 5 races, Heikki has out-qualified Jarno Trulli by over half a second. This dominance has allowed Kovalainen to become the driving force of Lotus in 2011.

2 mechanical retirements have beset Heikki, but he has still managed one 14th place so far this year. Despite his teammate getting one position better, Kovalainen has also led more laps so far this year ahead of Trulli.

With Lotus struggling to match the midfield’s pace, and Trulli’s future uncertain, it will be up to Kovalainen to secure 10th place in the Constructor’s Championship for the team.

18 – Timo Glock

Like Kovalainen, Glock excels in an underacheiving car

Like Kovalainen, Glock excels in an underacheiving car

Ranking in 2010: 21st

Review from 2010 ranking: “A much faster and reliable car is what Timo needs to get himself back up the grid next year.”

In similar fashion to last year, Timo Glock continues to push well above his weight in a very uncompetitive car.

While the Virgin team appear to be being pulled in by HRT, Glock has been chasing after Lotus, with varying results.  While he has only finished in front of one of these two drivers twice, three mechanical retirements have also held back Glock. Similarly, he failed to start the race in Turkey after losing fifth gear before the warm-up lap.

Despite these setbacks, he has consistently out-qualified D’Ambrosio, and is set to perform better as the season progresses.

17 – Rubens Barrichello

Barrichello has not unlocked the FW33's slight potential

Barrichello has not unlocked the FW33's slight potential

Ranking in 2010: 8th

Review from 2010 ranking: “Hopefully, Barrichello has a few more years left on the clock, and can lead Williams to their first win in years.”

A pair of 9th places is all the veteran has to offer so far, in one of the toughest F1 seasons in his 19-season career.

Once again, a horribly uncompetitive Williams is to blame for Barrichello’s slump, but being pushed by underperforming rookie Maldonado does not bode well for Rubens. The Brazilian is 3 tenths slower in qualifying on average compared to his Venezuelan colleague.

An ill-timed move on Nico Rosberg was the start to this poor season. Two mechanical failures have also undermined Barrichello’s hopes for points.

16 – Sebastien Buemi

Buemi hasn't underperformed, but much more is expected

Buemi hasn't underperformed, but much more is expected

Ranking in 2010: 17th

Review from 2010 ranking: “2011 is Buemi’s last chance to keep his race seat at Toro Rosso.”

With the news of Ricciardo joining HRT, Buemi’s seat is safe at Toro Rosso – for this year at least. While he has not been dominated by his teammate, many were expecting more from Buemi in his 3rd season.

Qualifying is where Sebastien gains an edge over Jaime Alguersuari. The Swiss driver has out-qualified the Spaniard 7 times out of 8, with an average gap of over 0.4 seconds.

However, finishing positions between the two appear to be generally the same, with Alguersuari having a slight lead on points. Toro Rosso have a tendency to drop drivers at the slightest sign of lack of pace, so many are asking why Buemi has been retained for so long.

However, it must be remembered that Buemi is well favoured by Helmut Marko, a man who doesn’t seem to mind leaning over one driver to serve the other.

Still, if Ricciardo impresses at HRT, then Buemi may still be under pressure for the race seat in 2012.

15 – Adrian Sutil

Sutil cannot let himself be beaten by Di Resta

Sutil cannot let himself be beaten by Di Resta

Ranking in 2010: 13th

Review from 2010 ranking: “2011 will be crucial if Sutil is to prove himself.”

Legal action with Eric Lux aside, there may be trouble on the horizon for Sutil. If Paul di Resta were to out-perform Adrian in the second half of 2011, then it could be a huge struggle for him to progress any further in Formula 1.

Di Resta has a huge lead in qualifying results, beating Sutil 6 times out of 8, with more than half a second in the average distance. Results haven’t gone the Scot’s way, so Sutil has an 8-point lead in the standings. However, it must be remembered that Di Resta, apart from being a rookie, has suffered poor luck in the races.

At times during his career, Sutil has been linked with a future drive for McLaren. However, if he is beaten by Di Resta in his first year, then Adrian will find himself shunted out of the way by the hotshot rookie.

Bahrain Grand Prix returned to calendar

Amid unanimous opposition the Bahrain GP has returned

Amid unanimous opposition the Bahrain GP has returned

The Bahrain Grand Prix has been reinstated on the 2011 Formula 1 calendar, after a decision made today by the World Motor Sport Council.

The Grand Prix will take place on the 28th – 30th October, when the Indian GP was supposed to take place. No statement has been made on this yet, but it is believed it will be moved back to December, a move that teams are strongly opposed to.

The following statement has been issued by the Bahrain International Circuit:

The head of the Bahrain International Circuit (BIC) today welcomed the decision of 
the FIA (Federation Internationale de L’Automobile) World Motor Sport Council to 
reintroduce the Bahrain Grand Prix to the 2011 calendar.

The decision, announced by the FIA after the Council’s meeting in Barcelona, 
follows a FIA delegation visit to Bahrain to assess the situation in country 
this week.

Zayed R. Alzayani, Chairman of the BIC, said: “This is welcome news for all of 
Bahrain. As a country we have faced a difficult time, but stability has returned; 
with businesses operating close to normal, the State of National Safety lifted and 
countries removing travel restrictions.

“Collectively, we are in the process of addressing issues of national and 
international concern, and learning lessons from the recent past. By the time the 
Grand Prix arrives we will be able to remind the world about Bahrain at its best.

“The Bahrain Grand Prix has always been a source of national pride and it is an 
event than transcends politics. Not only does it receive strong support from the 
Government, but also from all major parties in Bahrain, including our largest 
opposition group, Al Wefaq, who yesterday endorsed both the BIC and motor racing 
in Bahrain.

“Importantly, it will also offer a significant boost to the economy. The Grand 
Prix attracts 100,000 visitors, supports 3,000 jobs and generates around $500m 
of economic benefit. Its positive effect will be felt throughout the country.

“On behalf of Bahrain, I would like to thank Bernie Ecclestone, Jean Todt and 
the FIA and the rest of the motorsport community for the support and understanding 
they have extended to us this year.”

Bahrain is a pioneer of motorsport in the region and the rescheduled Grand Prix 
will be the 8th hosted by the Kingdom since its inaugural race in 2004.

After a meeting of the teams in Monaco, team principals agreed their unanimous opposition to the reinstallation of the Grand Prix. After a government crackdown on protestors in the past few weeks, nearly the entire paddock is against returning to the troubled state.

However, according to the Guardian, the teams have no choice in the matter if they are instructed to race:

The Formula 1 teams are united in their opposition to the reinstatement of the Bahrain 
Grand Prix but concede that they would be legally obliged to attend should the World 
Motor Sport Council give the race the green light."

The teams have made their opposition clear to Bernie Ecclestone. Several human rights groups have also written to the FIA asking them to remove the race from the calendar.

While I don’t want to get political about this, I feel that this is completely the wrong call. On the same day that the race was reinstated, thousands of Bahraini citizens are taking part in a funeral procession for an activist killed in police custody. The efforts that the Bahrain government made to get this race back were disgraceful, and Formula 1 simply cannot be a part of this.

How the teams are shaping up after testing – Part 3

This is the final part of a 3-post series looking at each individual team before they head off to Melbourne in little over a week’s time.

Sauber

Perez and Kobayashi looks like an impressive line-up

Perez and Kobayashi looks like an impressive line-up

With good testing form and a formidable line-up, Sauber are certainly a team to watch out for in 2011.

Critics slate the driver line-up as inexperienced, but Peter Sauber’s last young driver pairing was Kimi Raikkonen and Nick Heidfeld in 2011, which earned them 4th in the constructors championship.

This year’s pairing of Kamui Kobayashi and Sergio Perez may not have the same effect, but they are both forces to be reckoned with. Perez, a former winner of British Formula 3, seeks to stake his claim in Formula 1. Kobayashi strikes fear into those in front of him with his trademark breathtaking overtaking.

The arrival of James Kay last year came at around the same time Sauber turned their year around. This year, the C30 is not radical or innovative technically, but with a Ferrari KERS system, the car could be battling high in the midfield.

Such a young driver line-up is risky to some, but I don’t think that it will affect the team in any negative way.

Toro Rosso

Both Buemi and Alguersuari will be under pressure in the STR6

Both Buemi and Alguersuari will be under pressure in the STR6

Despite having retained both Alguersuari and Buemi for another year, the arrival of Daniel Ricciardo as test driver will keep both Toro Rosso drivers on their toes all year.

Both Alguersuari’s and Buemi’s contracts allow them to be pushed aside for Ricciardo at the half-way mark, so any underachieving will be heavily punished. However, the promising form of the STR6 should propel the team forward regardless of drivers this year.

The double floor and upswept sidepods, created by Giorgio Ascanelli, are both clever innvoations, but it is unclear where Toro Rosso stand after testing. The general consensus though is that the team are in a much better position than last year, having been the worst-ranked out of the points-scoring teams.

As previously stated, both drivers will have to up their game, but the pressure is more on Sebastien Buemi. Having been at the team for two years, he failed to show his impressive form from from 2009 into 2010, and completely lost out to Alguersuari by the end of last year. It could be a terrible shame to see him replaced, as his first race back in Australia 2009 was extremely promising.

No matter which drivers survive the year with the team, improvements are essential.

Lotus

The Lotus T128 is a huge improvement from its predecessor

The Lotus T128 is a huge improvement from its predecessor

Considerably the best of the new teams last year, Lotus seek to leap into the midfield with radical improvements over the winter.

Leaving aside the “Lotus vs Lotus” legal battle, everything is looking up for Lotus at the moment, as the T128 is already showing signs of huge improvements.

Heikki Kovalainen has said that the 2011 machine “feels like a proper Formula 1 car”. The gearbox and hydraulic issues that plagued the team last year have been solved by ditching Xtrac for Red Bull. Even with those difficulties in 2010, they were the most reliable out of the 3 teams, so this is another big step forward.

A pull-rod suspension system has been implemented, the same sort that has been used on the Red Bull for years. A blade roll-hoop and split air intake, unpopular but possibly promising choices, have also been used on the T128.

A Renault engine will give them a boost in fuel efficiency, but more than likely a drop in reliability, considering Cosworth’s good performance last year.

With all of these changes since 2010, it is a considerable achievement that a 18-month-old team could consider challenging for points. It seems well within reason for them to do this, so 2011 could be a fantastic improvement for Lotus.

HRT

HRT won't turn a wheel until Melbourne

HRT won't turn a wheel until Melbourne

Hispania Racing, just starting their 2nd Formula 1 season, still have the shockingly awful record of not running at a single test session in their history.

There are reasons, of course, why the team couldn’t attend the Barcelona test, but it is still a PR disaster for a team looking for sponsors to not be able to turn a wheel until the season opener. Where have we heard that line before…

I don’t mean to appear biased, but there is little good to speak of Hispania so far this year. The livery is an exceptional improvement from the horrid F110, but the F111 displays only one sponsor, and this is not good news for a financially struggling team.

Vitantonio Liuzzi, however, may be able to show some good form. Having been dropped by Force India, he now needs to prove that he can still race at the top level. Beating Narain Karthikeyan will obviously be his main target. Karthikeyan, who last raced in F1 for Jordan in 2005, has been competing in A1 GP and Superleague Formula since.

It’s not a bad line-up, but Bruno Senna and Karun Chandhok were both promising drivers last year. Regardless, HRT’s aim will probably be to just keep up with their rivals.

With more time than 2010 to develop their car, the F111 should probably be an improvement, but we won’t know until Melbourne.

Virgin

An all-CFD approach may not pay off for Virgin

An all-CFD approach may not pay off for Virgin

Once again, Nick Wirth has led an all-CFD approach to the Virgin Racing MVR-02, and it appears to bring the same disadvantages as last year.

A lack of underfloor aero simulation has left the Virgin car underdeveloped again this year. The last car to never see a wind tunnel was the epic disaster of the 1997 MasterCard Lola team, which survived one race – 13 seconds off the pace. In qualifying, seeing as they never made the race.

Timo Glock is pessimistic, saying that he doubts they will reach the midfield, meaning the team may have to dice it out with HRT again in 2011.

Testing highlighted their woes. Many wasted days were spent miles off the pace, with Jerome D’Ambrosio bearing the brunt of not being able to set a single fast time over several days.

With Timo Glock recovering after surgery, the team have suffered by not having any experienced hands develop the car, and it will probably show in Melbourne.

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