Tag Archives: Lotus

2011 final driver rankings: 18th – 11th

This is the second article out of 4, ranking all 28 drivers from this season. This section includes drivers such as Felipe Massa, Kamui Kobayashi and Jaime Alguersuari.

18th – Felipe Massa

The Pirelli tyres brought no improvement to Massa's form

The Pirelli tyres brought no improvement to Massa's form

Previous ranking: 14th

Review from previous ranking: “Ferrari need a second driver who can consistently take podiums, not struggle for 6th.”

The one thing I find more frustrating than Felipe Massa is those who keep praising him despite his disastrous pace. Every single year, we are promised a return to form by the Brazilian, and every year is a let-down.

This year, it was the Pirelli tyres that were to catapult Massa to the top, which of course never happened. While teammate Fernando Alonso took 10 podiums, one of which was a win, Massa was never higher than 5th.

A clear sign of his ineptness at the Ferrari was in India, where he was the only driver to find trouble with the kerbs – and did it twice. as well as this, he was not blameless in the spat with Lewis Hamilton – turning into the McLaren in India was ill-judged to say the least.

The best indicator of a driver’s pace is their performance relative to their teammate, and Massa didn’t even get half of what Alonso won. Even Mark Webber, who had a shocking season by his standards, was able to beat this.

Renault and Ferrari have, in recent times, shown that it is entirely plausible to end a driver’s contract prematurely. Why they haven’t done this with Massa yet, we’ll never know.

17th – Bruno Senna

Senna's first race was ruined by his own hand

Senna's first race was ruined by his own hand

Previous ranking: 24th (2010 half-way rankings)

Review from previous ranking: “Senna’s potential is still unclear.” (2010 half-way rankings)

After spending 2010 lingering at the back of the grid, the Senna name was thrown into the midfield of the grid, after Nick Heidfeld was given the boot. So far, Bruno’s impact has been unconvincing to say the least.

He qualified an excellent 7th at his first race of the year in Spa, but bottled it at the first corner. A pair of points were scored at Monza, but that was the only top 10 finish of the season.

Despite this, he showed interesting flashes of pace, generally being faster than Vitaly Petrov, and driving well at his home race in Brazil, before clashing with Michael Schumacher – the first time since 1993 that those two surnames have collided.

As the Renault and its radical front exhausts fell apart, it became clear that Senna was unable to demonstrate his prowess. I’m unsure as to his full potential, but many feel that despite the circumstances, he should have performed better in 2011.

16th – Vitaly Petrov

A single podium was the only high point of Petrov's season

A single podium was the only high point of Petrov's season

Previous ranking: 9th

Review from previous ranking: “It will be up to Petrov to take the majority of Renault’s points this year.”

As the Renault car became more and more hopeless, Petrov began to falter, and was being worryingly out-paced by new recruit Senna by the end of the year.

A podium in Australia was undoubtedly the standout moment of the year, but there wasn’t much to talk about after that. In Malaysia, a mistake by Petrov resulted in a spectactular launch into the air, which was the last race the team had any chance of racing at the front.

Apart from a 5th place in Canada, he was only able to snatch 9th and 10th places throughout the year, and only had 3 points more than Nick Heidfeld – who missed the last 8 races.

It was an improvement from 2010, but not improvement enough to keep his seat for next year, and I can’t complain about that.

15th – Sebastien Buemi

The wheels came off Buemi's season in the second half

The wheels came off Buemi's season in the second half

Previous ranking: 16th

Review from previous ranking: “Of Ricciardo impresses at HRT, then Buemi may still be under pressure for the race seat in 2012.”

After the unceremonious dumping of both drivers, Toro Rosso have indicated that they have had enough of their drivers. Buemi and Alguersuari tussled for the lead in the team throughout the season, but ultimately the better driver came out on top.

Sebastien had the upper hand in the first few races, adapting well to the Pirelli tyres. He was able to out-qualify Alguersuari, and conserve his tyres better in the races. However, when Jaime turned his season around, matching pace from Buemi was nowhere to be seen.

It must be considered that he suffered more than his fair share of technical problems, but the general consensus is that Buemi should have achieved more after 3 years in Toro Rosso, which is considerably more than what many other drivers got.

14th – Kamui Kobayashi

A difficult second half of the season for Kobayashi

A difficult second half of the season for Kobayashi

Previous ranking: 6th

Review from previous ranking: “Kobayashi continues to punch well above his weight with scintillating drives.”

The fans’ favourite overtaker suffered a disappointing second half to the season, while his teammate took the limelight.

The first half of 2011 was spectacular, with Kobayashi finishing in the top 10 7 races in a row, something that neither of the Mercedes drivers could achieve.

However, his qualifying pace began to falter alarmingly, and teammate Perez began to take control. Finishing the season with 2 points finishes was impressive, and helped him end the season with double what Perez achieved. However, it must be considered that Sergio missed out on two races which I feel he would have performed well in.

Overall, it was a decent season, but improvement is still necessary for Kobayashi.

13th – Jaime Alguersuari

A spate of points-scoring finishes was not enough for Alguersuari

A spate of points-scoring finishes was not enough for Alguersuari

Previous ranking: 12th

Review from previous ranking: “Alguersuari came very close to being replaced, but several good drives have rescued his career.”

Not good enough, I’m afraid. An impressive improvement came in the second half of 2011, but Alguersuari was still dropped at the end of the year.

A series of 18th-to-points runs were entertaining to watch, and a pair of 7th places in Monza and Korea were the high points for Jaime. Qualifying 6th in Spa was also an excellent performance, before he was cruelly taken out by Bruno Senna.

In the end, he was comfortably ahead of his teammate, where he deserved to be. However, holding up Vettel in Korean practice did him no favours with Red Bull, and earned him an severe dressing-down from Helmut Mark0 (which I’ve heard will be featured in the F1 review DVD).

Whether this politics hurt his chances at retaining his seat, we’ll never know.

12th – Nick Heidfeld

Heidfeld was a casualty of Renault's demise

Heidfeld was a casualty of Renault's demise

Previous ranking: 11th

Review from previous ranking: “Reliable driving has helped him in the races, but a lack of raw pace is holding Nick back.”

A surprise ditching by Renault saw Heidfeld out of a drive halfway through the season. Because of this, we will never know how he was to handle with the deteriorating R31.

A magnificent start in Malaysia, as well as holding up the McLaren drivers, saw Nick take a well-deserved podium. As the Renault slipped down the order, Heidfeld was able to take as many 7th and 8th places as he could. He was taken out on the first lap in Germany, and an exploding sidepod took him out in Hungary, which proved to be his last race.

I’m still confused as to why Renault bothered dropping Heidfeld, considering Petrov could hardly amass his points total with an extra 8 races in hand. He was a safe pair of hands, and consistently got the job done, aside from a calamitious error at the Nurburgring.

His main weakness was dire qualifying, which principal Eric Boullier was particularly angry about. Still, I feel that Renault was worse off without Heidfeld.

11th – Heikki Kovalainen

Kovalainen far exceeded the car's potential

Kovalainen far exceeded the car's potential

Previous ranking: 19th

Review from previous ranking: “It will be up to Kovalainen to secure 10th place in the Constructor’s Championship for the team.”

With HRT and Virgin constantly falling further behind, and Jarno Trulli proving lacklustre, it was always going to be up to Kovalainen to prove Lotus’ worth.

I admit that I had nearly given up on Kovalainen after his dismal years at McLaren – he recently said that those two years had drained all his confidence. In that light, going back to basics was the best possible move for Heikki. With little pressure around him, he has been able to re-invigorate his racing spirit.

Whenever a midfield car faltered, it was Kovalainen who snatched the opportunity to move into Q2, which he did three times. He absolutely demolished his teammate in every sector – qualifying (16 successes out of 18), and races, where he often finished half a minute ahead of Trulli.

A 13th-placed finish in Monza secured 10th for Lotus in the constructors’ championship. With luck, the team soon to be known as Caterham can finally improve to the midfield, with Kovalainen the driving force of the squad.

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.

Grosjean joins Raikkonen at Renault

Grosjean will return after a 2-year absence

Grosjean will return after a 2-year absence

Former Renault driver Romain Grosjean will rejoin his former team next year.

He will be paired up with former world champion Kimi Raikkonen, forming one of the most interesting driver combinations on the grid.

Grosjean drove for Renault in the second half of the 2009 season, replacing Nelson Piquet Jr and joining Fernando Alonso at the squad. Despite not being too far off the Spaniard’s pace, he failed to score a point, and was dropped after the season finale.

He has since returned to GP2, where he finished 4th in 2009 despite missing the last 8 races. He won this year’s title convincingly driving for DAMS.

Romain has said today:

"There’s a big grin on my face at the prospect of getting behind the wheel of next 
year’s car, and I feel very privileged to be given this opportunity.

To be racing alongside a former world champion and someone who is hungry and 
returning to Formula 1 will be a great experience, and I’m sure will help raise my 
level of performance too.

I feel that my successful season in GP2 has helped me mature a lot, and I am a much 
more complete driver than I was last time I was competing in this sport.

Returning to Enstone as a race driver feels like coming home. I will not disappoint 
and I wish to thank all the people without whom this return to F1 would not have been 
possible. Total, [who have been supporting] me since 2006, and Gravity Sport 
Management, are first on this list."

 

Raikkonen confirmed at Renault in surprise move

Raikkonen will return to F1 after a 2-year absence

Raikkonen will return to F1 after a 2-year absence

Former world champion Kimi Raikkonen will return to Formula 1 next year.

The Finn will be driving with the Renault – soon to become Lotus – team, and it is currently uncertain who he will be driving alongside.

He left the sport after a disappointing couple of years after winning his first title in 2007. However, he said today that he couldn’t resist moving back to the sport after a year in the WRC:

"I’m delighted to be coming back to Formula 1 after a two-year break, and I’m 
grateful to Lotus Renault GP for offering me this opportunity.

My time in the World Rally Championship has been a useful stage in my career 
as a driver, but I can’t deny the fact that my hunger for F1 has recently become 
overwhelming.

It was an easy choice to return with Lotus Renault GP as I have been impressed by 
the scope of the team’s ambition. Now I’m looking forward to playing an important 
role in pushing the team to the very front of the grid."

This means that for the first time in the history of the sport, 6 world champions will be on the grid next March.

Regarding the second seat at the team, that’ where things get more complicated. Vitaly Petrov still has a contract with Renault, but team principal Eric Boullier still has not ruled out Robert Kubica’s return to the team, provided he is fit and ready.

As well as this, Bruno Senna and Romain Grosjean are pushing for race seats, both drivers having driven for Renault in the past – Senna for the second half of 2011, and Grosjean for the second half of 2009.

 

Lotus, Renault and Virgin to change names for 2012

Lotus will be known as Caterham next year

Lotus will be known as Caterham next year

The Lotus vs Lotus battle has finally come to a conclusion, with both teams agreeing to change team names for the 2012 season.

Meanwhile, Virgin will formally change their name to Marussia, who began sponsoring the team several months ago.

Tony Fernandes’ outfit, currently racing as Team Lotus, will soon be known as Caterham. They will race under the name of “Caterham F1 Team” and will use a Caterham chassis.

Team Lotus CEO Riad Asmat had some interesting words to say about their team moving away from the Lotus-Renault dispute:

"We are proud of what we have achieved by bringing the Team Lotus name back to 
Formula 1 when many tried and although we are sad to say goodbye to Team Lotus 
we are excited about owning our own future and being in control of our own destiny.

Now we have no one to be compared to. We make our own history and we will remain 
green and yellow.

Now we look forward to an exciting future racing under our new team name of 
Caterham F1 Team. Please continue to support our very special spirit of never say
die and support us on the track as we move up the field and demonstrate that the 
good do win."

The Renault team, which is sponsored by Group Lotus (who operate Lotus road cars), will now take control of the Lotus name. Earlier this year, the British High Court ruled that Renault did not have the rights to use the “Team Lotus” name, which has now been settled with this announcement.

Karthikeyan expects to replace Ricciardo for Indian GP

Narain Karthikeyan may be back racing in October

Narain Karthikeyan may be back racing in October

Narain Karthikeyan has said that he expects to be back in the Hispania car for the inaugral Indian Grand Prix in October.

Having returned to the sport after a 6-year absence, Karthikeyan was replaced by Daniel Ricciardo at the half-way marl this year.

However, after facing the media when unveiling tickets for the Grand Prix last Saturday, the Indian driver said that he expects to be racing in front of his home crowd:

"It was always a dream for me to race in Formula 1 and race in front of my home
crowd. And now thanks to the Jaypee Group that dream is going to be a reality."

However, fellow Indian Karun Chandhok is less hopeful of participating in the Grand Prix. While maintaining his belief that he has not paid his way into Lotus (and one-off drive at the German Grand Prix), Chandhok is still doubtful over driving in India:

"I've always maintained that racing in the German GP this year was a one-off. The
team seem to be pleased with my performance at the event so we will see what
happens."

Meanwhile, it has been confirmed that the Buddh International Circuit, which is hosting the Indian Grand Prix, will be inspected by the FIA in mid-September. If the track is approved, the circuit will be open to the media by the end of that month.

Chandhok to replace Trulli for German GP

Chandhok will make his first racing appearance since Silverstone last year

Chandhok will make his first racing appearance since Silverstone last year

Karun Chandhok will take over Jarno Truli’s car for the German Grand Prix, the team confirmed today.

The Indian driver has taken part in 4 practice sessions with the team so far this year. It will be his first race in F1 since the 2010 British Grand Prix.

Trulli has struggled with power steering problems all year in the Lotus. He is due a steering upgrade in Hungary, so many believe that this temporary replacement is simply to allow Trulli to cool off.

Despite losing his seat for one race, team principal Tony Fernandes has confirmed that the team is still in negotiations with Jarno regarding a contract for next year.

Despite this, it is still suspected that Trulli will make way for Chandhok at the inaugral Indian Grand Prix as well.

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.

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.

Lotus reveal T128

The Lotus T128

The Lotus T128

Lotus have shown off their 2011 car: The T128. Originally intended to be named the TL11, it was changed after the recent disputed with Renault/Group Lotus regarding who owns the Lotus name.

This car features extremely thin sidepods, as well as the split airbox design that Mercedes introduced last year. While the 2011 regulations were changed to avoid such a design, Lotus appear to have found a way around this. The nosecone has also been lowered at the very front.

The gearbox this year will be supplied by Red Bull, after several problems last year. Also, engine power has switched from Cosworth to Renault.

Also, the team have stated that they will not be using KERS at the start of the season. Keith Saunt, chief operating officer, explained:

"If KERS was going to get us from eighth to sixth then we’d have it. But 
when you look at the weight of it and some of the engineering challenges, I 
think it’s a good decision not to start with it. We might end up with it, 
who knows?"

Livery-wise, the car remains the same, apart from a yellow addition onto the back of the engine cover.

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