Tag Archives: Williams

F1 2012 season opener preview

There’s only a few days to go until the Formula 1 season kicks off again – the off-season really does fly by.

But there’s no time to waste. With everyone gearing up for a much closer title fight this year, it’s time to take one last glance at the pack, and try to predict how the teams will fare in Melbourne:

Red Bull

Red Bull may well battle with McLaren for 2012

Red Bull may well battle with McLaren for 2012

Nobody can deny that Red Bull will be at the front this year – it’s almost a given.

However, that’s not to say that the Adrian Newey-designed RB8 will run away with the title again. The ban on exhaust-blown diffusers has cut their advantage to the other teams, and further restrictions on front wing flexibility put them under greater pressure over the winter.

Sebastian Vettel is still the team #1 after back-to-back world titles. While Mark Webber is gearing up to challenge his teammate, I don’t think the Australian is up to the challenge. The best indicator of Webber’s performance will be in Australia, where Mark has never finished higher than 5th. If he can break his streak of bad luck, then he may be in with a chance.

Still, I predict a Vettel pole position in Australia – after that nobody can be certain.

McLaren

The MP4-27 may well being McLaren back to winning ways

The MP4-27 may well being McLaren back to winning ways

Pre-season testing has indicated that the Woking squad are back in top form in 2012.

However, they have a mighty challenger in the form of Red Bull. Both teams have tested out radical innovations on their cars, and it is still unclear who possesses the faster car. While Red Bull appear to have good qualifying pace, McLaren have performed well in long-fuel runs, similar to the 2011 season.

Lewis Hamilton’s well-publicised problems from 2011 appear to be behind him. The Brit has admitted he spent many nights partying during the 2011 season, which may well explain his loss of focus. There’s no doubt that Lewis is a fantastically talented driver, but there is also no excuse for underperforming in 2012.

His teammate, Jenson Button, will be looking to capitalise on a relatively successful 2011 season, and is hoping to beat Lewis again. However, if Hamilton has tackled his personal issues, then there may well be a brilliantly tight battle between the two this year.

Ferrari

Ferrari are yet to understand their F2012

Ferrari are yet to understand their F2012

While the front two teams have already established themselves as title contenders before the season opener, Ferrari are still unsure as to their pace. How they react to their radical F2012 will be fascinating.

Fernando Alonso will continue to push the team – and the car – to the limits, and there is little doubt that Felipe Massa will be left trailing behind. Ferrari have a perfect team leader in Alonso, and Felipe’s #1 spot at the team (inherited in 2007) has been well and truly taken away from him.

With such a differing driver line-up, the constructor’s title is already out of reach for Ferrari. However, depending on how Ferrari react to developing their F2012, Alonso may challenge for the driver’s title later on.

Mercedes

Mercedes will be looking to challenge the top 3

Mercedes will be looking to challenge the top 3

If Ferrari even stumble, Mercedes appear poised to snatch 3rd place in the constructor’s table from them.

After two disappointing years following the Brawn GP fairytale, things appear to be coming together for Mercedes. Team principal Ross Brawn has assembled some of the sport’s finest engineers to work on the W03, which showed good pace in pre-season testing.

Despite his age, Michael Schumacher may still be a force to be reckoned with. Nico Rosberg meanwhile will be looking to take his first ever race victory – compared to Michael’s colossal 91 wins.

It is unlikely that the team can challenge for the titles this year, but nobody can fully rule them out. Starting the season at the front is absolutely crucial.

Lotus

Lotus will be looking to establish themselves

Lotus will be looking to establish themselves

With a new name and new driver line-up, Lotus are the midfield team to keep an eye out for.

The Enstone squad have one of the most exciting driver combinations on the grid – a former world champion and current GP2 title holder. It is more than likely that Kimi Raikkonen will assert himself as #1 in the team, but Romain Grosjean may well keep him on his toes.

What’s of more importance to the team is moving up the grid. After the frontal-exhaust disaster last year, the E20 appears to be much faster and more reliable, despite the chassis issue that ruled the team out of 4 testing days.

Like Mercedes, they are unlikely to make a massive jump up the grid, but I would be very surprised if Lotus were to finish any lower than 5th.

Force India

Force India are looking to stay on top of the midfield

Force India are looking to stay on top of the midfield

Lotus aren’t the only team looking to make progress in 2011. After several impressive performances last year, Force India will be looking to push their way to the top of the midfield.

Adrian Sutil has been ditched after 5 years of faithful service, and his F1 career appears to be over. He has been replaced by Nico Hulkenberg, who gets another shot in F1 after a good 2010 campaign with Williams.

The team have recently received a $32m cash injection from owner Vijay Mallya, so finances aren’t an issue. What the team want is a progressively faster car than last year – the VJM05 appears to be delivering so far.

Alongside Paul di Resta, this is another exciting driver line-up. This battle is much more difficult to call, but I think Di Resta will stay just on top.

Sauber

Sauber may struggle in 2012

Sauber may struggle in 2012

Another midfield team looking to make progress, Sauber may find themselves squeezed out this year.

While their driver line-up of Kobayashi and Perez is an impressive one, I fear the team has not kept up with the development of the rest of the grid. The team saw a massive slide in pace during the second half of 2011, and the loss of James Key was a massive blow.

With teams like Force India and Lotus looking to move up the grid, there may be no improvement from Sauber in 2012.

Toro Rosso

Ricciardo and Vergne will battle it out at Toro Rosso

Ricciardo and Vergne will battle it out at Toro Rosso

The latest batch of Sebastian Vettel wannabes are in, and look set to provide an exciting battle for 2012.

Jean-Eric Vergne and Daniel Ricciardo are in, ousting Sebastian Buemi and Jaime Alguersuari, who had well and truly overstayed their welcome. With little to no F1 experience (several races for HRT doesn’t do much for Ricciardo), we have no idea who will end up on top.

The STR7 looks solid, but doesn’t seem to be pushing the team up the order. Most of the focus this year will be on the driver pairing, to see can either of them join Vettel at Red Bull.

Williams

Williams look set for another dismal season

Williams look set for another dismal season

After a dismal 2011 season, it appears unlikely that Williams will recover this season.

The Fw34 has been disappointing in testing, frequently ending up at the back of the pack. Bruno Senna brings a fresh face to the team, but Pastor Maldonado stays on, and frequent readers of this site know how I feel about him.

They may prove me wrong, but I see little improvement for Williams this year.

Caterham

Caterham must make progress in 2012

Caterham must make progress in 2012

After two years stranded in F1’s no-man’s-land, Caterham will be looking to push forward and join the midfield.

Failure is not an option for this team – they have spent way too much money to continue to fall behind teams like Williams and Sauber. Unlike HRT and Marussia, Caterham invested financially according to where they thought they would finish in several years, not where they would end up in the beginning. Banking their future on FIA payouts is risky, but it’s been done in F1 before.

Vitaly Petrov replaces the direly slow Jarno Trulli, and may give Heikki Kovalainen a run for his money.

HRT

Another season at the back for HRT - but that's all that's needed

Another season at the back for HRT - but that's all that's needed

After finally turning a wheel before the opening race for the first time in their history, HRT have made ever so slight progress towards stability – albeit at the back of the grid.

With the oldest driver line-up on the grid, the team will be sorely lacking in pace. However, the most important thing for the team is that they stay afloat – many new teams collapse within the first two years, particularly back in the 1990s.

A neat livery may gain them some fans, but otherwise it’s business as usual at the back of the pack. They may struggle to reach the 107% rule in the opening rounds.

Marussia

Marussia will be looking to beat HRT

Marussia will be looking to beat HRT

After finishing last yet again, Marussia will be looking to pull themselves ahead of HRT in the standings in 2012.

Rookie Charles Pic will find it most difficult, having little to no experience of the MR01 before Melbourne. I would be surprised if he were to survive the 107% chop in Q1.

Timo Glock, after proving his worth against all his teammates so far, deserves better than to be languishing in 23rd place all year, and the future of the team may well rest in his hands. No pressure, of course.

 

Of course, all of these predictions could fly out the window by the first corner in Melbourne! Either way, it’s looking set to be another fantastic season of Formula 1. I’ll be here to cover it every step of the way.

Williams reveal FW34 with revised livery

Williams are the last of the teams to reveal their car - the FW34 - before testing

Williams are the last of the teams to reveal their car - the FW34 - before testing

Williams are the ninth F1 team to show off their car for the 2012 season – the FW34.

The team hope to bounce back after a dismal 2011 season, where the team scored only 5 points. As well as the new car, the team have switched to Renault engines for this year.

The car was revealed just before the beginning of today’s pre-season testing in Jerez. A revised livery was also shown off, with the back of the car significantly darker than previous years.

Technically, the car appears to have continued on the theory of a tight rear end (no joke intended), as the sidepods are much shorter and dip down much quicker. The infamous stepped nose is similar to the Ferrari’s, although it is partially hidden by the darker colour.

Senna name to return to Williams

Bruno Senna will replace Rubens Barrichello at Williams

Bruno Senna will replace Rubens Barrichello at Williams

The Senna name has finally made a return to the historic Williams team, as Ayrton’s nephew Bruno Senna has been confirmed at the team for the 2012 season.

Bruno’s uncle was killed in his third race for the team, and his name has been carried on the FW series of cars ever since. Today’s confirmation is made all the more memorable seeing as the Williams team are making a return to Renault engines, the same supplier when Ayrton raced for them.

Bruno’s F1 career has been stunted to say the least, being shoved out of his HRT seat to make way for Sakon Yamamoto. He drove for Renault in the second half of 2011, but failed to retain his race seat for 2012.

With this news, it is almost certain that we will not see veteran Rubens Barrichello racing next year.

Senna was full of praise for his new team today:

"I feel very privileged that Williams has selected me as one of their race 
drivers. The team has a great heritage and I hope I can help write a good 
chapter in their history.

The evaluation process has been intense and methodical but the time I have 
spent in the factory has demonstrated that the team has great people and all 
the resources needed to achieve better things this season."

In his last race for the team in Brazil last year, Barrichello wore a tribute helmet to his late idol.

This means that the only race seat available for this upcoming season is alongside Pedro de la Rosa at HRT.

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.

Maldonado and Bottas retained by Williams

Maldonado has been confirmed at Williams for next year

Maldonado has been confirmed at Williams for next year

Pastor Maldonado will remain at the Williams team for the following year, the team has confirmed.

As well as this, Valterri Bottas has been kept as the team’s reserve driver for 2012. He drove for Williams in the recent young driver test in Abu Dhabi.

Having subtansial sponsorship from petroleum firm PDVSA surely helped the Venezuelan driver, but team principal Frank Williams praised his “consistent and strong race pace”:

"Pastor has proven this year that he is not only quick but also that he is able 
to maintain a consistent and strong race pace.

Pastor has been responsible for all of our forays into Q3 in 2011 and his race at 
Monaco was outstanding. Pastor has also settled into the team at Williams very 
well, contributing strongly in the factory and with our partners.

He will play a critical role in 2012 as we rebuild the team and move forward."

Bottas will take part in 15 Friday practice sessions next year. It still has not been confirmed who will partner Maldonado for 2012.

Pastor scored just a single point in F1 this year, and was heavily criticised for his lunge on Lewis Hamilton at Spa.

Sam Michael to leave for McLaren after Singapore

Sam Michael will depart from Williams after Singapore

Sam Michael will depart from Williams after Singapore

Williams technical director Sam Michael is to leave the team after next weekend’s Singapore Grand Prix.

The Grove-based team have endured a horrendous season, possibly their worst in their Formula 1 history, with only 5 points to their name. After much pressure over the last few months, Michael has now stepped down.

He won’t be missing from the paddock for long though. It has also been announced that he will be joining the McLaren team. A team statement has explained that he “will join the senior management team in addition to taking specific responsibility for the development and management of the team’s trackside operations.”

Michael has stated:

"I already know and respect many of the team’s senior technical management figures, 
and becoming a member of that excellent working unit was one of the prime 
attractions of this new position.

Equally, for some time I’ve closely observed and greatly admired both Lewis 
[Hamilton] and Jenson [Button] as grade-one drivers, and therefore regard it as an 
enormous privilege to be able to work with both of them.

Sam had spent 8 years in Formula 1 before joining Williams in 2001. He has been technical director there since 2004.

5-place grid penalty for Maldonado

Pastor Maldonado has been handed a 5-place grid penalty for a deliberate collision with Lewis Hamilton in qualifying.

Lewis muscled past the Williams on track while battling for position for their last lap in Q2. Maldonado’s lap was heavily disrupted by the battle, and failed to progress to Q3. After the session ended, Pastor swerved into the side of Lewis’ car, damaging the McLaren’s front wing and sidepod.

Hamilton was able to participate in Q3 (with sticky tape on his sidepods, if anyone noticed!) after several minutes of repairs, and qualified second.

The stewards decided that Maldonado had acted dangerously, and the Venezuelan driver will now start from 21st place.

Lewis has received a reprimand for the incident. Here is how he described the incident:

"I was at the end of my Q2 lap and I got to the chicane as I was just finishing and
there were two Williams just sitting there going very, very slow – I think they were
probably preparing to start for another lap, but it was already red light [chequered
flag, end of Q2].

So I tried and get past, which I did. I lost quite a lot of time there but as I was
coming through the exit of turn one I saw Maldonado approaching quite quickly and he
came around me, I didn’t move anywhere, but [he] happened to swipe across me.

I don’t know whether it was intentional or not, but I guess we’ll see shortly.

The front wing was quite badly damaged, my side pod… I thought my front suspension
was damaged, I think the front towing is a little bit out, but fortunately the guys
did a great job to put it back together.

I just think once the flag is out and the red lights are on there’s no need to be
racing, there should never ever be an incident but unfortunately there was.”

I think it was quite serious and just unfortunate that neither of us, and particularly
him, flipped it or had a big, big crash, so I think we’re quite lucky there."

Here is a video of the incident:

And onboard footage from Hamilton:

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.

Williams to use Renault engines from 2012

The coveted Renault RS27-2011 engine which Williams will use next year

The coveted Renault RS27-2011 engine which Williams will use next year

Williams F1 have announced that they will switch to using Renault engines from the start of the 2012 season.

This will cause quite the case of nostalgia for the sport’s more experienced fans, as the last time Williams and Renault teamed up were the glory days of 1989-1997. In this time, the team won 5 constructor’s titles and 4 driver’s championships.

This new deal will cover 2012 and 2013. With the engine regulation change set for 2014, talks are already underway to extend the contract past this time.

Frank Williams has stated:

We are delighted and excited by our new partnership with Renault. This reunites the 
F1 team with a leading car manufacturer and complements our new relationship with 
Jaguar.

At the same time, we are grateful to Cosworth: they have been a fair and reliable 
partner both on and off the track for the past two years and we look forward to 
working with them across our business in the future.

Our previous relationship with Renault was one of the most successful in Williams’ 
history but we will not allow ourselves to dwell too much on the past.

We must look to the future and continue to re-build our on-track reputation, which 
I am hopeful that today’s announcement will help us to do.

Apart from Williams themselves, who will now use the same power plant as world champions Red Bull, the biggest winner here is Renault. The French manufacturer will now supply engines to 4 teams next year, a third of the entire grid.

On the other hand, Cosworth have now been dealt a huge blow, with Virgin and HRT now their only customers, which will do them no good for their image.

Over the last few years, it has been believed that Renault have been allowed to make minor modifications to their engine package, despite the engine freeze since 2008. These changes were to balance the power output between their engines and those of Mercedes.

However, since the refuelling ban last year, it has emerged that the Renault engine is much more conservative in terms of fuel efficiency. It is claimed that teams with Renault engines can run with 10kg less fuel than their rivals (excluding modifications which increase fuel consumption, such as hot blown diffusers).

Tomlinson and Michael make way at Williams while Mike Coughlan returns to F1

Former Ferrari engineer Mike Coughlan has returned to F1

Former Ferrari engineer Mike Coughlan has returned to F1

Today has seen the technical director of Williams, Sam Michael, and chief aerodynamist Jon Tomilson both announce they will be leaving the team at the end of the year.

After a disastrous start to the 2011 season, not scoring a single point in 3 races, and the worst start in the team’s history, Williams have begun a reshuffle of the top heads in the team.

At the same time, the squad has also hired Mike Coughlan, who was banned for two years from F1 for his part in the 2007 “spygate” scandal.

He will join Williams as chief engineer next month.

The following statement has been issued for Michael and Tomlinson:

"Williams F1 today announced that technical director, Sam Michael, and chief 
aerodynamicist, Jon Tomlinson, have resigned from their positions within the company, 
to take effect at the end of 2011.

Both Sam and Jon are talented and driven people who have worked hard for Williams 
over 10 and five years respectively.

Nonetheless, they have recognised that the team’s performance is not at the level 
that it needs to be and have resigned in order to give the team the opportunity to 
regroup and undertake the changes necessary to get back to the front of the grid.

Both will continue to work in their present positions through until the end of the 
year to ensure that the team maintains focus and momentum during the 2011 season.
We are very grateful to Sam and to Jon for their professional approach."

Meanwhile, Coughlan will rejoin the Formula 1 paddock since he was banned in 2007. He was thrown out after he was discovered exchanging confidential information with Ferrari employee Nigel Stepney. The Ferrari engineer claimed that Coughlan had transmitted information about McLaren’s set-up, pit-stops, weight distribution and other details.

However, Williams believe that Coughlan can still contribute to the team:

"Mike Coughlan is a fine engineer with extensive experience across Formula 1 and 
both civil and defence engineering.

He left Formula 1 in 2007 because of conduct which he acknowledges was wrong and 
which he profoundly regrets. His two year ban from the sport expired some time ago 
and Mike is now determined to prove himself again.

Williams is delighted to be able to give him the opportunity to do this and we are 
very pleased to have one of the most talented and competitive engineers in the 
sport helping us to return to the front of the grid. This is the first step in 
re-building and strengthening our technical group. We will announce the next steps 
as they develop."

In 2008 the FIA advised all top level motor sport teams not to hire Stepney “without conducting appropriate due diligence regarding his suitability for involvement in international motor sport”.

Ferrari have refused to comment on this signing, stating “We’ve nothing to comment about other teams’ choices”.

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