With Formula 1’s summer break in full swing, I have decided to take a look at how the drivers and teams are getting on so far this year. Part 1 looks at the drivers who could do better.
22. Max Chilton
Max Chilton has done nothing to shake off his pay driver image. He has an average grid position of 21, and has been outqualified by his team mate nine times out of ten.
To top things off, he caused the worst crash of the season so far when he inexplicably drove into Pastor Maldonado in Monaco. It takes some doing to be involved in a crash with Pastor Maldonado and it is not Maldonado’s fault.
21. Esteban Gutiérrez
Peter Sauber has always been good at spotting young driver talent. So the writing was on the wall for Gutiérrez when the opportunity arose for him to stand in for Sergio Pérez in Canada in 2011, and the team instead elected to run Pedro de la Rosa. So it has proved that Gutiérrez is not that good and is clearly only racing as Sauber’s claim to a portion of Carlos Slim’s cash.
Gutiérrez has been out-qualified by his (admittedly mega) team mate Nico Hülkenberg in every race so far. Gutiérrez has been knocked out of Q1 an unacceptable six times, while Hulkenberg has not been knocked out of Q1 all season so far. As a Sauber fan, I find it painful.
20. Giedo van der Garde
It has been a hit and miss season for Giedo van der Garde so far. There have been a few bright moments. But for the most part, he has been outclassed by his team mate Charles Pic.
Van der Garde has been out-qualified by Pic seven times out of ten. He has been out-raced six out of the seven times they have both been classified.
19. Jules Bianchi
Jules Bianchi turned heads in his first few races but has been largely anonymous since. His decline from the public’s consciousness has mirrored Marussia’s slump in form.
While some seemed to think Bianchi’s early season form made him a strong candidate for a move to Ferrari, I was not entirely convinced. In the first few races, Marussia’s closest rivals — Williams and Caterham — were woeful. And it goes without saying that his team mate Max Chilton is not a quality barometer. Bianchi still has to prove himself.
18. Charles Pic
It is difficult to judge Charles Pic. He appears to be the most solid driver of the tail-end teams, Marussia and Caterham. But this itself is not a terribly impressive feat.
As usual, it is difficult to gauge the skill of a driver of such a poor car. But we have the following few facts. His average grid position is ahead of the two Marussia drivers, despite the fact that Caterham’s car was obviously terrible for the first few races. In the races, he has outperformed his older team mate all but once.
17. Pastor Maldonado
In his first two F1 seasons, Pastor Maldonado gained an unenviable reputation as a hot-headed frequent crasher. To give him his due, his racing this season so far has seemed to be a lot cleaner, with fewer mistakes.
Williams will also be grateful to him for securing their only point of the season so far. But star of the future he is not.
16. Felipe Massa
As usual, there have been a few highlights for Felipe Massa peppered across a generally disappointing season. Massa has out-qualified Fernando Alonso three times.
However, the lows have been very low. Curious crashes at Monaco and Germany have been blamed on driver error. Generally, his results lag too far behind Alonso’s. Of course, Alonso is a different class. But Ferrari must surely be looking for a driver who can reliably finish close behind their number one driver.
15. Jean-Éric Vergne
While it is Daniel Ricciardo who seems to gain the more attention out of the two Toro Rosso drivers, the stats reveal that it is not as much of a one-sided battle as you may think. That Vergne is a worse qualifier than Ricciardo is not in doubt. But the race results have been better for Vergne. He has the edge in the championship.
Nevertheless, it is difficult to escape the impression that Vergne is failing to live up to expectations in F1. On the back of a very strong Formula Renault 3.5 campaign in 2011, where he outclassed Ricciardo in more-or-less equal machinery, I was expecting him to shine more brightly in F1 than this.
14. Romain Grosjean
Romain Grosjean now has two full seasons under his belt, so excuses are running out. I think if Grosjean was to be the next superstar, we would know by now. As it is, he is a reasonable talent, but it is questionable whether he even deserves to remain in F1 beyond this season.
He has his moments of outright brilliance. His pass on Felipe Massa at the Hungaroring was one of my highlights of the season, despite the fact that he got penalised for it.
However, the lows are very low. Time and again he has demonstrated a lack of spacial awareness. Worse still, he often drives as though he is scared of making a mistake, meaning that he loses his speed.
Grosjean seems to be similar to Felipe Massa. The core talent is there, but where he is weak is probably his mental strength. One mistake becomes two, becomes three. That affects his confidence badly, and it shows in his driving.
13. Valtteri Bottas
This fancied Finn rode into F1 on a wave of hype. He was probably never going to live up to expectations. So his results have not come yet. But for a rookie, his performances are still not bad.
Bottas in fact already has the edge over his experienced team mate Pastor Maldonado in terms of one lap pace. Bottas has qualified on average 0.3s faster than the Venezuelan. Of course, Bottas’s remarkable 3rd place in qualifying in Canada underlined the fact that he has the speed.
Come race day, Maldonado tends to be ahead. Indeed, Maldonado has secured Williams’ only point so far. But Bottas has been the more consistent, retiring only once, and coming frustratingly close to scoring points on a few occasions. These are very promising signs.
12. Adrian Sutil
I did not expect much from Adrian Sutil’s comeback, but he has impressed me by being pacy. He has shown no real signs of race rustiness.
Sutil tends to out-qualify his team mate Paul di Resta, although the Scot has had some terribly bad luck in qualifying this season. Crucially, however, Sutil has three fewer points finishes than di Resta, leaving him lagging in the championship by 13 points.