Mid season review part three: The front runners

Posted on August 27, 2010

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In reality, there have been two championships contested this year with a major fight among the best drivers in the best cars taking all of the spoils. It’s been an extraordinary performance from several squads, putting most of the grid totally in the shade in any conditions.

1st Red Bull Racing – 312 points

Adrian Newey has built Red Bull a rocket ship. Credit: Getty Images/Red Bull Racing

Adrian Newey has designed a remarkable machine for the 2010 season. The Red Bull car has been so far ahead it has been the subject of continuous challenge by other teams – and so far has passed inspection every single time. It’s a rocket ship and it must make the team red hot favourites to take both championships come Abu Dhabi.

But that having been said, the team should have both titles effectively locked up. A combination of reliability gremlins and accidents have meant Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber fighting it out not just with each other with also with other drivers. It is remarkable that a team which has secured all but one pole position this year have not topped the standings for most of the season.

There is though no indication anyone has a chance to catch up and the advantage Red Bull in Hungary was extraordinary. Both championships are Red Bull’s to lose – just don’t ask me to say who will come out on top.

2nd McLaren – 304 points

Jenson Button couldn't have hoped for much more in his first McLaren year - just a shame about the Red Bull pace. Credit: McLaren.com

McLaren have had by any measure a great season so far. The defending world champion has slotted into the team better than anyone could have hoped and the f-duct was a great initiative everyone has had to try and copy. Both Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton have managed to win races, despite being at a clear overall advantage.

But the Woking outfit have missed a step in the last couple of months. It’s no real surprised they’ve had a bump in the development race after last year’s epic effort to haul themselves into contention and this season’s rapid progression in the early stages. But the blown diffuser has not worked as well as hoped and the past couple of races have been a real challenge.

Either of the driver’s remain in with a shout for the championship and the team’s great consistency means they have a chance at the constructor’s title. But it will probably require Red Bull errors.

3rd Ferrari – 238 points

Ferrari have managed to keep Fernando Alonso in the hunt for the title, despite a torrid early season with only Bahrain’s victory a highlight. But it’s all tainted by what happened in Germany, when the team’s blatant use of team orders and their lies after the event sparked scandal. It remains, in my view, likely they will lose constructors points and it is also possible the driver’s will also be disqualified – which could yet change the face of the title race.

The team has managed impressive development, incorporating clever devices developed elsewhere into their car very successfully. But they’ve made no major innovations of their own.

Felipe Massa has also been a disappointment, well off Alonso’s pace. It’s no surprise – the coaching he requires from engineer Rob Smedley remains incredible and I was amazed when his contract was renewed.

4th Mercedes GP – 132 points

Mercedes have been innovative - but just not fast enough. Credit: Mercedes GP

The defending champions have had a poor season. Ross Brawn’s latest machine has been off the pace and Michael Schumacher’s return to the grid has been less than glorious. It’s a shame, really, but the team must surely now be focussed almost completely on 2011. In Nico Rosberg, they appear to have a driver with talent to unlock but it’s not a lineup to inspire.

The team is in great danger of losing fourth to Renault, which would be a poor return for Mercedes investment and return to the sport. There have clearly been innovations on the car this year – they have a quite unique looking airbox – but nothing has really worked for them.

5th Renault –  106 points

Robert Kubica has been key to Renault's ferocious development rate. Credit: Renault F1

In terms of sheer development pace, Renault have outstripped almost everybody. The car in Bahrain was not great but it’s steadily improved and the team has gone through countless iterations of various parts.

And Robert Kubica, who has committed to the team for the longer term, has proved a revelation in developing the car. He’s quick and intelligent and, when conditions have allowed, produced racing against the top teams of the highest quality. Given the right car, he will be a world champion.

Vitaly Petrov has been much more mixed but the Russian is clearly not just here to pay his way. I’d tentatively suggest he will be retained for 2011.

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