Tuesday, August 29, 2017

1 Racing Mind's 2017 Formula 1 Summer Break Report Card: Scuderia Toro Rosso

Photo Credit: Glenn Dunbar/LAT Images

Team Grade: C+

Driver Grades
Carlos Sainz Jr: B
Daniil Kvyat: D

No one in the sport of Formula 1 mistakes the fact that the Italian-based Toro Rosso race team is heavily influenced by Red Bull Racing. Both drivers competing with Red Bull Racing were recruited directly from Toro Rosso machines.

While switching back to Renault power units after a season with Ferrari power, Toro Rosso has shown no major movement away from their 2016 performance. Toro Rosso is still a steady mid-marker organization on the Formula 1 grid for 2017 with their STR12 race machine (similar to Red Bull Racing, the Renault name does not appear on Toro Rosso vehicles).

In his third consecutive season with the team, Carlos Sainz Jr has developed into a solid top-10 runner. In 11 races, the Spaniard collected championship points in seven events with his season-best performance being a sixth place at the Monaco Grand Prix. Sainz suffered retirements in all four races where is missed the top-10.

Since being ‘demoted’ back to Toro Rosso after his stint with Red Bull Racing was abruptly ended after an on-track incident in the 2016 Russian Grand Prix, Daniil Kvyat has not been able to carryover the consistency he found through 2015. Since rejoining Toro Rosso, the Russian has finished no better than ninth place. In point finishes in Australia and Spain, Kvyat crossed the line on both intenses in ninth.

Thoughts of Team for Remainder of 2017:

With exception to the unforgettable Sebastian Vettel victory at the Italian Grand Prix with the team, Toro Rosso has long-appeared content with motorsport mediocrity. Contending at the lower portion of the top-10 through qualifying and on race day, a podium result would jazz-up this otherwise humdrum group.

1 Racing Mind's 2017 Formula 1 Summer Break Report Card: Renault Sport Formula One Team

Photo Credit: Glenn Dunbar/LAT Images

Team Grade: C

Driver Grades
Nico Hulkenberg: B-
Jolyon Palmer: D+

Repurchasing their formerly-owned team late in 2015, Renault started the 2016 Formula 1 season behind the eightball. Through the entire 2016 tour, Renault Sport Formula One Team scored just eight points. 2017 has been accepted as another rebuilding year with a great deal of focus in collecting the pieces needed for better performances.

Joining Renault in 2017 was seasoned German pilot Nico Hulkenberg who brought a history of consistency with mid-marker teams in Formula 1. Hulkenberg has scored five finishes in the top-10 so far this season. The Renault race team only had three point-scoring finishes total in 2016 between both drivers. Second generation Formula 1 racer Jolyon Palmer returned to the second Renault R.S. 17. Palmer is still chasing his first point-scoring finish in a 2017 Formula 1 event.

The performance differential between the Renault Sport Formula One teammates has generally been wide. Nico Hulkenberg has proven not only to be better performing on Sunday but also shown the speed potential of the R.S. 17 in qualifying conditions. The German driver placed his Renault into the final Q3 session six times so far in 2017. Jolyon Palmer’s less than remarkable outings this season has resulted in only a few occasions where is placed higher than Hulkenberg. While most team-leading race finishes by Palmer were virtue of a retirement suffered by his teammate, he did out-place Hulkenberg at the Austrian Grand Prix while both Renault cars completed the event.  

Thoughts of Team for Remainder of 2017:

Nico Hulkenberg will likely continue being the primary breadwinner for the Renault team in 2017. Jolyon Palmer is undoubtedly eager to post points this season being one of only two regular drivers yet to register a point for 2017. It Palmer succeeds, it will only be his second time in his career. Renault’s history in Formula 1 leaves room for optimism heading forward through the remaining races of 2017 and beyond. Entering the sport in 1977 and returning in 2002 in the position as a constructor, Renault has twice been turned around into a front-running competitor after less successful opening seasons.

1 Racing Mind's 2017 Formula 1 Summer Break Report Card: Sauber F1 Team

Photo Credit: Sauber F1® Team / Sauber Motorsport AG 

Team Grade: C-

Driver Grades
Pascal Wehrlein: C+
Marcus Ericsson: D

Part of the Formula 1 grid since 1993, Peter Sauber gave up ownership of his team in the late part of 2016. Now controlled by Longbow Finance (a Swiss-based investment firm), the new owners and managers of the motorsport group appear intent to maintain the Sauber F1 Team branding. For 2017, the team acknowledges 25 years of competition in Formula 1. The Sauber team’s new owners have yet to immediately change the fortunes of the struggling organization.

After 11 races in the 2017 Formula 1 season, Sauber has scored five points coming entirely from German Pascal Wehrlein. Driving last season for the now-defunct Manor Racing team, Wehrlein missed the first two grand prix events as a result of injuries suffered in pre-season Race of Champions event. Sauber test driver Antonio Giovinazzi served as a replacement for the Australian Grand Prix and Chinese Grand Prix. Giovinazzi finished 12th in his Formula 1 debut but was involved in a massive crash at the Shanghai International Circuit. An accident closely mirroring a qualifying crash the Italian endured a day prior, Giovinazzi escaped both incidents unhurt. Participating with Sauber for a third consecutive season is Swedish pilot Marcus Ericsson. Finishing 11th place twice before the Formula 1 summer break, Ericsson hasn’t scored a Formula 1 championship point since the 2015 Italian Grand Prix.

Thoughts of Team for Remainder of 2017:

There remains a chance that the Sauber team will be able to add to their constructors’ point total for 2017 in the remaining races. However, while both Wehrlein and Ericsson will be competing to break into the rear portion of the top-10, the team’s primary devotion may be slated towards 2018. Much of the performance disadvantage with the race cars is connected to the team’s deal with Ferrari for year-old spec engines. Planning for next year, Sauber has already secured an arrangement to receive Ferrari power units built to current specifications.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

1 Racing Mind's 2017 Formula 1 Summer Break Report Card: McLaren Honda

Photo Credit: Zak Mauger/LAT Images

Team Grade: F

Driver Grades
Fernando Alonso: C (possible B- weighing Indy 500 effort on mark)
Stoffel Vandoorne: C-

The second oldest active Formula 1 team, McLaren has captured 182 grand prix victories and 8 constructor titles. Historic successes of the McLaren team are completely detached from the 2017 incarnation of the race team. Collecting only 11 points, McLaren Honda is enduring a year where their hybrid power unit’s development appeared to have taken a step backwards from 2016 and a obviously disgruntled veteran driver.

Team drivers Fernando Alonso and Steffel Vandoorne have both registered a non-start due to a mechanical problem. Alonso, a two-time Formula 1 World Champion, has vocally spoke out on the team’s poor performance this season. The widely-publicized choice to run the 2017 Indianapolis 500 instead of the Monaco Grand Prix with McLaren also spoke volumes on the Spaniard’s discontent after three seasons with the once top team. A native of Belgium, Vandoorne is contesting his first full Formula 1 season after debuting last season as a substitute for an injured Fernando Alonso for the Bahrain Grand Prix. At the beginning of the season, Stoffel Vandoorne’s performance on a race weekend sadly almost goes unmentioned lacking either speed or reliability. His efforts have shown improvements in recent races leading up to the summer break with a point-scoring finish of 10th coming at the Hungarian Grand Prix. Heading into the Belgian Grand Prix,

In late 2015, Red Bull Racing who was dissatisfied with their Renault power units was rumoured to have been in discussions with Honda but was apparently blocked into signing an agreement by McLaren. Instead of providing Honda with double the race cars to collect data, McLaren appears to have immersed themselves in development quicksand.

Thoughts of Team for Remainder of 2017:

If McLaren Honda finds some reliability in the final 9 races, the team can mainly focus on scoring points on the lower part of the top 10 grand prix results. A frustrating 2017 season has led to wild speculation relating to the McLaren operations for 2018. McLaren’s return to Mercedes-Benz power has been suggested since June. There’s also much uncertainty surrounding Fernando Alonso’s plans for next season whether his future will involve the team in Formula 1 or could possibly seek a longer visit to IndyCar. Vandoorne can take solace in the knowledge that McLaren Honda has confirmed his return for the 2018 season.

1 Racing Mind's 2017 Formula 1 Summer Break Report Card: Haas F1 Team

Photo Credit: Steven Tee/LAT Images

Team Grade: C+

Driver Grades
Romain Grosjean: C
Kevin Magnussen: C+

Since debuting in 2016, the Haas F1 Team could be categorized as one of the most fun organizations to watch on a grand prix weekend. While we are currently accustomed to Mercedes AMG, Ferrari and Red Bull Racing at the front of the field, the sophomore American-derived race team has shown some impressive performances for a rather young group.

For 2017, Kevin Magnussen replaced Esteban Gutierrez at the Haas F1 Team. Leaving the Renault organization, Magnussen ultimately followed the same path to Haas as his teammate Romain Grosjean did (Grosjean left the organization during its transition from the Lotus F1 Team). Together, Magnussen and Grosjean has shown themselves to be roughly equal performers with the team. Romain Grosjean captured the best single race results for the Haas F1 Team with a sixth place at the Austrian Grand Prix.

After 11 races, the Haas F1 Team has collected the same amount of points in the constructors’ standings as it did all season in 2016. A highlight for the 2017 campaign, Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen combined to deliver their young race team its first double scoring performance at the Monaco Grand Prix.

Thoughts of Team for Remainder of 2017:

With little more than half of the 2017 season concluded, the team’s confidence in their drivers is solidified by the news both Grosjean and Magnussen have already been retained for 2018. Showing some gains over 2016, Haas F1 Team’s 2017 effort still displays a level of infancy with the organization. An area of improvement for the Haas F1 Team should be in reliability. Both team drivers have three retirements apiece in the first 11 Formula 1 events.

1 Racing Mind's 2017 Formula 1 Summer Break Report Card: Williams Martini Racing

Photo Credit: Glenn Dunbar/LAT Images

Team Grade: C

Driver Grades
Felipe Massa: B-
Lance Stroll: C+

Williams Martini Racing’s 2017 plans were thrown for a loop in only the first month of the year. Unable to resist the opportunity to take over the hotly desirable seat vacated by the retired Nico Rosberg at Mercedes AMG, Valtteri Bottas sought and was granted a release from the team. Brazilian Formula 1 veteran Felipe Massa, who originally intended to hang up his helmet after the 2016 season, was recalled to drive a Williams-Mercedes alongside 18-year-old Canadian rookie Lance Stroll.

The 40th anniversary season for the Williams Formula 1 team, 2017 has been short in celebration on the track. Felipe Massa started the season off reasonably with sixth place finishes at the Australian Grand Prix and Bahrain Grand Prix. While Massa has been a consistent for the organization with point-scoring finishes in 6 of the 11 races currently completed, Williams’ best effort of the 2017 Formula 1 season was obtained by the first year driver. Lance Stroll scored a third place result at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix and was running in second place in the late part of the event before former Williams driver Valtteri Bottas. Stroll became the youngest Formula 1 driver to finish on the podium in Formula 1 competition and the first Canadian no named Villeneuve to achieve a three-top result in a grand prix.

While the podium sandwiched by two other point scoring finishes has been a respectable run for Lance Stroll, his rookie has been unstable overall. Stroll’s Formula 1 career started with three consecutive retirements consisting of a brake issue in Australia as well as two collisions in China and Bahrain.

In the first two years of Formula 1's implementation of the current gasoline/electric hybrid powertrain rules, Williams opting for Mercedes-Benz power was almost a winning decision existing as a podium threat for many 2014 and 2015 events. Since 2016, the team’s performance appears to have slipped. While the FW40 race car has rarely appeared in the top half of the point scoring spots, the Williams machines have been fairly reliable with several retirements being due to collisions rather than mechanical issues.

Thoughts of Team for Remainder of 2017:

The current Williams race car has shown much of its strength on slower tracks in 2017 leaving the Singapore Grand Prix as a potential opportunity looking forward through the final nine events.

While Felipe Massa has put in a steady effort with Williams with the exception of his withdraw from the Hungarian Grand Prix due to health reasons, Lance Stroll’s performance has areas requiring growth. Stroll’s qualifying results in the first 11 events have been most atrocious. Cracking Q3 on only two occasions, Stroll’s Williams-Mercedes has most often been seen mired back in last three rows of the grid. Better starting spots would inevitably help the Canadian find point-scoring consistency through the remaining portion of 2017.

1 Racing Mind's 2017 Formula 1 Summer Break Report Card: Force India

Photo Credit: Glenn Dunbar/LAT Images

Team Grade: B

Driver Grades
Sergio Perez: B
Esteban Ocon: B+

Entering its 10th season in Formula 1 competition, the Force India team is still chasing their first grand prix victory. A customer of Mercedes-Benz power since 2009 and occasional podium contender, the likelihood for a great triumph has been something many observers have expected.

Thinking pink for 2017 new colours supplied through the addition of water treatment company BWT AG as a sponsor, the bold-looking VJM10 race cars handled by Mexico’s Sergio Perez and France’s Esteban Ocon has exhibited a near-magnetic attraction to the top-10. So far in the 2017 Formula 1 season, there was only one race where the team failed to score constructor points (the Monaco Grand Prix in May).

Force India’s on-track effort has been led by the veteran Sergio Perez. The Mexican driver has accumulated 56 points with a season-topping finish of 4th place coming at the Spanish Grand prix. Esteban Ocon has been the most pleasant surprise in the Force India group. Driving nine races last season for the now-defunct Manor Racing team, results would not necessarily indicate he would be a consistent top-10 driver in better equipment. In 11 races, the Frenchman has finished in the points all-but once.

Thoughts of Team for Remainder of 2017:

The Force India-Mercedes race cars are generally not as quick as other front-running teams. This fact reveals itself most prominently in qualifying. However, if perseverance is worth anything, Force India could possibly win a race in the remaining part of the season.

1 Racing Mind's 2017 Formula 1 Summer Break Report Card: Red Bull Racing

Photo Credit: Charles Coates/Getty Images

Team Grade: A-

Driver Grades
Daniel Ricciardo: A-
Max Verstappen: C

Since 2014, Ferrari and Red Bull Racing have appeared to exchange ‘second-in-class’ honours in Formula 1 behind the Mercedes AMG team. Although Scuderia Ferrari has surged forward into a viable challenger against the Silver Arrows in 2017, Red Bull Racing has not been standing still. Continuing to source power from a rebadged Renault engine called a TAG Heuer, the Austrian-owned race organization has a total of six podium results in the first 11 grand prix events.

One of the more outstanding performance of the season is coming from Daniel Ricciardo. After an opening round in his home country where his car was unable to take the starting grid but still completed a handful of laps, the Australian driver hit a major stride starting with the Spanish Grand Prix. Ricciardo would grab a podium position in five consecutive races. The success was coupled by a ritualistic sight of Ricciardo drinking from his shoe and sharing it with fellow podium scorers. The highlight for Daniel Ricciardo a victorious outing at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix. Ricciardo’s first win since Malaysia last season, a Red Bull Racing machine’s win placed a third team at the top of the podium in 2017 (the first time since 2013 when more than two constructors won races in a season).    

The 2017 season has not been kind to Red Bull Racing’s Dutch driver Max Verstappen. Promoted to the team last season, Verstappen instantly became a winning driver when he captured the Spanish Grand Prix. In his first full season behind the wheel of a Red Bull-TAG Heuer, the 19-year-old’s progress has been countered by bad luck. With five retirements in 2017 (three related to vehicle failure and two resulting from collisions), Max Verstappen finishing results are led by a third place at the Chinese Grand Prix.

Thoughts of Team for Remainder of 2017:

Red Bull Racing has many desirable ingredients for a winning Formula 1 team with a solid driver lineup and a proven technical development staff. About the only obstacle to Red Bull Racing enjoying greater success in 2017 is the Mercedes AMG and Ferrari race cars. A matter of just a few tenths of a second keeps the cars away from being a surefire contender for race wins. Depending on the race track, a Red Bull-TAG Heuer could again find victory in 2017 under the right circumstances.

1 Racing Mind's 2017 Formula 1 Summer Break Report Card: Ferrari

Photo Credit:  Zak Mauger/LAT Images

Team Grade: A

Driver Grades
Sebastian Vettel: A
Kimi Raikkonen: A-

Scuderia Ferrari needed a strong 2017 season after a winless 2016 campaign. This year, the tifosi was presented with a massive rallying cry thanks to the SF70H race car being wheeled by Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen.

At the first race of the 2017 Formula 1 season in Australia, the prancing horse stormed out of the starting gate against the established Mercedes AMG juggernaut. More than just a race win, Sebastian Vettel’s 2017 Australian Grand Prix victory sent an affirmative message to the motorsport world that the Mercedes AMG could be beaten on pure race pace. While Hamilton and Mercedes AMG grabbed the second race of the season in China, Vettel countered by taking the next event in Bahrain. Winning a total of four grand prix races in 2017, Sebastian Vettel has nosed-out a 14-point lead over Lewis Hamilton in drivers’ championship after 11 events. In the team’s second Ferrari, Finnish driver Kimi Raikkonen has been enjoying a consistent season. Raikkonen has placed on the podium for four races so far in 2017 and has played a valuable role in Ferrari’s battle in the constructors’ points.

While Ferrari was able to beat the Mercedes AMG cars three times this season, Ferrari has gone through some unpleasant moments in 2017. A win in Monaco by Sebastian Vettel was an uncomfortable 1-2 finish for Ferrari. Kimi Raikkonen started on pole at the Monaco Grand Prix but had to settle for the runner-up spot due to questionable pit strategy where Vettel was allowed to gain an advantage through the first round of pit stops. Assessed by analysts as team orders favouring Vettel, Raikkonen was visibly displeased with the result during podium festivities.

Thoughts of Team for Remainder of 2017:

The Scuderia Ferrari squad has already exploited the mortality of Mercedes AMG in 2017 in a manner no rival had accomplished since the beginning of the 2014 season. With Sebastian Vettel leading the drivers’ championship and the team firmly in the constructors’ title hunt, there is a change for Ferrari to massively disrupt the Silver Arrows’ modern Formula 1 dynasty. In light of a highly contentious drivers’ championship battle between Vettel and Hamilton, we should expect to see Kimi Raikkonen become a support player in the remaining races of 2017.

1 Racing Mind's 2017 Formula 1 Summer Break Report Card: Mercedes AMG

Photo Credit: Daimler AG/ Mercedes AMG

Team Grade: A-

Driver Grades
Lewis Hamilton: A
Valtteri Bottas: A+

For the fourth consecutive year the Mercedes AMG can be called the cream of the crop in the premier open wheel racing series. At the top of the constructor points once again at the mid-season mark of a Formula 1 season, the team’s primary driver Lewis Hamilton is continuing to perform at a level where his name will don the top of some impressive all-time lists. Tying Ayrton Senna with 65 career pole positions at the Canadian Grand Prix, Hamilton picked up his 67th career pole at the British Grand Prix on route to race victory.

Following the sudden retirement of world championship winning driver Nico Rosberg at the end of 2016, Mercedes AMG was faced with the immediate task of finding a pilot to occupy the second seat alongside Lewis Hamilton. After several seasons with Williams Martini Racing, Finland’s Valtteri Bottas was rewarded with the illustrious position behind the wheel of the Mercedes AMG F1 W08 EQ Power+ 2017 race car. In his fourth win with the team, Bottas captured his first career Formula 1 win at the Russian Grand Prix. Bottas collected a second victory later in the season in Austria.

Despite the familiarity of the Silver Arrows of Lewis Hamilton at or near the front in 2017, this season is by no means as dominant as previous years for Mercedes AMG. While Hamilton and Bottas claimed six grand prix wins collectively, the win total in previous years over the first 11-race span had been much higher. Between 2014 and 2016, Mercedes AMG won at least nine times in the same span. The simple cause for this disruption to the norms of past seasons is the competition has closed on the group. Ferrari and their SF70H race car have demonstrated an impressive ability of not only following in the tire tracks of Mercedes AMG but outpacing the German outfit. After several years where some assumptions were made that Mercedes AMG had, at times, held back the total speed potential of their vehicles, the Silver Arrows have presented with their first legitimate challenger.

Thoughts of Team for Remainder of 2017:

In the final part of the season, it remains to be seen if the Mercedes AMG team can resist their first major threat to another winning year. From 2014 to 2016, this time in the Formula 1 season saw Mercedes AMG positioned in a manner that the only championship point battles resided within the organization. This year, Lewis Hamilton is trailing Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel in the drivers’ points by 14 markers heading into the Belgian Grand Prix. Mercedes AMG leads in the constructors’ standings by 39 points after 11 races over Ferrari. There is no specific weakness in the team or with drivers Lewis Hamilton or Valtteri Bottas leaving only luck a factor through the remainder of 2017.

1 Racing Mind's 2017 Formula 1 Summer Break Report Card: Intro

Photo Credit: Charles Coates/LAT Images

An almost month-long silence of Formula 1 engines will be broken this weekend at the Belgian Grand Prix at Spa-Francorchamps. The summer break for drivers and teams provide a rest period from touring across the world. For the 20-race 2017 calender taking teams through parts of Europe, North America, Australia and Asia, the break effectively breaks the season into two pieces.

Already in the 2017 Formula 1 season, audiences has already witnessed several spectacular scenes we haven’t seen for a while. Namely, steady competition against Mercedes-AMG for the first year since the introduction of the current gasoline/electric powertrain regulations. Ferrari has been an ongoing threat to defeat the Silver Arrows in almost every race. Between the manufacturers, Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel are battling for the 2017 drivers’ crown. 2017 is also the first time since 2013 that three constructors have won grand prix events.

Although the summer break is meant as a time to detach from the pressures of the grand prix schedule, there was little chance anyone involved in the sport was not constantly reviewing the first 11 races of the 2017 grand prix season or have not been looking ahead to the final 9 events.

Looking back to the season between the Australian Grand Prix and the Hungarian Grand Prix, 1 Racing Mind has compiled the strengths as well as weaknesses for each Formula 1 teams.

Formula 1 Team Report Cards

Mercedes AMG
Scuderia Ferrari
Red Bull Racing
Force India
Williams Martini Racing
Scuderia Toro Rosso
Haas F1 Team
Renault Sport Formula One Team
McLaren Honda
Sauber F1 Team