What We’ve Learned So Far: The Middle of the Field
Mercedes, Red Bull Racing and Ferrari have established themselves as Formula 1’s undisputed top three at the summer break, if not over the past few seasons.
And during that time, four teams have been generally chasing them in the middle of the pack, namely Williams, Force India, Toro Rosso and McLaren.
Two of these outfits have been quietly knocking on the door although have been unable to break through. They are Williams and Force India, who are the only two sides, apart from F1’s top trio, who have stepped onto the podium this season.
Valtteri Bottas finished third in Canada; while Sergio Perez managed to claim the final podium step for Force India in both Monaco and Baku.
Despite that, both teams still have a long way to go before being accepted as legit contenders, and there may be no better time to start that rise forward than the second half of this F1 season.
Williams Martini Racing - 4th, 96 points
Williams have been the more consistent of the two high-ranked midfield teams, although they have taken a step back from last year on the teams’ title race.
Still, Valtteri Bottas is solid, and is one of only two drivers this season who have yet to retire from a race. However, aside from his lone podium finish, he has only placed in the top five two other times.
Teammate Felipe Massa started the season off strong with points in each of the first six races, but since then has retired twice and finished out of the top 10 three from the four other Grands Prix.
Prior to the start of the mid-season break, Williams’s Head of Performance Engineering Rob Smedley commented:
“We’ll carry on improving and trying to do the absolute maximum that we can do with the car that we’ve got. We’ll keep pushing on.”
Sahara Force India - 5th, 81 points
Like Bottas, Force India’s Sergio Perez is the only other driver in F1 this season who has yet to retire from a race. Looking for fourth to be best?
After a poor start to the championship, Perez was able to bounce back twice with a pair of podiums that went unnoticed. But it hasn’t been smooth sailing from there, as he finished two of the next four races out of the points.
Partner Nico Hulkenberg has had his up and downs, although has come on strong lately with a trio of points finishes on either side of a 19th place classification in the seven races leading up to the summer break.
Force India fans are hoping for even more in the nine remaining races on the calendar, especially as they look to challenge Williams for the number four spot on the constructors’ championship.
Perez headed into the summer break in upbeat mood. He said:
“Proud of the incredible work we have done as a team in the first half of the season. I am confident we have a lot of good days ahead of us in the final nine races, but for now it’s important to get some rest.”
Deputy Team Principal Robert Fernley added:
“The stage is now set for a very close battle in the second part of the season, but we feel we can grow even stronger in the races to come following the break.”
Meanwhile, also part of F1’s midfield are Toro Rosso and McLaren.
Only three points separate the two teams on the constructors’ title race, and both will be hoping to finish the season strong.
Scuderia Toro Rosso - 6th, 45 points
Heading into the season, Toro Rosso were being touted as one of the younger teams who may be capable of pulling off a surprise tor two his season. That young pair of Max Verstappen and Carlos Sainz Jr. did indeed have a solid start. Until, however, the stunning move of Verstappen to Red Bull after only four races.
Since then, Sainz has come into his own and really taken charge of his situation, with six points finishes in eight Grands Prix.
It hasn’t been all smiles, however, for Daniil Kvyat, who had to give up his place in Red Bull Racing for Verstappen. Since the change, Kvyat has had some bad luck with three retirements and just two 10th-place finishes as his best to show for.
Team Principal Franz Tost commented:
"I’m positive that we can be back in the points in the second half of the season. We just need to continue working hard. The summer break will be very useful for everyone and I expect the team to be refreshed and fully motivated to kick-off the second half of the year at Spa and at our home race in Monza.”
McLaren Honda Formula 1 - 7th, 42 points
McLaren were hoping to make big strides this season, with power now being supplied by Honda.
So far, however, we have only seen small improvements come from the Woking-based outfit.
The best thing they have is their driver tandem of former World champions Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button, who both can get the maximum out of a sub-par car.
Alonso has been able to finish fifth but has also had three retirements and the missed race in Bahrain due to health concerns. Button, on the other hand, has also missed classification three times and is seven points behind his teammate, despite appearing in the top 10 more times.
Fans will be hoping for a better second-half to the season.
Honda R&D Head of F1 Project & Executive Chief Engineer Yusuke Hasegawa said:
“Looking back at the last few races, we are now confident that our progress is definitely heading in the right direction, and are now aiming to make another step forward in the early part of the second half of the season.”
The Formula 1 season resumes on August 28 with the Belgian Grand Prix at Spa-Francorchamps.