What we’ve learned so far: The Contenders
We are now halfway through the 2016 Formula 1 season. Twelve races are done. Another nine remain on the cards. The title race is on and there is still plenty to play for until the final chequered flag falls.
Let’s see what we’ve learned so far from the top three title contenders in the championship:
Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 - 1st, 415 points
Still the team to beat. They have been dominant and have clearly shown that they are not the two-time defending World champions for nothing. Mercedes have won all the Grands Prix to date this season but one.
Nico Rosberg enjoyed a hot start to the campaign racking up four wins in a row. Since then, however, the German has added just one more victory to his tally, while teammate and two-time defending World champion Lewis Hamilton has taken charge.
Heading into the summer break, the Briton has flexed his muscles, scoring six victories including four in a row. Hamilton has taken over as the new points leader and has reclaimed his tag as the heavy favourite for an unprecedented third successive crown.
Of their stellar mid-season form, Mercedes-Benz Motorsport head Toto Wolff commented:
“Overall, I think we can be very pleased with our first part of the year. Eleven wins from 12 is a nice statistic to take into the summer break – but we know that our rivals are continuing to improve, too. We will take the break, recharge the batteries and come back with fresh energy in Spa.”
Red Bull Racing - 2nd, 256 points
So far, they have been Mercedes’ closest challengers, although there is still quite a significant gap at the top.
The Bulls’ 18-year-old sensation Max Verstappen is this year’s other race-winner not named Hamilton or Rosberg. The Dutchman made a surprise move from sister squad Toro Rosso after the season’s fourth round, and has since been Formula 1’s feel-good, Cinderella story.
>> Read more about Max Verstappen clinching his first F1 victory in Spain
Teamed up with Aussie talent Daniel Ricciardo, who has enjoyed back-to-back podiums before the break, Red Bull now have an exceptional partnership for the future. They have already exceeded expectations this year, earning six podiums between them, apart from Verstappen’s one win, and they have already charged ahead of perennial contenders Ferrari.
Red Bull team principal Christian Horner stated:
“To have outscored Ferrari and go into the summer break with a 14-point advantage over them in the Constructors’ Championship is a great end to a really strong first half of the year,”
“Time for a well-earned break for all of the team, to recharge their batteries and come back for the final nine races, where there are circuits on the calendar that will hopefully suit us. We’ve exceeded all of our expectations in the first half of the season. I don’t think pre-season any of us could have imagined to have been second in the Constructors’ Championship after 11 rounds.”
Scuderia Ferrari - 3rd, 242 points
To date, they have been the biggest disappointment amongst Formula 1’s title contenders.
Following a major shake-up within the team heading into the new campaign, all were expecting a dramatic turnaround, led by the superstar tandem of Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen.
They have nine podiums so far but have yet to taste victory in 2016, and their worries have grown even more concerning without a top three finish to show for in the last three Grands Prix heading into the break.
"We were ahead of Red Bull and now they’re ahead of us, It has been a bit painful, but we will improve.” - Kimi Raikkonen
The Formula 1 season resumes on August 28 with the Belgian Grand Prix at Spa-Francorchamps.