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Categories: News

Formula 1: Mid-season review

In this month of August, Formula 1 drivers are enjoying their holidays, after having competed in thirteen of the twenty-two Grands Prix on the calendar. During this summer break, car plus takes stock of each protagonist before the resumption of the championship on August 28, in Belgium.

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QWhat a paradox! While the Grands Prix fascinate us this season, with superb battles on the track, twists, mistakes, but also a lot of topics for debate, the outcome of the championship already seems sealed. There are nine races to go, but with an 80-point lead, more than the equivalent of three wins [25 points par succès, NDLR], Max Verstappen rushes to a second consecutive title. Brilliant on the track, the Dutchman crushes his opponents with his eight victories. But one can’t help but think that the situation would have to be much different if not for Ferrari’s accumulation of missteps. The Italian single-seater is surely the fastest, as shown by its eight pole positions acquired against four at Red Bull and one at Mercedes. But the Scuderia, according to its driver Charles Leclerc, has made too many mistakes to deserve to win the drivers’ title which has eluded it since 2007. The Monegasque started the season brilliantly with two successes in three races, and four podiums in the five first Grands Prix. But since then, the machine has stalled. Leclerc has only been on the podium once in the last eight races! Unworthy of a world title contender. Mechanical breakdowns (Spain, Azerbaijan), a driving error (France) and, above all, incredible strategic fantasies (Monaco, Great Britain, Hungary) deprived him of a hundred points and offered a boulevard of advance to Verstappen. If Ferrari regains its senses at the start of the school year, it can chain victories and dream of an improbable turnaround. But against the Scuderia, Red Bull is an implacable organization and the awakening of Mercedes, after a nightmarish start to the season, complicates the mission. Over the last six Grands Prix, the German team has scored more points than Ferrari, even allowing Hamilton to line up five podiums in a row and Russell to obtain his first pole position. If the world title is no longer accessible, a victory in the second part of the season is no longer hypothetical. Above all, Mercedes could influence the course of the championship by interfering in the Red Bull / Ferrari duel. Behind the three leading teams, Alpine, with Ocon in form and Alonso on the start, is fighting for fourth place, while Pierre Gasly, at Alpha Tauri, is having a season in hell.

Champion attitude and handling. More relaxed than last year, he displays his strength behind the wheel.

Dominated by Ferrari in qualifying, his mastery in the race, his incisive overtaking and his ability to take advantage of the opponent’s mistakes allow Verstappen to largely lead the championship. With eight victories already, he is on track to do better than his ten successes in 2021. The only weakness comes from the mechanics, which betrayed him twice in the race, as well as during qualifying in Hungary.

His three retirements, each time being the race leader, weigh heavily (75 points) at the time of the balance sheet. Grand Prix after Grand Prix, Leclerc seems more and more morally overwhelmed. Very hard on himself, he cannot forgive himself for leaving the track in France. The Monegasque also begins to question the strategic decisions of his team, and regrets the lack of reliability. With seven pole positions, he is the fastest man of the season, but the title seems inaccessible.

His start to the season was brilliant, with the first pole position of his career, then his success in Monaco. That day, the Mexican even claimed to be capable of fighting for the world title. But since the beginning of the summer, he has slowed down by mounting the podium only once in five races. Beaten ten out of thirteen times in qualifying by his teammate Verstappen, Perez will have to be content with his role as lieutenant, with the aim of taking points from rival teams.

Getting ahead of a Ferrari driver in the championship when the Mercedes is inferior to the Italian single-seater is a feat.

For his first year in the German team, Russell displays unparalleled solidity. Sion dismisses his accident at Silverstone, he finished all the Grands Prix in the first five. A consistency that allows him to be ahead of his teammate Hamilton! His latest feat: obtaining his first pole in F1 just before the summer break.

His first success does not seem far away.

Getting ahead of a Ferrari driver in the championship when the Mercedes is inferior to the Italian single-seater is a feat.

For his first year in the German team, Russell displays unparalleled solidity. Sion dismisses his accident at Silverstone, he finished all the Grands Prix in the first five. A consistency that allows him to be ahead of his teammate Hamilton! His latest feat: obtaining his first pole in F1 just before the summer break.

His first success does not seem far away.

Sainz finally obtained a first victory, the day after his first pole position, on the occasion of the 150th Grand Prix of his career. But the performances of the Spaniard, dominated in qualifying by Leclerc (10 to 3), are disappointing, even if Sainz paradoxically has more podiums than his teammate. He is even overtaken by Russell.

His ability to raise his level will be a major challenge at the start of the school year, in order to distance Mercedes and reduce the gap with Red Bull. But will he agree to help Leclerc if necessary?

Never during his career, Hamilton had competed in thirteen GPs in a season without winning a single victory. It took a few months for the seven-time world champion to accept the weaknesses of the Mercedes and understand how it works. With five podiums in a row before the summer break, he now has the certainty of winning races this year.

The only driver not to have given up this season, he will try to overtake his young teammate Russell in the championship.

Norris’ glory this year: being the only driver not owning a Red Bull, a Ferrari or a Mercedes to reach the podium. A stunt difficult to reproduce, because even if he is often “the best of the others”, the Briton generally finishes the GP almost a minute behind the winner. With a transparent Daniel Ricciardo at his side, Norris alone carries McLaren’s hopes of overtaking Alpine for fourth place among the constructors.

The Frenchman is having a solid season, with ten finishes in the points and a fifth place as his best result. Even if a podium seems unlikely, Ocon’s consistency is essential for Alpine, who lead McLaren by four points for fourth place in the constructors’ championship. Esteban still needs to improve in qualifying, where he is trailing 8-5 by Alonso, in order to take on the role of team leader, knowing that the Spaniard will leave at the end of the season.

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The Finn is no longer the same man. Suffocated for five years by Hamilton at Mercedes, Bottas is having a convincing season as a leader in a midfield team. With 46 points scored, he is already doing better than Kimi Räikkönen throughout the 2019 season with Alfa Romeo. However, reliability is often lacking, and the Swiss team struggles to develop its car as efficiently as its rivals do. Bottas has not scored points in the last four Grands Prix.

At 41, the Spaniard is still impressive, as evidenced by his exceptional second place in qualifying in the rain in Canada or his series of eight consecutive finishes in the points. After a start to the championship plagued by reliability concerns, Alonso moved up the standings. But the announcement, during the holidays, of his astonishing decision to leave Alpine to join Aston Martin next year could affect the atmosphere in the team and impact the end of his season.

One of the great stories of the season. When he had to leave F 1 at the end of 2020, Magnussen found Haas just before the start of the championship. Taking advantage of a car with astonishing performance, he pulled off a few brilliant strokes and outrageously dominated his team-mate Mick Schumacher (11 to 2 in qualifying and 22 points to 12). His return is a success.

But where is Daniel Ricciardo?

The Australian is the big disappointment of the year. Humiliated by Norris 11-2 in qualifying, he has 57 points less than his teammate.

Officially, his bosses support him but, behind the scenes, he is busy trying to end his contract, which runs until the end of 2023. Ricciardo has little time to react.

The comparison with 2021 is painful for the Frenchman.

Only three times in the points, he only experienced a clearing with his fifth place in Baku: his only ranking in the top 10 during the last ten GPs! His car, which had already limited potential at the start of the season, fell back in the hierarchy because of the progress of the opponents. The season is going to be long.

Vettel has only nine Grands Prix left to compete before ending his career in Formula 1. An end far removed from the standards of the four-time German world champion. Aston Martin has only allowed him to score small points on five occasions, in this season where ahead of his teammate Lance Stroll is no longer enough to keep the flame alive. He’s probably right to quit.

Even if the German has finally scored his first points in F1, with an 8th place followed by a 6th in early July, his record is negative against his teammate Magnussen, who has just beaten him eight times in a row in qualifying. While he was aiming for Vettel’s place at Aston Martin, finally taken by Alonso in 2023, Schumacher must quickly shine, because his name will not protect him for long.

Like Gasly, the Japanese can’t do much with his car. He has not scored any points in the last seven GPs. His mistake at Silverstone, when he hooked up with his team-mate while both were in the points, darkened his record. Despite the help of a psychologist, Tsunoda is still struggling to control his mood swings. But his bosses continue to trust him.

The Chinese debutant deserves to be higher in the rankings. By his attitude and his driving, he seduced the world of F1.

Guanyu Zhou sometimes manages to match Bottas, his very experienced teammate. But his spectacular accident at Silverstone and the precarious reliability of the Alfa Romeo did not allow him to materialize in the race.

The Canadian seems to drag out his sentence.

Disillusioned, silent, the son of the owner of Aston Martin continues his season without enthusiasm, but without being challenged, necessarily. Only once in the top ten in qualifying, four times tenth as the best result, he was dominated by Vettel at the end of the race. The comparison risks being even more cruel against Alonso in 2023.

After a year on the sidelines, Albon has had a decent season at the wheel of the slowest F1 on the grid.

Nevertheless, he remains the only one not to have qualified at least once in the top ten. The Thai needs technical improvements on his single-seater, and a bit of luck to regularly score points and ensure his future.

The only driver with no points on the clock, Latifi probably saw his last Grands Prix in Formula 1.

Often the slowest in qualifying, he nevertheless achieved two feats in the rain with a 10 lap in qualifying at Silverstone and a best time in free practice in Budapest. Insufficient in the face of his lack of consistency and his many accidents.

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