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Formula 1 2016 – Review of the Midfield

The first set of four flyaway races to start the 2016 Formula 1 season has been completed. We now look at the midfield teams from P6-P11 in the Constructors’ championship.

Formula 1 2016 – Review of the Midfield

Scuderia Toro Rosso: This junior Red Bull team had a lot of attention focused on it since last season, when they signed the talented young drivers Max Verstappen (age 18) and Carlos Sainz Jr. (age 21). Both drivers are exceptionally talented, with Verstappen projected as a future world champion. The Faenza-based team boasts of a talented Technical Director in James Key. In 2015, they were hampered by the unreliable Renault engines. A switch back to Ferrari engines, albeit the 2015 not the current 2016 engines, was made to improve prospects. The chassis has looked good, but the engine performance is behind other 2016 engines.

Verstappen, catapulted from Formula 3 to F1, is a prodigy and is being coveted by many top teams. Helmut Marko, the head of the Red Bull driver development program, has likened him to a young Ayrton Senna. The young Dutchman has shown flashes of sheer brilliance with his bold overtaking moves. After his promotion to the senior Red Bull team after just four races this season, Verstappen will be under huge pressure. He has shown himself capable of handling it and only time will tell if such a meteoric rise can be sustained.

Sainz Jr. has been overshadowed by the immense hype around his teammate. But the young Spaniard has held his own with his performance on the track. The two P9 finishes so far could have been better. Sainz now has the experienced Daniil Kvyat as his teammate and it is time for the Spaniard to convert potential shown into points for the team.

Toro Rosso has been plagued by operational errors during the races and also the high tension between the two young drivers. The induction of the former Manor F1 boss John Booth as Director of Racing will help them improve these weak areas. Verstappen’s promotion to Red Bull could also ease the tension and let the team focus on improving on-track performance.

World Constructors’ Championship (WCC)
Toro Rosso: Position:6 Points:17 Wins:0 Podiums:0

World Drivers’ Championship (WDC)
Max Verstappen : Position:10 Points:13 Wins:0 Podiums:0
Carlos Sainz Jr: Position:14 Points:4 Wins:0 Podiums:0

McLaren: The second most successful F1 team, McLaren languished at the back of the grid in 2015. The Woking-based team’s last win came in 2012 and it has been an alarming slide down the order since then. With the Honda engines showing better reliability and performance this season, McLaren has moved into the ranks of the midfield teams. But the team and its fans cannot accept anything less than being a top team. Much depends on the in-season engine development that Honda can deliver.

The team boasts of two experienced former world champions as its drivers (Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button). The GP2 champion Stoffel Vandoorne is waiting in the wings.  Since his return to McLaren in 2015, Alonso has been at the back of the grid. A proven race-winner, the Spaniard has been relatively calm in handling the adversity. A sixth place finish at the Russian Grand Prix might have given Alonso hope for the future.

Jenson Button is the last race winner for McLaren, way back in 2012. The Briton has endured a frustrating three seasons since then. Button has held his own against Alonso, but with Vandoorne in the wings, he will find it difficult to hold on to his seat for 2017.

McLaren will hope they can consistently score points and atleast end the season at P5. A lot will depend on the in-season development of both the engine and car. They need to show a much improved performance to convince Alonso that race wins are around the corner.

World Constructors’ Championship (WCC)
McLaren: Position:7 Points:10 Wins:0 Podiums:0

World Drivers’ Championship (WDC)
Fernando Alonso: Position:11 Points:8 Wins:0 Podiums:0
Jenson Button: Position:16 Points:1 Wins:0 Podiums:0
*Stoffel Vandoorne drove in place of the injured Alonso in Bahrain and finished P10 (1 point)

Force India: The Silverstone-based team is coming off their best performance of fifth in the Constructors’ championship in 2015. Force India has a reputation of making the best use of its limited resources. But the travails of its team owner Vijay Mallya have overshadowed the team. Mallya has been declared a ‘wilful defaulter’ and is in considerable legal trouble in his home country.

The team has two of the most talented young drivers in F1, Nico Hulkenberg and Sergio Perez. But the disappointing performance of the car so far this season has hampered the duo. The two drivers have a point finish each. Hulkenberg, after a promising start with a seventh place in Australia, has struggled. Perez scored his first points at the last race in Sochi.

A B-spec car is supposed to make its debut at the Spanish GP. Hopefully this will make the team more competitive. But with the prospect of limited in-season development, the team will find it difficult to hold on to their P5 finish in 2015.

World Constructors’ Championship (WCC)
Force India: Position:8 Points:8 Wins:0 Podiums:0

World Drivers’ Championship (WDC)
Nico Hulkenberg: Position:13 Points:6 Wins:0 Podiums:0
Sergio Perez: Position: 15 Points:2 Wins:0 Podiums:0

Renault: The French car manufacturer has returned as a Constructor this season. Renault bought back their old team that was competing as the Lotus F1 team. In recent years, the lack of resources has seen many of the top names in the team leaving for greener pastures (James Allison, Eric Boullier). Renault has made a strong commitment to the team and the team will benefit from the increased resources. The team is banking on the 2017 regulation changes to climb up the ladder next season. Equally, the improvement in performance of the Renault engines will impact the team.

Kevin Magnussen who had been cast aside by McLaren, managed to stay in F1 at the last minute. When Pastor Maldonado’s Venezuelan sponsors were unwilling to continue, Renault had to find a replacement at the nth hour. The affable Dane served the purpose. It is a second lease of life for Magnussen and his seventh place finish in Sochi will give him fresh impetus.

Jolyon Palmer was promoted as a full-time driver in 2016 from his previous role as test driver. The 2014 GP2 champion has to establish himself quickly, as there is a large band of drivers eagerly waiting to replace him. After a good start in his debut race, Palmer has struggled and is yet to score a point.

Renault has spent just 7 of 32 tokens so far this season. A new upgraded engine will be tested at the in-season test after the Spanish GP (May 17-18, 2016). The performance improvements will be as crucial to the works team as the customer team Red Bull Racing.

World Constructors’ Championship (WCC)
Renault: Position:9 Points:6 Wins:0 Podiums:0

World Drivers’ Championship (WDC)
Kevin Magnussen: Position:12 Points:6 Wins:0 Podiums:0
Jolyon Palmer: Position:18 Points:0 Wins:0 Podiums:0

Sauber : This once respected Swiss team served as the breeding ground for many a future top driver. But severe financial troubles have now pushed the team to the back of the grid. The Hinwil-based team was saved by an advance payment by a sponsor, otherwise there was a real prospect of missing races. Late salary payments and the dark shadow hanging over the team have resulted in key technical personnel exiting the team.

Felipe Nasr and Marcus Ericsson have not looked like scoring a point. Unless a new investor steps in or there is an outright sale, this popular team is facing a bleak future.

World Constructors’ Championship (WCC)
Sauber: Position:10 Points:0 Wins:0 Podiums:0

World Drivers’ Championship (WDC)
Felipe Nasr: Position:21 Points:0 Wins:0 Podiums:0
Marcus Ericsson: Position:19 Points:0 Wins:0 Podiums:0

Manor : The former Marussia team came back from receivership with a new investor as Manor F1 Racing team in 2015. Long time team leaders John Booth and Graeme Lowdon exited the team at the end of 2015. Since then, the addition of ex-Ferrari men Pat Fry and Nikolas Tombazis to the technical team has bolstered the team. The 2016 Mercedes engines powering the car is a huge performance-enhancer too.

Pascal Wehrlein, 2015 DTM champion, has been placed by Mercedes with their customer team. The German has huge potential and his performance is being watched by the top teams. Rio Haryanto will have to match Wehrlein’s performances to safeguard his seat.

World Constructors’ Championship (WCC)
Manor: Position:11 Points:0 Wins:0 Podiums:0

World Drivers’ Championship (WDC)
Pascal Wehrlein: Position:20 Points:0 Wins:0 Podiums:0
Rio Haryanto: Position:23 Points:0 Wins:0 Podiums:0

Read the review of the Top 5 teams here


BAHRAIN, BAHRAIN – APRIL 19:  Max Verstappen of Netherlands and Scuderia Toro Rosso is followed by Daniil Kvyat of Russia and Infiniti Red Bull Racing  during the Bahrain Formula One Grand Prix at Bahrain International Circuit on April 19, 2015 in Bahrain, Bahrain.  (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)


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