F1 2014 mid-season review: The teams
The first half of the 2014 Formula 1 season has been action packed, with plenty of drama and surprises. As the sport settles into its summer break, Jack Leslie takes a look at how each of the 11 teams have performed so far.
Mercedes has kicked off the new F1 era in dominant style, with the team enjoying a clear advantage over the first 11 races. Many expected the Brackley-based outfit to be strong in 2014, but the huge gap to rival teams has come as a bit of a surprise. The W05 is a good all-rounder, although reliability has lost Mercedes points.
The pure speed of the car has been showed off in qualifying, with the team failing to score pole position just once this year – in Austria, thanks to a spin for Lewis Hamilton bringing out the yellow flags and hampering his team-mate. Both drivers have been evenly matched, although Hamilton has suffered more with mechanical problems.
The team has allowed the Brit and Nico Rosberg to race, which has produced some fantastic racing. The loss of the FRIC suspension system has seen the gap to those behind close slightly, but it is clear that Mercedes will remain the team to beat for the rest of 2014. It will certainly be interesting to see how Toto Wolff, Paddy Lowe and Niki Lauda handle the championship battle as it heats up later on. Rating: 9
The team’s season got off to a difficult start in testing with a number of reliability problems limiting running. However, it soon became clear that the car was strong, when it was actually working properly. The chassis is good and the car has potentially the best aerodynamics on the grid, with the car working particularly well in high-speed corners.
However, the Renault power-unit has remained the real stumbling block for Red Bull Racing (although big improvements have been made), with reliability issues costing the team better results – particularly Sebastian Vettel. Meanwhile brilliant strategic decisions in Canada and Hungary helped Daniel Ricciardo, who has impressed in his first season with the team, to two race wins. Rating: 7.5
It has been a lacklustre and underwhelming season so far for F1’s most successful outfit. The F14 T has been a tricky car to master, with the Ferrari power-unit lacking in pace compared to rivals Mercedes, meaning both drivers have often struggled to overtake.
There have been big changes within the team, with Stefano Domenicali being replaced by Marco Mattiacci. The Maranello-based outfit has simply got the regulations wrong and it will be no simple fix for them to return to the front.
Kimi Raikkonen has struggled more than Fernando Alonso with the F14 T, although he felt more comfortable at the wheel of the car in Hungary – sixth was his best result of the season, despite starting 16th. Alonso has registered two podiums and has got more out of Ferrari’s latest F1 machine, although he was helped at the Hungaroring by an aggressive strategy. Rating: 6
It is fair to say that Williams should have scored more points in 2014, despite making a significant improvement in comparison to last year’s terrible campaign. The FW36 lacked downforce at the start of the season and particularly struggled in the wet, but recent improvements have helped the team to move further forward.
The Grove-based outfit has now well and truly entered the fight to be best of the rest and has recently had the second fastest car in Austria, Silverstone and Germany – tracks that suited the car’s characteristics and showed off its potential. The switch to Mercedes power was perfectly timed and that has played an important part in the improvements made.
Valtteri Bottas has performed impressively during only his second season in F1, scoring three podiums and failing to finish in the points just once. Felipe Massa has settled in very well but some misfortune and a few mistakes (which he has failed to own up to) has cost him strong results. Rating: 8
Despite a relatively small budget in comparison to its competitors, Force India has been able to consistently fight near the front this season and has made a strong step forward – like Williams – with the new regulations.
Nico Hulkenberg impressively scored points in the first 10 races, before his run of successful came to an end in Hungary. Sergio Perez has pushed him hard at times but has suffered a few more reliability problems and made a couple of costly errors.
However, the Mexican did score Force India’s best result since 2009 after finishing third at the Bahrain Grand Prix. The main question mark is whether the Silverstone-based outfit can keep up with the likes of Red Bull Racing and Ferrari in terms of car development. Rating: 8
It all started so well for the Woking-based outfit, with a double podium finish in Australia (albeit thanks to Ricciardo’s disqualification). However, it soon went downhill with a run of three consecutive races without a single point and only two further top five finishes.
Both Jenson Button and Kevin Magnussen have performed well on several occasions, but the drivers just don’t have the car to challenge for better results. McLaren has also made a few strategic errors, like keeping both drivers on intermediate tyres in Hungary. It has been a better season in comparison to 2013 and despite making recent steps forward, there is still plenty of room for improvement. Rating: 7
Despite early promise, 2014 has been a difficult season so far for Toro Rosso. Rookie Daniil Kvyat has impressed, with Jean-Eric Vergne putting in a few notable performances, but the main issue for the Faenza-based outfit has been reliability.
Vergne has exited races thanks to mechanical problems – largely related to the Renault power-unit – five times, while Kvyat has lost points thanks to four retirements. Toro Rosso is still some way off the top six teams and the gap doesn’t look set to close before the end of the year. Rating: 6
Following a largely successful 2013 season, Lotus has dropped down to the back of the midfield. The team suffered a disastrous winter testing period, not helped by missing the first four days of running at the Jerez circuit, and has failed to recover much ground.
The E22 is best suited to faster corners and is a decent car, but the Renault power-unit – as it has for several other teams – has let Lotus down. Not only is it down on power, but consistent reliability issues have hampered the team over the majority of the race weekends.
Eighth in the constructors’ championship with eight points is far from where the team want to be and it will certainly be difficult in the short term to recover ground. Romain Grosjean has done well to register the results that he has, while Pastor Maldonado continues to lag behind. Rating: 6
The Brackley-based outfit has made a welcome step forward this season and is now clinging (just about) onto the back of the midfield pack. Jules Bianchi’s ninth place in Monaco was a breakthrough result and the Frenchman has impressed several times in qualifying too.
Ferrari power has helped the team make progress and the MR03 is a decent car. Rivals Caterham looked a bit closer in Hungary and Sauber has made a step forward in recent races too, so ninth in the constructors’ isn’t guaranteed just yet. Rating: 7
2014 has so far been the worst season in the history of the Sauber F1 team, with zero points on the board after 11 races. The C33 has suffered plenty of reliability issues and is a difficult car to handle, particularly under braking.
Points were possible in Monaco but crashes for both Adrian Sutil and Esteban Gutierrez dropped them to 10th in the constructors’ standings. Improvements have been made recently, but it could be too little too late for the Swiss outfit to score points. Rating: 4
Disastrous is a good word to describe Caterham’s 2014 season so far. The CT05 is difficult to drive; the Renault power-unit is unreliable and down on speed – despite promise in testing – and events behind-the-scenes has meant the team is very different to the one that started the year in Australia.
Kamui Kobayashi has performed well on occasion with the machinery at his disposal, while Marcus Ericsson has struggled to match his team-mate. However, the Swede did finish 11th in Monaco to equal the Leafield-based outfit’s best ever result. Rating: 4
Images courtesy of Octane Photographic
Jack Leslie is a freelance motorsport journalist. He has been part of the Richland F1 team since the very start and made his debut in the F1 paddock for the website at the 2014 Austrian Grand Prix. Jack also writes for Car Throttle and RumbleStripNews, as well as running a popular blog.