In the wake of Haas team boss Gunther Steiner’s words, it is worth discussing whether the Formula 1 midfield still exists or has genuinely faded as a concept. The Italian is adamant that, aside from the top 3 teams, everyone is now in the picture to score points.
As a result of the performance level narrowing out amongst the non-front runners, the fight in constructors’ championship is vividly alive from Renault occupying the fourth spot to the bottom of the field with Toro Rosso, Sauber and Williams.
The latter three teams are enclosed within a 15-point gap, as Toro Rosso currently stands 8th with 19 points, ahead of Sauber, which has scored 16 points so far and Williams is last with 4. This gives us evidence of the evolution that occurred in Formula 1, as the small-team trend has been superseded by the decaying historic teams, which turned out to be able to stay afloat -although struggling on and off track. Being in a different position from the young, small teams which survived safely up until the beginning of the V6 turbo era, obviously hands the former ‘big teams’ a helping hand, but their destabilizing status shift has clearly acted as a detriment to their development.
However, we could still distinguish three smaller championships in the current F1 grid, as in the fight for 8th, the fight for fourth and the overall winner. Therefore, the way the performance level evolved has now extended the Top 10 results to seven teams, but not in equal measure.
Going upwards, the fight for fourth is fierce and poignant, as Haas is looking to recover from its see-sawing start to the season. Renault is currently in the lead, trying to establish itself as ‘the best of the rest’, but the Kannapolis-based outfit is 19 points away, Force India follows at 21 points down and McLaren is glued to the Anglo-Indian team.
Hence, we are still able to notice and discern that all 7 ‘midfielders’ (as Steiner would potentially call them) are not in equal positions to yield point-paying results, let alone on a regular basis.
Teams like Sauber represent a peculiar case, as the technical progress throughout the first half of the season has allowed its talents to emerge and outperform mighty opponents who are flamboyantly ahead in the pecking order.
Moreover, the idea of allowing all drivers who finish the race to score points was scrapped, which enhances the prestige held by the Top 10. Such a conservative approach stands for a valid point, deeply rooted in the elitist structure of F1, where reaching out to the best ten racers is a way to assess progress.
In conclusion, the midfield still exists according to the numbers in the standings. As far as Toro Rosso, Sauber and Williams are concerned, the zone enlacing the teams between Renault and McLaren visibly possesses the features of the mid-land of the F1 grid, at least in the light of the current conception of ‘midfield’.