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Team-by-team mid-term review (Part One)

A look back at how the drivers in the top 5 teams have fared so far this season.

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Team-by-team mid-term review (Part One)
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Mercedes (1st345 pts) 

Lewis Hamilton (1st213pts) 

It’s been a strange year for Lewis Hamilton so far. He’s combined some superb performances with distinctly average showings.  

The high points have been brilliant pole laps at Albert Park, Silverstone and in Hungary. He’s also taken that stunning win at Hockenheim from 14th on the grid and it could the most important of the 2018 season as it stands. A great recovery from a lap 1 collision at Silverstone to come home 2nd could be massive as well. 

Hamilton has had far from a vintage season, though. He was anonymous in China and Canada – and ending up finishing well behind Bottas in those races. Signs that he’s beatable. 

Yet, he has a 24-point lead and even when he’s not firing on all cylinders, he can still lead the standings like a true great. Scoring points at every race apart from Austria is a great sign of consistency. 

Valtteri Bottas (4th132pts) 

You won’t find many unluckier seasons than Valtteri Bottas’ 2018 campaign so far. The Finn has considerably improved compared to last year when he couldn’t get near Hamilton after the summer break and got well beaten.  

He was driving a brilliant race in China before the Safety Car came out at just past the halfway stage of the race. He’d only taken the final corner moments before it was deployed. Ricciardo swallowed him up in the closing stages and had to accept 2nd 

It got even worse at the next race in Baku with the late tyre blowout when set for a deserved victory following a very long opening stint which worked brilliantly for him. Two races he should have won, but he was cruelly denied by external factors. 

A bad opening round in Australia put him on the back foot straight away and he hasn’t been able to recover the ground. Bad luck means he has no chance of going for the championship this year and is very much the number two at Mercedes now, as shown by what happened in Germany and Hungary. 

Ferrari (2nd335 pts) 

Sebastian Vettel (2nd189pts) 

Much like 2017 for Sebastian Vettel, it’s been quite a strong first period this year for the most part. Yet, the German trails his arch-rival in the championship by 24 points after 12 rounds.  

He won’s four races (including the first two rounds in Australia and Bahrain) and there’s at least three others he could have won. The four-time champion has been driving at a very high level this year and possibly at a level slightly better than Hamilton – but he’s made more mistakes than the Brit too. 

He went into the back of Bottas in France and destroyed their races, locked up in Baku going for the lead and dropped to 4th, but the biggest one was crashing out of the lead of his home race. Vettel getting taken out by Verstappen in China cost him dearly too. A lot of valuable points have been lost so far this year.  

Ferrari have given Vettel a terrific car in 2018, he needs to iron out the mistakes to win and continuing his high level of performance to claim a fifth championship this season. 

Kimi Raikkonen (3rd146 pts) 

Welcome back Kimi Raikkonen! For the first time since 2013, the Finn has looked very competitive in the opening part of the year. This is despite the fact he is trailing Vettel 2-10 in the qualifying battle.  

Raikkonen could have easily taken pole in China and Azerbaijan if he had put his laps together. In recent races, Kimi’s qualifying pace has dropped away a little from Vettel’s and he’s not quite as strong as the first four rounds or so. A small dip in his performance level from Spain to Canada is now well in the past. 

Eight podiums from twelve races and five in a row mean he’s on a great run and shows he’s still an extremely quick driver when everything is put into place. Raikkonen hasn’t won for over five years now, but his speed and consistency prove he can be a force to be reckoned with in the second half of the year if he continues in this form.  

An older spec PU vs Vettel is another sign of the Finn’s impressive effort this year so far. Can Kimi get that elusive win though? That’s the big question ahead of the remaining races. 

He’s the perfect foil for Vettel – and it’s no surprise the German wants Ferrari to keep him for 2019.  

Red Bull (3rd; 223 pts) 

Daniel Ricciardo (5th; 118 pts) 

After five years at Red Bull, this will be Ricciardo’s last – and 2018 has been a similar story to previous seasons. The man from Perth always delivers entertainment on a race track and has brilliantly taken two more wins so far this season.  

It’s been a strange year for the Aussie. He may lead Verstappen in the standings, but he trails the Dutchman 3-9 in the qualifying head-to-head. He hasn’t beaten Max on a Saturday afternoon since Monaco. For a highly rated driver, that’s not good enough at all. 

Sunday’s have been a strong point for Ricciardo like always. In the first few races in particular, he was at this magnificent, attacking best.  

An overtaking masterclass in China gave him his first victory of the season – the moves on the two Mercedes’ will live long in the memory. The next race in Baku saw more of the same until his crash with stablemate Max Verstappen.  

His second win of the year at Monaco was a total show of domination by the Australian as he comfortably took the pole and win despite losing power in the race. It was redemption following the 2016 race and it was totally deserved and merited. 

Recent races have been a lot tougher with reliability problems and generally getting outpaced by Verstappen. Yet, he’s ahead in the standings – but he’ll need to find more speed on a Saturday to stay in front in the Red Bull battle for 5th in the championship. 

Max Verstappen (6th; 105 pts) 

A rollercoaster of a year for the incredibly quick and talented Dutchman at present. His combined brilliance with some extremely poor driving too. Inconsistency is the biggest problem for him, still. 

Australia, Bahrain, China and Azerbaijan left him on the back foot straight away and a lot of questions were asked about his future. Crashes with Hamilton, Vettel and Ricciardo in successive races plus a really poor spin in Australia made you wonder if he’d ever learn to calm his aggressive style.  

Notwithstanding all of that, he’s been one of the stars of recent races; even if the car hasn’t always been up to it. He’s beaten Ricciardo in the last six qualifying sessions and four of the last six races. If it wasn’t for reliability problems, it could have been 6/6.  

His win in Austria proved how good he can be. While his stablemate couldn’t stop his tyres blistering, he did. Verstappen superbly held off the charging Ferraris to win the race after the Mercedes implosion. Great drivers take wins on days they don’t have the quickest car and Max did that in Spielberg. 

A consistent second half of the season, continuing to dominate Ricciardo in qualifying and possibly stealing another win should be his goals as he battles his team-mate for 5th in the drivers’ championship. 

Renault (4th; 82 pts) 

Nico Hulkenberg (7th; 52 pts) 

A star in a midfield car. How many times can you say that about Nico Hulkenberg in his time in F1 over the years? Plenty. The German has been one of the best drivers in 2018 and deserves better equipment than he’s currently getting from his team. 

In a car that isn’t as quick as the Haas at the moment, he’s produced some excellent showings. He’s scored eight points finishes in twelve races – including a 5th place in Germany which is his best result with Renault presently. Terrific drives in Australia, China and Britain have led to three 6th place finishes. 

A poor error in the race Baku is the one small blot on his copybook in the first part of this season.  

He’s clearly outperformed the highly rated Carlos Sainz and deservedly keeps a place at Enstone next year. It’s 7-5 in qualifying as well as the 22-point gap in the drivers’ standings. 

He’ll be hoping to win the midfield battle for P7 in the championship and continue to quietly deliver exceptional performances.  

Carlos Sainz (11th; 30 pts) 

Based on the hype following his move to Renault, Carlos Sainz has to be one of the disappointments of the year as things stand. Frankly, his reputation will have taken a big hit based on the twelve rounds in 2018 so far.  

Qualifying hasn’t been too bad. He trailed 0-4 in the early stages, but the Spaniard has fought back to be 5-3 up in the last eight sessions. Carlos’ performance in qualifying in Hungary was outstanding after a tremendously strong lap in Q3 to end up P5 in awful conditions. He’ll need to unleash a lot more of that through the rest of 2018 to have a seat on the grid next year. 

The best race result for Sainz was 5th in that crazy race in Baku – but he’s regularly lacked the speed of his team-mate on a Sunday. Monaco was a fine example of this: He outqualified Hulkenberg fair and sqaure. Yet, he was asked to let the German got through in the race thanks to a longer first stint and having far superior pace and tyre management from Hulkenberg.  

Sainz needs a strong second half of 2018 or he could find himself on the F1 scrapheap. A huge period of his career and a test of his credentials is coming from Belgium onwards. 

Haas (5th; 66 pts) 

Kevin Magnussen (8th; 45 pts) 

2018 has very much ignited Kevin Magnussen’s F1 career after some very tough times in 2014, 2016 and even last year. Like Hulkenberg at Renault, he’s been one of the stars of a tight midfield battle and leads his stablemate 7-5 on a Saturday afternoon.  

He was immediately on the pace in Melbourne by qualifying in 6th and starting 5th. Cruelly, he was robbed of a likely top 5 finish after a wheel wasn’t correctly fitted following a pitstop. He bounced back straight away in Bahrain by finishing an excellent P5. He equalled that result in the Austrian Grand Prix.  

It hasn't been perfect, however. A series of controversial incidents in Baku with Gasly certainly demonstrate he’s far from the finished article. Nonetheless, this is by far his strongest showing in any of his four F1 seasons at present. He’s got a great chance of finishing as best of the rest in the drivers’ championship behind the top three teams. 

Romain Grosjean (14th; 21 pts) 

Where do you start with Grosjean? A total enigma and one of the most unpredictable drivers seen in F1 this century. One weekend, he can be involved in a series of crashes. The next, blindingly fast and driving like one of the stars of the sport. 2018 has seen him in the headlines for the wrong reasons for the most part.  

It took him until round 9 at the Austrian Grand Prix to score points this year. Simply not good enough considering the machinery he has at his disposal in 2018. The only bad luck the Frenchman had before scoring in Austria was the botched pitstop in Australia. 

Crashing behind the Safety Car in Baku and the big turn 3 incident he caused on the opening tour in Spain have been the lowlights of a very disappointing year. There’s been signs of his 2012 recklessness at times again in the twelve rounds to date. For a man in his seventh full season of F1, these errors are inexcuseable. 

Three points finishes in the last four races – including that excellent 4th place in Austria and a great recovery drive at Hockenheim have helped somewhat. Yet, overall, Magnussen has had the edge on him. 

His Formula One future is certainly up in the air as things stand.  

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