The 2016 F1 Half-term report – Part 1

Ladies and Gentlemen, the 2016 F1 season is half-way done! It’s hard to believe; those hazy days in January where car launches were the only bits of news don’t seem far behind, but twelve epic races (except for you, Baku. Well done.) have already come and gone, so we’re taking a look at the season thus far with our F1 half-term report.

We’ll be grading each of the drivers for their performance so far, pointing out the teacher’s pets, the in-betweeners, and those about to get beaten up for their lunch money. We begin at the front, because that’s usually how lists work.

Let’s reflect on the drivers from Mercedes, Red Bull, and Ferrari!

6Lewis Hamilton

Grade: A-
2015 position: 1st
2016 standing: 1st
Subject requiring more homework: PE – Stop pulling punches.

On paper, Lewis Hamilton has just carried on where he left off last year, but when has anything ever been settled on paper in Formula 1? What’s that? From 1964 and 1988? Shut up, no one’s ever heard of dropped scores. I digress…

The triple-champ looked a shell of his former self in the first few races, and lacked that killer instinct, scoring just 57 points to his team mate’s perfect 100. However, that fateful, messy, and no doubt expensive crash in Spain looks to have been the turning point of his season.

Aside from a tricky weekend in Baku, Hamilton has been monsterful in the last chunk of races, taking six wins in the last seven. If he keeps that up, his rivals will have to heed the warning to Underground patrons everywhere – mind the gap.

5Nico Rosberg

Grade: B-
2015 position: 2nd
2016 standing: 2nd
Subject requiring more homework: Geography – where’s the apex?

It all started so well, with four brilliant wins in Australia, Bahrain, China and Russia. So what happened? Rosberg could not be touched early on, but after the crash in the Spanish Grand Prix, he seemed to lose confidence in himself.

He was well-and-truly trounced in Monaco, moving aside for the clearly faster Hamilton and coming home a very disappointing seventh, and didn’t stick his elbows out quite enough in Canada. Baku was a controlled masterclass from the German/Finnish chap, and he capitalised on a shoddy qualifying effort for Hamilton to stretch his lead even further, but questionable defensive moves – first to Hamilton in Austria, and then Verstappen last week in Germany – have asked questions about his race craft.

Rosberg is a fine driver on his day, and will need to be when things resume in Belgium later this month.

4Max Verstappen

Grade: A+
2015 position: 12th
2016 standing: 6th
Subject requiring more homework: History – still relatively inexperienced.

There are insufficient superlatives to even remotely address the impact that this young man has had on Formula 1 in the last two years. He quickly became a fan favourite of ours (and no doubt yours too) last year with his aggressive overtaking capabilities, and has only bolstered those sentiments this year, the zenith of which was his ballsy move around the outside of Nico Rosberg at Becketts during the British GP.

The hype could not have been larger, nor the pressure more severe, than when he stepped into Daniil Kvyat’s monocoque for the first time in Montmelo this spring, but he handled it with great aplomb, and a maturity decades beyond his youthful exterior.

Capitalising on the Mercedes clash, he held off tough customer Kimi Raikkonen; simultaneously igniting his own career, and rejuvenating that of the Iceman. Young Max has quite simply been a sensation this year, with four podiums accrued already in the ever-improving Red Bull RB12.

Lest we forget though – all of it has been to the detriment of poor Daniil Kvyat. And it has not been without flaw – a bit of over-aggressive defending against Kimi Raikkonen in Hungary cost the latter his front wing endplate, and he did make his second race-ending mistake in as many races in Monaco back in May. Still, top effort on all accounts.

3Daniel Ricciardo

 

Grade: A+
2015 position: 8th
2016 standing: 3rd
Subject requiring more homework: Mixology – Champagne and sweat cocktails need refining.

Much like his Dutch counterpart, Danny Ric’s season has been improved immeasurably by the surprising upturn in performance from the Red Bull car. The Aussie began the season with an uncanny ability to just miss out on the podium, notching four fourth-placed finishes in the first five races.

However, he and the RB12 gelled perfectly in Monaco, and they looked a far superior combination than Hamilton and his Mercedes, only cruelly robbed of a fourth career win by a tardy Red Bull pit crew and an over-aggressive defense of the lead by Hamilton.

You have to feel that another Red Bull win is on the cards this season, with the Milton Keynes team developing at an alarming rate. Watch out for sparks in Singapore, where the ‘Shoey’ could just make another cameo.

50% Perspiration; 50% Intoxication. Octane Photographic
50% Perspiration; 50% Intoxication. Octane Photographic

2Sebastian Vettel

Grade: B-
2015 position: 3rd
2016 standing: 5th
Subject requiring more homework: Metalwork – better machinery required.

Vettel’s season started pretty positively, with a lot of noise and bravado surrounding the launch of the Ferrari SF16-H. An impressive third in the curtain-raising Australian GP seemed to signal a year of chasing down the conquering Mercedes cars, but it was not to be.

Vettel’s first ever DNS followed in the proceeding race in Bahrain, followed by disagreements – first minor in China, then major in Russia – with Red Bull’s Daniil Kvyat; the man who replaced him at Red Bull.

It has not been a markedly bad year for the Weltmeister thus far; five podiums is no slouch at all, but you get the feeling that the car is not quite up to scratch, and when it has been (Ie in Austria) he has been the victim of misfortune. The Ferrari seems to bee the Jack-of-all-trades; master of none.

1Kimi Raikkonen

Grade: C+
2015 position: 5th
2016 standing: 4th
Subjects requiring more homework: Language – Less of the cussing! Cookery – cakes (and form) need more consistency.

The Iceman has, much like his team mate, had to bare the brunt of an ineffective Ferrari car which promised so much. However, there have been flashes of brilliance from the 2007 World Champion, such as the aforementioned race in Spain where he chased Max Verstappen for the win.

It’s a testament every bit as much to the youthful vigour of Verstappen as it is the hardy resilience of Raikkonen – neither driver gave an inch, and though it is easy to criticise the Finn for not getting past someone half his age, the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya is a notoriously difficult one on which to overtake.

Raikkonen sits two points ahead of his team mate in the championship, despite catching fire in Australia and a clumsy error in Monaco. Realistically, Kimi is fighting for third at best this year, but the promise of another season with the Scuderia appears to have motivated him, somewhat at least.

And as a nice way to round off this segment of the F1 half-term report, Raikkonen just last week got married to Minttu Virtanen, who had a lovely ring fitted, took Kimi’s last name, and then, presumably, chucked a great big BWOAH-quet over her head. Many congratulations to the both of them!

Thanks for checking out Part 1 of our 2016 F1 half-term report. Part 2, featuring drivers from Williams, Force India, Toro Rosso and McLaren will be with us later in the week. See you then!