Mid-season review

Who’s winning the F1 teammate battles in 2018?

Which teammates have the wood over one another? Who has the biggest presence in each of Formula One’s 10 team garages? We’ve crunched the numbers.

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The first person as a Formula One driver you have to beat? Your teammate, of course, who (in theory) has the same equipment as you and the same opportunity for success, or failure. If you’re driving for one of the backmarker teams, you’re clearly not winning this year’s drivers’ championship – but one thing you can do is emerge victorious from the intra-team battle and be the biggest man in the garage over a full season. Careers have been made (or ruined) by less.

With F1 in its (northern) summer shutdown ahead of the Belgian Grand Prix in a bit over a fortnight’s time, we run the rule over each team and the mano a mano battle within them, and who has internal bragging rights at the mid-point of 2018.

Mercedes

Qualifying head-to-head: Lewis Hamilton 7, Valtteri Bottas 5
Races head-to-head (where both cars finished): Hamilton 7, Bottas 3
Best result: Hamilton 1st (five times), Bottas 2nd (five times)
Points: Hamilton 213, Bottas 132
Podiums: Hamilton 9, Bottas 5
Average grid position: Hamilton 3.17, Bottas 3.25
Average race finish: Hamilton 2.18, Bottas 3.9

Summary: No surprises here, but this is closer than you think despite Hamilton’s hefty points advantage after 12 races. Season 2018 has been a case of the reigning world champion making the most of the days when he shouldn’t win, like Germany and Hungary before the break, to go with the races like Spain and France where he runs and hides. Bottas could have won six races this year, but Hamilton’s ability to conjure a special qualifying lap or mesmerising race performance gives him the advantage.

Ferrari

Qualifying head-to-head: Sebastian Vettel 10, Kimi Raikkonen 2
Races head-to-head: Vettel 6, Raikkonen 4
Best result: Vettel 1st (four times), Raikkonen 2nd (twice)
Points: Vettel 189, Raikkonen 146
Podiums: Raikkonen 8, Vettel 7
Average grid position: Vettel 2.08, Raikkonen 3.67
Average race finish: Vettel 2.91, Raikkonen 3.2

Summary: It’s been a bloodbath for Vettel in qualifying – Raikkonen has only out-qualified the German in Australia and Hungary – but the Finn’s sheer consistency saw him arrive at the break with more podiums than any other driver besides Hamilton. Six of them though are for third place, and that’s partly down to Vettel’s grid-best average starting position. It’s been Raikkonen’s strongest season for some time, but the stats show he’s still the second-best Ferrari driver out there.

Red Bull Racing

Qualifying head-to-head: Max Verstappen 9, Daniel Ricciardo 3
Races head-to-head: Ricciardo 3, Verstappen 3
Best result: Ricciardo 1st (twice), Verstappen 1st
Points: Ricciardo 118, Verstappen 105
Podiums: Verstappen 4, Ricciardo 2
Average grid position: Ricciardo 6.5, Verstappen 6.83
Average race finish: Ricciardo 3.5, Verstappen 4.13

Summary: This isn’t easy to call, primarily because Red Bull’s rocky reliability has seen both drivers finish in the same race just six times, half of the 12 Grands Prix this season. Crashing out in the same accident in Azerbaijan didn’t help, of course, but the final four races before the break saw only one of Ricciardo or Verstappen make the chequered flag, the other an early spectator with a DNF. Verstappen has dominated his teammate in qualifying, but Ricciardo has the only pole between the pair (Monaco), and while the Australian has finished on the podium just twice in 12 races, they’ve both been victories (China and Monaco), which skews his stats somewhat. Like we said, not easy, and you could make an argument for either.

Renault

Qualifying head-to-head: Nico Hulkenberg 7, Carlos Sainz 5
Races head-to-head: Hulkenberg 5, Sainz 2
Best result: Hulkenberg 5th, Sainz 5th
Points: Hulkenberg 52, Sainz 30
Average grid position: Hulkenberg 9.92, Sainz 9.08
Average race finish: Hulkenberg 7.33, Sainz 8.27

Summary: Ask this question after three races, and it was all Hulkenberg, who had out-scored Sainz 22-3 and qualified higher all three times. Since, the German has just three more points than his Spanish teammate, although to be fair to Hulkenberg, he’s retired three times to Sainz’s one. The points gap suggests a clear leader, but this could easily flip by the end of 2018.

Haas

Qualifying head-to-head: Kevin Magnussen 9, Romain Grosjean 3
Races head-to-head: Magnussen 5, Grosjean 3
Best result: Grosjean 4th, Magnussen 5th (twice)
Points: Magnussen 45, Grosjean 21
Average grid position: Magnussen 9.5, Grosjean 11.5
Average race finish: Magnussen 9, Grosjean 11

Summary: Grosjean has the better race result of the Haas duo thanks to his outstanding fourth in Austria, but there’s been little else to cheer about for the Frenchman against his Danish teammate, Magnussen enjoying his most convincing season yet. Much of that is down to his qualifying superiority, and Magnussen has converted on Sundays, seven top-10 finishes seeing him more than double Grosjean’s points tally at the mid-point.

Force India

Qualifying head-to-head: Esteban Ocon 9, Sergio Perez 3
Races head-to-head: Ocon 7, Perez 2
Best result: Perez 3rd, Ocon 6th (twice)
Points: Perez 30, Ocon 29
Podiums: Perez 1, Ocon 0
Average grid position: Ocon 11.33, Perez 11.75
Average race finish: Ocon 9.11, Perez 10.36

Summary: Perez is the only driver outside of F1’s ‘big three’ teams to nab a podium this season, which came when he finished an opportunistic third after he picked his way through the late-race chaos in Azerbaijan. So that does that means he’s had a bigger impact that Ocon this season? Not exactly – the Frenchman enjoys comfortable leads in the qualifying and race head-to-heads with his Mexican teammate, and just – just – shades him in average starting and finishing spots. It’s the closest fight between teammates in any team, and one that will be played out for the remainder of the season amid uncertainty about Force India’s future.

McLaren

Qualifying head-to-head: Fernando Alonso 12, Stoffel Vandoorne 0
Races head-to-head: Alonso 6, Vandoorne 2
Best result: Alonso 5th, Vandoorne 8th
Points: Alonso 44, Vandoorne 8
Average grid position: Alonso 12, Vandoorne 15.1
Average race finish: Alonso 9, Vandoorne 12

Summary: Alonso may have turned 37 years old on race day in Hungary, but the two-time world champion remains a formidable foe – just ask Vandoorne, who is the only driver to have been beaten by his teammate in qualifying in every race this season (Alonso’s streak actually stands at 16, after out-qualifying the Belgian in the last four races of last season as well). Vandoorne’s star may have lost some of its lustre in his stuttering F1 career to date, but that’s only because of who he’s up against, and what both drivers are up against in driving the cars they’ve had. Gaps between teammates don’t get a lot bigger.

Scuderia Toro Rosso

Qualifying head-to-head: Pierre Gasly 9, Brendon Hartley 3
Races head-to-head: Gasly 2, Hartley 2
Best result: Gasly 4th, Hartley 10th (twice)
Points: Gasly 26, Hartley 2
Average grid position: Gasly 13.42, Hartley 15.92
Average race finish: Gasly 10.67, Hartley 13

Summary: Other than Williams (and we’ll get to them), Gasly’s impact on Toro Rosso’s points (93 per cent) is higher than any single driver in any other team, but it’s how they’ve come about that’s been eye-catching. The Frenchman has scored just three top-10 finishes to Hartley’s two, but they’ve all been superb results; a spectacular fourth in Bahrain, a strong seventh in Monaco and an assured sixth in Hungary, where he was the last car not lapped by victor Hamilton. Hartley’s first full season has been blighted by retirements; the Kiwi has five DNF’s, more than any other driver, and both cars have only finished the same race four times in 12 Grands Prix.

Sauber

Qualifying head-to-head: Charles Leclerc 9, Marcus Ericsson 3
Races head-to-head: Leclerc 5, Ericsson 3
Best result: Leclerc 6th, Ericsson 9th (twice)
Points: Leclerc 13, Ericsson 5
Average grid position: Leclerc 13.92, Ericsson 16.83
Average race finish: Leclerc 11.56, Ericsson 12.44

Summary: Leclerc has announced himself as a star of the future by virtue of what he’s done in the present, and scored all of his points in five races across a six-race run between Azerbaijan and Austria, bookending the start and end of the year’s first half with a trio of non-scores. Three top-10 qualifying efforts show that he’s been able to extract those last few tenths of a second out of an improved Sauber that Ericsson can’t. The pair are closer in the races than you’d think, though, with more than half of Leclerc’s points coming with his out-of-the-blue sixth in Baku.

Williams

Qualifying head-to-head: Sergey Sirotkin 7, Lance Stroll 5
Races head-to-head: Stroll 4, Sirotkin 4
Best result: Stroll 8th, Sirotkin 13th
Points: Stroll 4, Sirotkin 0
Average grid position: Sirotkin 16.75, Stroll 17.08
Average race finish: Stroll 13.8, Sirotkin 15

Summary: The good news for Stroll is that no other driver is responsible for 100 per cent of his team’s points; the bad news is that there’s just four of them, earned when he finished eighth in Baku. Sirotkin is the only one of the 20 drivers not to score a point yet this season, but the Russian rookie has been more rapid (relatively speaking) on Saturdays, ensuring his Canadian teammate has the lowest average starting spot on the grid. But really, there’s no winners here in what has been a torrid season for one of the sport’s most famous teams.

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Mark Webber’s ticks and crosses for F1 2017

Which driver is ‘special’, and who was ‘weak’? Who is mentally tough, the most reliable, and the best racer of the lot? The Aussie ex-F1 ace has his say.

THIS STORY ORIGINALLY APPEARED ON REDBULL.COM

Mark Webber was always a racer who left nothing on the table; the man who goes by the apt Twitter handle of @AussieGrit determinedly squeezed every drop out of his 12-year Formula One career, which produced nine victories for Red Bull Racing. And he did so in a style that was so refreshing for those who watched (or covered) the sport in his heyday, being as forthright as it gets, pulling no punches and pissing in no pockets. Want a perfectly banal soundbite that says nothing in as many words as possible while sitting on the fence? You’ve come to the wrong place.

The Aussie keeps up to speed with the sport in which he made his name by working for Channel 4 in the UK, and with his knowledge of how F1 works and access to the heavy-hitters within it, Webber’s opinion on any number of subjects makes him compelling listening. So, with that in mind, we pressed ‘record’ and let Webber have his say on the drivers, teams and issues that have caught his eye as we get set for the season to resume with this Sunday’s Belgian Grand Prix at the venerable Spa-Francorchamps circuit.

Webber on … Lewis Hamilton

“Both he and Seb (Sebastian Vettel) have driven awesome this year, and Lewis particularly in qualifying has been very strong. He’s the best since (Ayrton) Senna over one lap – he’s very special on Saturdays.

“I think he has respect at the top level for two to three guys on the grid because he’s on such a high level – Seb and Fernando (Alonso) probably, maybe two or three others.

“He’s in the peak of his career, the hunger and passion is at its maximum, and he likes to put a bit of drama, a bit of heat on himself to go and deliver. He enjoys that and it seems to bring out the best in him.”

Webber on … Vettel and Ferrari

“Baku (when Vettel clashed with Hamilton under the safety car at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix) was a crazy rush of blood with the re-start procedure, and there were obviously some mind games going on that day, which is totally standard. He had a weak moment where he elected to pull alongside Lewis and give him a little rub. It wasn’t ideal and didn’t look great, and he certainly regrets it. But at the end of the day, it was not exactly dangerous, it just wasn’t a great example. You’d be in more danger crossing the street in Italy than that …

“I think Ferrari have done a great job this year. Operationally they’ve made a big step, because I think they’ve been very flaky on that in the past. The performance is there at a lot of tracks – it’s all well and good being strong on a few circuits, but the car doesn’t seem so temperature-sensitive for it to perform this year. I think Kimi (Raikkonen) likes these regulations as well, the previous regs weren’t something that he enjoyed. It’s great for Ferrari that they have two guys up there going pretty quick. Can they sustain it for the rest of the year? I reckon they can.”

Webber on … where Red Bull sits

“Both of the guys have driven well this year, but Max (Verstappen) has probably been a bit flaky in terms of the build-up to the races through the weekend, he’s been going off the road a lot on Friday and Saturday, which puts pressure on mechanics getting the car ready. I’d like to see him on the road a bit more, but he’s pushing the limits. When it comes to Sundays, he hasn’t made many mistakes at all, it’s been a lot of high-profile reliability retirements where he’s lost a truckload of points, so that’s been hard for him to swallow.

Daniel (Ricciardo) is just so solid on Sunday afternoons, he’s the most reliable driver in F1 in that you know what he’s going to deliver week-in, week-out. He’s always got the most out of what they’ve given him and it’s hard to see how he could have done much more.

“We all expected such great things from this car this year, but it came out the box very poorly. They had a lot of catching up to do. With Renault (engines), it’s unfortunately a little bit of a broken record, ‘we haven’t got this, we haven’t got that’ – it’s been going on for five years. (Red Bull) have to make a car a second faster than everyone else, maybe.”

Webber on … Valtteri Bottas at Mercedes

“He’s had a good year – new environment, new team and all that. And Lewis is no angel when it comes to testing the boundaries of it being all about him, which is what you expect at that level, it has to be all about you, you have to be selfish. So Valtteri has done a good job. He lost a lot of points in Barcelona (with a retirement), but he’s been very steady, and there’s been so many opportunities for him to make some screw-ups, and he hasn’t. He got absolutely tonked in Bahrain when Seb and Lewis put 30-40 seconds on the rest of the field, but then Russia, he was magic there and he just cleaned up.

“I’ll be fascinated to see how he goes in the back part of the season. There’s a lot of circuits and a lot of travel and it is different when you’re at the front, but he’s very good mentally. He’s not going anywhere.”

Webber on … Fernando Alonso and McLaren

“It’s been a big shame for Formula One, a big shame for Honda, a big shame for McLaren. They loaded their guns up and got Fernando back there waiting for the engine to fire, but it hasn’t happened. He’s been biting his tongue for the last 24 months, and he can’t drive the thing any harder. His stock is still incredible, and on Sundays he’s probably the best in the world. That’s the frustrating bit.”

Webber on … the new-breed 2017 F1 cars

“I think we definitely had to do something to help the drivers – it was like they were trained to fly F/A-18s but flying for Qantas the past few years, and that was extremely boring for them. We had to find a way for them to be stimulated again and be tested, be off the road, have the odd shunt here and there, be pushed. We can’t have guys doing full Grands Prix at seven-tenths. If we’re not engaged, it’s hard for the consumer to be connected. If we didn’t have, say, a net for Roger (Federer) and Rafa (Nadal), then we wouldn’t be engaged, would we? You want to have something that makes it testing for them.

“These cars are definitely a step forward in terms of stimulation for the drivers, but as far as the racing goes, it depends on what your definition of great racing is. Barcelona this year – it was between two guys in Seb and Lewis and there wasn’t a huge amount of passing, but it was pretty phenomenal with the pressure and intensity. Lewis on the radio that day was blowing hard, he needed every tenth (of a second) he could get.”

5 MotoGP stories to shape the rest of 2017

What’s happened in MotoGP this season that reveals plenty about what’s about to?

THIS STORY ORIGINALLY APPEARED ON REDBULL.COM

Where did the MotoGP season go? It seems like only yesterday that the field lined up under lights at Losail to take the start of the Qatar Grand Prix; now, after the breathtaking race around the Red Bull Ring in Austria last Sunday, there’s just seven Grands Prix remaining before the chequered flag falls on the 2017 campaign in Valencia.

With 11 races in the books, what have we already learned that can paint a clearer picture of what’s to follow? We’ve scanned up and down the grid and found five storylines that could prove be a portent of what’s to follow between now and November.

1. Brno showed who’s boss

And we thought last year – nine different winners and four first-time victors – was gripping; at the halfway mark of this year’s world championship, the top four in the standings were separated by just 10 points, and all four – Marc Marquez, Andrea Dovizioso, Valentino Rossi and Maverick Vinales – had led the title chase at one stage or another. But it was the race immediately after the mid-season break in the Czech Republic that showed that one of that quartet remains ahead of the rest.

In sketchy half-wet, half-dry conditions at Brno, Marquez took the early gamble to switch from wet-weather tyres to dry – and simply took off, carving upwards of nine seconds per lap out of the rest of the field immediately after his bike change and doing as he pleased en route to a 12-second victory. Flag-to-flag races are Marquez’s domain – in five of the past six races where the field has been allowed to pit and swap bikes at the riders’ discretion (Assen 2014, Misano 2015, Argentina 2016, Sachsenring 2016 and Brno 2017), the Spaniard has won, often emphatically as he relentlessly pushes in difficult conditions where others can only survive rather than thrive.

It’s that ability to make the best of the worst that sees the Repsol Honda rider as the man most likely to win this year’s crown, which would be the fourth in five years since he joined the premier class in 2013. The table may be tight, but Marquez’s best is still a class above anyone else’s.

2. Marquez vs Maverick is about to get real

All season, and with apologies to Dovizioso, Vinales has looked the man most likely to stop Marquez’s march to a quartet of MotoGP titles. The Yamaha man was untouchable in pre-season testing, and after winning three of the first five races of the year to enjoy a 26-point championship lead after Mugello, Vinales looked in control. But since, one podium in five races has him being the chaser rather than being chased, as he’s faltered while Marquez has flown.

The two Spaniards – who have been rivals from way back in their pocket bike days 15 years ago – have largely circled one another all season without engaging in a head-to-head stoush for a race win; bizarrely, Brno, round 10 of the season, was the first time they’d even appeared on the same podium together.

Vinales and Yamaha will surely get it together after their mid-season slip, and Marquez – if the past four years are any guide – isn’t going anywhere. Expect more one-on-one duels between this duo than we’ve seen so far before the season is out.

3. ‘Dovi’ and Ducati are in for the long haul

Dovizioso’s win towards the tail-end of the 2016 season in Malaysia was a nice story – it snapped a seven-year drought for the likeable Italian – but not one most people expected to be sustainable in 2017, when most of the off-season chat about the Italian factory centred on the arrival of three-time world champion Jorge Lorenzo as Dovizioso’s teammate. But the 31-year-old is a new man this season, taking back-to-back wins at Mugello and Catalunya within a week in June, and then holding off Marquez in a frantic end to the Austrian Grand Prix, a race so fierce that it is already being considered one of the best of all time.

Vinales still looks to be the rider who can best match Marquez for sheer speed, but Dovizioso is always there, makes few mistakes, rarely beats himself and sits just 16 points behind Marquez with seven races remaining. Whether he can win the world championship is uncertain, but whether or not he’ll be there fighting for it right until the end is easier to ascertain.

4. Rossi’s chances aren’t up to Rossi

It says much for the (entirely appropriate) reverence Rossi is held in that he’s still being discussed as a championship threat despite being 33 points – more than a race win – off the lead with seven Grands Prix left. We’re right to hold ‘The Doctor’ in high esteem, but would we rate any other rider as having any chance whatsoever if they’d won one of the past 22 races, which is Rossi’s record after the Austrian GP?

The Italian’s victory at Assen in June was one from the top shelf, but with Ducati surging, the satellite Yamaha (Tech 3) and Ducati (Pramac) teams stealing occasional podiums, and greater depth at the front than ever, gone are the days when you can turn up on a factory Yamaha, be off the pace and still finish fourth at worst at the back of a two-team fight with the Repsol Hondas.

Rossi remains in the mix for now, but how long he stays there has as much to do with Marquez, Dovizioso, Vinales et al stumbling than simply his own results.

5. The ‘Samurai’ could play spoiler

Somewhat lost in the chat about the magnificence of Marquez, the instant success of Vinales on a factory Yamaha and Ducati’s emergence as a genuine threat has been the season of Dani Pedrosa, who already has more podium finishes to his name (seven) after 11 races than he managed in the whole of the 2015 and 2016 seasons. The ‘Baby Samurai’ is at the back of the five-rider group from which this year’s world champion will surely be crowned, and with three podium finishes on the bounce, is well placed for a charge across the final seven Grands Prix.

The Spaniard’s durability is always a question-mark – he’s not completed a full season in three years thanks to myriad injuries from crashes or recovery from surgery – and it’s hard to imagine that the rider who has been in Honda’s factory outfit for 11 previous seasons without winning title can flip that script this year. But could Pedrosa’s pace have a say in who does salute if he doesn’t? Absolutely yes.

5 F1 stories to shape the rest of 2017

What’s happened in F1 this season that reveals plenty about what’s yet to come? Read on …

THIS STORY ORIGINALLY APPEARED ON REDBULL.COM

Formula One may be in its mid-season siesta – the next race isn’t until August 27 when the campaign resumes in Belgium – but we’ve learned plenty over the first 11 races of the season that will shape the story of the last nine from Spa-Francorchamps onwards.

What has happened already that gives us a pointer of what’s likely to follow? Plenty, but we’ll restrict ourselves to five storylines to watch.

1. Hamilton v Vettel: naughty or nice?

They’re statistically two of the greatest drivers Formula One has ever seen, but circumstances have conspired to largely keep Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel out of one another’s way in the 10 seasons they’ve spent together on the grid. But that was then – and how the ‘now’ plays out for the rest of 2017 will make for fascinating viewing.

Their brief stoushes in Spain were a sign of things to come, and initially at least, both drivers seemed almost thrilled with the prospect of a head-to-head fight, Hamilton saying after his Barcelona win that it was “such a privilege” to race against the four-time world champion in one of the “rawest” fights he could ever remember. That all changed of course in Baku, when Vettel rammed Hamilton when the field was behind the safety car after he felt the Mercedes driver had brake-tested him, and the sniping through the media lasted for days.

The pair aired their differences via text message in the days before last month’s Austrian Grand Prix, but haven’t spent much time on track together since Azerbaijan as Hamilton took a gearbox penalty at the Red Bull Ring, ran rings around Vettel and the rest at Silverstone, and was too far back from the German in Hungary to threaten his race-long lead.

Will these two play naughty or nice when – not if – they’re disputing the same piece of tarmac over the final nine races? Perhaps that depends on …

2. Does teamwork make the Mercedes dream work?

Hamilton’s decision to honour an in-race agreement in Hungary to let teammate Valtteri Bottas back through into third place after his fruitless attempt to attack Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen did wonders for Mercedes inter-team relations. But in the cold light of day, that decision cost the team’s leading driver three world championship points. It doesn’t sound like much, but when you consider the title has been decided by that margin or less 18 times in F1’s 70 seasons, you start to realise how big the gesture was, and how costly it could be.

Ferrari has no such problems putting all of its eggs in the Vettel basket, as the German is 86 points ahead of Raikkonen who, lest we forget, is out of contract at the end of 2017. With Hamilton sitting 14 points adrift of Vettel’s series lead and Bottas hovering just 19 points behind his teammate, does having two dogs in the fight help or hinder Mercedes as it attempts to combat the only Ferrari driver the red team wants to win the title?

It’s a conundrum for team boss Toto Wolff, and while it’s hard to imagine that a more collaborative working environment than the one Mercedes had when Nico Rosberg was Hamilton’s teammate is a negative, what if an easier place to work doesn’t stay as a winning one? Expect Mercedes to back both drivers for now, and expect Bottas to gift Hamilton points – maybe even a win – if Mercedes has an overwhelming upper hand at any track later in the year.

3. Bulls stuck in third gear

Yes, Red Bull has won a Grand Prix this year – and Daniel Ricciardo’s victory in what surely go down as the year’s wackiest race in Azerbaijan is one that will live long in the memory – but the painful fact for those at Milton Keynes is that the team has been in a race by itself all year, not on the pace (in normal circumstances) of Mercedes and Ferrari, and well advanced of the rest.

Five of Red Bull’s six podiums have been third places (four for Ricciardo, plus Max Verstappen’s third in China), while the Australian and Dutchman have qualified alongside or immediately behind one another six times in 11 races. Hungary shaped as an opportunity to strike on an atypical circuit, but Verstappen striking the sidepod of Ricciardo on lap one put paid to one Red Bull’s race while making you wonder what might have been for the other – even with a 10-second penalty for causing the collision, Verstappen finished 13.276secs behind race-winner Vettel.

The tight confines of Singapore shape as a good chance of better, but other than that, the circuit layouts from here until the season’s chequered flag in Abu Dhabi look like races where, all things being equal, Red Bull will be fighting for little more than the minor podium places.

4. The rivalry that could get nastiest

Studying the relationship between teammates on this year’s grid remains as fascinating as ever. The Hamilton/Bottas axis appears to be completely tension-free on the account of the Finn’s apparent abhorrence of politics, while Raikkonen knows his place alongside Vettel at Ferrari. Ricciardo/Verstappen generally is smooth sailing publicly at Red Bull, and the Dutchman’s quick apology after Hungary wasn’t much of a surprise. Elsewhere, Felipe Massa acts as almost a wise old uncle to teenage rookie Lance Stroll at Williams.

Which leaves us with back-of-the-grid Sauber, where Pascal Wehrlein and Marcus Ericsson seem to be forever telling the team to get their teammate to let them by … into 17th place … and Force India, the rivalry that has the greatest potential for fireworks from here on in.

The team sits in fourth place in the teams’ race, well behind Red Bull but well ahead of Williams and the rest, and repeating its best-ever constructors’ finish of last year is close to a certainty. More tension between Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon after what we’ve already seen in Canada, Hungary and especially Azerbaijan? More absolute than that.

Perez has proven himself to be a steady midfield hand for years, has exquisite tyre management skills that can snaffle a surprise podium, and brings plenty of sponsorship cash to the team, while Ocon is fast, on loan from Mercedes, ambitious and has something of a reputation for getting in the way when drivers are on hot laps and he’s not, Ricciardo commenting that he was “not a fan” of the young Frenchman in Hungary.

Perez is the leading driver of the pink pair for now (56 points to 45), but expect this inter-team fight to get more fractious as we tick off the final nine races.

5. Who’ll be king of the middle?

You could throw a blanket over fifth through eighth in the constructors’ championship, but the standout driver of the eight who ply their trade for Williams, Toro Rosso, Haas and Renault this year has been Carlos Sainz, who has the potential to take Red Bull’s sister squad to heights it has never previously hit.

The Spaniard has 35 of his team’s 39 points to almost single-handedly overhaul Williams’ tally of 41, 15 of which came when Stroll benefitted from the Baku chaos to score a shock first podium in third place (for context, the Canadian’s second-best result came at home in Montreal, when he finished ninth).

Romain Grosjean has had Kevin Magnussen’s measure at Haas, but not by a lot, while Daniil Kvyat’s near-disappearance at Toro Rosso and Jolyon Palmer’s non-contribution as Nico Hulkenberg’s teammate at Renault means Sainz shapes as the star of F1’s second division, and the man most likely to see Toro Rosso finish in the top five in the teams’ race for the first time in its 12-year history.

The 30 F1 stats you need to know

Front to back, top to bottom – here’s the 2017 season in a numerical nutshell.

THIS STORY ORIGINALLY APPEARED ON REDBULL.COM

Ferrari is back, Mercedes isn’t going anywhere, and Red Bull is beginning to get back into the game; these are all storylines we know from the 2017 Formula One season to date. But what about the statistics behind those stories? Which numbers tell the truth about the 11 races this season to date, and which – when spun the right way by their teams – try to paint over a murkier picture?

With the season in recess until the Belgian Grand Prix at the end of the month, these are the numbers that matter – and for the sake of being egalitarian (which F1 clearly isn’t), we’ll spread the love between all 10 teams and 20 drivers in equal measure. Lights out – let’s go.

Mercedes
Constructors’ championship: 1st (357 points)
Drivers’ championship: 2nd Lewis Hamilton (188 points), 3rd Valtteri Bottas (169 points)

1. Mercedes continues to lead the constructors’ championship this year, but hasn’t enjoyed the same level of dominance it has had over F1 since the advent of the V6 turbo hybrid era in 2014. At the mid-season break, the Silver Arrows have 357 points, which compares to 378 (2016), 383 (2015) and 393 (2014).

2. With six pole positions in the first 11 races this season, Lewis Hamilton now sits just one pole behind Michael Schumacher’s all-time record of 68. For the record, Schumacher’s tally came in 306 races; Hamilton’s last start in Hungary was his 199th.

3. Valtteri Bottas has led 136 laps in his 88 career races, 131 of them coming this year in his first season for Mercedes.

Red Bull Racing
Constructors’ championship: 3rd (184 points)
Drivers’ championship: 4th Daniel Ricciardo (117 points), 6th Max Verstappen (67 points)

4. With 11 finishes in 11 races this year, Red Bull has had at least one car finish a Grand Prix since the 2012 Italian Grand Prix, a span of 96 races (while Daniel Ricciardo was disqualified from the 2014 Australian Grand Prix, he finished the race in second place before being excluded).

5. All five of Ricciardo’s career victories – the fifth of which came in the Azerbaijan Grand Prix in June – have come from outside the top three on the grid.

6. Max Verstappen has spent more laps in fifth place this season (204) than any other position, and hasn’t been on the podium since round two (third in China).

Ferrari
Constructors’ championship: 2nd (318 points)
Drivers’ championship: 1st Sebastian Vettel (212 points), 5th Kimi Raikkonen (116 points)

7. How dramatic has Ferrari’s turnaround been this season? The Prancing Horse has won four of the 11 races so far (after no victories in 21 races last year), and is averaging 28.9 points per race as a team this season (18.9 last year).

8. Sebastian Vettel went into the mid-season break in the championship lead, and has led after every race since taking the season-opener in Melbourne. But Hamilton trumps the four-time world champion for most laps spent in the lead of races this season (262-221).

9. Kimi Raikkonen remains without a victory in his second stint at Ferrari from 2014 onwards; the Finn hasn’t won a Grand Prix since Australia 2013 for Lotus, 86 races ago.

Force India
Constructors’ championship: 4th (101 points)
Drivers’ championship: 7th Sergio Perez (56 points), 8th Esteban Ocon (45 points)

10. With 101 points at the mid-point of the season, Force India is well on track to smash its previous season-best tally (173), which it achieved last year. At the same time last year, Nico Hulkenberg and Sergio Perez had scored 74 points between them.

11. Perez’s run of 37 race finishes in a row came to an end in Azerbaijan when he retired with accident damage; the record for most races classified in succession continues to be held by Nick Heidfeld (41).

12. After never qualifying and finishing inside the top 10 in the same race before this season, Esteban Ocon has achieved that feat six times in the first 11 Grands Prix.

Williams
Constructors’ championship: 5th (41 points)
Drivers’ championship: 11th Felipe Massa (23 points), 12th Lance Stroll (18 points), 22nd Paul Di Resta (0 points, one race)

13. Williams has laboured through its worst first half to a season since 2013, when it scored just five points for the entire campaign. Its 41 points at the mid-season break compares unfavourably to 94 (2016), 151 (2015) and 135 (2014) at the same stage of the year over the previous three seasons.

14. With 260 F1 starts, Felipe Massa sits sixth on the all-time participation list – but is just third on the 2017 grid behind Fernando Alonso (281) and Kimi Raikkonen (262).

15. Lance Stroll’s third-place finish in Baku made the Canadian rookie the youngest-ever podium finisher in F1 history (18 years, 239 days).

McLaren
Constructors’ championship: 9th (11 points)
Drivers’ championship: 15th Fernando Alonso (10 points), 18th Stoffel Vandoorne (1 point), 23rd Jenson Button (0 points, one race)

16. It’s the third season of McLaren’s troubled re-marriage with Honda engines, and the sad news is that things are going from bad to worse; from 17 constructors’ championship points at the mid-point of the 2015 season rose to 38 last year, the team has managed just 11 in the first 11 races of 2017.

17. In his 10 races this season (remembering he missed the Monaco GP to compete in the Indianapolis 500), Fernando Alonso has a paddock-high six non-finishes, one of which was technically a non-start after his car failed on the formation lap for the Russian Grand Prix.

18. It took Stoffel Vandoorne 10 races before he out-qualified a teammate this season, taking eighth on the grid for the British Grand Prix at Silverstone.

Toro Rosso
Constructors’ championship: 6th (39 points)
Drivers’ championship: 9th Carlos Sainz (35 points), 17th Daniil Kvyat (4 points)

19. Toro Rosso sits sixth in the constructors’ championship with 39 points at the mid-year break, only two points behind Williams; only once before has Red Bull’s B-team finished that high in its 11 previous seasons (sixth in 2008, when Sebastian Vettel took the team’s only victory to date).

20. Carlos Sainz has out-scored Daniil Kvyat 77 points to eight in the 28 races they’ve been teammates since the Spanish Grand Prix of 2016.

21. While Sainz leads Kvyat 35-4 in points this year, it’s the Russian who has held sway in their head-to-head qualifying battle (6-5).

Haas
Constructors’ championship: 7th (29 points)
Drivers’ championship: 13th Romain Grosjean (18 points), 14th Kevin Magnussen (11 points)

22. Eleven races into its second F1 season, Haas has already scored as many points (29) as it managed in its entire 2016 debut campaign.

23. After scoring points five times in 21 races last year, Romain Grosjean has already matched that tally in just 11 Grands Prix this season.

24. With no appearances in Q3 yet this season, Kevin Magnussen’s most recent top-10 qualifying performance remains the final race of the 2014 season for McLaren, where he started ninth in Abu Dhabi.

Renault
Constructors’ championship: 8th (26 points)
Drivers’ championship: 10th Nico Hulkenberg (26 points), 19th Jolyon Palmer (0 points)

25. With 26 points in the opening 11 races, Renault has easily surpassed last year’s tally of eight points with half the season remaining.

26. Nico Hulkenberg is the only driver to have an unblemished qualifying head-to-head record over his teammate (11-0) this season.

27. Since scoring his sole F1 point in 31 races for 10th place in Malaysia last year, Jolyon Palmer has finished 11th – one place outside the points-paying spots – three times in 2017 (Monaco, Canada, Austria).

Sauber
Constructors’ championship: 10th (5 points)
Drivers’ championship: 16th Pascal Wehrlein (5 points), 20th Marcus Ericsson (0 points)

28. While Sauber sits 10th and last in the constructors’ championship, its cars have only occupied the back row of the grid at two of the 11 races this season (Canada and Austria).

29. Stuck in last place in the drivers’ championship of the regular drivers, Marcus Ericsson is on a 39-race run of finishes outside the top 10 and world championship points.

30. Eighth for Pascal Wehrlein in Spain was Sauber’s best race finish since Felipe Nasr was sixth in the 2015 Russian Grand Prix, a span of 30 races.

The F1 mid-term report

Who has starred, who has slumped and who needs to step up at the halfway stage of the F1 season?

THIS STORY ORIGINALLY APPEARED ON REDBULL.COM

The verdict on Formula One so far in 2017? Pretty positive. There’s genuine competition between teams for race wins and the drivers’ championship, which there hasn’t been in some time, and the new-for-2017 regulations have delivered monstrously fast and mean-looking cars that look spectacular on track (but struggle to overtake one another, as the Hungarian GP made very evident). Add to that the craziest race in recent times in Azerbaijan when Daniel Ricciardo saluted, and there’s a lot to like.

What’s more, the look and feel of an F1 weekend in the post-Ecclestone era has been a breath of fresh air. Ladies and gentlemen, social media! Actual vision from inside a drivers’ briefing! Something extra for the fans at a race weekend! It’s been quite the eye-opener.

Before we launch into our mid-season report, and before you ask, we haven’t failed maths – yes, Hungary was race 11 of the 20-race F1 season, but coming as it did before the one-month hiatus and the next race in Belgium at the end of August, it was worth waiting until school was out properly until making some mid-year grades. On that very subject …

Dux of the class

We’ve been waiting a long time for a proper championship battle between Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton – since 2007 in fact, when both made their Formula One debuts in the same season (Vettel became a full-timer on the grid a year later). And at the halfway stage of the season, it’s Vettel who has shone brightest. But only just.

Both drivers have four wins, but the German has led the title chase since taking the opening round in Australia, and has been his consistent self since – 11 races, 11 finishes, eight podiums, and a worst finish of seventh at the British Grand Prix, when he suffered a puncture in sight of the flag. It’s hard to see how he could have done much more.

The intrigue in this battle is how both protagonists go about achieving the same goal in different ways – Vettel’s metronomic approach contrasts sharply with Hamilton’s peaks and troughs. When the Mercedes W08 isn’t in the set-up sweet spot, Hamilton has been outshone by new teammate Valtteri Bottas, who seems better equipped to cope with a car that’s not quite there. But when the Mercedes is dialled in, Hamilton has been brilliant in qualifying (he has six poles in 11 races), and occasionally utterly dominant in races – his Silverstone weekend was as emphatic as it gets.

Both drivers have their emotional frailties – again, which manifest themselves in different ways – which makes the second half of the season and their likely first head-to-head battle for the title so mouth-watering in prospect. You can’t help but wonder if the three points Hamilton relinquished in Hungary after pulling over to let Bottas finish third to honour an in-race agreement will come back to bite him later in the season, though. The in-house tension at the Silver Arrows since the apolitical Bottas replaced the cunning Nico Rosberg has dissipated almost completely, but what if that new-found harmony comes at the cost of a title?

Encouragement award

We’re not going with the ‘every child wins a prize’ philosophy here, but this one could be split four ways.

Bottas, firstly: after coming across to Mercedes in the wake of Rosberg’s shock decision to walk after winning the 2016 crown, the Finn has made every post a winner in what is essentially a make-good contract; nail 2017, and his future should be rosy. He’s won twice (Russia and Austria), matched Vettel for the most podiums in 11 races (eight) and proven to be the consummate team player. Mercedes would be mad not to keep him in 2018 – he’s clearly fast enough and apolitical enough.

Ricciardo deserves a mention here too. Whenever an opportunity presents itself, he’s always there, pressing on relentlessly like a honey badger attacking a hive of bees. His Azerbaijan win – when all looked lost early in the race when an unscheduled pit stop had him at the back of the field – was almost unsurprising in that he made the best of what was on offer on a crazy day, and that ‘best’ was good enough for a fifth career win. Is there a driver better or cleaner in wheel-to-wheel combat?

As a team, Force India deserve a pat on the back here. Fourth in last year’s constructors’ championship, the Indian-owned British-run team has consolidated that in 2017, with Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon both finishing in the points nine times in 11 races. The pink-liveried team has clearly established itself as the best squad outside F1’s ‘big three’; now, all it needs is for its drivers to stop tripping over one another in races …

Finally, a nod to Nico Hulkenberg, who is now an uncomfortable two races away from equalling compatriot Adrian Sutil’s unwanted record of most F1 starts without a top-three finish (128). You can’t do much more in a Renault than Hulkenberg has this year, the German scoring points in five races and qualifying in the top 10 six times.

Could do better

Reasons Ferrari shouldn’t retain Kimi Raikkonen next year: in 70 races since he re-joined Ferrari for the 2014 season, he’s been beaten by teammates Fernando Alonso (2014) and Vettel (since) 49-21 in qualifying, 7-0 in race wins (he hasn’t won a race since Australia 2013 for Lotus, 86 Grands Prix ago), 30-11 in podium finishes, and has scored 37 per cent of his team’s points in that time, explaining why the team with this year’s drivers’ championship leader trails Mercedes by 39 points in the constructors’ race.

Reason Ferrari will keep Kimi Raikkonen next year. Hungary.

You can understand Ferrari’s logic here; while Raikkonen is a long, long way from his 2007 world championship-winning heyday, he doesn’t play politics, has a wealth of experience, gets on with Vettel and doesn’t rock the boat. When Ferrari orchestrated races in Monaco (unofficially) and Hungary (officially) to ensure the Finn stayed behind a race-leading Vettel, he expressed his disappointment, sighed and moved on. It would have been so easy for Raikkonen to push an ailing Vettel hard in Hungary to stand on the top step of the podium for the first time in an age, but, out of contract and with (arguably) no other team likely to offer him one, that wouldn’t have been the brightest idea.

Expect Raikkonen to be renewed at or before the Italian Grand Prix next month – and expect plenty of F1 fans to wonder just what another driver could do in a car that Vettel has proven is a genuine race-winner. Raikkonen is clearly worthy of being in F1 for his name and pedigree alone, but with a top team?

Needs a strong second semester

Both Toro Rosso drivers could use a good end to 2017, but for entirely different reasons.

Carlos Sainz must wonder what he needs to do to get a break; the Spaniard has scored 35 of his team’s 39 points this year alongside Daniil Kvyat, and amassed 77 points to the Russian’s eight since the pair became teammates at last year’s Spanish Grand Prix, when Max Verstappen took Kvyat’s place in Red Bull’s ‘A’ team. Sainz is good enough to drive further up the grid, but won’t be going anywhere as Red Bull’s insurance policy in case Verstappen or Ricciardo bolt one day.

As for Kvyat? Considering he has more penalty points on his FIA super licence (10) than he’s scored points (eight) in the past 28 races, the end for the driver derisively referred to as ‘the torpedo’ must surely be nigh, with 2016 GP2 champion Pierre Gasly waiting impatiently in the (Red) Bull pen.

Extra detention

One driver and one team get the unwanted nomination here. Jolyon Palmer hasn’t made much of a case to be retained by Renault, being out-scored 26-0 and out-qualified in all 11 races by Hulkenberg this season. He couldn’t have come much closer to a top-10 finish – Palmer was 11th in Monaco, Canada and Austria – but with Renault in a tight fight for places 5-8 in the constructors’ championship, it needs more than one car to make a contribution.

As for McLaren – or more pertinently, McLaren-Honda – the less said the better. Sixth for Alonso and 10th for Stoffel Vandoorne in Hungary gave the team that has won 182 Grands Prix and 12 drivers’ championships nine points in one race – compared to the combined two points from the opening 10 races this year …

Can the team extract itself from the Honda engine deal to go elsewhere (Mercedes?) while covering the financial shortfall an early divorce with the Japanese manufacturer would create? That’s uncertain, but what we do know if that while Vandoorne has time and talent on his side, it’s a crying shame to see a 36-year-old Alonso struggling like this. F1 is undoubtedly in a better place when the Spaniard is mixing it up the front of the field.

The MotoGP mid-term report

Who has flown, who has flopped, and who has plenty to do at the halfway mark of the 2017 MotoGP season?

THIS STORY ORIGINALLY APPEARED ON REDBULL.COM

It was never going to be easy for MotoGP 2017 to out-do the season that preceded it; after all, nine different winners, four first-time victors and too many memorable races to list makes 2016 hard to top. But so far, ’17 has upheld its part of the bargain, and as the campaign takes a month-long pause for the mid-season break, it could be argued that this year is even more gripping than last.

With nine races down and nine races to go, we’ve already had five different riders wins Grands Prix, 10 different men stand on the podium, and four riders – Marc Marquez, Maverick Vinales, Andrea Dovizioso and Valentino Rossi – separated by just 10 points at the head of the table.

Undoubtedly the biggest winners of 2017 so far? The fans. But with ‘school’ out for the summer break before the Czech Republic Grand Prix signals the resumption of term on August 6, picking winners and losers from the 27 riders to have started a race this season isn’t as clear-cut. Which is where our annual mid-season report card comes in. Release the grades …

Dux of the class
When we ran the rule over the two-wheel field this time last year, Marc Marquez was a runaway winner in this category, going to the summer break with a 48-point lead – nearly two race wins – with nine down and nine to go. While the reigning and three-time MotoGP champ heads our class report so far this year, his lead over second-placed Vinales – just five points – is next to nothing, and he’s led the championship precisely once, after taking his second victory of 2017 last time out in Germany. But dig through the numbers, and it’s hard to argue Marquez isn’t the man of the year so far.

Out of the front-running four we mentioned earlier, the Repsol Honda rider is by far the best qualifier – he has six front-row starts in nine races and an average qualifying position of 2.7 (Vinales is next-best at 5.1), while five podiums sees him equal with teammate Dani Pedrosa for the most on the grid. Two costly DNFs – particularly when he was leading in Argentina – are negatives, but his wins in Austin (for the fifth year in a row) and the Sachsenring (for a remarkable eighth-straight time going back to his time in the feeder classes) show that when he’s on it, Marquez remains the benchmark, particularly as it could be argued that he’s on the worst bike of the top four.

Vinales started his Yamaha tenure like a train but has struggled more recently, averaging a fourth-row start in the last three races before the break, and recording just one podium in the past four races after winning three of the opening five. Dovizioso’s back-to-back wins at Mugello and Catalunya were all class, and he’s made Ducati look more convincing as a front-running bike than anyone since the Casey Stoner era. And Rossi, all of 38 years young, wound back the clock with a brilliant win in very difficult conditions at Assen for his first triumph in over 12 months. But to our mind, Marquez stands alone here.

Bizarrely, Marquez and Vinales haven’t been on the same podium together yet despite being first and second in the championship and separated by such a miniscule margin. You figure that when they meet on track in the final nine races – and they surely will – fireworks will ensue.

Encouragement award
Rossi and Dovizioso have cause to be considered here too for reasons we’ve already mentioned, but it’s impossible to split Tech 3 Yamaha’s duo of crack rookies, Johann Zarco and Jonas Folger.

Zarco has hogged the majority of the headlines, as he should have after leading in Qatar on debut and snagging a sublime pole at Assen, and the two-time Moto2 champion has shown absolutely no hesitation in ruffling the feathers of the MotoGP top-liners, which has to be commended. Folger, while going about his business more subtly, loses little by comparison, and rounded out a strong first half with his best performance of the season at home in Germany, where he made Sachsenring master Marquez sweat for most of the 30-lap distance before the Repsol Honda man (inevitably) stretched away.

Thanks to Zarco and Folger, Tech 3 has arguably been the star team of the season – last year, with experienced pair Pol Espargaro and Bradley Smith on board, the French team had scored 107 points at the season recess; this season, its rookie duo have managed 155 to both sit inside the top seven in the standings.

A gold star here must go to Pramac Ducati’s Danilo Petrucci, who managed three front-row starts in a row before the break, and came within inches of a breakthrough first win before being denied at the line by good friend Rossi at Assen. Two podiums already for the Italian has doubled his tally from his first five MotoGP seasons combined.

Could do better
We could say Scott Redding here, who, while admittedly on an inferior machine to teammate Petrucci, has struggled this season and looks set to lose his ride for 2018, We could equally vouch for Redding’s compatriot Sam Lowes, who has endured a wretched run of luck with his Aprilia but hasn’t been particularly quick when the bike has actually worked, and has managed two points – the worst of any full-time rider in the series – so far.

But no, we’ll opt for Jorge Lorenzo, who has found the switch to Ducati to be more problematic than even he would have feared. One podium total (a third at Jerez) looks pretty underwhelming for the three-time champion compared to two wins for teammate Dovizioso, and while both riders have finished eight of the nine races, the Italian has come close to doubling the Spaniard’s points tally (123-65).

Having to re-train his brain to remember he’s not riding a Yamaha after nine seasons was always going to take time for Lorenzo, and he’ll be hoping for fine weather for the rest of the season after his wet-weather demons resurfaced again at Assen, where he laboured to the worst qualifying result of his MotoGP career in 21st, and his worst effort on a Saturday since his 125cc days 14 years ago (Jerez 2003). Things will get surely better for Ducati’s star signing, but they need to, and fast.

Needs a strong second semester
It may seem harsh to have Jack Miller in this spot, but when you come into the final year of a three-year contract with HRC with a MotoGP race win under your belt, expectations were always going to be raised in 2017. The Australian has largely delivered – he has one championship point fewer at the mid-year break this season compared to last after the unexpected Assen success in 2016 – but with all sorts of rumours swirling about his future as the paddock packed up in Germany, he needs more, and he knows it.

“I would have liked to have been inside the top 10 in the standings, but we’ve had a couple of little mistakes here and there that cost us,” Miller said about the season’s first half.

“We’ve shown we’ve really improved this year, and I’m looking forward to making another, let’s say 60 points, in the rest of the season. That’d be nice.”

Reaching the ton for the season – and getting to the end of it in decent physical shape after an injury-ravaged conclusion to 2016 – would be a pass mark for the Aussie before he gets set for his next adventure in ’17.

Extra detention
We’re not picking on Andrea Iannone despite having him in this same category this time last year, but a change of hue from red to blue has done little to change our mind about the maddeningly inconsistent but very rapid Italian. It’s been a tough campaign for Suzuki after losing Vinales and Aleix Espargaro last year, and while Alex Rins’ rookie campaign has barely got started after breaking his left wrist in practice at Austin and missing five races, Iannone has been the blue team’s ever-present, yet has been close to invisible for much of the year.

He’s managed just 28 points in nine races, has failed to finish three times, and has made Q2 just once in the past five races. Former Suzuki legend Kevin Schwantz, speaking to Italian newspaper Gazzetta dello Sport in Germany, let Iannone have it.

“I know by experience that if things are wrong, there is only one thing to do; get out there and work – and try,” the 1993 500cc champion said.

“You have to do more than all the others to try to recover. Iannone is lost, because it seems like he wants the Suzuki to behave like the Ducati. But this bike will never be a Ducati. He should try to take advantage of its strengths.

“Speaking to him, it seems that the bike has no strengths. I don’t understand Italian, but his body language is as bad as it can be.”