Which teams made the best leaps forward in a season?

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There’s several questions on the site in the F1 Fanatic mailbox but first up here’s an interesting one on which teams have made great progress in a single season.

Teams making great leaps forward

Omar Roncal asks which teams have made the most progress from year-to-year:

What have been the best recoveries for teams after a bad year?

I though about the “Honda to Brawn” season but that is actually a case of two different teams, or McLaren 2007 to 2008 but McLaren was really strong both years, and only got disqualified for ‘spygate’.

My question is about “normal progress” from one season to another.

Using your criteria (and looking at just the current teams) I can think of a few good examples.

The most recent would be Red Bull, who were seventh in the constructors’ championship in 2008 but finished second the following season. Had the controversial double-diffusers been ruled illegal they could well have won the championship, and as it was they had the fastest car of the second half of the season.

McLaren had an even bigger jump back in the sixties. Bruce McLaren’s fledgling team were tenth in their second season of F1 in 1967, grappling with an underpowered car and missing the first race of the season.

The following year they expanded to a two-car team, welcomed reigning champion Denny Hulme and switched to Cosworth’s potent DFV.

The result: a first win for the team courtesy of McLaren, two more for Hulme by the end of the year, and second in the championship.

Williams provide two compelling examples. The team ended 1977 ninth but the arrival of the FW07 at round five of the following season propelled them into victory contention.

Under an unusual points system, Alan Jones scored the maximum points available in the second half of the year with one race to spare. The team ended the year second.

Then in 1989 the team switched from Judd to Renault engines and ditched their early active suspension suspension system, recovering much of their lost form. They rose from seventh to second in the championship.

If you recall any other great improvements by an F1 team – including those not on the grid today – share them in the comments.

Championship standings

Speaking of championship standings here’s some good news for Steve Jones:

I’m liking the new layout having taken a few days to get used to it.

However, there’s one thing I think is missing that was also missing on the old layout: Can we have a page showing the current championship standings, and a nice easy-to-find link to it?

Actually the championship points page is much the same as it was last year, with full tables and interactive charts for both titles. You can find it under 2012 F1 statistics here:

And from today you can see the top three in each series are displayed in the sidebar along with links to the full results.

Mobile apps

But I have to disappoint John Mackay:

Enjoy your website, do you have a dedicated iPad app or are you planning one?

The short answer is no – and that goes for all mobile devices at present.

The long answer is that I’d love to be able to offer dedicated applications for a range of popular mobile devices. But I haven’t got anything like the time, expertise or resources to do it.

As a result my priority has been to make the site work as well as possible on devices of all screen sizes. Last week several further changes were made to that effect – see details here.

Of course I wouldn’t rule out offering something along these lines in the future. But these things take time, resources and, ultimately, money I do not have.

As always, if you have a technical problem with the site please report it via this link (not in the comments) including as much information as possible:

And anyone who wants to contribute to the cost of running F1 Fanatic should see here:

Twitter integration

Finally, Kremer would like to connect his Twitter and F1 Fanatic accounts:

I’d like to synch my F1F acct to Twitter, though (F1F = @Kremer / Twitter = @Ksnickers).

Any way to link the two the way your registration works, or within the user options?

This is not available at present but it’s something I’d like to have – and for Facebook as well. I’ll keep you all updated on this.

Got a question for F1 Fanatic? Send it in via the contact form. Please include your real name.

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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56 comments on “Which teams made the best leaps forward in a season?”

  1. Nice information included here.

    In a sense one could say that Force India improvement of form from 2010 to 2011 was a bit of a turnaround as well.

    1. Force India have generally been a progressive improvement since 2008, rather than a sudden change upwards.

    2. How is that so? They scored one more point in 2011 compared to 2010….which was also the difference between 6th and 7th in 2010.

      They’ve been quite consistent in terms of points from 2010 onwards through to 2012.

  2. Over a season, the most notable improvement in a car has to be the MP4-24. From being 2 secs off the pace to what I consider the best car on the grid by the end of 2009 is staggering.

    1. I’d agree with that.

      Their change in form was incredible over a period of time with little to no testing!

  3. As for this season, I’d put Sauber (from having difficulties end of 2011 to strong showings beginning of 2012), Williams (despite having a very young pair of drivers) and Lotus (one of the top 4 cars in pure speed, spoiled by bad luck / driver errors). Obviously, that’s only an end of 2011 vs begininning of 2012 evolution. As for F1 history, there are many examples, especially when there are changes in rules / interpretations.

    1. If the pace of Lotus lasts beyond the first 2 races this season I think they will definitely be one of the best improvements.

  4. @Keithcollantine
    I still don’t understand the placement of the current standings. I think something so important on an F1 site deserves it’s own direct link either in the the title bar or at least as the first drop-down option under “F1 2012.” For one thing, for some reason I find it counter-intuitive that it is in a sub-category in statistics rather than results- although a link being under ‘statistics’ makes sense, it never strikes me as the best place for the main link to it.

    1. I agree. It’s not that intuitive and it should have its own link under the F1 2012 button. But now the championship is on the right hand side of the screen, with a direct link for the full standings, so I guess that fixes it.

      1. Well I have never had a problem with it myself but I have to say that when I tried to introduce a friend to F1fanatic that was exactly the gripe they had with it. I know the site they used was not as good as this one so it is pretty sad that such a basic feature could justify a bad decision… sometimes people are looking for excuses to stick with what they know though, I guess.

        1. Are there really people only using one site? And ditching another very good one for the placement of standings?
          Strange world, this.

      2. Ah yeah, didn’t realise there was a full link there. But I still think it might be better, for more casual visitors in particular, to have an obvious link at the top of the page.

  5. Stewart GP.
    1997: (founded) 6 points scored.
    1998: 5 points scored. Then…
    1999: 36 points scored (4 podiums including a race win).

    1. One of the greatest stories lately, funny that it would end up to be Jaguar then RedBull.
      I think another team that is constantly turning around is the Enstone team they keep turning things around never getting too low but still sometimes winning championships.

  6. Should the title not be best leap forward from season to season, rather than “in” a season? I saw the title and I was thinking about something like a team that started badly and ended well.

    1. Wouldn’t McLaren from 2006 to 2007 count as 1 by the way? I remember McLaren didn’t win a race (I think) in 2006; then came out storming with the fastest car in 2007. Mind you part of it might’ve been because of spygate.

  7. The “teams making great leaps forward” question got me thinking.

    From recent years, one could say Toro Rosso made a huge leap foward in 2008, after introducing the STR3. So did BAR in 2004, only 26 points the year before, and over 100 that year.

    It’s a very interesting question really!

  8. If different name guises are allowed, then I say Brawn. Going from the laughing stock and bust to the drivers and constructors championship and the return of Mercedes to F1.

  9. Hamilton & Kovalianen starting at the back of the grid in Melbourne 2009, 10 races later and Hamilton wins the Hungarian Grand Prix. Maybe i’m bias, but that’s one hell of a turn around.

    1. What about the worst turn around? Toyota lock out the front row (Bahrain 2009), then are on the back row in Monaco, just two races later.

  10. i think mclaren have made the biggest step. they have jumped the almighty redbull of the previous 2.5 years and are now the premier team (even if they dont have the premier drivers to prove their dominance like Redbull did with Vettel), they have adapted to the new regulations best, ahead of redbull, ferrari and the rest.

    1. While it is always an achievement to be the fastest team on the grid, using over 2 years to go from 2nd fastest to fastest is hardly ground breaking.

      1. …and it is very early days, a couple of fly a-ways doesn’t necessarily mean much at this stage, although it might come mid-season

    2. I think they do have “premier drivers”, certainly on par with Vettel, if not better. Thy do have the best car at the moment, it’s just not as dominant as Red Bull in 2010 and 2011.

  11. More importantly, we should consider the teams that have made the biggest ‘step backwards’ so far in 2012. Safe to say that Red Bull and Ferrari fall into that bracket, but for me in terms of improvement, I would say Williams. With last year being their worst season since being founded back in 1975, it was hard to see how Williams’ fortunes could fall further, even if Sam Michael and Patrick Head are gone.
    However, in the two grands prix we have seen Williams have shown promise. Maldonado’s crash in Australia was disappointing, but he showed that the Williams had pace which the 2011 chassis certainly did not! Bruno Senna’s points finish last weekend further cemented my feelings towards Williams going forwards and not backwards, although there is still plenty to do. They are nowhere near where they were a decade ago in terms of performance, but that would be asking too much in such a short space of time.
    McLaren have looked good, but to be honest, they showed promise in 2011 and were always a threat to Red Bull. With the ban on exhaust blown difusers it appears as if the gap between Red Bull and McLaren is now gone, which is a good thing for the fans.

    1. So far ferrari have equalled their 2011 win total within 2 races and won as much as the all conquering dominant Mclaren. Alonso is winning the title and has had his best start to a season at Ferrari. Step back?

      1. Dream on…

      2. And you’re basing it on two races?

      3. Yes I think Ferrari have gone backwards. The position they find themselves in is down to Alonso’s driving and not the car. Remember how Fernando reacted when the media suggested Ferrari had turned themselves around following Sepang. He knew that if that race had been a dry race, he probably would not have been able to compete for the win! There is a big difference between a fast car making a driver look good and a fast driver making a slow car look good! I know which one Fernando has at the moment and so does he!

    2. In my opinion Ferrari is in a better shape than we think. Obviously the car could be better, but Fernando proves that it isn’t that terrible, after all he is leading the championship. What they really need, if they want to fight for constructor’s title, is a second driver who can score some points.

    3. Red bull? They came 2nd & 4th in Australia and were going to have a strong finish with both drivers before NK’s stupid manoeuvre. They’re 2nd in the constructors, and it’s early in the championship…so they could end up fastest in China.

      And as for Ferrari, they’ve had a win and Alonso is leading the championship; but the car isnt as good as last years/2010’s. After the Mugello test I expect them to be much faster though, perhaps challenging for podiums in “normal” races.

  12. So far in 2012 you have to point to Williams and Lotus….in particular Williams. Everyone knows the their miserable 2011 story but so far the car has had suprising performance and also looks tough. Lotus to me may show more potential over the entire season though. Some bad luck has held them back a bit , at least with results. They appear to be on the path towards making other teams have a bad day.

    1. And of course Sauber, they should’ve had a win with Perez…the only reason they don’t is due to a bad pit stop call.

  13. McLaren in 1997/1998 I would have thought?

    1996 was pretty standard if I recall, nothing achieved at all. The silver Arrows showed up in 97 and weren’t really a major force compared to Williams. But in 1998 , all I remember is McLaren dominance.

    Maybe this doesn’t count as its kind of jumping from 1996 -1998 with an improving year in the middle.

    1. Good one – I remember they didn’t do much in ’97 except grab their first couple of wins for ages, including Hakkinen’s dubious team-orders one in the last race!
      Williams made a similar leap forward in 1991, from there or thereabouts to fastest of all.
      Red Bull as already mentioned, and I’d also put a word in for March in 1988, with Capelli’s giant-killing races (think Perez’s drive in Malaysia, repeated five or six times).

      Spot the common theme…

      1. Yes! I’m glad someone mentioned March and Capelli! He was my fav back then. I remember there was one race, I think 1990 (France?) that the Marches went from not qualifying one race, to leading one-two the next. I think I was a dying gearbox in the closing stages that finally gifted the win to Prost for Ferrari. Capelli came in second though. That must be the greatest turnaround in F1 history.

    2. McLaren weren’t exactly dominant, especially with Schumacher around.

      1. That may be true, but the point is that in 96 they were midfield and 2 years later they had won the drivers and constructors championships.

  14. OmarR-Pepper (@)
    2nd April 2012, 17:47

    WOW my name mentioned at the beginning of the article! (I’m Omar Roncal and I have never got a Comment of the Day…yet) And my spelling mistakes too!!! (though = thought), btw thanks Keith for taking the time to read our comments and for doing the research. And about the good-leap teams, we might see Sauber joining that club this year if Sergio Perez keeps that astonishing pace. He was the DOTW right?

  15. Ah, the mini-table and link on the main page are just what I was thinking of. Thanks Keith!

  16. Williams improvement was from 1978 to 79 not from 1977.

  17. A few:
    Sauber 2000>2001. In 2000, they scored points if four races and finished eight in the championship. In 2001, they even had a podium and twice had both cars in the points – result: fourth in the championship.

    And in-season:
    McLaren in 2004. Remember that horrible MP4-19? It was slow and unreliable. But once the 19B came out, Kimi was on fire.
    Jordan in 1998. Eight races into the season and zero points. And what happens in the next eight races? 34 points.

  18. why not honda/brawn ? they are basically same team, they rose from 9th in ’08 to 1st in 2009, which is great feat.

    1. The criteria Keith was using does not account for different names/teams. Honda took away A LOT of resources so you can’t really count them as the same team, in my opinion.

  19. I don’t think there’s two ways about it – Brawn went from essentially last on the grid to first.

    The Honda engine, had they run it, would have been just as strong as the Merc given a) the engine freeze and b) the fact it was better suited to the car, so I don’t think Mercedes power made a lot of difference. The car was just aerodynamically superior due to its diffuser, so would have won the races regardless.

    Given the majority of the Brawn/Honda staff who weren’t laid off are still at Mercedes, it’s categorically the same team.

  20. I think the champion in season-to-season improvement must be Tyrrell.
    1970: 0 points
    1971: Won WCC and WCD, took 32% of all points that season.
    A close runner-up should be Cooper:
    1958: took 17% of points (which was still good enough to #3 in WCC)
    1959: won WCC & WDD, took 52% of points (improvement by 35%, the largest season-to-season improvement ever).
    Other notables:
    Ferrari: 1950: 15% 1951: 44% (improvement by 29%, note: no WCC/D)
    McLaren: 1983: 9% 1984: 37% and WCC/D (improvement by 28%)
    Ferrari: 1951: 44% 1952: 68% and WCC/D (improvement by 24%)
    McLaren: 1997: 14% 1998: 38% and WCC/D (improvement by 24%)
    and I do think the following counts, it was the same people
    Honda/Brown: 2008: 2% 2009: 27% and WCC/D (improvement by 25%)
    Now in the other direction there is a close fight, in fact a tie for the top spot:
    Cooper: 1960: 50% and WCC/D 1961: 12% (decrease by 38%)
    Ferrari: 1961: 50% and WCC/D 1962: 12% (decrease by 38%)
    Brabham: 1967: 38% and WCC/D 1968: 4% (decrease by 34%)
    Vanwall: 1958: 32% and WCC 1959: 0 pts (the team fell apart sort of)
    Ferrari: 1979: 30% and WCC/D 1980: 2% (decrease by 28%)
    Ferrari: 2002: 50% and WCC/D 2003: 25% and WCC/D (decrease by 25%)
    This last example shows that comparing by difference may not be all that great. Another interesting option would be to compare _ratios_, but such a comparison has its own problems (base 0 for one) and above all, I do not have the data.

    1. Brabham
      1965 Zero wins, 4th
      1966 WDC WCC
      1967 WDC WCC

    2. Bravo. This is exactly what I was hoping to see.

  21. I’d say Sauber’s 8th (2005) to 5th (2006) was a nice jump, considering the team was still half Sauber, and the BMW factor hadn’t really kicked in yet.

    I would say the Honda-Brawn thing would count, because they are basicaly the same team. The car was already designed when it was still Honda. The only things that really changed where the name and the engine. Most of the folks in the team remained. The car would basically have the Honda, so the engine was the only real change.

  22. or for that matter, the jump bmw-sauber made between ’06 and ’07.
    2005 (as sauber) 20pts, 8th
    2006 (as BMW-Sauber) 5th, 36pts
    2007 2nd (after disq Mclaren), 101pts.

  23. Worst progress for a top team. The almight Mclaren 1 constructors title since 1991.

  24. Interesting read about the team which improved the most. Thinking about it, is there a chance of a follow up story à la “team that made the biggest step backwards”? Again, looking at the current teams, maybe Williams in 97/98?

  25. Keith, when you were referring to Williams, I think you meant that they finished ninth in 1978? They had their turnaround the following year (1979).

  26. No doubt that Sauber, Lotus F1 and Toro Rosso are cruising for more points.

  27. For the ultimate turnaround from one race to the next, look no further than Leyton House March in 1990. In the bumpy Mexican race weekend, the cars failed to qualify, coming last (30th) and 2nd last in qualifying. Then, 2-3 weeks later, with the same car, on the super smooth Paul Ricard circuit in France, they were 1st and 2nd places on the grid, continuing to lead the field for almost the entire race before a mechanical problem slowed Capelli down to 2nd place at the end. The truth was that this early Adrian Newey design had amazing aerodynamics which sadly were extremely sensitive to bumps. It was a beautiful car too, really shrink-wrapped around the driver.

  28. It’s looking positive for Williams to make a significant improvement compared to last year.

    Good round of questions this time, especially the technical website stuff. I’ve always been a fan of web development so it’s great to watch this place grow and be involved. The new site certainly is faster on both mobile and desktop devices so well done @keithcollantine

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