Four drivers can take maximum satisfaction from their performance over the first half of the 2017 season.
Analysis of all the drivers’ qualifying and race performances from the 11 grands prix before the summer break reveals who’s had the strongest start to the year and who needs to raise their game as teams weigh up who to keep and who to drop in 2018.
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Ferrari: Vettel leads the championship charge
Kimi Raikkonen was a much improved driver last year and even out-qualified Sebastian Vettel over the balance of the season.
If he’d carried that momentum into the first half of 2017 he could be leading the championship right now – he’s certainly got a car capable of doing so. But a resurgent Vettel has put Raikkonen back in his place. This is starting to look like 2015 again.
As the summer break approached and with questions over his future growing ever louder, Raikkonen produced a timely upswing in form. Over the past half-dozen races he’s been a better match for Vettel in qualifying.
His form against Vettel is similar to Esteban Ocon’s against Sergio Perez at Force India, with one key differentce Ocon’s points-scoring rate has been considerably better.
Which Ferrari driver finished ahead?
McLaren: Alonso carries uncompetitive MCL32
Stoffel Vandoorne faces the combination any new F1 driver must dread: a very competitive team mate and a very uncompetitive car.
Honda made a great leap backwards over the winer with their power unit, leaving McLaren to toil at the tail of the field once again. Fernando Alonso has vast reserves of talent and experience to draw on but while Vandoorne has demonstrated his ability in junior categories, he’s having to learn quickly in F1.
The team had a better showing in Hungary where Vandoorne got his first point of the year. He may not have the chance to repeat that until Singapore. And while the qualifying battle is being won conclusively by Alonso, Vandoorne’s deficit to his two-times championship team mate is closer than other drivers have to less illustrious team mates.
Which McLaren driver finished ahead?
Williams: Massa’s reversal
Williams originally intended to pair Lance Stroll with Valtteri Bottas in 2017. The rookie should consider himself lucky that didn’t happen, as he’s taken a beating from Felipe Massa in qualifying, who in turn was hammered by Bottas on Saturdays last year.
The good news for Stroll was he had by far his beat weekend of the season on a day when Williams were in contention for a podium. Despite being passed by Bottas on the line he came away with third place in Azerbaijan, aided in part by Massa retiring with a broken damper.
That weekend was also the only time Stroll out-qualified his regular team mate, as Paul di Resta substituted for the unwell Massa in Hungary.
Which Williams driver finished ahead?
Renault: Palmer’s future in doubt
It seems inevitable Jolyon Palmer will have to make way for Renault’s next choice of driver, whether or not that turns out to be Robert Kubica.
There’s no ignoring the fact Palmer has had some reliability problems so far this season, but opportunity after opportunity to prove himself on a par with Nico Hulkenberg has been squandered. Palmer is the only driver on the grid who has failed to beat his team mate on merit in qualifying and has only got within seven-tenths of a second twice, on the two shortest tracks of the year.
Perhaps inevitably, there are now rumours Renault are trying to prise him out of his contract for the remainder of the year.
Which Renault driver finished ahead?
The team mate comparison data for the other six teams will be published here tomorrow.
2017 F1 season
- Sepang pays Haas compensation for Grosjean’s 2017 crash
- Williams revenues rose in 2017 after Bottas deal with Mercedes
- Australian Grand Prix cost government £56 million last year
- “Grand Prix Driver” takes you inside McLaren’s nightmare final year with Honda
- Undisputed champion: 10 titles name Hamilton top driver of 2017