Formula One - five down, twelve to go

Formula One - five down, twelve to go

After five races, and back on European soil again, Ross Brawn and his team are still in command in Formula One. Jenson Button has won four out of five races, and is still the leader in the Drivers Championship with 41 points. Teammate Rubens ...

After five races, and back on European soil again, Ross Brawn and his team are still in command in Formula One. Jenson Button has won four out of five races, and is still the leader in the Drivers Championship with 41 points. Teammate Rubens Barrichello is in second position with 27 points, followed by the drivers of the other very successful team of this year, Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber with 23 and 15,5 points.

This is all the other drivers saw of the Brawn-Mercedes team this year.
Photo by xpb.cc.

Brawn-Mercedes is also leading the Constructors Championship with 68 points, followed by RBR-Renault with 38,5 points, and Toyota with 28,5. Although Vijay Mallya claimed his team had made "remarkable progress", Force India is the only team which has failed to score any points at all, unfortunately the 2010 rule changes didn't bring the necessary extra speed the team so desperately needs.

The Brawn team is also the only team which has succeeded in bringing both cars unscathed to the finish line at all five races, also a remarkable achievement for a new Formula One team. They have also scored two one-two race wins and Jenson Button has scored three pole positions in five races. And it must be said, the reliable Mercedes engine is also responsible for those excellent results.

Toyota, on the other hand, seems to have lost grip on the situation, after their initial strong start this season Jarno Trulli didn't finish in China and Spain because of an accident, and Timo Glock only scored four points during the last three races. Red Bull drivers Mark Webber and boy wonder Sebastian Vettel did a lot better, they scored a one-two race win in China, and together scored 37 points during the last three races. Red Bull becomes stronger and stronger after each race and they are now considered to be a strong - and some say even the only - rival for the Brawn-Mercedes team.

BMW's Nick Heidfeld and Robert Kubica had huge problems during the Chinese and Bahrain Grand Prix, with still had basically the same car as in Australia and Malaysia, no new aero parts or upgrades for BMW-Sauber, and the results were very poor to say the least. BMW introduced an upgraded car in Spain, but the results again were very disappointing.

McLaren has had other problems besides the lack of speed of their car: the FIA gave the McLaren team a suspended three-race ban as a result of the Melbourne lie-gate scandal, if they breach the Sporting Regulations again this year, the will become reality. McLaren seemed to have found some more speed during the Chinese and Bahrain Grand Prix, but they failed to score points in Spain. McLaren has also a lot of catching up to do.

McLaren isn't the only team who finds themselves in a rather embarrassing position this season, Scuderia Ferrari so far have scored only six points in five races, resulting in a very disappointing seventh place in the Constructors Championship. The Scuderia from Maranello made a monumental mistake during the qualifying for the Malaysian Grand Prix, which resulted in a fourteenth place on the grid for Kimi Raikkonen.

Kimi Raikkonen, Scuderia Ferrari after being out in Q1.
Photo by xpb.cc.

They managed to make that same mistake again in China, where Felipe Massa ended on a thirteenth place on the grid. And if that wasn't enough, again a monumental mistake during qualifying in Spain, Ferrari thought Kimi Raikkonen was safe for a place in Q2 and ordered him to stay in the pits, but it wasn't to be, and he ended on the sixteenth place on the grid. And I'm pretty sure of it, at that moment Stefano Domenicali's face had the same color as the car of the team he works for. That's what happens when complacency steps in, and Ferrari learned it the hard way.

The diffuser issue was resolved on April 24 when the FIA ruled that the diffusers used by Brawn, Williams and Toyota were legal, the other teams had some catching up to do regarding the diffuser, Red Bull designer Adrian Newey didn't even attend the Chinese Grand Prix, as he had to work on the new double-decker diffuser. Renault introduced their new diffuser in China, and while it brought the team some extra speed, but they still couldn't realize the lap times they were looking for.

McLaren came up with an interim double-decker diffuser in China, Heikki Kovalainen and Lewis Hamilton ended on a fifth and sixth place in the race, a fourth place for Lewis in Bahrain seemed to suggest McLaren was on the way up again, but in Spain Lewis finished in ninth position with one lap behind the leaders, while Kovalainen retired after 7 laps with a faulty gearbox.

Ferrari introduced its own double-decker diffuser in Spain, but after the fiasco during qualifying, the sixth place of Felipe Massa during the race was the only positive thing for Ferrari this year I can think of.

Scuderia Toro Rosso's rookie Sebastien Buemi finished the first four races and scored three points (Raikkonen and Massa have also scored three points!) but his race in Spain ended after a few hundred meters, when he was involved in an accident triggered by Nico Rosberg. Buemi tried to avoid the carnage in front of him when Trulli and Sutil collided, and slowed down, only to be hit by his teammate - the other Sebastien at Toro Rosso. Although Sebastien Bourdais' results were not so bad so far, many people believe his position at Toro Rosso is under pressure, and some even say it is possible he will not complete the season with Toro Rosso.

Flavio Briatore is not happy at all about the diffuser issue and Nelsinho Piquet's performance this year.
Photo by xpb.cc.

The same can be said about Nelsinho Piquet who hasn't scored any points at all this season. He has obviously problems during qualifying, and his highest grid position so far was a twelfth place in Spain, while teammate Fernando Alonso has always qualified in the top ten. Piquet Jr. had to endure more and more criticism from his boss Flavio Briatore. Father Piquet Senior has accompanied Junior at all five races to offer him advice, boost his morale, and soften the hardness of Briatore's criticism. Nelsinho desperately wants to clean up his act, but for some mysterious reason he still hasn't succeeded in doing so.

Which brings us to another mystery: Williams. Williams, together with Brawn and Toyota, were one of the fastest teams during pre-season testing. Nico Rosberg was always in the top 5 and with that in mind Williams was looking forward to the start of the season. In free practice Rosberg is always one of the fastest drivers. Unfortunately Rosberg has not been able to repeat these results during qualifying or during the race, his highest place in qualifying was sixth and his best race result was fifth, both in Australia. Nico only scored 4,5 points this season, and Kazuki Nakajima didn't score any points at all. This also tells us that the magic diffuser isn't so magic after all, as many teams without the magic diffuser have done better than Williams.

This weekend the Formula One circus moves to the principality of Monaco, with all its glitter and glamour it is surely one of the most beautiful surroundings for a Formula One race. Monaco is not a high speed circuit, so the diffuser won't be that important, experience is more important in Monaco, and Brawn, Button and Barrichello have buckets full of experience. They will be extra motivated, because neither Jenson nor Rubens have won this race before, and Ross Brawn probably has a win in the streets of Monaco high on his "things to do" list of this season.

And I almost forgot, there is another issue I have to address: a few teams, and in particular Renault and Ferrari, have said the championship has already been decided after five races, I can't believe my ears. Did I hear that right? Defending champion Lewis Hamilton also doesn't believe he will be fighting for the title anymore this year. Come on gentlemen, you will never become a World Champion if you keep thinking like that. This is Formula One, one day you have nothing, and the next day you have everything. There are still 120 points to score in the next 12 races, so don't tell me you don't want to fight for those points...

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