F1 Team-mate Comparisons Part One: Who's currently claiming intra-team honours?
After six races of the 2018 season, the individual battles for intra-team supremacy are beginning to take shape.
After six races of the 2018 season, the individual battles for intra-team supremacy are beginning to take shape. Some contests are already swinging heavily in one direction, whilst others look set to rage on for the remainder of the year.
In many ways, the battle in the midfield is more competitive than the one at the front. Drivers and teams are vying to impress and earn more prize money in the quest to progress further up the grid. From a driver's perspective, proving you can beat your team-mate could get you shot in a bigger team.
However, one of the most intriguing aspects about Formula One is that the results alone rarely tell the full story, made evident upon analysing the form of the drivers so far.
The team that currently prop up the constructors' championship have a lot of questions to ask this season. It could be argued that the lack of competitiveness in the FW41 means that comparing their drivers should take a back-seat for now, whilst others would say that a poorly-performing car needs at least one standout driver in order to capitalise on one of the rare point-scoring opportunities.
Lance Stroll already has a season of experience under his belt, but might well have benefited from another season of having the safety net of being the more inexperienced driver. However, this season he's expected to hit the ground running whilst new team-mate Sergey Sirotkin continues to adapt to Formula One.
To a degree, that's what has happened. Stroll has generally had the measure of Sirotkin in the first few races of the season, and claimed the team's only points finish in Baku, where the team could profit from the beneficial Mercedes power unit. In that same race, Sirotkin threw away a strong points opportunity on the opening lap.
The Russian looked like he could be in for an impressive race in Monaco, but he was hit with a ten second stop-go penalty for a team error early on. He was, however, buoyed by his own performance and will now look to get under his team-mate's skin by out-performing him at his home race in Canada.
Both Sauber drivers started the season in the same position; they need to beat their team-mate in order to validate their place on the grid. For Marcus Ericsson, who started his Formula One career in 2014 and will be approaching 100 Grand Prix starts at the end of the season, must be able to out-perform a rookie driver. For Charles Leclerc, in order to vindicate his 'star of the future' tag, he must quickly have the measure of a team-mate who many see as a perennial midfielder.
For the first three races at least, Ericsson appeared to have the upper hand; he initially lead the qualifying battle and completed a fine drive to a points finish in Bahrain.
However, in the fickle world of Formula One, attentions were soon back on Leclerc after his remarkable sixth place finish in Baku, which was Sauber's best result since 2015.
The Monegasque driver has appeared to kick on from there; he's appeared in Q2 three times in a row and taken further points in Barcelona, whilst his team-mate is yet to get out of Q1 in 2018 and taken a best finish of eleventh in the last three events.
Whilst the tale of Haas' 'what could've been' season has been well-highlighted, the current outcome of their duelling drivers is, so far, one of the most one-sided contests of the year.
Kevin Magnussen has claimed all of Haas' nineteen points, whilst Romain Grosjean is one of only two drivers yet to score a point.
Following back-to-back races of Grosjean displaying moments of 'snatching defeat from the hands of victory' in Baku and Spain, he finds himself in a position where - not for the first time in his career - he's having to prove his place on the team.
The two latest additions to the Red Bull junior team have had contrasting starts to their season; Pierre Gasly has been living up to the promise shown by winning the GP2 Series in 2016, whilst Brendon Hartley has struggled to justify Red Bull's surprise decision to open the door for him to have another Formula One opportunity.
Gasly claimed a remarkable fourth place result in Bahrain, and took another solid points finish in Monaco, taking his total to eighteen points for the year, whilst Hartley has took home a solitary point in the busy Baku race.
The only jot on Gasly's report card is the botched overtake on his team-mate in Shanghai, whilst a mixture of opening lap clashes, penalties and difficulty in replicating his team-mate's qualifying pace in the team's most competitive races have hindered Hartley's season.
If such an imbalance of form continues, Hartley may have to rely on Red Bull's junior driver shortage in order to stay on in 2019.
A slow-starter to the season, Force India appear to be finding their feet in the midfield and will be relying on the pace and experience of their drivers to make a late charge for the coveted fourth spot in the constructors' championship.
Esteban Ocon and Sergio Perez had one of the most competitive rivalries of last season and, whilst their only tangle has come in the opening lap of this year's Chinese Grand Prix, the pair have once again been closely-matched.
Ocon leads the qualifying battle by four races to two and, in the races where both drivers have finished, he leads Perez by three races to one. However, one of Ocon's retirements was self-inflicted and that was in Force India's most competitive race so far; Baku.
But it's Perez who takes the lead in the points standings because, as a result of fantastic opportunism that we've come to expect from the Mexican, he secured the team's best result of the season with a podium in Baku.
Both drivers also have cases for having more points than they actually have; Ocon and Perez have had pit stop issues in Spain and Monaco respectively. However, the ability to maximise an outside chance of a magnificent result - a major requirement for a midfield team - has, rightly or wrongly, separated these two so far this year.
All images: Motorsport ImagesOf the teams mentioned in the article, who has impressed you the most this season? Leave your comments below.
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