Why same car and same tyres doesn't mean same results...
We take a look at which drivers have the upper hand over their respective team mates a third of the way into the 2006 Formula One season. Part one - Renault, Ferrari, McLaren, Honda and Toyota.
Renault - Fernando Alonso, Giancarlo Fisichella
It only takes a brief look at the drivers standings to see who the dominant driver is here. While Alonso leads the championship charge on 54 points, Fisichella has amassed less than half of that. Admittedly, Fisichella has had the misfortune of one retirement (a hydraulic failure in Bahrain) to Alonsos none, but for the most part he simply hasnt had the pace of the reigning champion. Poor qualifying performances have also cost him dear - on two occasions he has failed to make the top-ten shootout. Alonso may not have dominated the field on Saturdays - indeed he has made the front row only twice - but in the race he has always found the speed necessary to get him out of trouble. In fact, he has finished no lower than second so far. In contrast, Fisichella has just two podiums to his name. The net result is that as Alonso gears up for another title and a move to McLaren, the media are already questioning Fisichella's future with Renault.
Qualifying: 4-2 Alonso
Race: 5-1 Alonso
Points: Alonso 54, Fisichella 24
Ferrari - Michael Schumacher, Felipe Massa
Joining Ferrari as Schumachers team mate was never going to be easy, but to date Massa has done a pretty solid job, scoring 20 points from five race finishes. His Ferrari career started well, with a front-row grid slot alongside Schumacher in Bahrain, before he spun away any chance of points in the race. He made amends in Malaysia, coming from the back of the grid to finish fifth and beating Schumacher in the process. Since Australia, only the Renaults and Juan Pablo Montoya have come between him and his illustrious team mate and at the Nurburgring he scored his first Formula One podium. Schumacher has clearly out-performed the young Brazilian - indeed, some would argue it is the German and not Ferrari that has beaten Renault on two occasions - but not by the margin many had expected.
Qualifying: 6-0 Schumacher
Race: 4-1 Schumacher (neither driver finished in Australia)
Points: Schumacher 39, Massa 20
McLaren - Kimi Raikkonen, Juan Pablo Montoya
As in 2005, Raikkonen has been the far more consistent force at McLaren. He has been out-qualified several times by his Colombian team mate, but only once has the Finn been beaten to the flag. In a season in which Renault and Ferrari are already being regarded as the only title contenders, Raikkonen has twice managed to put a silver car on the podium, backing it up with one fourth and two fifth places. His only retirement came at Sepang, when he was shunted from behind by Red Bulls Christian Klien. Montoya too has been on the podium - a third at Imola - but has also suffered three retirements, two of which were arguably down to driver error. While paddock rumours revolve around which top team will land Raikkonen for 2007, like Fisichella at Renault, Montoya is another currently pondering exactly where his future lies.
Race: 4-2 Raikkonen
Points: Raikkonen 27, Montoya 15
Honda - Jenson Button, Rubens Barrichello
Many had predicted that Barrichello would upstage the incumbent Button at Honda this year. In reality the Brazilian - in the early races at least - struggled to adapt to his new car after his years behind the wheel of a Ferrari. The result was some disappointing qualifying performances - tenth in Malaysia and only 17th in Australia - and just two points from the first three rounds. In contrast, Button was the fields strongest qualifier over the first four rounds, finished on the podium at Sepang and took pole position in Melbourne. Since San Marino, Barrichello has closed the gap somewhat. He started third on the grid at Imola - immediately behind Button - and then out-qualified his team mate at the European and Spanish Grands Prix. He may have beaten Button only once in a race they both finished, but the signs are that this could develop into a fascinating contest.
Qualifying: 4-2 Button
Race: 4-2 Button
Points: Button 16, Barrichello 8
Toyota - Ralf Schumacher, Jarno Trulli
A rather one-sided contest at the Japanese team, though to be fair, comparison here is not straightforward, as only twice have both Toyota drivers made it to the end of a race. However, theres no denying that Schumacher has proved more adept at making the best of a bad situation. He has scored all the teams points to date, including a fine podium at Albert Park and a storming drive to eighth place in Malaysia, having started last on the grid. In contrast, Trullis best results have been two ninth places at Sepang and the Nurburgring, and he has been regularly out-qualified too. A former master of single-lap qualifying, it seems the Italian is far less at home with the new, knockout format.
Race: 4-2 Schumacher
Points: Schumacher 7, Trulli 0
Continued in Part Two.