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Head to head: the battle of the 2008 team mates - part two 17 Apr 2008

(L to R): Fernando Alonso (ESP) Renault and team mate Nelson Piquet Jr. (BRA) Renault at the start of term photograph.
Australian Grand Prix, Rd 1, Race Day, Albert Park, Melbourne, Australia, Sunday, 16 March 2008 Mark Webber (AUS) Red Bull Racing with David Coulthard (GBR) Red Bull Racing.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 3, Bahrain Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Bahrain International Circuit, Bahrain, Saturday, 5 April 2008 Sebastien Bourdais (FRA) Scuderia Toro Rosso and Sebastian Vettel (GER) Scuderia Toro Rosso.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 3, Bahrain Grand Prix, Race, Bahrain International Circuit, Bahrain, Sunday, 6 April 2008 Jenson Button (GBR) Honda and Rubens Barrichello (BRA) Honda Racing F1 Team.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 3, Bahrain Grand Prix, Race, Bahrain International Circuit, Bahrain, Sunday, 6 April 2008 Anthony Davidson (GBR) Super Aguri F1 Team and Takuma Sato (JPN) Super Aguri F1 Team at an autograph signing session.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 3, Bahrain Grand Prix, Preparations, Bahrain International Circuit, Bahrain, Thursday, 3 April 2008

In Formula One racing, some say true performance can only be judged relative to your team mate. In the concluding instalment of our two-part feature we take stock of the rivalries within the teams in the bottom half of the table and discover which drivers have gained the edge in the early stages of the '08 season...

Renault - Fernando Alonso v Nelson Piquet
Qualifying: Alonso (3-0)
Race: Alonso (3-0) Piquet retired in Australia and Bahrain
Points: Alonso 6, Piquet 0

Outpacing team mate Nelson Piquet in every race and qualifying session, Fernando Alonso has been Renault’s man to beat this season. Unsurprising you may say, considering Piquet’s rookie status, but you could have said the same last season when the former world champion faced debutant Lewis Hamilton at McLaren. This year, however, it seems that Piquet, the French team’s former tester, has been a far easier foe for the Spaniard. Though still highly rated, Piquet’s less than impressive debut in Melbourne and recent retirement in Bahrain has meant the Brazilian has finished just one race so far (a lowly 11th place at Sepang). The R28 is clearly not on the pace yet, but while Piquet has struggled, Alonso, with his greater experience, has made the best of a bad situation, scoring six points and making it into Q3 on two occasions.
What next? There is hope on the horizon. Before he retired at Sakhir, Piquet was lapping faster than his illustrious team mate and if the Renault package comes together, the 22 year-old could yet spring a few surprises.

Red Bull - David Coulthard v Mark Webber
Qualifying: Webber (2-1)
Race: Webber (2-0) Couthard and Webber retired in Australia
Points: Webber 4, Coulthard 0

With over 330 Grand Prix starts between them, David Coulthard and Mark Webber comprise one of the grid’s most knowledgeable line-ups. Webber has long been praised for his qualifying finesse and he has outperformed Coulthard twice over the last three Saturday sessions. Neither, however, has really excelled, with both only making it into Q3 on one occasion each (Coulthard in Australia, Webber in Malaysia). On Sundays, Coulthard has had a pretty torrid time too, the Scot enduring dismal outings in both Melbourne and Bahrain. Indeed he has finished only one race so far, crossing the line just outside the points in ninth at Sepang. With his two seventh-placed finishes netting him four points, Webber therefore retains the edge in terms of race results.
What next? This experienced duo finished last year’s championship within four points of one another and there’s no reason to suspect a similar scenario won’t develop this season…

Toro Rosso - Sebastien Bourdais v Sebastien Vettel
Qualifying: Vettel (2-1)
Race: Bourdais (2-0) Vettel retired in Australia, Malaysia and Bahrain; Bourdais retired in Malaysia.
Points: Bourdais 2, Vettel 0

Although incumbent driver Sebastian Vettel still holds something of an advantage over new team mate Sebastien Bourdais on Saturdays, race comparisons at the Italian squad are a little more difficult, given that Vettel has yet to finish a Grand Prix and Bourdais has been classified just once. The four-time Champ Car champion scored the Italian team’s only 2008 points to date at the hectic Melbourne race, despite retiring three laps before the chequered flag. Conversely, in terms of outright speed over a qualifying lap Vettel remains dominant, with his ninth-place grid slot in Australia still the squad’s benchmark.
What next? After inching ahead in Bahrain qualifying, Bourdais looks to be getting a handle on his highly-rated team mate. Both, however, will need a lot more luck - and arguably the team’s delayed 2008 car - if they are to make more of an impression.

Honda - Jenson Button v Rubens Barrichello
Qualifying: Button (2-1)
Race: Barrichello (1-1) Button retired in Australia and Bahrain; Barrichello was disqualified in Australia
Points: Button 0, Barrichello 0

While the RA108 is certainly looking stronger than its predecessor, neither Honda driver has been able to convert that improvement into points. Jenson Button has held the advantage on Saturdays, with his ninth-place grid slot in Bahrain the team’s best qualifying to date, but on Sundays the pair are level pegging. While Button has retired from two races and finished the third in tenth, Barrichello has been disqualified once (after pitting under the safety car in Australia) and has otherwise failed to cross the line higher than 11th.
What next? At the moment the race to find more performance has taken precedence over internal rivalries at Honda, but this may change as the RA108 starts to improve.

Force India - Giancarlo Fisichella v Adrian Sutil
Qualifying: Fisichella (3-0)
Race: Fisichella (2-0) Fisichella retired in Australia; Sutil retired in Australia and Malaysia
Points: Fisichella 0, Sutil 0

Giancarlo Fisichella’s move to Force India for 2008 from Renault was viewed by many as his last chance saloon. From a top-flight team to a backmarker with new owners, the move was widely tipped to be Fisichella’s long goodbye. The Italian, however, has thrived. Not only has he been within a whisker of making it through to Q2 in the VJM01, he has also thoroughly overshadowed his younger and highly-regarded team mate Adrian Sutil. Despite their 10-year age gap, Fisichella has out-qualified and out-paced the German at every turn, comprehensively stamping his authority on the team and revitalising his own career in the process. True, Sutil has suffered more than his fair share of bad luck (he has finished just one event), but it is undoubtedly Fisichella who is leading the former Spyker team on its road to recovery.
What next? Last year it was Sutil who upstaged more experienced team mate Christijan Albers. So far this season, though, he has been put in his place by a dominant Fisichella. He must act quickly to get back on a more even keel.

Super Aguri - Takuma Sato v Anthony Davidson
Qualifying: Sato (2-1)
Race: Davidson (2-0) Sato and Davidson retired in Australia
Points: Davidson 0, Sato 0

Super Aguri started 2008 with their very survival at stake, so it will come as no surprise that neither Anthony Davidson nor Takuma Sato have been able to score any points so far. That said, there have been several small triumphs to celebrate, including Sato’s qualifying pace - which ensured that at two events the team have not started from the back row - and Davidson’s 14th-fastest race lap in Bahrain. While Sato has led the way in qualifying, Davidson has enjoyed the most success on Sunday - even finishing the Sakhir race ahead of Force India’s Adrian Sutil and Red Bull’s David Coulthard.
What next? With neither driver testing this week in Barcelona, and the team’s financial footing again in doubt, don’t expect the status quo between Sato and Davidson to change anytime soon.