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Analysis - mid-season team mate comparisons

06 Aug 2014

According to the popular maxim, the first person any Formula One driver wants to beat is his team mate, and never has that been truer than in 2014 where we’ve seen sizzling intra-team battles taking place up and down the grid. But who has done well and who must do better? Read on for the verdict…


Lewis Hamilton, 191 pts, 2nd, best result 1st (Malaysia, Bahrain, China, Spain, Great Britain)

Nico Rosberg, 202 pts, 1st. best result 1st (Australia, Monaco, Austria, Germany)

Qualifying: 7 - 4 Rosberg

Race: 5 - 3 Hamilton

There’s no doubt the most electrifying intra-team battle of the season has taken place at Mercedes - and the great news is that it shows no signs of abating. After a false start in Australia when Hamilton went out early and Rosberg won with ease, the rivalry proper began in Malaysia before hitting its stride with a thrilling wheel-to-wheel squabble in Bahrain that teetered on the brink of acrimony. With the Silver Arrows running rampant over the opposition, Hamilton seized the advantage with four consecutive wins, but things swung back to the consistent Rosberg in Monaco when he coolly converted a controversial pole position into race victory and then overcame seemingly debilitating technical gremlins in Canada to salvage a fine second place. It was at this point that Hamilton climbed aboard his emotional rollercoaster, compounding mechanical misfortune (Canada, Germany, Hungary) with uncharacteristic errors in qualifying (Austria, Britain), but somehow always managing to limit the damage with heroic race drives. The 2008 world champion was at it again in Hungary, beating Rosberg to third despite a pit-lane start, but it was Hamilton’s decision to ignore a mid-race team order to let his German team mate pass that has added extra spice to an already fiery championship battle. Will Mercedes be able to prevent the rivalry boiling over? That remains to be seen, but with eight races to go and just 11 points separating their two men, things couldn’t be more finely poised.

Red Bull

Sebastian Vettel, 88 pts, 6th, best result 3rd (Malaysia, Canada)

Daniel Ricciardo, 131 pts, 3rd, best result 1st (Canada, Hungary)

Qualifying: 7 - 4 Ricciardo

Race: 6 - 1 Ricciardo

Who would have predicted before the season began that by the halfway point Daniel Ricciardo would have significantly outperformed Sebastian Vettel, his four-time world champion team mate? But that’s exactly what has happened. Ricciardo settled in quickly to life at the Milton Keynes squad and was instantly more comfortable than Vettel in 2014’s high-torque, low-downforce machinery. The smiley Australian hit the ground running in Melbourne with an impressive second place, and though subsequently disqualified for a fuel flow issue, the die had been cast. Vettel was the first of the pair to make it onto the podium - in Malaysia - but it was the tenacious young Antipodean who tended to qualify and race closer to the front. When the dominant Mercedes cars hit trouble in Canada it was Ricciardo and not Vettel who was there to cash in, and he repeated the trick in Hungary, brilliantly taking the race by the scruff of the neck as his team mate incongruously spun down the order. Yes, Vettel has had his fair share of mechanical trouble, but the German has only finished ahead of Ricciardo once in races where they’ve both reached the chequered flag. However, the fact that this happened at the recent race in Germany indicates that perhaps Vettel is finally getting on top of the Renault-powered RB10. If he does, we could be set for a titanic intra-team battle over the second half of the season - a time of year when Vettel has traditionally flourished.


Fernando Alonso, 115pts, 4th, best result 2nd (Hungary)

Kimi Raikkonen, 27pts, 12th, best result 6th (Hungary)

Qualifying: 9 - 2 Alonso

Race: 10 - 0 Alonso

Given that both of Ferrari’s drivers are former champions, it comes as some surprise to find this has been arguably the most one-sided contest on the grid. Some will tell you Raikkonen lacks motivation, others that the F14 T simply doesn’t suit his driving style. What is clear is the numbers. Only twice in 11 attempts has he out-qualified Alonso, and the Finn has yet to finish ahead of his rival in a race. While Alonso has reaped the press plaudits for repeatedly punching above his car’s weight, the same media have gone as far as to question the Scuderia’s wisdom in maintaining its faith in Raikkonen, especially when they have a potential future star on their driver academy’s books in the form of Marussia’s Jules Bianchi. Recent rounds, however, have shown signs of Raikkonen getting to grips with his Prancing Horse. He can only hope that trend continues, especially with the perennially-impressive Alonso operating near the peak of his powers. After all, is there any other driver on the grid that could have taken second place in Hungary in that car, despite being severely disadvantaged by the early-race safety car period?


Felipe Massa, 40 pts, 9th, best result 4th (Austria)

Valtteri Bottas, 95 pts, 5th, best result 2nd (Great Britain, Germany)

Qualifying: 7 - 4 Bottas

Race: 4 - 3 Bottas

Williams went for a blend of youth and experience for their 2014 driver line-up - and after some early wrangling (including a team orders spat in Malaysia that Williams’ management quickly diffused) it’s youth that has won out so far. Armed with the competitive Mercedes-powered FW36, Valtteri Bottas has turned his 2013 rookie promise into a trio of podium finishes, and won admirers up and down the paddock. His most recent rostrum result in Germany was arguably his most impressive, the Finn calmly keeping Lewis Hamilton’s feisty Mercedes at bay in the closing stages of the race to claim an unlikely second place. Massa has neither the points nor the podiums of his young team mate, but he certainly hasn’t let Bottas have things all his own way in 2014. Indeed, it was Massa who claimed the first non-Mercedes pole position of the season in Austria. And don’t forget, were it not for hairy accidents in Australia, Canada, Great Britain and Germany, Massa could also have stood on the podium this season. The experienced Brazilian will need to keep his nose clean if he wants to close the 55-point gap to Bottas in the drivers’ standings in the second half of the year, but with the 24-year-old showing all the poise and race craft of a veteran, that won’t be easy.

Force India

Nico Hulkenberg, 69 pts, 7th, best result 5th (Malaysia, Bahrain, Monaco, Canada)

Sergio Perez, 29 pts, 11th, best result 3rd (Bahrain)

Qualifying: 9 - 2 Hulkenberg

Race: 5 - 3 Hulkenberg

This was one of the most eagerly anticipated driver pairings of 2014 and it has indeed proved a fascinating contest. Perez’s blend of speed and aggression has been more than a match for Hulkenberg on occasion - think back to Bahrain when the duo fought wheel-to-wheel, with Perez eventually claiming Force India’s first podium since 2009 - but the German’s combination of pace, consistency and coolness under pressure has helped him dominate his team mate in qualifying, take four top-five finishes, and record a points haul more than double that of the Mexican’s. Hulkenberg had finished in the top ten at every race this year until he uncharacteristically clattered into his team mate in Hungary and exited the race, but Perez, who had his own race-ending shunt in Budapest, has done something else that his colleague hasn’t this season: led a race. For 11 laps in Canada he headed the field and were it not for a controversial tangle with Massa he might have bagged a second 2014 podium. Perez will hope to improve his qualifying performances relative to Hulkenberg over the remaining eight races, but don’t expect either driver to change their approach too much.


Jenson Button, 60pts, 8th, best result 3rd (Australia)

Kevin Magnussen, 37pts, 10th, best result 2nd (Australia)

Qualifying: 6 - 5 Button

Race: 8 - 2 Button

Having seen off the challenge of one ‘rising star’ last season in the form of Sergio Perez, F1 veteran Button has been faced with another this season in Danish rookie Magnussen. It was the newcomer who drew first blood, out-qualifying his team mate and finishing a stunning second on his Melbourne debut. Since then, however, ‘normal service’ has by and large been resumed by Button. The former champion has never been the strongest qualifier - a fact reflected in the Saturday stats, which see the two men pretty much level pegging - but on Sunday afternoons his seasoned race craft has helped him see off the Scandinavian’s challenge. One of the areas Magnussen has admitted to struggling with most - particularly in relation to Button - is tyres; more specifically setting up his car so that it will look after its rubber over a race stint. However, the Dane feels he has got on top of the issue of late, and his performances relative to Button are proof of this. The learning will continue in the second half of the year, but as debut seasons go, Magnussen’s is proving pretty convincing. Of course, with McLaren yet to confirm their 2015 line-up, both he and Button will be keen to impress in the remaining eight races

Toro Rosso

Jean-Eric Vergne, 11pts, 13th, best result 8th (Australia, Canada)

Daniil Kvyat, 6pts, 15th, best result 9th (Australia, Great Britain)

Qualifying: 6 - 5 Vergne

Race: 2 -2

Toro Rosso’s de facto team leader Vergne holds a five-point lead over rookie team mate Kvyat, but in truth it has been a rather frustrating season for the Frenchman. Vergne has shown flashes of brilliant speed - Hungary being a prime example - but he’s been upstaged by the Russian on just a few too many occasions. Indeed, 20-year-old Kvyat has proved one of the star finds of 2014, pushing his more experienced colleague all the way in qualifying and making very few errors in races, despite his tender age. Vergne, who admittedly has suffered the more mechanical misfortune of the duo, knows he must reassert his authority in the latter part of the season, but that might be difficult as right now the newcomer on the other side of the garage only looks set to get better and better.


Romain Grosjean, 8pts, 14th, best result 8th (Spain, Monaco)

Pastor Maldonado, 0pts, 19th, best result 12th (Austria, Germany)

Qualifying: 10 - 1 Grosjean

Race: 3 -1 Grosjean

Faced with a litany of car problems, it’s fair to say that neither Lotus driver has had an easy time of it in 2014. But despite his obvious - and at times vocal - frustrations, Grosjean has dominated Maldonado, particularly in qualifying. Starting and finishing in the top ten in Spain was a considerable achievement for the Frenchman, and something the pointless Maldonado hasn’t come close to emulating. Both drivers have had their share of bad luck, but they’ve also failed to help themselves on occasions - who can forget Maldonado’s car-flipping contact with Esteban Gutierrez’s Sauber in Bahrain, or Grosjean’s embarrassing crash under the safety car in Hungary? When both cars have reached the chequered flag - something that has only happened four times - Grosjean has been ahead on all but one occasion, and that was in Austria when he suffered race-long engine gremlins. Maldonado, who has already had his seat at the team renewed for 2015, will be desperate to break his duck and put more pressure on his team mate in the second half of the year, but that’s unlikely to happen until he gets a better handle on the temperamental E22.


Jules Bianchi, 2 pts, 16th, best result 9th (Monaco)

Max Chilton, 0 pts, 21st, best result: 13th (Australia, Bahrain)

Qualifying: 8 -3 Bianchi

Race: 7-1 Bianchi

Both drivers are in just their second season of F1 competition, but there is little contest here, with Ferrari protege Bianchi showing Chilton the way in both qualifying and race. The Frenchman scored the team’s maiden points with a spirited drive in Monte-Carlo, coming from 21st on the grid to finish ninth - points that will likely prove invaluable in the all-important fight for 10th in the constructors’ championship. He also put in a very credible testing performance for Ferrari, topping the second day of July’s Silverstone session. Chilton may not have his team mate’s ultimate pace, but to his credit he has been seen off the well-regarded Frenchman on a couple of occasions and is largely as consistent as ever - his clumsy lap-one crash with Bianchi in Canada remains the only DNF of his F1 career to date.


Adrian Sutil, 0 pts, 17th, best result 11th (Australia, Hungary)

Esteban Gutierrez, 0 pts, 20th, best result 12th (Australia)

Qualifying: 6 - 4 Gutierrez

Race: 3 - 1 Sutil

On paper one would have expected the far more experienced Sutil to dominate. However, in qualifying at least, it’s Gutierrez who has had the upper hand on his German team mate. Comparing race form is less straightforward, given that Sauber, like Lotus, have only got both cars to the finish on a paltry four occasions, but it’s here that Sutil’s experience has counted, bringing the Swiss squad painfully close to their first points of the year as he came home 11th in Hungary, less than a second behind Jenson Button’s McLaren. Gutierrez’s best - 12th at the season opener - suggests he needs to raise his game in the second half of the year. Keeping away from Lotus’s Pastor Maldonado - with whom he’s clashed twice in 2014 - might be a good start…


Kamui Kobayashi, 0 pts, 22nd, best result 13th (Malaysia, Monaco)

Marcus Ericsson, 0 pts, 18th, best result 11th (Monaco)

Qualifying: 9 -2 Kobayashi

Race: 4-1 Kobayashi

Perhaps not surprisingly, the experienced Kobayashi - back on the grid after a one-year hiatus - has dominated his rookie team mate. Nevertheless, Ericsson’s 11th place in Monaco - equalling Caterham’s best-ever finish - means he stands four places above his Japanese colleague in the championship table. In truth, Caterham’s poor reliability, mid-season management change and general lack of pace have made it hard for either driver to really establish any kind of momentum, let alone take the fight to perennial rivals Marussia, though in typical style Kobayashi has continued to give it his all. Ericsson too has pushed hard - often too hard. Every rookie makes mistakes (see Ericsson’s clumsy collision with Massa during qualifying at Monaco) but smashes like the one he had in Hungary will do nothing do boost his confidence or bring him closer to Kobayashi’s level.