As Formula One takes its annual summer break, it’s time to assess the season so far. 2014 is shaping up to be a year you can’t miss as we have one of the closest title fights in years with the Mercedes pair battling it out at the front. However, Formula One isn’t just a sport for the super powers. At the back are teams scrapping for something more important than the championship…their survival. Here is how each team and driver has fared so far from the bottom three.
Regardless of what happens in the final eight races, it has been a breakthrough year for lowly Marussia. Since arriving in the sport in 2012, they have languished at the back of the pack in slow cars that are difficult to drive. In pre-season testing, it looked like that would happen again as they struggled to get much mileage into the tyres. But Marussia have enjoyed a stellar first 11 races, they are comfortably quicker than their old foes Caterham and have broken through into the second part of qualifying on several occasions.
Their best moment of the season, and in their short history, came in Monaco where Jules Bianchi finished 9th, scoring the team’s first ever points. With Sauber, so far, failing to score any points, Marussia sit 9th in the constructor’s standings. Finishing there in November would be the finest achievement by any team this season.
Bianchi will go down in Marussia folklore by scoring the team’s first points but he has also impressed throughout the season. In qualifying, he is a regular threat to the Lotus and Sauber cars and has occasionally made it through, with a best of 12th at Silverstone. The Frenchman, who is a graduate of the Ferrari driving school, seems to be the man in waiting to become the next star of the Italian team. By dumping out current Ferrari driver Kimi Raikkonen in qualifying, Bianchi is impressing his former employers. He’s been fast and consistent so far, and a drive at the top isn’t far away.
While Bianchi seems set for the top, his team-mate Max Chilton has been constantly defending his presence in the sport since he arrived at Marussia 18 months ago. And although Chilton is unlikely to be destined for the front, he has done a steady job alongside the more senior Bianchi. Reliable and consistent, Chilton hasn’t pulled up trees like Bianchi, but he has helped the Marussia cause by constantly beating the Caterham’s and also threatening Sauber. His best moment of the season came at Silverstone where he managed to qualify 13th. His record of finishing every race ended in Canada when he crashed with Bianchi. Aside from that, he has proved to be an able deputy this season.
It has been a dismal first half of the season for Sauber, and the problems are so big that it looks unlikely that they will improve in the final eight races. If they fail to score a point and beat Marussia in the constructor’s standings, it will cap off an embarrassing year for a team that was competing for regular points just last year.
Adrian Sutil seems to be disillusioned with life at the team and could leave before the end of the season as the team chases further investment from drivers who bring funding. He looks the more likely driver to score points but the car will need to be dramatically improved if he, or Esteban Gutierrez, is to finish in the top ten. A crucial second half of the season awaits for Sauber. With finances tight, it is vital that they manage to get something on the board.
Doubt over his future has clouded Adrian Sutil’s season so far. Sauber’s need for funds means they may be forced to look at cheaper options than the 31-year-old German. On the track, he has admirably battled the poor car he has been given. His regular spins are a result of him pushing too hard but his efforts haven’t been rewarded with points, with 11th being his best finish. However, he is outperforming his team-mate, Esteban Gutierrez, and managing to keep the car ahead of Marussia most weekends. A difficult end to the season awaits for Sutil, in what is likely to be his F1 goodbye.
After a difficult first year, it was imperative that Esteban Gutierrez finally showed he has the ability to compete in Formula One this season. However, with a poor car underneath him he has failed to impress. Adrian Sutil is a decent driver, but not one who does amazing things. But his demolition of Gutierrez so far, doesn’t bode well for the Mexican. In any other sport, his future wouldn’t be secure but with substantial financial backing behind him he can expect to be on the grid again next year, especially if Sauber’s financial problems continue. For his own reputation, he needs to improve. Fast.
Believe it or not, but there is a team who is having a worse season than Sauber. Caterham are in the midst of turmoil on and off the track. A takeover mid-way through has resulted in many redundancies, with staff currently taking legal action over money. The team needs drastic financial input, but are struggling under the new owners. On the track they are comfortably the slowest car on the grid, and have little or no chance of scoring any points. Rock bottom in the constructors is all but guaranteed. Will they be on the grid next year? Who knows, but it is difficult to see them getting better for the rest of the season.
The Japanese maverick seems to have lost his mojo, and who can blame him considering the car he has to drive. Caterham took a gamble on Kamui and could, and perhaps should, have opted for a driver who could bring them more money. But the lure of Kobayashi, a driver who has scored regular points in Formula One and his ability to produce some outstanding moments, was too much to turn down. Perhaps, they should have done. Kobayashi has consistently outperformed his team-mate, but beyond that he has struggled to inspire his team. This could be long and painful goodbye for a true entertainer.
Judging Marcus Ericsson harshly is, perhaps, a little unfair as the Swede has the most unenviable job in the sport. But, frankly, he hasn’t been able to show much of his potential this season in the awful Caterham. Formula One looks to have come a little too soon for Ericsson, who stands out as the weakest driver on the grid. An 11th place finish in the unique race in Monaco is as good as it’s likely to get for this probable one season wonder.