F1 mid-season report: From Mercedes to McLaren & Manor

By Andrew BensonChief F1 writer
Hamilton, Rosberg, Vettel: The 2015 F1 season so far

Formula 1 heads into its mid-season break after two thrilling races at Silverstone and in Hungary.

Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes are leading the drivers' and constructors' championships comfortably but both have shown vulnerability and the second half of the season promises much.

The season will conclude with nine races in 14 breathless weeks, starting in Belgium on 23 August.

But how have the teams got on in the first 10 races, and how do they need to improve?

We have compiled a mid-season report, with marks out of 10 for each team, car, engine and driver.

The teams are listed in championship order, but there would be no point doing it if their scores just reflected their official positions. And they don't.


Mercedes have won eight of the 10 races so far this season with Lewis Hamilton triumphant in five of them

There is no realistic danger of Mercedes losing either of the world titles this season, but there are things to work on for the remainder of the year.

The car and engine are as good as flawless, but the team has betrayed operational weaknesses from time to time.

These encompass strategy errors - such as Hamilton's late pit stop in Monaco, or odd tyre choices for Nico Rosberg in Hungary - and their suddenly shaky starts, a concern with a rule change restricting the level of automation of starts about to come into force.

Hamilton has been driving superbly, but for what one assumes is a one-off aberration in Hungary. His 21-point lead, while substantial, nowhere near reflects the level of his superiority. Rosberg needs to up his game if he is to trouble him.



Sebastian Vettel and Ferrari
Sebastian Vettel has won in Hungary and Malaysia in 2015

The first half of Ferrari's season has been a story of two, er, halves.

In the early long-haul races, they were a thorn in Mercedes' side. But then the FIA closed off a loophole Ferrari had found in the rules governing fuel flow and they slipped back to well over half a second off the silver cars, Sebastian Vettel's Hungary win notwithstanding.

Hugely impressive progress on the engine since 2014 has underlined just how much work still needs to be done on the chassis to get it near the best.

Vettel has slipped seamlessly into the team leader position vacated by Fernando Alonso. Kimi Raikkonen's future is understandably up in the air after a less-than-convincing first half-season.



Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas at the British Grand Prix
Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas were first and second in the early stages of the British Grand Prix

Viewed in proper context, this is another impressive season by Williams. On half the budget of the big teams, they have been close enough to Ferrari to give them trouble from time to time - and flat beat them in Silverstone until the late-race rain.

But the car only works well in certain circumstances and on certain tracks. It'll be strong at Spa and Monza, less-so at twisty Singapore, just as it struggled in Monaco and Hungary. Low-speed grip/downforce is the problem.

And many believe the team let an opportunity slip in not running their British Grand Prix differently.

Valtteri Bottas is narrowly ahead of Felipe Massa on points, but needs to assert himself over the Brazilian more convincingly to prevent his career momentum stalling.


Red Bull-Renault

Christian Horner and Daniil Kvyat
Red Bull's Daniil Kvyat (right) beginning to justify his billing as the "real deal" by team boss Christian Horner

A shaky start to the season from Red Bull, whose chassis at its inception was nowhere near the standard that has come to be expected of the four-time champions.

The main reason for this were rule changes for this season at the front of the car which stopped them running it as low to the track at the front as they had been, and reduced its downforce.

Significant progress in the last two races suggests a solution has been found, but they remain hamstrung by the Renault engine, 50bhp or so down on the Mercedes.

After a stellar 2014, Daniel Ricciardo has had his wobbly moments but remains a class act. Daniil Kvyat, after a slow start, is pushing him close and beginning to justify his billing as the "real deal" by team boss Christian Horner.


Force India-Mercedes

Nico Hulkenberg
Force India's Nico Hulkenberg became the first active F1 driver to win Le Mans since 1991 in June

Impressive stuff from Force India, considering their difficult start to the season, with a car that did only a couple of days testing before the first race.

Even before a significantly upgraded car was introduced for Silverstone, they were producing very solid results, making the most of the car's slippery nature and good low-speed grip when they could.

But hanging on to their hard-earned fifth place will not be easy - and rear suspension and front wing failures in Hungary on separate cars were a concern.

Nico Hulkenberg seems to have been re-energised by his Le Mans win, while Sergio Perez is impressive on his day.


Toro Rosso-Renault

Max Verstappen
Max Verstappen finished fourth at the Hungarian Grand Prix

Only poor reliability, and the relative inexperience of the team, has prevented Toro Rosso having a spectacular season. And even with those provisos, it has been seriously good.

Until Red Bull's Silverstone upgrade, many rivals felt the Toro Rosso, driven by Max Verstappen and Carlos Sainz, was actually a better car than that of the senior team - on half the budget.

But when it qualified ahead, sometimes it would slip back in races, and Renault unreliability also hurt Toro Rosso's points haul.

Both rookie drivers have made a major mark for themselves, but Verstappen - at a precocious 17 - has been one of the stars of the season so far.



Pastor Maldonado
Pastor Maldonado was given three penalties at the Hungarian Grand Prix

A team in a holding pattern - while owners Genii Capital wait to find out whether Renault will buy them, investment is being held back, to the detriment of results.

Even Force India's drivers admit Lotus should be beating them in the championship. That they are not is down to some poor reliability and some shocking driving.

The season has been up and down, but Lotus are competitive enough to be scoring solid points, in the second half of the top 10, every race.

That's what Romain Grosjean normally does, while incident-prone team-mate Pastor Maldonado seems to be trying his utmost to find new ways to infuriate his employers and collect as many penalty points from the stewards as possible.



Both Saubers finished in the top eight at the season-opening race in Australia

Sauber started the season strongly, largely thanks to Ferrari's major step forward with their engine, but have slipped back since as others have developed their cars.

The car lacks downforce and the team lack resources, although an upgrade is planned for later in the season.

Drivers Felipe Nasr and Marcus Ericsson have both done solid jobs, with the Brazilian shading the internal battle.



Push it! Fernando Alonso manhandles McLaren back to pits in Hungary

You wouldn't know it from looking at the results, but this is the best McLaren chassis since 2012.

It's not a Mercedes, but it is up there in the region of Red Bull/Toro Rosso/Ferrari among the best of the rest. There have been too many gearbox problems, though.

As for the Honda engine, it's something like 150bhp down on power and running out of hybrid boost before the end of most straights. No wonder the car is 2.5 seconds off the pace.

Honda might have started work on their engine relatively recently, but now they are in F1 only competitiveness will do. More performance is promised for the next race and it is badly needed.

It's been close between a driver line-up that oozes class, but Fernando Alonso is edging the intra-team battle with Jenson Button. But arguably the best driver line-up on the grid is being wasted.



Will Stevens - Manor
In Hungary Manor paid tribute to Jules Bianchi, who drove for the team when they were named Marussia in 2013 and 2014

Manor look like what they are - a team with very little money struggling along trying to survive with a year-old car and engine.

They only narrowly avoided extinction over the winter, and have made it clear that 2015 is all about laying the foundations for next year. Spending what little cash there is on improving this car is a low priority.

Drivers Will Stevens and Roberto Merhi have both been solid. Stevens - whose backers are helping the team stay afloat - has edged it so far, but more time is needed for a definitive judgement on either.



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