The Formula 1 Half-Term Report
Rating the season so far of all 12 teams as F1 breaks for the summer
By James Galloway and Pete Gill. Last Updated: December 3, 2012 4:49pm
School's out: F1 breaks for a month before the final nine races
As the F1 drivers and teams start to swap their crash helmets and wheel guns for sun cream and sombreros, what better time for us to take a look back at how all the teams have fared in the eleven races so far and where they need to improve when the season resumes at Spa.
So here, in current Constructors' Championship order, is our half-term report, starting with the World Champions and current leaders...
Constructors' championship position: 1st (246 points)
1. Red Bull - 246 points
2. McLaren - 193 points
3. Lotus - 192 points
4. Ferrari - 189 points
5. Mercedes - 106 points
6. Sauber - 80 points
7. Williams - 53 points
8. Force India - 46 points
9. Toro Rosso - 6 points
10. Caterham - 0 points
11. Marussia - 0 points
12. HRT - 0 points
Although the reigning World Champions enter the mid-season break top of the standings, it's been an uncomfortable half-year for the team with the controversial RB8 not delivering the sort of resounding dominance that Red Bull enjoyed in 2010 and 2011.
Although the RB8 remains an extremely fast car, the outlawing of off-throttle diffusers has removed one of the team's ace hands and a lack of rear-end stability handicapped the team's performance - particularly Sebastian Vettel's - at the start of the year, prompting numerous iterations of the car's floor. Red Bull's seemingly simple, but ultimately extremely controversial, solution was to create a small slot in front of the rear wheels and the extra downforce helped Vettel claim victory in Bahrain. Two further impressive wins for a rejuvenated Webber followed in Monaco and at Silverstone...but so has controversy.
"It's four times now Red Bull have been asked to take pieces off the car," Sky Sports F1's Martin Brundle observed in Hungary. "They haven't been disqualified, they haven't been found illegal, but, as they keep trying to find new levels and push the boundaries, they keep being pulled back in by the FIA and it's hurting them a little bit at the moment."
But stretching the interpretation of the rules has always been part of the game in F1 and Red Bull have always been found to be on the right side of the line. As such, and as the great innovaters of the pitlane, they remain well placed to at least claim a hat-trick of Constructors' titles.
Areas for improvement: Qualifying and race-starts were highlighted as areas of relative weakness by Vettel after Hungary. But what the team really need is some quiet time, out of the limelight.
Constructors' Championship position: 2nd (193 points)
Sublime to the ridiculous and back to the sublime is a succinct summary of McLaren's roller-coaster season to date. Starting the year with the fastest car, the team won in Australia but, instead of building from a position of strength, McLaren's season suddenly lurched into decline and myriad of operational blunders were compounded by the MP4-27 falling off the pace.
In Bahrain, Lewis Hamilton fell from the front row to eighth at the flag due to pit-stop errors and overheating tyres, whilst in Spain he was sent to the back of the grid after qualifying on pole position in a car the team had mistakenly under-fuelled.
Amid an alarming slump in form for Jenson Button, Hamilton's first win of the season in Canada lifted some of the pressure but further poor results in both Europe and, particularly, Silverstone saw the team fall to fourth in the Constructors' Championship. However, the introduction of a comprehensive upgrade in Germany has appeared to have pulled their season back from the brink and they enter the mid-season break on the high of winning in Hungary.
But have they left themselves too much to do?
Areas for improvement: With the team recording world-record pit stops, tyre management is now the key area for attention.
Constructors' championship position - 3rd (192 points)
The surprise package of the year and the dark horses for the championship.
Yet, with F1 tending to be a glass half empty kind of sport, a feeling of unrealised potential continues to surround the Enstone team with the impression lingering that they've let a couple of golden opportunities to claim their first win since 2008 slip.
Bahrain, Valencia and, most recently, Hungary are all races Lotus could have won and some questions remain over both the team's operational sharpness when push comes to shove and the E20's single-lap pace. Nonetheless, the team sit a point adrift of McLaren with both Kimi Raikkonen and Romain Grosjean - unrecognisable from the youngster who debuted three years ago - delivering strong performances on a consistent basis.
Crucially, there's no sign of the team letting up in the development race either. Their much-anticipated 'DRS plus' unit is set to be raced for the first time in Spa with team boss Eric Boullier confident Lotus will soon claim that elusive win. It's optimism which isn't misplaced.
Areas for improvement: Although Grosjean qualified on the front-row in Hungary, Lotus' Saturday pace needs to become both faster and more consistent, while the team lag behind their chief rivals on pit-stop times.
Constructors' championship position: 4th (189 points)
That Ferrari are even in touch in the Constructors' standings - and somehow hold a 40-point lead in the Drivers' chase - in reality owes everything to the astonishing ability of Fernando Alonso to transcend a F1 car. The F2012 might be greatly improved from the start of the season but with the team continuing to effectively carry Felipe Massa, and the car still not a true match for the best of them in the dry, it is only due to Alonso's consistent brilliance that Ferrari will enter the second-half of 2012 with a fighting chance of ending their four-year title drought.
1. Alonso - 164 points
2. Webber - 124 points
3. Vettel - 122 points
4. Hamilton - 117 points
5. Raikkonen - 116 points
6. Rosberg - 77 points
7. Button - 76 points
8.Grosjean - 76 points
Such a scenario seemed a pipedream back in Australia when the F2012 lapped a second and a half off the pace and both drivers were dumped out in Q2. Yet the start of European leg of the season witnessed a mighty rate of development with Alonso finishing on the podium in five of the six races after Bahrain.
In Hungary, however, Ferrari were outperformed by McLaren, Red Bull and Lotus and once again fell almost a second off the pace. Alonso has given the team a great advantage at the halfway mark, but the clear evidence from Budapest is that they are going to need it - and another significant upgrade.
Areas for improvement: As Hungary proved, the F2012 still isn't fast enough in all conditions while the team must try and get more out of Massa.
Constructors' Championship position: 5th (106 points)
They may already have the breakthrough race victory than Lotus craves, but you suspect Mercedes would trade their Shanghai surprise for the front-running consistency their Enstone rivals are now enjoying
The Brackley team's season thus far has certainly had its highs - no more so than Nico Rosberg's impressively dominant pole and victory in China - yet with the field having proved closer together than ever, the facts are that the team is closer to Sauber in the points standings than Ferrari in fourth place. Strong pace over a single qualifying lap hasn't been a particular problem - Michael Schumacher and Nico Rosberg have started inside the front two rows seven times between them - but the W03's struggles with tyre wear have often resulted in the team's German duo falling backwards once the race is underway.
Areas for improvement: Norbert Haug suggested after the team's wretched Hungarian GP that Mercedes require half-a-second in lap time to return to become a frontrunner again.
Constructors' Championship position: 6th (80 points)
Considering Sauber's best chance of winning races appeared over when BMW abruptly exited the sport in 2009, the Swiss outfit's performances this year have had something of a fairytale quality to them. Indeed had Sergio Perez not run wide in the closing stages of what until then had been his relentless pursuit of Alonso in Malaysia, Peter Sauber would have been celebrating his first victory as a team boss.
While not getting that close to victory again, the pace of the Sauber C31 has since proved that their Malaysia breakthrough wasn't a fluke, with Perez claiming another podium in Canada and the team claiming fourth and fifth at Hockenheim. With the car continuing to impress over the race distance - particularly on tracks with fast corners - Sauber are poised to ruffle a few more big feather through the rest of the year.
Areas for improvement: Qualifying continues to be something of a problem for Sauber, particularly recently, and the team have admitted they need to cut out mistakes.
Constructors' Championship position: 7th (53 points)
It's been a year of rebirth for Williams in wake of the 2011's slump to ninth place in the Constructors' Championship, with Pastor Maldonado's assured win in Spain the kind of highlight that many must have justifiably doubted the former multiple champions would ever experience again.
That performance at Barcelona proved that the FW34 is certainly a big step forward aerodynamically over its predecessor, but Maldonado's collision-causing struggles in wheel-to-wheel combat have since the cost the team dear. With Maldonado pointless since Spain, only Bruno Senna's steady stream of small-points finishes have kept the Grove team ahead of Force India and their more evenly-matched young drivers.
Areas for improvement: The FW34 is a good all-round package but taming Maldonado's wild ways is likely to be key to the bigger points finishes.
Constructors' Championship position: 8th (46 points)
Given Force India finished last season on the heels of Lotus Renault, eighth place at the halfway stage is certainly not what the team were expecting when they launched the VJM05. Unable to match the one-off spectacular results achieved by Sauber and Williams, the year so far has been a quiet affair for the team.
The in-house battle between Nico Hulkenberg and Paul di Resta has proved an intriguing aspect to their season and provided the team can bring some further developments on stream, the pair, both solid racers, should be capable of pushing them on when the season resumes and trying to claw back both their nearest rivals.
Areas for improvement: An improved rate of development and more single-lap pace.
Constructors' Championship position: 9th (6 points)
The Red Bull junior team's slide into virtual anonymity has been one of the more mysterious stories of the season to date. The wholesale change of driver line-up probably hasn't helped with continuity, but both Jean-Eric Vergne and Daniel Ricciardo have showed glimpses of their potential when the car - immediately fast during winter testing - was reasonably competitive at the opening two rounds.
Are they paying the cost for a lack of investment? Since Malaysia, Toro Rosso haven't scored a single point and have been cut adrift in no man's land ahead of Caterham but unable to keep up with Force India. With technical director Giorgio Ascanelli reputedly departing for Ferrari, the team may struggle to add to their measly six-point haul.
Areas for improvement: Fundamental improvements to the car's competitiveness in all dry conditions.
Constructors' Championship position: 10th (0 points)
Still short of the leap required to reach their target of a points-finish, Tony Fernandes' team continue make only steady steps towards the back of the midfield - but perhaps not at the rate they envisaged at the turn of the year.
The fact some of the teams Caterham ended up closest to last season - Williams and Sauber - have leapt forward hasn't helped their cause, although progress was evident when Heikki Kovalainen reached Q2 in both Bahrain and Valencia.
Areas for improvement: Caterham's Sporting Director Steve Nielsen told Sky Sports F1 in Hungary that getting more out of the upgrade package introduced at Silverstone remained their immediate focus.
Constructors' Championship position: 11th (0 points)
The only real positive to take from the Russian-backed team's campaign to date is that, as things stand, they are on course to finish ahead of HRT in the Constructors' Championship for the first time owing to an early-season 14th-place finish. Test driver Maria de Villota's horrible accident and resultant injuries have made it a particularly difficult 2012, but they can take heart from improvements to the MR-02 in recent races as they continue to bed in their revised design approach.
Areas for improvement: To try and overcome a the trauma of de Villota's accident and complete the season closer on pace to Caterham
Constructors' Championship position: 12th (0 points)
The Spanish minnows have continued to prove little more than lapped cannon fodder for F1's established teams, but a critical development during the season - which should finally give them some solid long-term foundations - has been the move to a new factory in Madrid, where all the team's department are now under one roof. On the track, they continue to close their lap-time deficit to the front but a breakthrough remains inconceivable for now.
Areas for improvement: Increasing their development rate in wake of a more stable infrastructure.