The Battle For The #1 Driver Spot

Mercedes drivers Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton at the Malaysian Grand Prix.  Source:

The battle between teammates on a Formula 1 team is one of the best ways to see how a driver is stacking up in his car.  With the same car and performance, it’s really up to the driver to prove himself against his teammate.  With the season on break right now, it’s a good time to see how the inter-team battles are going within all eleven constructor’s.  

The silver arrows have been on top of things this year, winning nine out of the eleven races this year and leading the constructor’s championship by a landslide.  Both Hamilton and Rosberg have had great seasons with five and four wins, respectively.  Even with Hamilton’s extra win, he still ends up in second place in the championship down by 11 points.  

We give Rosberg the decision here as the leading driver, he has out qualified Hamilton 60% of the time as well as spent a few more laps ahead (53.7% of the time).  Without Hamilton’s two qualifying mishaps, the decision could have very well gone to him.  Rosberg has seemed to be the qualifier to beat, while Hamilton has the race pace to bring home the wins.  We’re picking Hamilton to bring home the championship barring any qualifying or reliability issues in the next half of the season.  

Red Bull
RB Racing hasn’t been enjoying the same success it endured last year with Sebastien Vettel taking home the driver’s championship.  In fact, Vettel is on pace for his worst season in the last four years if his form continues.  The saving grace for the world champs has been the new addition to the team, Daniel Ricciardo.  

Ricciardo has put up two wins so far this season as well as qualified ahead around 63% of the time.  He hasn’t put up any pole positions yet and we don’t expect him to either, this year. Daniel has been thoroughly outperforming his four time world championship teammate in the first half of the season.  

Over at the Italian team, the leader has been pretty clear, Fernando Alonso.  The addition of world champion Kimi Raikkonen hasn’t done much at all to throw off Alonso, he’s averaging a 4.9 finish and holds 115 points and fourth place in the driver’s championship

Kimi has yet to come out of a race ahead of Alonso, or even secure a podium finish.  With the world champion set to have a child and retire once his contract with Ferrari is up, just getting a top five finish would be a good accomplishment.  

Williams F1 has seen a comeback to their old success this season, they are fourth in the constructor’s championship just behind powerhouse Ferrari.  The majority of this success has come from second year driver Valtteri Bottas.  Bottas has gotten great performance out of the Williams machine this year, putting up three podiums and 95 points.  His average finish is 6.5 as well, improved from 14.4 last year.  Bottas has definitely been one of the drivers in contention for podiums this year. 

His teammate, Felipe Massa, hasn’t been bad either this season, however.  He has a pole position under his belt but has been plagued by failures in the races.  Massa has 40 points this year as well as three accidents in races (the most of any driver this season).  If he can tighten up and get a reliable car, he’ll be competitive in the remaining races.  

Force India
Force India is enduring a pretty good season so far themselves, fifth in the championship thanks to drivers Sergio Perez and Nico Hulkenberg.  The latter has been the real force in the team, securing the lead in the major categories of teammate grading (qualification, finish position, and points).  

Hulkenberg has 69 points and is seventh in the championship, ahead of where he finished last year in tenth.  Perez, coming from McLaren last year, has put up one podium performance this year in Bahrain.  Other than that, he’s in the bottom half of the standings with 29 points.

The mighty McLaren hasn’t been having the season it expected, down in sixth in the constructor’s with less than a 100 points.  The senior Jenson Button has been the “best” out of the two, but best isn’t even relevant here, maybe “not as bad” is better.  Button has one podium and four finishes outside the top ten.

The rookie Kevin Magnussen hasn’t been having a poor first season by any standards, though.  He managed a second place finish in Melbourne and will surely reach higher than that if he tightens up his form.  Kevin is practically split with results, five outside of the top ten and six in it.  With a more reliable car and some experience, Magnussen will be a strong competitor.  

Toro Rosso
Toro Rosso is another team that hasn’t been spectacular this year.  That being said, the stats show Jean-Eric Vergne just edges out rookie Kvyat in the battle.  JEV has 11 points this year compared to Kvyat’s 6.

It also shows that JEV hasn’t been improving that much, his average finish hasn’t moved by more than .4 for the last three years.  If both drivers stay at Toro Rosso next year, Kvyat should be able to be the number one driver above the stationary Vergne.  

The black and gold car has been having a dismal season compared to last, largely in part to the departure of Kimi Raikkonen from the team.  Kimi scored 183 points for the team last year, this year there only up to eight.  

Even with the poor results, (and eight technical failures this season) Romain Grosjean is the driver to beat in the duo.  He’s scored all of the eight points for the team and finished ahead three quarters of the time.  Maldonado hasn’t done much for the team this year except get penalties, four of them.  

Marrusia racing have never been a particularly strong team, but Jules Bianchi has given the team something to look forward too.  Bianchi gave Marussia it’s first championship points with a ninth place finish in Monaco.  In addition to that, he’s out qualified, finished and led his teammate for often than not. 

Max Chilton is struggling the same as last year at Marrusia.  With no points yet in the season it’s looking like they won’t come at all this year.  

Adrian Sutil has managed the best of the two Sauber drivers with the struggling car this year.  His highest finish is 11th in both Melbourne and Hungary, significantly worse than last season when he was with Force India.  He’s only completed 72.5% of the total number of laps this year, one of the lowest of any driver.  

His teammate, Esteban Gutierrez, hasn’t fared any better.  He has made it up to a 12th place finish and is the leader of penalties.  With three qualifying penalties, one drive through, and two stop-go penalties, he definitely isn’t on the stewards good side. 

Caterham have been on the bottom of the standings for most of this season, but that hasn’t stopped veteran Kamui Kobayashi from showing his rookie teammate how it’s done.  

Kobayashi has out-qualified, raced, and led more laps than Marcus Ericsson throughout the 2014 season and shows no signs of slowing down. 

What do you think of our picks for the #1 driver on each team?  Love ’em, hate ’em?  Let us know in the comments.  

          – Drew Bennison 

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