The teams with one driver

A month ago Mark Webber said, “We have two drivers. Williams and Renault have only one.” Since then it has become clear that Webber’s own team is another with just one driver. And following the Turkish Grand Prix, Mike Gascoyne speaking on the Inside Line podcast added Toyota and Honda to the list of “one car teams”.

So what’s happening? Is this taking the idea of having a ‘number one’ and a ‘number two’ status too far? Are some of the drivers just taking some time to bed in? I’ll look at these teams one by one.

McLaren

McLaren? They weren’t in the list. But points-wise, the biggest gulf between team mates in the entire field is between Hamilton sitting on 28 points and Kovalainen with half that amount.

Of course, Heikki Kovalainen has had a rotten run of bad luck all season, as F1Fanatic pointed out. It’s difficult to tell whether or not Hamilton has that big an edge over Kovalainen. My feeling is that Kovalainen’s first win will come sooner rather than later and we’ll see the move closer together in the table before the season ends.

Red Bull

Despite McLaren having the largest points gap, though, the “one car” syndrome is surely clearest at Red Bull. Finally, Mark Webber has found a run of good luck and has scored an astonishing four points finishes in a row. If he can make it five in a row, it will be a career record for him.

For some, this is down to the fact that Mark Webber used to be a rubbish driver and has suddenly found some form. What an injustice this is to Webber though. I’ve always thought he was a perfectly capable driver who has simply been dogged by the most terrible luck. The previous two years in particular have been terrible. In 2006 that Cosworth engine couldn’t stop going pop and last year’s woes with the gearbox are well known. The Mark Webber we are seeing this year is the Mark Webber we have always seen — just with a car that is actually capable of finishing a race.

As for David Coulthard, things are not looking so good. When he moved to Red Bull, it seemed to breathe new life into his stagnating career and he delivered the goods. This continued in 2006 with a podium at Monaco. Since then, however, points finishes have become more of a rarity.

This season in particular has been rather lacklustre. He has become a real crash magnet and is looking rather uninspiring trundling around in the midfield all the time. He can take solace from the fact that he has finished 9th twice, so came very close to scoring points. But I have to say that this looks like it will be Coulthard’s final season behind the wheel of a Formula 1 car.

Toyota

Jarno Trulli has pulled it out of the bag a few times this season, impressively managing to get his Toyota to 4th place in Malaysia, 6th in Bahrain and 8th in Spain. It’s not setting the world on fire, but it’s more than I expected from Toyota, and it’s more than I expected from Trulli who I thought was past it.

It’s difficult to tell what’s going on with Timo Glock though. He appears to be rated by some. There was a battle between BMW and Toyota for his services this year. But it’s difficult to see where this reputation comes from.

Glock scored a point in his first ever F1 race way back in 2004, but since then I’ve seen nothing special from him. On the plus side, he did put up a decent fight against Kovalainen in Turkey, but he ultimately lost that one.

Perhaps Glock should be given some leeway because this is his first full season in F1. At least he has not made any seriously embarrassing errors so far (except perhaps the crash with Coulthard in Spain). But Toyota must surely hoped for more than this.

Renault

Well, well. What can you say? As you would expect, Fernando Alonso is doing the business in what appears to be a seriously underperforming car. Although the Renault has improved somewhat in the past couple of races, only Alonso has managed to extract anything out of it.

The Spaniard put in a heroic effort at his home race. I was rooting for him to get a good result and was gutted when his engine blew. Whatever you think of Alonso, you have to admit he is a real gentleman — it’s hard to imagine too many of today’s F1 drivers going up to meet his fans after retiring like that.

As for Nelsinho Piquet Junior, it could hardly be worse. For the first couple of races you could maybe put his poor performance down to early season nerves or the fact that he is a rookie. But his performances actually seem to be getting worse by the race!

Spain was an unmitigated disaster. He went straight off for no good reason. Not long after he confessed over the radio that the off was all his fault, he had a needless collision with S├ębastien Bourdais in an optimistic overtaking attempt. At first he was so embarrassed that he refused to do any interviews on mic.

Turkey was another disappointment. He did manage to overtake Jenson Button’s Honda — for 11th place. But while that was happening, Alonso was battling away in 6th.

There are signs now that Renault are quickly losing their patience with Piquet Jnr. Steve Neilsen had some strong — but not unfair — comments about their driver in the post-Turkey Renault podcast. The message was clear: Piquet must get his act together or else.

Nelson Piquet Jnr says he does not want people to refer to him as ‘Jnr’. I’m afraid I have news for him. There is already someone called Nelson Piquet — his father, who is a three times world champion. Nelsinho Piquet Jnr is not fit to share his name with his father. And his name is all he has got going for him.

Williams

Of all the teams — except McLaren — the “one car team” jibe surely fits Williams the least. The points gap between the two drivers is only three points. Easily assailable.

I know I’m in a minority, but I rate Kazuki Nakajima. Apart from the tap with Kubica in Australia, I can’t think of anything that Nakajima has done wrong this year. Certainly, Malaysia and Bahrain were disappointing, but they weren’t disastrous.

The fact that the highly-rated Nico Rosberg hasn’t completely blown him away says a lot for me. Nakajima appears to be perfectly competent. Certainly, with five points to his name (compared to Rosberg’s eight), it is unfair to describe Williams as a “one car team”.

Honda

Rubens Barrichello celebrated his record-breaking 257th race start in Turkey, but he’s not had much else to celebrate recently. He has looked distinctly off colour since the 2007 season began and has let Honda’s poor form get to him. Meanwhile, Jenson Button has remained motivated and has been able to score points from time to time while Barrichello still has a blank sheet going back to the start of 2007.

To compound the lack of results, Barrichello has found himself getting involved in needless incidents in the pitlane. As the most experienced driver of all time, you’d think he’d know better than to run through the red light at the end of the pitlane?

Meanwhile, Button is still doing the goods and I get more impressed with him as time goes on. He has not let the situation at Honda get him down. If anything, it has made Button a much improved driver.

For Rubens Barrichello, the situation is very similar to what David Coulthard now faces. He needs to start looking less tired or he’ll be out of a drive by the end of the year.

8 comments

  1. I know a lot of Brits won’t beleive me when I say this, but Alonso is a really nice guy. I think he is actually very shy, which comes accross as aloof or arrogant to some people.
    He also beleives in himself, which can turn people off too. In Australia we call it the ‘tall poppy syndrome’.

    As regards to your article, well you have it pretty much spot on !

  2. There isn’t anything like the dislike of Alonso in Britain as there is the venemous hatred of Hamilton in Spain.

    I think Glock and Nakajima will improve but Piquet looks like the kind of guy who’s quick in testing but can’t deliver under the pressure of a race weekend. Bit of a Pizzonia.

  3. Everytime someone tries to write off Barichello I get reminded of 2000 German Grand Prix at Hockenheim. He was a better driver/pair with Schumi than Massa, and in 2002 Austrian GP everyone knew his skills. Maybe it’s midlife crisis, maybe it’s generation gap, but he soon needs to up his time on track on sundays so that he can retire in style and with good name.
    As far as Renault team goes, I don’t think Alonso would get out of the team this year, instead would improve as the season progresses and with his inputs, the next machine would be a race winner. Maybe spot on, maybe wishfull thinking, but he’s matches closest to the term ‘Schumi replacement’ in the current lot.
    Just want to shout ‘Glockkkk, wats goin on in your head’….

  4. I agree with most of this analysis, however, I must defend Kovalainen.
    He has been unlucky, that’s a fact. But I am sure that the difference will be less at the end of the season. We only have to wait.
    By the way Keith, can you explain “the venomous hatred of Hamilton in Spain” to me, please. I am looking forward to see it from the British point of view.
    Thanks.

  5. I think we have reached something similar to Godwin’s Law at the F1 forums. “As a F1 discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison between Alonso and Hamilton approaches one”.

    Keith, someone said something good about Alonso and how is perceived among the brits and you reply with something bad about the spainiards. So what? What’s your point?

    No offense, but I’m tired of this.

  6. How can we call either of them arrogant if we truly don’t know them in person.
    I for one don’t get the whole name calling since we are all good and bad in some ways.

    Plus, we can only truly judge a person by knowing them in person, don’t you think?