Team Mate Battles – Belgian GP

In Formula One, the most important person to beat is your teammate. Who did just that in Belgium? Let’s go through the field and hand out the Team Mate Battle points!

These are the rules to which the drivers are being judged.

Points system:

1 point is awarded to the driver who sets the faster lap.

3 points are awarded to the driver who performs best in qualifying.

5 points are awarded to the driver who performs best on raceday.

 

Caterham:

Much like the astonishing sole appearance of Marcus Winkelhock at Nurburgring 2007, which saw the Spyker driver lead the race by thirty seconds on Lap 2, there is a sense after Belgium that perhaps Lotterer should be kept on as a considerably better option than Marcus Ericsson. While this is an impossibility due to Lotterer’s racing commitments, his performance advantage over Ericsson was roughly on par with that enjoyed by Kamui Kobayashi, and suggests that maybe a better driver should be hired alongside Kamui. Instead, the team’s main asset was sidelined, and his replacement proceeded to humiliate Ericsson.

With the sole exception of FP2, Lotterer was faster than Ericsson in every session, and was a full second faster than the Swede in Q1 despite having never driven an F1 car in wet conditions before. While his race only lasted a solitary lap, he had remained ahead of Marcus when he lost power at Turn 17 on Lap 2 and was forced to retire. Ericsson embarked on a race long duel with Marussia’s Max Chilton, one which he eventually lost with just two laps remaining, finishing less than a second behind the Marussia. Based on Lotterer’s pace on Friday & Saturday, as well as his position by the end of Lap 1, he would have been in or ahead of this battle.

Lotterer’s performance on his debut has exposed Ericsson as a rather poor standard against which to measure Kamui Kobayashi, who looks as though he is set to jump in and out of his own seat for the rest of the season. While acknowledging the fact that Caterham require financial help in order to continue, it does smack of utter stupidity to replace the driver more likely to sneak a result which could benefit the team on a somewhat more long-term basis. Instead, Caterham have chosen to hire out that seat to a driver, any driver…as long as he can pay. While Lotterer proved that he wasn’t a liability, the next man could be even worse than Ericsson. The term ‘circling the drain’ comes to mind.

Fastest lap: Marcus Ericsson (1-0 to Marcus Ericsson)
Qualifying: Andre Lotterer (3-0 to Andre Lotterer) 
Race: Andre Lotterer (5-0 to Andre Lotterer)

  • Caterham: 83-16 to Kamui Kobayashi (Total After Round 11)
  • Caterham: 8-1 to Andre Lotterer (Total After Round 12)
  • Caterham: 91-17 to Kobayashi/Lotterer

 

Marussia:

A difficult race to judge between the two Marussia pilots, as Bianchi’s race was compromised right at the beginning. A right rear puncture caused by a touch from the Lotus of Romain Grosjean saw Jules pit on Lap 1 for repairs, and immediately put him over a minute behind the leaders. He ran the first half of the race on the soft tyre before pitting again on Lap 22 for the medium tyres. He then retired just five laps from home with a broken gearbox.

Chilton’s race can only be described as ‘Chiltonian’. Having been out qualified by Jules by 1.5 seconds, Max stayed out of trouble and ran a solid and consistent race to the end, getting the better of Marcus Ericsson along the way. It’s difficult to gauge which driver at Marussia performed best on race day, but with the gap between the two drivers remaining consistent throughout the majority of the running, that hints at Jules’ race pace being the stronger of the pair due to his more conservative tyre strategy and attempted longevity. Due to not being at fault for the collision or his retirement, points for Sunday go to Jules.

On a side-note, while I believe Ericsson at Caterham should be the one being replaced at his team, Chilton’s performance deficit to Jules isn’t sufficiently large to warrant him being cast aside. He usually sets the quicker race lap, suggesting he has pace but hasn’t figured out how to unlock it properly. While Jules definitely has the upper hand, I rate the Frenchman as potential World Champion material. Being a little slower over a race distance is no crime when you are a consistently safe pair of hands, as proven by the careers of the likes of Nick Heidfeld or Rubens Barrichello.

Fastest lap: Max Chilton (7.5 – 4.5 to Max Chilton) (after Round 12)
Qualifying: Jules Bianchi (27-9 to Jules Bianchi) (after Round 12)
Race: Jules Bianchi (45-15 to Jules Bianchi) (after Round 12)

Marussia: 76.5 – 31.5 to Jules Bianchi (Total After Round 12)

 

Williams:

On paper, it appears that Felipe Massa was absolutely annihilated by Valtteri Bottas at Spa, but there was extenuating circumstances which saw Felipe finish almost 45 seconds behind his podium-grabbing team-mate. According to Rob Smedley, Massa’s Williams had snagged some errant tyre rubber from the debris left behind from the Lewis Hamilton/Nico Rosberg clash, and this resulted in Massa lapping 1-2 seconds a lap slower than Valtteri.

By the time the cause for Massa’s lack of pace was noticed and rectified by removal at his second pit-stop, Felipe was a full 41 seconds behind Bottas. Over the remainder of the race, that gap only grew to 45 seconds, which included an extra stop for the Brazilian driver who ran a three stopper to the Finn’s two. Smedley said afterwards that he believed the time cost to Felipe had been in and around the 40 second mark, which would have put Felipe right up there with Valtteri and Raikkonen vying for the final podium position.

While it was a missed opportunity for the Brazilian driver, Valtteri didn’t put a wheel wrong yet again, working his way up from 6th to 3rd over the race distance including some great passes on Alonso & Vettel before hunting down the resurgent Kimi Raikkonen to stake his claim as the sport’s leading Finn. Valtteri has finished on the podium 4 out of the last 5 races, and looks like the man most likely to be the next first time winner in the sport. With Monza playing to William’s strengths, and Valtteri having the edge over Felipe, could the Italian round be the venue?

Fastest Lap: Felipe Massa (7-5 to Felipe Massa) (after Round 12)
Qualifying: Valtteri Bottas (24-12 to Valtteri Bottas) (after Round 12)
Race: Valtteri Bottas (55-5 to Valtteri Bottas) (after Round 12)

Williams: 84-24 to Valtteri Bottas (Total After Round 12)

 

Toro Rosso:

Now that he is facing the end of his F1 career, you could reasonably expect that Jean-Eric Vergne would feel as though he had a lit firecracker up his bum. The prospect of unemployment, coupled with the handful of chances he has to rectify the situation, could have and should have seen the Frenchman dominate his inexperienced team-mate on the challenging Spa circuit. Instead, it was the young Russian who led the way all weekend, and looks as though he is consigning the ‘too old’ 24 year old Vergne to the scrap heap.

Harsh really, as Vergne’s loss to Kyvat started on Saturday through no fault of his own. Due to part of his exhaust system working itself loose at the end of Q1, Jean-Eric was unable to take to the track at the start of Q2 and ultimately only managed to get one run in. That one run was directly behind Kyvat, and Daniil was faster, having managed to get two runs in. This handed the initiative to the young Russian, despite both failing to make it into Q3.

Both men lost places at the start, Daniil falling down to 12th on Lap 1, and Jean-Eric down to 16th. By staying out 6 laps longer than Kyvat, Jean-Eric was able to get in front but was caught rapidly by his freshly-shod team-mate. After pitting, Jean-Eric was 15 seconds behind. With both drivers only making one other stop, there was little opportunity to catch Daniil unless something dramatic happened, which nothing did. While Jean-Eric caught up to be less than six seconds behind Daniil at the chequered flag, that is one of his eight opportunities wasted.

Is it a fair situation to be in? Jean-Eric’s luck this season has been appalling with plenty of mechanical failures and circumstances beyond his control affecting his running, considerably moreso than Kyvat. Considering that Vergne & Ricciardo were quite evenly matched during their time as team-mates, is it fair that one man should catch the break that has seen him catapulted to the top, while the other is counting down the days to his F1 demise? While the drivers that the Red Bull Driver Program has produced are top-notch, the discarded drivers need to be looked after by the brand. When Martin Whitmarsh parted company with Sergio Perez, he did his best to get Sergio a seat elsewhere. If Vergne isn’t good enough for a Red Bull team, why not attempt to help him get a seat at the likes of Lotus?

Fastest Lap: Jean-Eric Vergne (7-5 to Jean-Eric Vergne) (after Round 12)
Qualifying: Daniil Kyvat (18-18 to each) (after Round 12)
Race: Daniil Kyvat (35-25 to Daniil Kyvat) (after Round 12)

Toro Rosso: 58-50 to Daniil Kyvat (Total After Round 12)

 

Sauber:

Adrian clearly had the better qualifying session on Saturday. Running a full 2.3 seconds faster than Esteban in Q1, Adrian was just 0.2 seconds slower than the Force India of Perez in Q2 and would line up a semi-respectable 14th. He would ultimately finish the race in the same position, and despite having his pace hampered during the first half of the race, he realistically couldn’t have achieved any more.

The Ferrari power unit in the back of Sutil’s Sauber was simply not the measure of Felipe Massa’s Mercedes powered Williams, which largely dictated the outcome of Adrian’s race. After starting on the medium tyres, Adrian pitted on Lap 11 with the intention of running the softer tyres until the end of the race. Speaking after the race, Adrian felt this was the correct strategy as he was happier on the soft tyres, but his pace was impeded after this pitstop up until Lap 23 by the Williams.

Massa’s poor pace held Adrian at bay for these ten laps, with the German driver often crossing the line less than 0.5 second behind the Williams, but was unable to power his way past along Spa’s Kemmel Straight. After Felipe stopped and became one of the quickest men on track, Adrian was able to keep with him for quite a while, even setting the race’s second fastest lap on Lap 36. Over the entire second half of the race, Sutil lost just seven seconds to Felipe despite the Brazilian’s front running pace. Signs of slight improvement from Sauber, but still nowhere near the points. Starting behind Adrian, Gutierrez ran the standard two stopper, and finished eight seconds behind Adrian.

Fastest Lap: Adrian Sutil (8-4 to Esteban Gutierrez) (after Round 12)
Qualifying: Esteban Gutierrez (21-15 to Adrian Sutil) (after Round 12)
Race: Adrian Sutil (40-20 to Adrian Sutil) (after Round 12)

Sauber: 65-43 to Adrian Sutil (Total After Round 12)

 

Force India:

The nice thing about Nico Hulkenberg is that even when he isn’t performing to the best of his abilities, he doesn’t make excuses for it. His qualifying session on Saturday was hampered majorly by Force India opting to run the entire Q1 session on just one set of intermediate tyres. Running continuously throughout, Nico said his tyres were old and spent by the time the closing minutes of the session rolled around. However, he then admitted that Q2 should still have been possible, but I made mistakes on my last two laps and out-braked myself going into the final corner, went wide and lost time.’

Ending up as the surprise casualty of Q1 with a lap time 0.6 seconds slower than Sergio, he would start from 18th to Perez’s 13th. Both drivers avoided trouble at the start and gained positions, Perez up to 10th and Nico to 12th by Lap 3. Both employed a two stop strategy on the way to the flag, but Sergio’s second stop came slightly too early, pitting for the mediums on Lap 22. As a result, his pace dropped off towards the end of the race, and he ended up coming under pressure from Daniil Kyvat & Hulkenberg. After a straightforward race, both Force India men were separated by less than a second, with Kyvat in between.

Despite it being two shaky races in a row from Nico, Sergio has failed to seize the initiative and close the gap significantly to Nico. Will Nico regain the upper hand in Monza, scene of one of his heroic 2013 drives?

Fastest Lap: Nico Hulkenberg (8-4 to Nico Hulkenberg) (after Round 12)
Qualifying: Sergio Perez (27-9 to Nico Hulkenberg) (after Round 12)
Race: Sergio Perez (35-25 to Nico Hulkenberg) (after Round 12)

Force India: 70-38 to Nico Hulkenberg (Total After Round 12)

 

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McLaren:

According to Eric Boullier, the McLaren duo raced with great ‘derring-do’, which is probably the most un-F1 phrase used to describe F1 racing ever. Magnussen’s rough and ready defence against the onslaught from Alonso, Button & Vettel was thrilling to watch, and despite coming close to the line of being too much, only stepped across it once. Kevin’s dive to the right to cover Alonso came slightly too late to be judged as anything but too aggressive, and he was justifiably penalised.

The odd thing about the recent hints from McLaren that both of their drivers are fighting to remain with the team for next season is the question of what exactly they are looking for. If McLaren are looking to the future and want a spearhead driver like Alonso or Vettel to lead the team, what exactly has Magnussen done wrong to not have done enough to stay? Running his World Champion team-mate Jenson close on most occasions, and beating him on a few, is no mean feat for a rookie, and keeping Kevin alongside the likes of Fernando for his second season sounds like an excellent way to continue Kevin’s impressive learning curve.

McLaren’s delay on committing to Jenson is quite telling. With most of the big seats in the sport wrapped up for 2015, Jenson options are limited. Should McLaren choose to drop him, another F1 seat would almost certainly mean a drop down the grid. Imminent retirement may be more likely for the most experienced driver in F1, and the fact that Jenson is having trouble putting clear air between himself and the rookie Magnussen shows that the time may be right for Jenson to leave.

Jenson’s weekend was compromised in Q2 by making a mistake on his final run. Unable to improve his time, he started behind Kevin and stayed there throughout the race. Both were on two stop strategies, and with Jenson able to extend his second stint 6 laps longer than Kevin, used his fresher tyres to come back at Magnussen, along with Vettel & Alonso. Jenson and Fernando ended up losing out though, with Jenson falling behind Vettel.

Fastest Lap: Jenson Button (8-4 to Kevin Magnussen) (after Round 12)
Qualifying: Kevin Magnussen (18-18 to each) (after Round 12)
Race: Kevin Magnussen (45-15 to Jenson Button) (after Round 12)

McLaren: 67-41 to Jenson Button (Total After Round 12)

 

Lotus:

Pastor’s Friday was dictated by a stupid crash which looked as though the Venezuelan was watching the crowd lining the track rather than the track. After rebuilding the Lotus for Saturday, his mechanics must have been feeling rather nervous at the start of Q1 when the rain came. Luckily for them, Pastor’s loss of control in Q1 only resulted in a spin at the Bus Stop and elimination as opposed to another rebuild. Romain went 0.4 seconds faster in Q1, and ended qualifying in 15th spot.

While not as catastrophic as his 2012 start, Romain had a collision at La Source on Lap 1, running into the back of Jules Bianchi’s Marussia. Dropping down to 21st after his pitstop, he ran as high as 16th while attempting to recover, but was forced to retire on Lap 33 due to a dangerously damaged car.

Pastor continued to please his mechanics by being forced to retire on Lap 2 with a broken exhaust. Assuming Romain remains with Lotus in 2015, putting Jean-Eric Vergne in Pastor’s seat would make for a considerably stronger line-up and ensure that one of the weakest drivers on the grid is shuffled off the grid.

Fastest Lap: Romain Grosjean (8-4 to Romain Grosjean) (after Round 12)
Qualifying: Romain Grosjean (33-3 to Romain Grosjean) (after Round 12)
Race: Romain Grosjean (40-20 to Romain Grosjean) (after Round 12)

Lotus: 81-27 to Romain Grosjean (Total After Round 12)

 

Ferrari:

After threatening to do so on so few occasions this season, Kimi finally got the better of Fernando over a race distance. Somewhat unsurprisingly, it was at the venue that Kimi is arguably the strongest man at, having won or lead every race at Spa between 2004 and 2009. While the task of beating Fernando was made considerably easier by having the Spaniard pick up a five second penalty for his loitering mechanics on the formation lap, it looked as though Kimi roughly had the measure of him regardless.

Raikkonen attributed his improved showing to a ‘clean’ weekend, having suffered little in the way of setbacks throughout practice. The last of the dry running on Saturday saw the Finn 4th fastest in FP3, before the spanner in the works began pouring down on Spa prior to qualifying. Despite the rain, Kimi went 0.3 faster than Fernando in Q1, 0.2 seconds slower in Q2,  before making a mess of Q3. Ending up a second slower than Fernando’s best, Alonso would line up 4th to Kimi’s 8th.

Alonso held his ground in the early .Sp5rl!47rs, but soon lost out to Ricciardo & Bottas, while Raikkonen remained in touching distance. On Lap 7, just 1.2 seconds separated the Ferrari drivers, Raikkonen having despatched Magnussen on Lap 1. The turning point in Kimi’s favour came on Lap 8. Trailling around behind Bottas and Alonso, Raikkonen dove into the pits to attempt the undercut. This played out beautifully, with the Finn emerging out into a net second place after the initial round of stops. His second stop arguably came a little early on Lap 22 as his pace was still reasonable, but it probably made no real difference to his final position. Lacking the pace to see off the recovering Rosberg and the quicker Williams of Bottas, Kimi brought it home a safe fourth to show that there’s life in the old dog yet.

Alonso emerged from his first elongated stop just 12 seconds behind Raikkonen, and ran roughly at Kimi’s pace. His attempt to recover from his early penalty saw him having to fight with Kevin Magnussen, and while the Spaniard felt aggrieved at some of the young Dane’s driving, this was mostly unjustified. Damaging his front wing in the closing .Sp5rl!47rs meant a loss of speed and track position, but he managed to bring it home in the points.

Fastest Lap: Fernando Alonso (9-3 to Fernando Alonso) (after Round 12)
Qualifying: Fernando Alonso (30-6 to Fernando Alonso) (after Round 12)
Race: Kimi Raikkonen (55-5 to Fernando Alonso) (after Round 12)

Ferrari: 94-14 to Fernando Alonso (Total After Round 12)

 

Mercedes:

Spa may have changed the nature of the relationship that Nico Rosberg has with Mercedes, and has almost certainly changed the way Lewis Hamilton and the world views him. The contact with Lewis was almost certainly not deliberate, as there was so little certainty as to the end result. Unlike the infamous Senna/Prost collisions, Nico’s move on Lewis was too ponderous and risky to his own car. While the puncture for Lewis ended up working out perfectly for Rosberg, there was no guarantee of such catastrophic consequences playing out so well when Nico’s front wing grazed Lewis’s tyre.

Neither driver covered themselves in glory in Belgium. Having looked the stronger of the two through practice, Lewis made a mess of Saturday’s important Q3 session and once again handed the advantage to Nico. While he recovered this back immediately when the lights went out and Nico bogged down, Rosberg quickly composed himself and came straight back at Lewis on Lap 2. The reason for their collision is almost certainly due to the Bahrain race, which saw the pair squabble hard over and over again. On that occasion, Nico was exceedingly cautious of hitting Lewis and always left large margins and gaps, and allowed himself to be bullied by Hamilton, who was not so afraid of being quite aggressive towards the sister Mercedes.

Rosberg didn’t back off on this occasion. Now that he has seen the way the championship has played out so far, Nico is starting to drop the act of driving ‘for the team’ and is starting to drive for himself. Allowing contact with the other Merc may not please his mechanics or his bosses, but Nico’s more consistent drives, points finishes and luck are putting him into the position that will allow him to take the championship should the team decide to curtail their racing. After years of loyalty, being regarded as one of the ‘nice guys’ of the sport, and obeying the occasional team order, Nico is starting to show the ruthless and selfish streak that champions need. While it was somewhat clumsy on this occasion, Rosberg has shown Lewis that he is willing to have a collision, and that will change the way Lewis races him in the closing rounds of the championship.

Lewis’s attitude post collision was also quite unimpressive, and to be honest, bewildering. Starting on Lap 20 when he began to request permission to retire his car, he was actually lapping faster than eventual race winner Daniel Ricciardo. In fact, between Lap 18 and 26, Hamilton’s loss of time to Ricciardo was 0.2 seconds. That figure is not per lap, that is the total loss of eight laps of Spa. While Lewis’s pace did eventually drop off later in the race due to car problems, justifying an eventual retirement, a safety car would have brought Lewis right back into play in one of the fastest cars on track. Why the desire to throw in the towel?

Fastest Lap: Nico Rosberg (6-6 to each) (after Round 12)
Qualifying: Nico Rosberg (21-15 to Nico Rosberg) (after Round 12)
Race: Nico Rosberg (32.5 – 27.5 to Lewis Hamilton) (after Round 12)

Mercedes: 54.5 – 53.5 to Nico Rosberg (Total After Round 12)

 

Red Bull:

Red Bull’s championship challenge, amazingly, looks as though it is getting stronger rather than weaker as the races count down. Even more astonishing is the fact that it’s Ricciardo leading the charge and not Sebastian Vettel. It appeared as though Sebastian was back to his best at Spa, after qualifying an excellent third. Jumping up to second into La Source, he attempted to do the same thing he did so well to Lewis Hamilton into Les Combes last season, but couldn’t make it around the Merc. Running wide, he fell down to third and his race promptly fell apart. Running wide through Pouhon, he allowed Daniel to get ahead of him (accidentally, of course), and spent the rest of the afternoon falling further and further back.

By the end of the race, Vettel was almost a minute behind Ricciardo, and was usually over a second a lap slower. Just as I suggested after similar circumstances after the Chinese GP in April, Vettel is not a second a lap slower than another driver in identical machinery, without issues coming into play. Red Bull’s response to this is the same as it was back then, with Sebastian due to receive a new chassis for Monza, as the team were unable to find any particular problem with Vettel’s current car.

While misfortune continues to plague the reigning Champion, things couldn’t be any more different for the smiley assassin plaguing the Mercedes team. Ricciardo may have lost out by 0.2 seconds in qualifying, but thanks to his rapid dispatching of Vettel & Alonso, he inherited the lead when the Mercs rolled out the red carpet for him.

While both of Ricciardo’s prior race wins came when he hunted down the lead in the closing .Sp5rl!47rs of Montreal and Budapest, Daniel absorbed the pressure of holding off the charging Nico Rosberg for the second half of the race. While the Merc opted to pit again for a late soft-tyre charge to the end, Daniel stayed out and kept his head against an opponent who was lapping 2 seconds faster and maintained his own tyres to the end. He even set his fastest lap on the final lap, just to show how much he had restrained himself in the closing .Sp5rl!47rs. Superb from Mr. Ricciardo.

Fastest Lap: Sebastian Vettel (8-4 to Daniel Ricciardo) (after Round 12)
Qualifying: Sebastian Vettel (18-18 to each) (after Round 12)
Race: Daniel Ricciardo (55-5 to Daniel Ricciardo) (after Round 12)

Red Bull: 81-27 to Daniel Ricciardo (Total After Round 12)

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Thomas Maher

Co-owner, Chief Editor and a journalist for FormulaSpy.com - Ireland's only accredited F1 & Formula E website. Also working in the Irish radio broadcasting industry. Donations: PayPal - paypal.me/thomasmaheronf1 ETH/ERC20 - 0x9d0b8071180AAcB0bD5f0c1d43281768C73e8763

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