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17.05.2018 15:19
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In the first of two parts, ESPN rates the performance of the back half of the grid so far this seasonToro Rosso6th, 45 points Toro Rosso has had a very impressive 2016 so far. Any evaluation of the first 12 races must be given with the proviso that it has been competing with a 2015-spec Ferrari engine -- one that cannot be upgraded throughout 2016. James Key once again appears to have designed a great car, one which has increased his standing in the paddock and kept the team consistently in and around the points since the beginning of the season.In truth, Toro Rosso has squandered several opportunities -- big points were on offer in Australia and the team did not capitalise -- and seems to struggle with its pit stops, costing Sainz a good result in Monaco. With most chassis development now shifted to 2017, Toro Rosso will hope its abject performance in Germany -- finishing 14th and 15th -- is not a sign of things to come as its rivals continue having the benefit of upgrades on the engine side.Carlos Sainz (11th, 30 points, 9/10): Undoubtedly one of the stars of the first half of the season. Its easy to dwell on Max Verstappens form since he was promoted to Red Bull, but Sainz is doing plenty to keep his former teammate and Daniel Ricciardo on their toes at the senior team. Its helped that Daniil Kvyats performances have been so bad in comparison, but Sainz has looked superb in a car with a year-old engine -- hes scored points in all but two of the ten races hes finished. An impressive sixth position in front of his home crowd in Spain was the crowning achievement at a race where Verstappen ended up stealing the headlines with his maiden victory.Daniil Kvyat (14th, 23 points, 4/10): Its hard not to feel sympathy for Kvyat at the mid-way point. The Russian driver looked like a broken man after qualifying in Germany and went into the summer break wondering how he can stop the rot. He has scored just two of his 23 points since being relegated to Toro Rosso, a move which was always going to hurt his form and his morale; he has since admitted the relegation made him fall out of love with F1. It must be noted Kvyat scored a super podium in China this year in what turned out to be his penultimate race for Red Bull, but it is the one bright spot on a season which has made for pretty excruciating viewing since. NSMcLaren7th, 42 points Although McLaren is still a long way from where it wants/ought to be, its progress this year still deserves recognition. The biggest performance gain has come from the Honda engine, which, despite being a long way off the pace, has more horsepower than the year-old Ferrari power unit in the Toro Rosso. When you consider Honda was a latecomer to the current engine regulations, the fact that it has surpassed Ferraris 2015 engine in its second year shows an impressive rate of improvement, even if it is still shy of the ultimate pace.A modest goal for the second half of the year will be beating Toro Rosso to sixth in the constructors championship, but it must not compromise work on the 2017 project in doing so. Updates to the MP4-31 have been coming thick and fast, and with the team boasting a 95 percent correlation between what it sees in the wind tunnel and what it sees on track, things are looking up. In what is essentially the third year of the current regulations, McLaren has done well to make the progress it has achieved from such a low starting point, but the key will be taking advantage of the regulation changes in 2017 to make a significantly bigger step next year.Fernando Alonso (13th, 24 points, 8/10): By his own admission, Alonso was underperforming last year. The lack of a competitive car made it hard for the two-time world champion to stay motivated, and it showed. This year, however, the improvements made by McLaren have sparked the fire deep inside and he has been able to show glimpses of his latent talent we know exists. Strong races in Russia, Monaco and Hungary have been the highlights, as well as five appearances in Q3. Given a competitive car, there is little doubt he would be back at the sharp end of the grid.Jenson Button (15th, 17 points, 6/10): McLarens lack of performance makes it hard to accurately rate Buttons season, but his 8-3 deficit in qualifying to Alonso hints at the struggle he has faced. It is now commonplace to hear Button complaining about one aspect or another of the MP4-31s performance during sessions and while reliability has let him down on occasion, he has also failed to get the best from his car too often. With it looking increasingly likely that he will be replaced by Stoffel Vandoorne next year, it would be understandable if motivation levels in his seventh year at McLaren are starting to run low. LEHaas8th, 28 points When assessing Haas first 12 races it is important to note the team started from (almost) nothing this year. Sure, it came in with a very controversial Ferrari tie-up, but as an operational unit the team was clearly in its infancy over winter testing. It capitalised brilliantly on the uncertainty of the first couple of races to finish sixth and fifth in Australia and Bahrain, before normality set in for F1s newest team. Since that brilliant start the team has struggled with various things, front wing failures, tyre pressures and balance under braking.Haas was always going to hit trouble in is maiden season so it deserves the benefit of the doubt. Though weve heard Romain Grosjean and Esteban Gutierrez vocally frustrated with the handling of the car this season it has remained competitive, remarkably so in fact for a fledgling team. At the start of the season Haas played down expectations and said it wanted to be in the lower midfield by the middle of the season. Big improvements can be made but Haas is already on course for a memorable debut season.Romain Grosjean (12th, 28 points, 8/10): Currently, Grosjeans move from Lotus to Haas looks pretty inspired. The Frenchman drove to a stunning sixth position on Haas debut in Australia and backed that up with fifth in Bahrain. After another points finish in Russia, the inevitable decline came but when the car has been in a position to score points, Grosjean has delivered, returning to the top ten in Austria. Its little wonder Grosjean is so highly regarded by Haas -- he may have missed out on a Ferrari drive for 2017 but on current form he deserves to be in the mix for the seat in 2018.Esteban Gutierrez (19th, 0 points, 5/10): Gutierrezs season makes for dire reading when compared to his teammate, who has struggled with the car at times but also registered four points scoring finishes. By contrast, Gutierrez has been the king of 11th, finishing there on four occasions, having squandered several opportunities for a top-ten finish. Hes had several thinly-veiled outbursts aimed at his team and its fair to say a series of issues outside of his control have contributed to his lack of points. He was unfortunate to be hit by Fernando Alonso in Australia, but on the whole the very likeable Mexican is not doing enough to warrant another year in F1. NSRenault9th, 6 points The challenge facing Renault this year was, arguably, larger than any other teams. The once formidable Enstone team had been left to rot by its previous owners, with several key engineers jumping ship in the fear they could end up going down with it. That the French manufacturer stepped in to save the day was not only a crucial moment for the team itself but also for the sport -- the thought of losing one of the biggest advocates of the new engine formula just two years after its introduction would have been a damning indictment of the V6 turbo era.Unfortunately, the decision by Renault to invest in a factory team came too late to salvage any hopes of being competitive this year. A skeleton of a team not only had to rebuild for the future, but it also had to cobble together an F1 car from the remaining spares of an already under-developed 2015 Lotus. Whats more, one of the biggest strengths of last years car was its Mercedes power unit and that had to be replaced by the improving, but still under-powered, Renault. Its no surprise, therefore, that Renault has scored just once this year and has found itself fighting with Manor and Sauber to remain off the back of the grid. Theres no reason to expect the cars performance will improve in the second half of the year, with resources dedicated to a significant step forwards in 2017.Kevin Magnussen (16th, 6 points, 7/10): Magnussens career was thrown a life line when Renault offered him a race drive this year, but using it to prove his true potential has been tough. The very nature of Formula One means a driver who maximises the potential of his car at the back of the grid may get completely overlooked if the bad luck of others does not allow passage into the top ten. At the start of the season, Magnussen impressed with a near perfect drive to 11th in Bahrain and that crucial points-scoring result in Russia -- which should ensure the team finishes ninth in the standings. He may feel he has matched those performances at the races since, but the anonymity that comes with racing at the back of the grid means they have been increasingly harder to spot. Whats more, his rookie teammate appears to have found his feet at recent rounds, with Palmer closing the gap between the two in head-to-head qualifying to 7-5 in Magnussens favour.Jolyon Palmer (20th, 0 points, 5/10): Palmer has faced the same problem of trying to perform in the anonymity of the back of the grid as his teammate, but Palmers standing has strengthened as the season has progressed. His low point was crashing out of the Monaco Grand Prix as it got underway after a safety car start, but such mistakes are not uncommon for a rookie. Unfortunately, his most impressive performance to date was also marred by a spin as he dropped out of contention for his first Formula One point on lap 47 of the Hungarian Grand Prix. On the plus side, there is no reason to believe he wont find himself in a similar position before the end of the year as his performances have undoubtedly improved, but he will have to do something very special to fend off the mounting competition for his place on the grid at Renault next year. LEManor10th, 1 point Slow and steady has been the phrase of 2016 for Manor. Its Mercedes engine deal led to lofty expectations before the season began but the team, wisely, played those down, saying it still had a long way to go before it was close to the midfield. That caution was justified, as Manor started the season slowly, bolstered by some strong drives from Mercedes protégé Pascal Wehrlein. It has slowly clawed away at the gap to Sauber and overtaken the Swiss team, returning to points in Austria this year.The team has been restructured, with the arrival of Dave Ryan clearly paying dividends. Manor has spent its limited budget incredibly wisely. For a team which has been a perennial backmarker for its tenure in F1, the recent progress has been hugely encouraging and there is no reason to think Manor cannot continue building on that development. It will be bolstered after the summer break by another Mercedes junior, Esteban Ocon, as it continues to take the fight to Sauber and Renault at the back of the field.Pascal Wehrlein (17th, 1 point, 8/10): The Mercedes junior has been impressive in his rookie F1 season, the highlight of which was undoubtedly a points finish in Austria. He did not dominate Rio Haryanto as many expected him to in qualifying, but on Sundays there was no comparison - Wehrlein never finished behind the Indonesian in their 12 races together. Considering you can only truly compare backmarkers against their teammates, and the fact Wehrlein has never raced on most of the circuits hes visited this season, he stands out as one of the more impressive drivers of the first half of 2016.Rio Haryanto (23rd, 0 points, 4/10): For all of the credit Rio Haryanto deserves for keeping his qualifying record against Wehrlein close, he has been unfortunate to have been placed alongside a driver backed by Mercedes for his rookie season. The comparison on Sundays was always one-sided, form not helped by Haryantos image as a driver who paid for his seat on the grid. He will be missed by Indonesian fans but Manor will be better off with the talented Esteban Ocon alongside Wehrlein for the rest of the year. NSSauber11th, 0 points Saubers main aim this year has been survival and after finding new investment it appears as though it has fulfilled its goal. It is unlikely the new money will salvage anything from this year, but it should ensure the team remains on the grid under next years regulation change. There is plenty of restructuring to do, however, after technical director Mark Smith left the team before the first race of the season.Without some significant misfortune for several other teams, points will remain off the agenda this year, which could see the team finish at the bottom of the constructors championship for the first time in its 24-year history. The key will be to use the still-impressive facilities at its Swiss base in Hinwil to mount a bid to return to the midfield next year.Marcus Ericsson (21st, 0 points, 5/10): Now in his third season in Formula One, we are still waiting to see Ericsson do something that truly impresses. Being at the back of the grid has not helped his cause, especially this year, but he has yet to deliver a performance that exceeds the limitations of his machinery. Having said that, Ericsson started the year with a series of solid results, outperforming his teammate comfortably as Felipe Nasr complained of a chassis problem. But big accidents on Saturdays at Silverstone and Hungary have blotted his copybook at recent rounds and are inexcusable at a team struggling to put a car on the grid in the first place. His future beyond the end of the year appears to be secure thanks to his links to Saubers new backers and maybe a revitalised Sauber in 2017 will finally offer him a platform to perform.Felipe Nasr (22nd, 0 points, 5/10): Like his teammate, Nasr is a hard driver to rate. He started the season with a lack of confidence in the car and only a new chassis at the Russian Grand Prix could remedy his concerns. 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