Who doesn’t love a spot of fan fiction? The internet has become a breeding ground for theories spawned from those ‘what if’ questions generated at the end of films, TV series and even sporting spectacles.
What if Anakin Skywalker had the ‘high ground’ on Mustafar at the climax of Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith? Or, closer to home, what if Lewis Hamilton didn’t catch and pass Timo Glock on the final lap at a soggy Interlagos in 2008?
The 2017 Formula 1 season has featured several intriguing narratives thus far that could trigger many ‘what if’ scenarios. For instance, in a world without the elite three of Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull, what would the championship picture look like at this halfway stage?
With the numbers crunched, here are the facts and figures;
Over the years, Force India have earned a seat at F1’s table for the underdogs. So often, the Silverstone based squad have turned a lightweight budget into welter-weight machinery over the winter, only to be reigned in by the opposition over the course of the year and 2014 was a clear example of this trait. Conversely, the start of the 2015 campaign was a tale of damage limitation while the engineers could paper over the cracks which formed as a result of a disjointed winter. As it has turned out, Force India have proven that they are just as good in defense as they are attack in the opening exchanges of a campaign.
Following a tortuous 2014 driving an E22 which was notoriously unpredictable, both Romain Grosjean and Pastor Maldonado were hopeful that 2015 would see Enstone return to the upper echelon of the field. While the successor to last season’s twin-tusked machine is a marked improvement, the E23 is yet to show any of the race winning credentials that were possessed by the Lotus’ that propelled Kimi Raikkonen to his 19th and 20th career wins. This fact, combined with a heap of misfortune and occasional driver errors means that Lotus have a right to feel a touch disappointed with their points tally at the halfway mark.
Central to Toro Rosso’s very existence in the sport is its influence on bright young talent. Sebastian Vettel, Daniel Ricciardo and Daniil Kvyat all excelled in the Toro Rosso proving ground and based on the evidence of the first ten races of 2015, the team’s current duo have all the hallmarks of recreating the success of the aforementioned trio. While Max Verstappen and Carlos Sainz Jr have been sensational this season, credit should also be given to Toro Rosso’s technical team, who have delivered one of Faenza’s greatest ever products for their young star’s to play with.
For the cash-strapped Sauber outfit, 2015 simply had to mark an improvement on a dismal 2014 – the Swiss squad’s worst ever season in the sport, in which they failed to break into the lucrative top ten for the duration. A strong showing during pre-season testing translated into a strong opening round, which saw Sauber exceed all expectations with rookie Felipe Nasr and Sauber newbie Marcus Ericsson both scooping points finishes in what was a race of attrition. However, the team have since struggled to match their heroics Down-Under, with underwhelming results somewhat highlighting the team’s struggles to keep pace in the frantic development race.
The reassembly of one of the sports most successful partnerships was meant to be the springboard that a struggling McLaren outfit needed to return to pre-eminence. While the first races on Honda’s return to the sport were always set to be filled with trials and tribulations, few could have predicted the extent of their troubles at the mid-way point of their first season in the V6 Hybrid era.
Just 17 points on the board, from ten races plagued by unreliability, the first half of the season has certainly been a character building experience.
The British love an underdog story and the nature of Formula 1 has provided plenty of David vs Goliath tales over the years. Manor’s mere appearance in Melbourne was one such triumph against adversity, as it followed not only Marussia’s fall into administration in October 2014, but also their failure in the eleventh hour of their bid to attend the 2014 season finale in Abu Dhabi. Now running what is effectively their 2014 car, albeit modified to fit the 2015 regulations, Manor’s season is all about preparation for the future as they look to cement their place in the Formula 1 paddock.