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Top Dogs: Who Will Win The F1 Fights This Year? Part 2



31 MAR - 03 APR 2016

Part 2

While the Drivers’ World Championship has been in existence since 1950, the first year of the organized series we now know, a separate title for constructors came into being only in 1958.

It was won by British marque Vanwall, a one-off ‘look what we can do’ effort by wealthy industrialist Tony Vandervell to show what British racing teams could achieve despite the consistently under-performing presence of BRM.

As the Constructors’ Championship developed, great rivalries emerged between them as they did between the leading drivers of the day: Lotus fought Cooper and BRM in the early, UK-dominated years of the mid-to-late-Sixties… Lotus then had to fight off Ferrari and the emergent force of Tyrrell… and as time went by it was Ferrari who became the team to beat.

In the Nineties Williams loved nothing better than to beat “those red-and-whites”, as Sir Frank called McLaren in those days. Ask men like Sir Frank or Ron Dennis which mattered more, the drivers’ or the constructors’ crown, and the answer would unequivocally be the latter.

To the Commendatore himself, Enzo Ferrari, the drivers mattered little: they were merely the means to direct his cars to their rightful place at the front of the field. Only occasionally did one – like Gilles Villeneuve – touch a truly deep place in Ferrari’s personal affections.

Nowadays we focus far more on drivers – and perhaps it’s just as well, given the dominance some teams have exercised in this century!

So far we have seen Ferrari win four times in a row from 2001-04 and six times in all; Renault claimed two in 2005-06; then while Brawn enjoyed their annus mirabilis in 2009, one team has held the upper hand since that year.

That’s Red Bull Racing, of course, winners of both titles in each of the last four seasons. Not just winners, but by some margin: in 2011, when the powers-that-be introduced the grotesque points system now in place, Red Bull collected 650 of them with McLaren second 153 points behind!

Last year Sebastian Vettel’s 397 points were more than any other team’s two drivers put together could manage, while Mark Webber’s 199 were more than seven of the other teams on the grid.

Can anyone stop the rot?

Well, the early signs are encouraging. Schadenfreude may not be a pleasant attitude to express, but there will have been plenty of sly grins round the globe as Red Bull contrived to lap the Jerez circuit just 21 times in a total of four days’ testing last week.

By contrast Mercedes racked up well over 200, 188 of those for Nico Rosberg on his own. Could this be the year for the Silver Arrows to puncture the Red Bull balloon?

Not if you ask Dan Ricciardo, Webber’s replacement in the car that gives you wings. “For all we know they could be racking up a lot of laps, but they could be a second off the pace,” claimed the Australian after Mercedes’ gauntlet-throwing week in Spain.

All Mercedes will say at this stage is that they are “cautiously satisfied” after what new technical recruit Paddy Lowe called “a very successful week”. Lewis Hamilton was more enthusiastic, calling it “a fantastic week” while teammate Nico Rosberg stressed that they had achieved reliability without knowing where they stood in terms of raw speed.

How Mercedes build on that may well depend on how the new superstars of F1, the gurus on pit wall, cope with the absence of Ross Brawn – and on the other hand how well Red Bull’s Adrian Newey, for example, responds to the disappointments of Jerez when he next puts pencil to paper on his famous drawing-board.

There is no prouder team in Formula 1 than Ferrari. Title-less since 2008, the Scuderia has shown its hand by pairing Messrs Alonso and Raikkonen for 2014. They were ousted from even the runner-up spot by Mercedes last year: rest assured that no Italian stone will be left unturned as Luca di Montezemolo drives his team in pursuit of the glory they believe is rightfully theirs.

Jerez showed that Ferrari can at least rely on their own wind-tunnel once more. It was shut down after 2012 and the team borrowed Toyota’s in Germany, but the recalibrated and restored tunnel at Ferrari came back online in October – and the reliable Jerez running suggests they have got it right for this crucial, all-change season.

While the saying goes that a healthy Ferrari is a healthy Formula 1, many fans would like nothing more than to see two other great names of the sport restored to the rude health they once enjoyed.

It’s a heart-breaking 16 years since Williams won the Constructors’ Championship. They endured their worst season last year – and those one-time red-and-whites endured their worst for over 30 years.

Kevin Magnussen topped the Jerez times overall for McLaren; Felipe Massa was quickest on the final day in the now Mercedes-powered Williams. Of course it means not a lot at this stage of the year – but isn't it nice to think, ‘What if?’

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