Most people who watch an F1 grand prix tend to put their attention on the leaders of the race. It is natural for the audience to focus in on the winner and the two drivers who place next to him. However, one area to focus which is just as interesting in on the midfield in the Formula 1 field.
Force India placed fourth last season, with Williams Martini Racing a close fifth. But this season, only the former is making a challenge, and yet suddenly, teams like McLaren, Renault, and the American Haas F1 Team are beginning to vie for the finishes just after the podium. So, who can really call themselves “The best of the rest?”
Currently, Renault holds that position, but the French team find themselves in fourth and only one point ahead of McLaren, who is followed by Haas and Force India. Between Renault and Force India, the gap is only 50 points, which might seem large, but with only five rounds of 21 completed, there’s still a lot of racing left.
When it comes to money, Renault tops them all, as the French manufacturer signed a nine-season contract three years ago, when they took over from a nearly bankrupt Lotus team. However, because they took the deal so late, it was nearly impossible to catch up to a top team like Mercedes. To make things worse, the company’s hybrid engines were not reliable enough. That one of their main customers, Red Bull Racing, has failed to compete for the championship following four titles in a row, also looks bad.
With the possibility of upgrades from Renault in time for the Canadian GP, Red Bull is waiting to decide whether to renew their engine contract with the French manufacturer. Renault needs to make their engines better and it will take a little more time before either their current or other future drivers can give them a victory to get their money’s worth.
One of Renault’s new engine partners this season is McLaren. The team has not won a grand prix since 2012 when Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button were the drivers. With Ron Dennis gone, the team is re-evaluating their situation under the reigns of American CEO Zak Brown and Team Manager Eric Boullier. The latter is under tension to perform, and with Fernando Alonso, it might be able to be done. But Alonso’s teammate, Stoffel Vandoorne, is not performing well, and might be let go at the end of the season. Alonso too, is contemplating a possible move to another team, or leaving the sport altogether if things do not improve.
For Force India, the battle is not for the car to improve, it is between their two drivers, Esteban Ocon and Sergio Perez, who despite colliding with one another, managed to finish in 2017 the best since they have been in existence. The driver’s rivalry has eased off somewhat this year, but now the team has been caught up in performance by three other teams. And this could make it tough for them.
Finally, there is the American Haas F1 Team. The squad relies mainly on support by Ferrari, and this season, the car has been excellent in performance and in pre-season testing. However, following the pit stop errors in Australia, only Kevin Magnussen has achieved points, while Romain Grosjean has been involved in accidents race after race. It might be the reason why the team is 39 points behind McLaren and just one point in front of Force India. If Grosjean can improve, the team can do better than an eighth-place finish in the constructor’s championship from last year.
Overall, it is not only the battle up front that is exciting but also the midfield, which makes the sport of formula 1 racing more enjoyable to watch.