F1 Summer Review Part 1: The Backmarkers

The Olympics were a welcome distraction while they lastest, but now they are over and there are still over two weeks remaining until the Formula 1 summer break comes to an end.

However, we have survived the first half of this long long holiday, and now is the time to reward ourselves with a look back over the first 11 races of the season. They were nearly all action-packed event, and so there is plenty to discuss as we try and determine who were the winners and losers in the first half of 2012.

Here at thecheckeredflag.co.uk, we will do this in three parts. As it is generally considered best to save the best until last, this three-part review begins with those teams rooted down at the back of the grid.


Jean-Eric Vergne got Toro Rosso’s best result of the season so far, taking eighth place in Malaysia back in March – Photo Credit: Clive Mason/Getty Images
Italy Toro Rosso 6pts (9th)
Car No:16 Australia Daniel Ricciardo 2pts (18th)
Best Result: 9th (Australia)
17 France Jean-Eric Vergne 4pts (17th)
Best Result: 8th (Malaysia)


It might be regarded as a bit unfair to lump Toro Rosso in this section of the summer review but, as it is a three part piece and twelve divided by three is four, one team must go in with the three ‘new’ teams, and Toro Rosso are unfortunately the best qualified.

The team that finished eighth in the construtors’ championship on 41 points last season currently have a meagre six points after 11 races. Each driver has only one points finish to their name, and those were picked up over the first two races of the season. In Daniel Ricciardo and Jean-Eric Vergne, Toro Rosso are supposed to have two of the most exciting young drivers on the grid, but the STR7 is not a car in which they can show their skills.

Toro Rosso admit that the car is too slow, and that they lack pace compared to their main competitors, but the trouble is that they are slipping backwards into the clutches of the ‘new’ teams rather than pushing forward. Race results are on a downward trend, and the remainder of the season is likely to be about trying to restore some pride.

Comparing the two drivers against one another, it does appear that Ricciardo has the upper-hand over his French team-mate so far. The Australian has out-qualified Vergne 9-2 in 2012, and has only been dumped out of qualifying during Q1 once all season – a remarkable achievement given the under-performing car.


Heikki Kovalainen leads Vitaly Petrov during the European Grand Prix. Petrov actually finished ahead of his team-mate though, collecting a season-best thirteenth place – Photo Credit: Charles Coates/LAT Photographic
Malaysia Caterham 0pts (10th)
20 Finland Heikki Kovalainen 0pts (19th)
Best Result: 13th (Monaco)
21 Russian Federation Vitaly Petrov 0pts (20th)
Best Result: 13th (Europe)


Caterham, Marussia and HRT have been in Formula 1 for two-and-a-half seasons now. Soon we must stop just lumping them together as ‘the new teams’ and come up with a new collective name for them. Unfortunately, as none of the three have actually managed to score a single point yet, the top candidates for that name will the along the lines of ‘the second-rate teams’, ‘the crap teams’ or, at best, ‘the plucky triers’.

All of this may seem pretty harsh on Caterham, who can not be accused of mounting only a half-arsed attempt at becoming a competitive Formula 1 team. They seem to be the most professional and consistent outfit of the three, and have had the results to back that up. They currently sit ahead of them in the championship, thanks to both Heikki Kovalainen and Vitaly Petrov scoring thirteenth place finishes.

The first point still eludes them though and, unless we have a race of extraordinarily high attriton in the second half of the season, that breakthrough does not look as though it will come in 2012. Kovalainen is out of contract at the end of the year, and with some of the better teams sniffing around, the Finn may be deserting the team.

And other teams will be right to seek of Kovalainen: after comprehensively thrashing Jarno Trulli over the last two seasons, he has out-qualified Petrov in eight of the 11 races run in 2012. Petrov has out-raced his team-mate on a few occasions though, and is doing a solid job for the team he joined back in February.


Charles Pic, pictured here in Australia, has pushed his more experienced team-mate Timo Glock this season – Photo Credit: Marussia F1 Team
Russian Federation Marussia 0pts (11th)
24 Germany Timo Glock 0pts (21st)
Best Result: 14th (Australia, Monaco)
25 France Charles Pic 0pts (22nd)
Best Result: 15th (Australia, Europe)


Marussia, for the last two seasons, have unfairly finished bottom of the constructors’ championship, all by virtue of HRT having one better result than them over the course of the season. It is unfair because they have clearly been the better team.

Sadly, however, there is no doubt that they are currently the second-worse team. Nevertheless, things are improving. Gone is the brave, yet ultimately foolish notion that a Formula 1 car can be build purely on computers, and without a wind tunnel, and they also seem to have ironed out stupid mistakes like building a car with a fuel tank that is too small to go a full race distance.

In Timo Glock they have a driver capable of getting the best out of a car and in Charles Pic they have a promising rookie who actually out-qualified his vastly more experienced team-mate in the last two races. The drivers are reliable – they have no race retirements through mistakes this season, although Glock did fail to race in Europe, suffering with a stomach bug.

Like Caterham, Marussia look unlikely to pick up their first point this season, but they should finish, rightfully, above HRT.


Karthikeyan qualified last in Hungary, and started from the back of the grid. He also qualified dead last in Australia, Malaysia, China, Bahrain, Spain, Canada and Britain to put together an unenviable record – Photo Credit: HRT
Spain HRT 0pts (12th)
22 Spain Pedro de la Rosa 0pts (24th)
Best Result: 17th (Europe)
23 India Narain Karthikeyan 0pts (23rd)
Best Result: 15th (Monaco)


HRT, for the second season running, turned up to the first race in Australia with a new car that had not been tested, then failed to get either driver within the 107% time during qualifying, and were not allowed to race. To do that once, could be considered misfortunate, but to do it twice, one must ask questions as to what they are doing in the sport.

The team missed the mid-season test in Mugello because they were moving factory to Madrid (not ideal timing one might argue) and both cars retired from the race in Canada before completing a third of the distance because the brakes were not good enough. A proper omnishambles.

At least the drivers have been consistent. Narain Karthikeyan has managed to clock the slowest lap in all but three of the eleven qualifying sessions this season. He would have achieve the dubious honour of being slowest in all of them if it was not for problems for Charles Pic on two of the Saturdays, and Jenson Button falling foul of wet weather in another.

Pedro de la Rosa, the second-oldest driver in the field, made an interesting decision to join this team. True, he is now a Spanish driver within the only Spanish team on the grid, but lapping at the back of the field race after race must be draining. He has comprehensively out-qualified and out-raced Karthikeyan, although that may not be the most impressive of achievements, but he cannot do much more in such an uncompetitive car.