Formula 1 mid-term report card, Part 1
In the first part of a two-part look at Formula 1 in 2019, Alan Jones speaks with Speedcafe.com to share his thoughts on the season so far.
The 1980 world champion holds nothing back in his frank assessment of the state of play as he casts his educated eye over the field.
Renault; 6th, 39 points
Boasting the highly rated driver pairing of Daniel Ricciardo and Nico Hulkenberg, much has been expected of the Anglo-French team in season 2019.
There have been a smattering of promising results, including a fourth place in qualifying for Ricciardo in Canada, in what has otherwise been a character building and inconsistent start to the year.
But while the results haven’t been there, for Jones the decision by Ricciardo to switch camps was the correct move.
“I still maintain he did the right thing,” Jones asserts.
“I mean, I think at the end of the day, if he’d have stayed with Red Bull, he would have been getting lots of seconds.
“Yes, he would’ve been on the podium probably, certainly more than what he’s doing now – which wouldn’t be difficult because he hasn’t been on it – but this way he is with a team that possibly will come good.
“I mean, God almighty, they got the resources, they’re the world’s third or fourth largest auto manufacturer.
“Driving for the world’s third or fourth auto manufacturer is better than driving for a soft drink manufacturer, and he’s getting lots of money.
“So he’s number one in the team, with a team that’s got possibly a bit of a future.
“Prospect wise, there’s more hope there, or more enjoyment, for want of a better word, then if he would’ve stuck at Red Bull.”
That he’s got the better of team-mate Hulkenberg is another feather in Ricciardo’s cap, according to Jones.
“I’ve always been a bit of a Hulkenberg fan, and I’ve always said put him in a really competitive car and he’d go really well, but it just goes to show how good Daniel is, because he’s come in and he’s beaten Hulkenberg more times than not.
“So, I think Daniel’s underlined his ability in doing that, to be honest.”
Alfa Romeo; 7th, 32 points
An all-new driver line-up has not stunted the progress of Alfa Romeo and a solid campaign in 2018.
Charles Leclerc and Kimi Raikkonen swapped places for 2019 which has seen the ‘Iceman’ return to the squad which launched his F1 career in 2001.
He’s joined by Ferrari junior Antonio Giovinazzi, continuing the trend of the Scuderia using the squad as a breeding ground.
Two solid drivers coupled with a team that has had an injection to its technical staff, and the squad continues to be able to consistently mix it with those in the midfield.
The car is not especially fast, but by the same token hasn’t been left overly wanting in a specific area, which has allowed Raikkonen to bank points in eight of the 12 races thus far.
Giovinazzi’s contributions haven’t been as stellar as hoped, with just a single point in his maiden full-time campaign to date.
Should the Italian find form in the second half of the year, Alfa Romeo could become rather potent in its midfield battle with the likes of Racing Point, Renault, Toro Rosso, and even McLaren.
Racing Point; 8th, 31 points
A year on from the woes which almost sent the team out of business and it’s fair to suggest that it’s still wearing some of that mascara.
Having been the established force, no pun intended, in the midfield under its previous guise, the compromises made during development last year will be felt all season long.
That’s prevented Sergio Perez from showing his full potential, and has seen him thus far unable to snag his customary surprise podium.
However the team has shown flashes that, under the skin, it’s fundamentally the same, as evidenced by its clever strategy in Germany which saw Lance Stroll come within touching distance of an unlikely podium.
Haas; 9th, 26 points
If the Drive to Survive series taught us anything it’s that we can probably guess how most of Haas’ debriefs have gone this year.
Team boss Guenther Steiner isn’t one to pull punches, and has made no secret that his team is struggling.
There have been hints of speed in qualifying, but come Sunday afternoon and the team hasn’t been able to find anything like its 2018 form.
As such it sits second last in the constructors’ title fight, but worst of all has no idea why its car is as bad as it is.
Of late it’s taken to running Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen with different specifications and, worryingly, the Australia spec car has typically performed better than the upgraded version.
It paints a bleak picture for the team, which now faces the task of using the second half of the year to get to the bottom of its woes so it doesn’t unwittingly carry them over onto next year’s car.
Williams; 10th, 1 point
It’s been a tough season for Williams with just a single point to its name, and even that is under a cloud as Robert Kubica inherited 10th at the German Grand Prix when both Alfa Romeos were handed penalties, which are under appeal.
There are positives though.
George Russell has been a find, and has beaten his more experienced team-mate in every qualifying session of the year, a point often missed as the team languishes at the back of the grid.
But while the team stares down the very real prospect of enduring its worst ever season in Formula 1, Jones believes there remains hope for the squad.
“A lot of people have got short memories,” Jones says.
“Everyone’s complaining about Lewis Hamilton winning all these races, it wasn’t all that long ago I used to hear people complaining about Schumacher winning all the races.
“It wasn’t all that long ago that one of the leading teams in the world, Lotus, was in the doldrums.
“Don’t forget Ferrari went through a long period of time, before Schumacher joined them, where they weren’t winning grands prix.
“It’s the nature of the beast and I said, and I still say, that Williams will probably bounce back.
“I just hope that they have sufficient funding to keep their head above water to enable them to do that,” he continues.
“Now, apparently Patrick (Head)’s gone back there to lend a bit of a hand, and look at the people that have come through Formula 1 under Patrick; Adrian Newey, Ross Brawn, Neil Oatley.
“There’s some brilliant engineers that are now with teams that have actually come under the professor, for want of a better word.
“I mean Patrick’s forgotten what a lot of these blokes are still to learn.
“With a bit of luck, if he goes back and sticks his nose in, well who knows? He could help them have a bit of a resurrection.”
The team’s fate has not helped Kubica, whose fortunes Jones doesn’t quite know how to take following his comeback from a serious arm injury.
“At the time I said it’s going to be very, very difficult for anybody to spend that time out of Formula 1 and come back and be competitive,” he reasons.
“I don’t care who you are, you just lose that edge. I think it’s commonly called fighting fit, or race fit, or whatever you want to call it.
“It was always going to be extremely difficult, and I don’t know how much his left arm is affecting him, I really don’t know what the situation is there, because only he knows that.
“The comeback, after that length of time, I think was always a major gamble.
“But on the other hand, if he’s bringing 30 million with him, well, if Williams needs that sort of money to help them get along, well I guess that’s it.”
As for Russell, the rookie has been a standout for Jones, who points to the post-Spanish Grand Prix test where he was given an outing in the factory Mercedes, and promptly went quickest.
“Now, there’s a bit of an indication that given the right car, he’d be up the front,” he concludes.
Part 2 will follow this afternoon