2007 F1 Season Review – Part 5 – Honda, Super Aguri, Spyker

Honda
Button Barrichello
Oh my…. What a season. This is a team that under its old identity BAR Honda finished 2nd in the constructors table in 2004. This is the team that recorded its first race win in 2006. This the team who’s driver Jenson Button finished 3rd in driver’s table in 2004 and scored more points than any other driver in the second half of 2006 season… They hoped for further step up in 2007, if not for a title fight than at least few more race wins… To promote enviromental issues they entered the season with an unique Earth livery, with no sponsors messages on the car. The weight of the whole Earth was apparently too much for them to carry …

The Australian Grand Prix was an eye opener. The Honda cars were solid midfield cars, far behind the leading Ferraris and McLarens. Both cars finished lap down, barely getting out of Q1. The pattern for the rest of the season has been set. The 3 week break before Malaysian GP did not help them much, more the opposite. By the Malaysian GP the main competion for Honda began to appear – Toro Rosso, Spyker, Super Aguri and Ralf Schumacher. Getting to top ten in 2007 meant to the team about the same as getting on podium in 2006. Scoring points in 2007 was on par with race win a year ago. Podiums and wins were totally out the reach for Honda. On several ocassion Honda was outperformed by their baby team Super Aguri, racing more less the 2006 Honda car. That was the clear indication of how bad the 2007 Honda car, the RA107 was.


In the first seven races they only finished in top 10 twice – Barrichello in Monaco and Canada (10th). Then French and British GPs came, and it looked for a while that Honda may be on the way up. Button scored their first point at Magny-Cours, Barrichello finished 9th at Silverstone. But this was to be only short lived spark. None of the drivers took advantage of the wet conditions at Nurburgring, the chance for the undeperforming teams to score some points. Then came the Hungary. This is where in 2006 Button scored his first race win, and the first win for the Honda team. 2007 was a different story – DNF for Button and 18th for Barrichello, the last of those that finshed the race… What a difference a year makes … It was similar in Turkey, Button 13th, Barrichello 17. By this time Honda were trailing their B-team in the constructors standings…

The low downforce set up of Monza helepd to eliminate some the aero deficiencies of the RA107. Button finished 8th, bringing his and the team’s point tally to 2 points after 14 races…

The wet Japanese GP was an example how bad the car was. Button lost a front wing and managed to run for several laps without it… Good sign of how useless their aero was this season…

In China they finally found some luck, at least Button did. Fifth place, 4 points and Honda finally climbed ahead of Super Aguri in constuctor’s standings. The Brazilian finale however summed up Honda’s season. Two engine failure and first double DNF for the team. The only positive was that it was the last race of the their 2007 dog of a car, RA107… Rubens Barrichello for the first time in his long F1 career failed to score a single point…

However unlike Toyota, I do not think that all is lost for Honda. I make myself believe that this was just a freak season for them. They messed up the car, the experiment with motorbike guy designing and F1 challenger did not work out. But they are capable of bouncing back. I do not think they will build two bad cars in a row and the appointment of Ross Brawn is a major step forward. Brawn’s first step – assuring that both drivers are staying for next season and shutting down the Barrichello rumours -was an important one. The team can fully focus on the 2008 preparations without the driver market disruptions. They may not be title challengers next year but I expect them to return at least to where they were in 2006.

Super Aguri
Sato Davidson
This was a season of 2 halves for Super Aguri. While their SA03 aka 2006 race winning RA106 remained competitive, they were solid midfield team. Once Super Aguri ran into some cash problem after their sponsor stopped paying, the development slowed down or stopped altogether, the other teams caught up with them and just getting out of the Q3 was a success.

Their season begun with a bang – Sato 10th and Davidson 11th in Australian qualifying. This was also the only time, one of their cars made it to the Q3. It took only 4 races and Super Aguri could celebrate their first point in their short F1 history. Takuma Sato took advantage of 8 cars retiring form the Spanish GP and finished 8.

The race of the season for Super Aguri team and perhaps the race moment of the whole 2007 F1 season came in Montreal. Taking advantage of the the right tyres Takuma Sato overtook Fernando Alonso on track and claimed 6 place and 3 points for the team. Anthony Davidson even had a shot at the podium in this race, but a member of Canadian wildlife had other ideas, run into Davidson’s way. The minor accident required pit stop and Davidson’s chance was gone.

The final bright moment came in Turkey the astonishing performance of Anthony Davidson in Turkey, getting the Super Aguri car again all the way up to 11th on the grid. Towards the end of the season however Aguris could only compete with improving Spykers. They did not add any more points and after Button’s performance in China they felt behind their big brother in the constructors standings.

There is lots of uncertainty for their future. They managed to fix some of their money problems with new sponsors that came on board from Japanese Grand Prix. However there are still many rumours about sale of the team, at least partial, and this is something that may affect the drivers selection for 2008. Takuma Sato looks to be safe as long as the team has Honda connection. But Davidson’s days may be numbered. He did not really rock the earth this season, and if money is needed for Super Aguri, he will be on the way out. Either some new investors may push their drivers or a paid driver with enough cash may get the second seat.

The other uncertainty is their car. What will they be allowed to run next year ? The 2008 customer Honda car ? Or the “excellent” 2007 Honda’s challenger ? Or will they have to go with their current SA03 ? Or will even their 2007 car be deemed illegal if the customer car issue is not solved ?

Spyker
Albers Sutil Yamamoto
Nobody expected too much of Spyker in their first full year in Formula 1. Their budget was probably even tighter than Super Aguri. And even with Spyker being a car maker that did not mean much in the support for the team. In fact, the Spyker F1 was paying Spyker Cars bills …

The team has started the season with Christijan Albers and rookie Adrian Sutil. Their main focus was to beat each other as every other car on the grid was too good for Spyker early on in the season. Sutil was quicker on most ocassions and his star performance came in Monaco, where he was fastest in the Saturday morning wet practice. The performances of more experience Christijan Albers however were not the best (to say it mildly). He was comprehensively outperformed by his rookie team mate, his refueling hose stunt in France was the cherry on the pie. It was no suprise, that after the money from his sponsor stopped coming the team dropped him.

He was replaced by Marcus Winkelhock for 1 race – the European GP. The team pulled a magnificent PR stunt there. By putting Winkelhock on the wet tyres they avoided all the opening lap mayhem, and out of nowhere Winkelhock was leading hos first (and only) F1 race, in the slowest car on the grid by half a minute :-) The lead did not last too long. The race was red flagged and after the restart he quickly dropped down the grid and retired fro the race later on.

From the next race and for the remainder of the season the second race seat in Spyker went to Sakon Yamamoto, the former Super Aguri driver. He was struggling in qualifying and did not really excite during his half season in F1. Money had paid for his drive with Spyker but his performances did not do him much good. It is very unlikely he would be returning in 2008.

Adrian Sutil on the other hand seems to have a bright future ahead. He repeated his wet weather magic from Monaco again in Japan, gaining several place right after the race start. He finished 9th and after disqualification of Liuzzi he was promoted to 8th – scoring first and only point for Spyker. Sutil’s performances caught some eyes and he has been regularly connected with the vacant seat at McLaren. It looks more likely however that he will stay in Spyker, now Force India where he is under contract for the near future.

Although Spyker only scored 1 point in 2007 season, their future looks promising. The sale of the team to Vijay Mallya (and Michiel Mol) injected some serious much needed funds into the team. It also raised it’s profile in the big Indian market. Their performance improvement since the introduction of their B-car shows, that they have capable people in Mike Gascoyne and his team. They have a big group of drivers to select from – almost every driver that is without a seat has been looking in Force India direction. Ralf Schumacher, Giancarlo Fisichella, Vitantonio Liuzzi, the test drivers Christian Klien, Roldan Rodriguez, even Jarno Trulli has been mentioned … It looks good for Force India, it should not take long for them to become serious midfield players…

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2014 Teams and Drivers

Red Bull
Sebastian VETTEL
Daniel RICCIARDO
Ferrari
Fernando ALONSO
Kimi RAIKKONEN
McLaren
Jenson BUTTON
Kevin MAGNUSSEN
Lotus
Romain GROSJEAN
Pastor MALDONADO
Mercedes
Nico ROSBERG
Lewis HAMILTON
Sauber
Adrian SUTIL
Esteban GUTIEREZ
Force India
Nico HULKENBERG
Sergio PEREZ
Williams
Felipe MASSA
Valtteri BOTTAS
Toro Rosso
Daniil KVYAT
Jean Eric VERGNE
Caterham
Marcus ERICSSON
Kamui KOBAYASHI
Marussia
Jules BIANCHI
Max CHILTON

2014 F1 Calendar

14-16 March - Australia
28-30 March - Malaysia
4-6 April - Bahrain
18-20 April - China
9-11 May - Spain
22-25 May - Monaco
6-8 June - Canada
20-22 June - Austria
4-6 July - Great Britain
18-20 July - Germany
25-27 July - Hungary
22-24 August - Belgium
5-7 September - Italy
19-21 September - Singapore
3-5 October - Japan
10-12 October - Russia
31 October-2 November - USA
7-9 November - Brazil
21-23 November - Abu Dhabi

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