First two races, more than 10% of the season are behind us. Ron Dennis may claim that only Spanish GP will show the true form of the teams but why wait. Let’s look at who has been good and who has not so far.
BMW Sauber – They had worrying start to their winter tests with their new car but how they turned things around. Fernando Alonso considered them to be the dark horses of the 2008 season and it looks like he has been right. The team may not be yet ready to mount the title challenge. But they are surprisingly close to the pace of McLarens. It may not be impossible to score a race win on merit later on this season. And with the current reliability and Massa woes Ferrari are experiencing, the maiden win may not be too far.
Toyota – Surprise surprise. But looking back to team’s performance in the last winter test it perhaps should not be that unexpected. Jarno Trulli claims they are now 4th best team (same claim Rosberg has about Williams). I would not probably say that. But Toyota firmly claimed their place in stronger end of the midfield, along with Williams and Red Bull.
Honda – I did expect Honda to move up from the dead bottom of the pack some time in a course of the season, but not this early. They were unlucky (or Rubens stupid) to miss out on points in Melbourne. They are pretty much at the same level as Renault at this moment and not that far behind the Red Bull / Toyota / Williams trio. Unlike Renault however Honda seem to be heading in the right direction.
Super Aguri – They are still here and not as far behind as I expected them to be.
Heikki Kovalainen – Matching Lewis Hamilton in qualifying and race pace. Very unlucky to miss out on 2nd place in Australia, solid 3rd in Malaysia after starting low on the grid.
Fernando Alonso – No matter whether we like him or not, he is squeezing every single bit of performance out of the lousy Renault car. He may not be among the title contenders this year but watch him out.
Traction control ban – Needs no explanation …
Felipe Massa – His driving errors and difficulties to adapt to the new car without the electronic aids already sparked rumours and debates about his future in Ferrari. The team rubbished the Massa exit rumours but Massa has to pick up his game. There are more radical changes in car design and performance coming in 2009 and Ferrari may think twice whether to keep a driver who can’t adapt to change. Fourteen points gap between him and Hamilton is nothing, Kimi was further behind with 2 races to go last year. But to keep his title hopes alive he needs to start beating Kimi and winning otherwise he will seal his anyway inevitable fate as Ferrari number 2. His first target however is to finish the race.
Adrian Sutil – After the winter hype and rumours of talks with McLaren the 2008 reality must bite Sutil hard. The 2 DNFs may not be his fault. But his practice and qualifying form has been nowhere near Fisichella. If things continue this way, it is only matter of before the ambitious Vijay Mallya starts thinking about putting Liuzzi in the car instead. That is the last thing Sutil needs because loosing a seat in Force India would likely end his F1 career …
Renault – The Renault team is the biggest disappointment for me so far. Instead of fighting close with BMW the team is falling behind Honda and looks like Fisichella did not loose that much by moving to Force India … No wonder the future of Alonso in Renault is being questioned as early as 2 races into the season.
Bernie Ecclestone – His push for more and more night races is sick. The comfort and sleeping regime of European audiences are so important to him that he does not care about the millions and millions the already heavily subsidized GPs in Australia and Asia would have to spend extra. Yet he keeps moving or threatening to move the races out of Europe. This guy has lost the plot…
The Red Bull car – enough said