Power Ranking the Formula 1 Teams After 2014 Chinese Grand Prix

Neil JamesFeatured ColumnistApril 21, 2014

Power Ranking the Formula 1 Teams After 2014 Chinese Grand Prix

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    Andrew Hone/Getty Images

    The 2014 Formula One Chinese Grand Prix brought with it few surprises.

    Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton won the race from pole, with team-mate Nico Rosberg finishing second and setting the fastest lap.

    The duo have claimed every pole, every win and every fastest lap so far in 2014.

    Further down the field, the tight battle to be best of the rest carried on. Fernando Alonso was third, just ahead of Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo.

    Behind them, Sebastian Vettel came home around seven seconds ahead of the fight between Nico Hulkenberg and Valtteri Bottas.

    The one shock we did see had little to do with the on-track action.

    Though we saw racing for the scheduled 56 laps, the history books will say otherwise. This was because of a rather silly error on the part of a track official, which saw the chequered flag waved at the end of Lap 55.

    Under F1 rules, an early chequered flagfor any reasonmeans the race order at the end of the previous lap is counted as the result. The previous lap was number 54, so the official race was two laps shorter than it should have been.

    The points finishers were not affected, but if it happens again it could affect the title race. Perhaps a line should be added to the rules to allow some flexibility when someone makes an obvious mistake?

    But enough about poor flag-waving.

    Looking at reliability, race and single-lap pace, here's how the teams currently rank.

11. Caterham

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    Clive Mason/Getty Images

    Post-Bahrain: 11th.

    A Caterham was involved in one of the weekend's most amusing events, when Kamui Kobayashi un-lapped himself from Sebastian Vettel into Turn 5.

    It prompted an angry gesture and radio message from the Red Bull driver, who probably wasn't expecting to see a Caterham come steaming down the inside.

    Unfortunately, that was about as close either of the team's cars got to showing genuine pace. Kobayashi was 18th (17th if we include his pass on Jules Bianchi which was wiped out due to the chequered-flag error), while Marcus Ericsson was 20th and last.

    They look extremely close to the Marussias, but during live practice coverage on Sky Sports F1, expert Martin Brundle was watching the cars through Turns 6 and 7, and he said the Caterhams appear to have a touch less downforce than their Russian rivals.

    Downforce is rather important in F1, so the guys in green occupy last place.

10. Marussia

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    Lars Baron/Getty Images

    Previous rank: 10th.

    Marussia continued their seemingly never-ending battle with Caterham.

    Jules Bianchi qualified ahead of Max Chilton for the third time this year, and it was the Frenchman who led the team's charge in the race.

    He alone of the back four opted for a two-stop strategy, and his reward was 17th place.

    Chilton needed a late third stop but still beat the Caterham of Marcus Ericsson to 19th. The Englishman's record of consecutive finishes now stands at an impressive 23.

    It's close, but Marussia hang on to 10th.

9. Sauber

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    Clive Mason/Getty Images

    Previous rank: Ninth.

    Nico Hulkenberg, Sauber's lead driver in 2013, must be thanking whichever deity he believes in for providing him with an exit route from this disaster.

    Adrian Sutil's race was over before it even began. An engine problem developed on the formation lap and he retired on Lap 5. It means Sauber have done fewer racing laps than any team so far in 2014.

    Esteban Gutierrez did finish, and he even managed to survive being overtaken by Pastor Maldonado.

    But he struggled with tyre wear, stopped three times and was closer to the Marussias and Caterhams than he was to the points.

    Only once in their history have Sauber started a year this badly. They desperately need to improve.

8. Lotus

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    Eugene Hoshiko

    Previous rank: Eighth.

    It was another weekend of improvement for Lotus, and the team will be sorely disappointed to leave China empty-handed.

    Romain Grosjean drove superbly in the wet qualifying session to line up in 10th. He ran as high as eighth early on and looked set for a top 10 finish, but his gearbox failed midway through the race.

    The Frenchman's retirement ended any hopes of the team scoring their first point of the year, because Pastor Maldonado was having a less promising weekend.

    He followed up a careless off in first practice by crashing in the second session. He was back for P3 on Saturday, but a problem with his power unit meant he missed qualifying.

    Starting from last left him playing catch-up all afternoon on Sunday, but to his credit he crossed the finish line only 10 seconds shy of Kevin Magnussen's McLaren.

    Points will be the aim for the next race in Spain.

7. Toro Rosso

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    Mark Thompson/Getty Images

    Previous rank: Seventh.

    Toro Rosso are in their usual position of scrapping for the minor points.

    Jean-Eric Vergne qualified ninth, with team-mate Daniil Kvyat in 13th.

    But it was the young Russian who led the way after the first lap. He stayed ahead all the way to the chequered flag to score points for the third time in four races. Vergne was 12th.

    The Italian team can take heart from the fact they were involved in a race-long fight with the two McLarens, matching the Mercedes-powered cars lap-for-lap.

    In Kvyat, they might have unearthed another star of the future.

6. McLaren

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    Lars Baron/Getty Images

    Previous rank: Fourth.

    Would the front-running, race-winning McLaren of years gone by still be without a title sponsor?

    Probably not.

    The British team's year started in promising fashion with a double podium in Australia, but everything has gone downhill since then.

    Jenson Buttonconsidered an excellent wet-weather drivercould only manage 12th on the grid. Team-mate Kevin Magnussen lined up 15th.

    The dry race saw little improvement. The McLarens spent the afternoon battling the Toro Rossos, and both finished outside the points.

    Racing Director Eric Boullier summed up their issues in a statement on the team's website, saying, "Our car isn't competitive enough, we know that, its deficiencies mostly the consequence of insufficient downforce."

    That will hurt them even more at the next race, which is at Spain's Circuit de Catalunya.

    McLaren drop to sixth.

5. Williams

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    Eugene Hoshiko

    Previous rank: Fifth.

    Wet-weather qualifying harmed the prospects of the Williams duo in two of the three races before China, but they finally got it right here to line up sixth and seventh.

    Their good fortune continued into Sunday. Both men survived heavy contacts at the first corner which could easily have ended their races.

    Massa made a blinding start but was caught in an ever-closing wedge between Fernando Alonso and Daniel Ricciardo. His car briefly went up on two wheels before slamming back down, and he made it through the corner intact.

    Valtteri Bottas, meanwhile, was trying to go around the outside when he was clipped by Nico Rosberg. He also had a short airborne moment but recovered to run 10th at the end of the opening lap.

    A pit-stop problem for Massa dropped him to the rear of the field and out of contention, but Bottas spent the whole race in the company of Nico Hulkenberg. He came home in seventh.

4. Ferrari

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    Clive Mason/Getty Images

    Previous rank: Sixth.

    The exit of Stefano Domenicali wasn't expected to have any great impact on Ferrari's pace.

    Speaking to Sky Sports before the weekend, Fernando Alonso said, "In this race, we will not improve by one second, because Stefano wasn't doing the front wing or the rear wing, so we need to wait and see what we can improve."

    It's true they didn't improve by a second, but the F14T did have a few new parts and found the Shanghai circuit a little more to its liking. Alonso at least was closer to the leading Mercedes cars than he was in Bahrain.

    But Kimi Raikkonen was not. The Finn, considered one of the best drivers on the grid, still hasn't fully got to grips with his new car. He came home a disappointing eighth.

    So it was an improvement, but more time is needed before we can see exactly where they stand.

    It could well be that, as has been the case so often in the last couple of years, Alonso's podium was in spite of the car, not because of it.

3. Force India

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    Clive Mason/Getty Images

    Previous rank: Third.

    Force India will have been hoping for another podium after Sergio Perez's third place in Bahrain, but they never really looked like achieving it in Shanghai.

    Poor qualifying slots meant the team were on the back foot going into the race. Nico Hulkenberg was eighth, with Perez down in 16th.

    The race went a little better. Both drivers improved on their starting positions, and their pace was on a par with Sebastian Vettel's Red Bull, Kimi Raikkonen's Ferrari and Valtteri Bottas' Williams.

    Sixth and ninth was a fair result, but they'll hope for better in the next race.

    Force India remain in third by a whisker.

2. Red Bull

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    Andrew Hone/Getty Images

    Previous rank: Second.

    The wet qualifying session showed just how good the Red Bull is aerodynamically. Despite being significantly down in straight-line speed, they managed second and third in the wet conditions.

    But about that straight-line speed. The way Rosberg shot past Sebastian Vettel during the race shows how much ground they have to make up.

    The four-time world champion had got into second at the start but had a very disappointing race. He never really got going, struggled with tyre wear and ended up fifth, almost 50 seconds down on the leader.

    Ricciardo had a better race. He overtook his illustrious team-mate and was consistently quicker. Though he couldn't quite catch Alonso for the final podium position, it was another impressive display.

    They have work to do to catch Mercedes, and maybe they never will.

    But for now, Red Bull remain in second.

1. Mercedes

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    Mark Thompson/Getty Images

    Previous rank: First.

    Mercedes won their fourth straight race in Shanghai.

    Lewis Hamilton dominated from pole and took the chequered flag 18 seconds clear of team-mate Nico Rosberg, who had been hampered by a lack of telemetry.

    The next-nearest car, Fernando Alonso's Ferrari, was nearly 24 seconds behind Hamilton. Had the Englishman pushed his car anywhere near the limit, the gap would have been even larger.

    Rosberg now heads Hamilton by just four points in the drivers' championship, but on the team side of things Mercedes already have a lead of 97 points over second-placed Red Bull.

    Four races, four wins, four poles and four fastest laps.

    No one else is even close.

     

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