With eight of sixteen races gone, it’s time to look at the fortunes of all the teams in our half-term report…
Oh dear. Something is very wrong at Lotus; since the opening races Nelson Piquet has never looked much like visiting the podium, never mind winning races and rumours are flying that the team will lose Honda, Camel and possibly Piquet if things don’t pick up soon. Honda certainly will note how much better use Ron Dennis’s boys are making of their identical and equally-supported engines.
Where Tyrrell’s 1987 car had been the class of the non-turbo field, the 1988 version was not of the same quality. Inexperienced Julian Bailey has particularly struggled, with only a 50% qualification rate so far, while Palmer has put in some good drives and been rewarded with three points finishes, so all is not lost.
Oh dear, again. Williams made a calculated risk on moving to Judd power for 1988, banking on their “reactive” suspension system to give them an advantage and both systems have been a millstone instead. The resulting pig of a car has already lost them the services of Mansell for 1989 and they will be hoping that by ditching the suspension they will at least chip away at some of the problem.
The little West German team are one of the few to make their own turbo engines, and on paper it has the same grunt as the Megatron engines in the Arrows cars, and only about 10hp or so less than the mighty Honda – so why, on a power circuit like Silverstone, did both cars fail to qualify? The team have some questions to answer, not least what they will do for 1989 with the turbo ban…
“Team Perfect” have combined devastating speed with bulletproof reliability to win every race so far, without a single breakdown (three retirements: one disqualification, Senna’s prang in Monaco and Prost’s quitting in Britain). Their aerodynamic mods for Silverstone didn’t work well, and they still won. The team pretty much have the constructors’ championship sewn up already and the only real question is whether Prost will take his third title or Senna his first.
In only their second full F1 season, the tiny French garage team have been establishing themselves as a midfield fixture and among the best of the non-turbo cars. Streiff usually qualifies in the top half of the grid and has been dicing with but reliability has been their Achilles’ heel so far. Poor Philippe has retired 6 times in 8 races, and often he has been running in the points.
Adrian Newey’s slippery aerodynamics have helped the March team get the most out of the rather asthmatic Judd engine and the team have looked in better shape than Williams with the same engines so far. Capelli looks particularly like a good driver, and Gugelmin is no slouch either – having taken fourth place in only his 8th F1 race. Reliability has again been the problem, with Gugelmin in particular retiring five times in the first six races. If they can nail that down, they can do well.
The team were again struggling with their engines, whose pop-off valves continued to pop off too early, leaving them down on power – Warwick and Cheever seem to spend most races having an enormously fun duel with each other, and have scored several times, but not quite had the breaks they were hoping for. If Heini Mader can fix that errant valve, they will hope to do better.
Effectively the works Ford team, Benetton have exclusive use of the company’s new DFR V8 engine, and while Nannini has been unfortunate in his retirements, the team are making good use of it. Three podiums so far and three other points places point to good things, with the team seemingly ready to pounce on any hiccup by the McLarens and Ferraris.
The little Osella team continue to plug away to little effect, and while their FA1L car looked good pre-season, the best it has done so far has been 9th in Monaco. At its root, it’s a 1983 engine in a 1982 car, and only when the team can get their hands on brand new equipment will results pick up. They are at least qualifying most of the time.
The neat Gustav Brunner-penned chassis has done well, with the experienced de Cesaris qualifying for every race and often running well. Retirements have been too frequent but fourth place in Detroit was justified rather than a fluke and there is clearly potential in the team.
Having ditched the sluggish Motori Moderni engine, Minardi were looking forward to 1988 but performances haven’t been a huge improvement so far. Adrian Campos DNQed three times in a row, which was enough for the team to bring back Pierluigi Martini, who has made an immediate impression by taking the team’s first point.
Oh dear – for a third time! Ligier cars have seen the chequered flag three times this year, with Johansson’s 9th in Brazil the best result. Not only that, but twice the team have failed entirely to qualify – the first time ever. This was a particular low at the team’s home base in France on the eve of Arnoux’s 40th birthday. They have a lot of work to do to pull the iron out of the fire.
The red cars have usually looked the most likely to break the McLaren domination, though Berger was quick to point out his Silverstone pole was only possible because the Ferrari was faster in a straight line, but couldn’t accelerate as well. They’re the most likely to pick up the pieces if the McLarens fail, but don’t look much like giving them a straight race.
Larrousse Calmels Lola-Ford
The Larrousse Calmels team have had a frustrating first half of the season, but oddly in a good way; Dalmas and Alliot have been looking strong, qualifying well and racing well, but just haven’t been getting the breaks. The team deserve a point or two – whether they’ll get them is another matter entirely.
Tarquini has qualified for five of the eight races so far, but failed to even pre-qualify in France and Britain, which suggests the car will continue to struggle on the power circuits to come. Still, an 8th place in Canada gives some hope.
The team have started well enough, with hotly-tipped Modena and sportscar veteran Larrauri qualifying for every race bar two (both Larrauri). While neither has made much of an impact – Modena’s brace of 12th places are the best so far – they aren’t embarrassing themselves and are keeping the likes of Johansson off the grid.
BMS Scuderia Italia Dallara-Ford
Alex Caffi didn’t have the best of starts to the season, and it was Canada before he saw the chequered flag, but he has shown himself to be a sensible, fast driver and the car clearly has some potential, coming close to the points in Detroit and running in midfield in France and Britain.