Will Gray

Gray Matter: Mid-season review – top teams

Will Gray

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After a season of dominance from Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull in 2012 this season couldn't be more different — just over halfway through there are four teams at the front with some interesting battles ahead.

The fast-moving formula this year, with tyres that seem to alternate who they suit from track to track and developments moving so fast the top teams are leap-frogging each other each time they bring out a raft of new parts, has made things unpredictable.

While wins and podium finishes are vital, this chopping and changing has made those lower points positions just as important in adding up the championship scores. And while the unpredictability means trends are hard to spot - but there are a few signs of how things will pan out in the second half of the year.

Ferrari have turned around a car from one that struggled to make the top-10 qualifying shoot-out, even in Alonso's hands, into what is now the best in the field...for now, at least.

In the last six races, Fernando Alonso has not finished lower than fourth. In fact, since the season began, he has finished in the points in every race and only twice posted a single-figure score. That consistency is key.

There is no sign that it will falter — he has scored points in the last 23 races - and in the same way that Vettel last year and Jenson Button in 2009 built their title successes on consistent scoring, that puts him in prime position as the main title contender.

It is, however, quite shameful that team-mate Felipe Massa sits down in 14th place behind both Ferrari-powered Sauber drivers, including one man hotly tipped to replace him, Sergio Perez.

Ferrari must seriously be considering their position on this — they top the drivers' table but are fourth in the constructors'. If Alonso had only a slightly stronger wingman, they should be on top of both — and while Massa claims he's seen the light, only his British GP race showed anything like the form he should have to claim right to that seat.

If Ferrari wants a double crown this year, they have to do something about it.

Red Bull are now starting to break away with an advantage of around 50 points - but that certainly does not mean they have the best car on the grid. Their position is more about their rivals failing to pull together as a team.

Red Bull's points have been evenly split, with 124 for Mark Webber and 122 for Sebastian Vettel. In contrast, Fernando Alonso has scored a massive 164 of Ferrari's 189-point haul while McLaren and Lotus are also both suffering, albeit to a lesser extent, with one under-performing driver: Lewis Hamilton has taken 117 to Button's 76 and Raikkonen 116 to Grosjean's 76.

Lotus' problem is a failure to convert podiums to victories. They have amassed as many top-three finishes as McLaren and more than Ferrari or Red Bull. But they are getting ever closer.

They have committed to continued development and, with a new double DRS system set to fly once the break is concluded, they are the team to watch out for. Raikkonen is hungry again, and they will get there. Victory for him in at least one of the remaining races looks a safe bet. A second place in the constructors' championship? Certainly possible, and even first is still not out of sight if they can finally make that step to the front on a few occasions.

Of all the teams, the most disappointing is Mercedes.

For the first time since their arrival, they looked like posing a strong threat at the front. They have, at least, finally taken a win and a pole — and Schumacher has finally made it onto the podium in his comeback too — but their early season highs have faded.

Nico Rosberg is the team's leading scorer but his total is only as good as the worst driver from McLaren and Lotus while Michael Schumacher's position is almost as dismal as Massa's, with 12th place in the table.

In the last three races, Schumacher has had two seventh places and Rosberg two tenths. Even boss Ross Brawn has admitted it is simply not good enough. Overall, they have posted nine pointless finishes compared to six from Lotus, Ferrari and McLaren and just three from Red Bull.

The innovative double DRS system clearly gave them a boost early on — in a similar, if less effective, way that the double diffuser helped Brawn up the field in 2009. But since then, their development pace has not matched their front-running rivals. And that's what this season is all about.

Now, with a good haul of points in the bag and a development programme that Ferrari has declared 'back on track' — with a few "interesting developments" coming for Spa — it's looking good for Alonso.

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