In part 2 of my review of the opening races of the 2010 season, i'll look at how the midfield battle is shaping up.
Renault - After a winter of changes for the team, many thought that Reanult may find it a struggle to be competitive but strong development as well as good strategy as seen the team already claim 46 points. Robert Kubica's podium finish in Melbourne was a great fillip for the team and this has been backed up with more points in the last 2 races. Vitaly Petrov has struggled for 1 lap pace in qualifying but has shown his qualities on Sundays with strong starts and agressive overtaking. The Russian failed to finish the first 3 races owing to mechancial issues and a spin in Australia but his impressive 7th place finish in Shanghai shows he more than a pay driver for the Enstone team. Renault have brought a trickle of upgrades to each race so won't have such a big upgrade for Barcelona as other teams so i expect them to be battling with the likes of Force India rather than troubling Mercedes but the atmosphere in the team seems very positive and very determined to continue the season strongly.
Force India - The team at Silverstone have continued the progress of 2009 and are now capable of consistent points finishes. Its been a mixed bag for the drivers. Adrain Sutil has been in every Q3 session but a collision and engine problem meant no points until Malaysia where he showed improved concentration and maturity to hold off a charging Lewis Hamilton. Vitantonio Liuzzi though has struggled to match Sutil's pace, particularly in qualifying where he has blamed traffic for his woes. Points came in the opening 2 races but he will want to start getting closer to his German team mate. With Paul Di Resta getting outings in the car on Friday's (though not in Monaco due to more time required for setup purposes) Liuzzi knows that underperforming will leave his seat under scrutiny.
Williams - It's been a quiet start for Williams. Rubens Barichello has extracted decent performance from the FW32 whilst highly acclaimed rookie Nico Hulkenberg has struggled to show his potential with a spin in Bahrain and being taken out on lap 1 at Melbourne before getting a point in Sepang. A gamble on slicks failed in Shanghai resulting in the German finishing behind Heikki Kovalainen in the Lotus. Williams have major upgrades coming for Monaco so the full potential of these is unlikely to be seen until Istanbul.
Torro Rosso - Red Bull's 'B' team is now a constructor in its own right from this season, meaning a tough challenge for Sebastien Buemi and Jaime Alguersuari. It's been a wretched start for Buemi who has suffered 2 first lap retirements as well as having a damaged car in Sepang. He also suffered a terrifying accident in practice at Shanghai when both front wheels came off at the end of the back straight. Alguersuari has shown in his first full season glimpses of the underlying ability which i personally feel he has. He was chucked into F1 with little knowledge of the car but his performance in Sepang in getting ninth, including a brilliant pass on Nico Hulkenberg showed promise. The chance of more points in China was missed after damaging his front wing. Torro Rosso have a new engine cover and new brake ducts for Spain and are bullish in their hopes of challenging for Q3.
Sauber - It's been a miserable start for the Swiss squad with testing pace not being replicated in races and poor reliabilty meaning the team is yet to score this season. Pedro De La Rosa came closest in Melbourne before losing out to Michael Schumacher in the closing laps. A good call on tyres in China left him fifth before more mechancial woes. Kamui Kobayashi has had a terrible time of it, being unable to show the promise shown with Toyota due to 4 DNF's. Sauber have a large package coming for De La Rosa's home race and new technical director James Key will be hoping for increased performance and that both cars will at least see the chequered flag