A lot has been said about Team Lotus, Marussia Virgin Racing and Hispania as to whether they should be in Formula One.
But this season Team Lotus have certainly stepped up their game and HRT are giving Virgin Racing a run for their money and on occasions even beating Virgin.
Team Lotus, Virgin and HRT have all been eliminated in Q1 in the majority of qualifying sessions this year.
However 2011 has proven Team Lotus are getting close to the midfield race by race and are on the cusp of making it into Q2 on a regular basis.
You do expect to see Virgin and Hispania at the rear end of the grid but I have to say I have been impressed with Hispania’s reliability this season.
HRT in the majority of races have been able to get both cars home despite Vitantonio Liuzzi and Narain Karthikeyan being lapped virtually every race.
Liuzzi and Karthikeyan finished the race in Canada 13th and 14th and this could be crucial come the end of the season in terms of where they end up in the final Constructors standings.
Tony Fernandes and Mike Gascoyne will no doubt be delighted with how Team Lotus have progressed since the start of the 2010 season.
The team have come a very long way and I would not be surprised if Lotus scored some points come the end of 2011.
And in Heikki Kovalainen and Jarno Trulli, Lotus have two experienced heads who know all about Formula One inside out.
Kovalainen has made a decent start to 2011 and finished ahead of Sergio Perez’s Sauber and Pastor Maldonado’s Williams in the Chinese Grand Prix this year. The Finn also out-qualified both Force India’s in Spain so there should be cause for optimism down at Team Lotus.
It has been a difficult start to 2011 for Jarno Trulli and the Italian has been beaten by his team-mate in qualifying comprehensively. But Trulli was able to get the better of Kovalainen in Canada so the former Toyota driver will be hoping this result can kick-start his season.
Lotus’s last update of 2010 was at Silverstone but they still found themselves 1-1.5 seconds off the pace of Toro Rosso and Sauber.
However in 2011, Lotus on most occasions in qualifying have been under a second off the 17th quickest time in Q1. So Team Lotus are getting close to the midfield and it will be interesting to see where they end up come the end of the season.
Marussia Virgin Racing
Along with Williams, it has been a disappointing start to 2011 for Virgin Racing. Virgin along with Team Lotus will have been hoping to get close to the midfield.
Nick Wirth has already been dismissed from his role as Technical Director and from what we have seen this season, it promises to be another long hard slog for the remainder of the year.
Marussia have jumped on board meaning Virgin Racing are financially stable. But its results on the track that count and both Timo Glock and Jerome d’Ambrosio have struggled to get the best out of the MVR-02.
Building their first Formula One car with a fuel tank not big enough to complete a race distance was embarrassing enough.
And if the team fail to improve the car significantly from now till the end of the season, I can see Timo moving on.
Jerome d’Ambrosio has done well so far in his debut season and has recorded the team’s highest finish of 14th in the season opener Down Under in Australia.
But unless Virgin make vast improvements to the car, I can see the 2011 season being another repeat of 2010 where Virgin finished bottom of the Constructors standings.
Well it was not the best of starts to the season for Hispania. Both of their drivers Narain Karthikeyan and Vitantonio Liuzzi failed to post a lap within 107% of the fastest time set in the first session of qualifying at the Australian Grand Prix.
But since then, HRT have not been humiliated and on occasions they have been out-qualifying and finishing the races in front of Virgin. Finishing 13th and 14th in Canada could be difference in keeping Hispania above Virgin in the Constructors.
The 107% rule will be a concern for Hispania throughout 2011 but both Narain and Tonio have been within 107% of the quickest time set in Q1 apart from the season opener in Australia.
Hispania’s target now will be to catch Team Lotus. Whether this will happen I’m not sure but Colin Kolles should be pleased with the progress Hispania have made this season.
The main attention is at the front end of the grid meaning we do not get to see the likes of Hispania and Virgin that often on our screens. But make no mistake the battle at the rear of the grid is just as intensifying as the front.
Out of the six races Hispania have competed in this season, Liuzzi has finished four of them and Karthikeyan has finished five races. So reliability has not been a major issue for Hispania this year which is a positive.
I fully expect Team Lotus to be in amongst the midfield come the end of the season. And on current form, I expect Hispania to beat Virgin. Only time will tell whether my predictions are correct. Half the time they are wrong.
Visit www.youtube.com/user/TheManishism to listen to the podcasts I have produced for Formula1 FanCast this year.