The Olympic Games are in full swing and have placed the rest of the sporting world firmly into the shadows with London the centre of the sporting world for a fortnight.
Formula 1 has taken its summer breaks at the same times as the Games and factories have entered the shut-down period with the paddock enjoying a welcome break from the grind of racing and allowing everyone to take stock of their season so far as they gear up for the rest of the campaign.
With no racing until the first Sunday of September the teams can take the time to analyze their performances and determine what needs to be adjusted for them to take the next step and improve in the final nine races of the season.
As ever there are teams failing to live up to expectations while others have surpassed their hopes thus far. Ferrari have astounded the paddock after starting the season with a car over one second off the pace. McLaren started the year as the pacesetter but lost their way in the early races and it is only now that they have been able to once again provide their drivers with a package capable of racing at the front.
Red Bull have been where they were expected to be. At times the reigning champions have shown mesmerising pace while at others they have also been outclassed by their rivals. The ban of exhaust blowing diffusers was always likely to hurt Red Bull to a much greater extent than other teams but they have recovered well by pushing as close to the limits of the regulations as possible.
This can be seen by the recent scandals involving the team where they developed parts that were within the wording of the regulations but apparently outside the “spirit” of the regulations. With Adrian Newey penning the car the team will always sail as close to the wind as possible but their inability to take advantage of their raw speed at some races has come back to haunt them in the championship table.
On the positive side however Mark Webber has been much improved this year and has been a consistent threat to his teammate, Sebastian Vettel. Webber has bounced back magnificently from a very difficult year in 2011 when he was unable to come to terms with the Pirelli tyres and the exhaust blowing diffusers.
This aerodynamic device gave cars a tremendous boost in downforce and to use it properly drivers had to drive the car very differently to a “traditional” race car. Webber was unable to whereas Vettel was able to place immense faith in the car. Now they are as closely matched as in 2010 and Webber is a legitimate championship contender.
Kimi Raikkonen’s return to Formula 1 came with much fanfare but the former world champion has enjoyed a very competitive opening half to the year. He has stood on the rostrum five times and shown a sharp tactical approach to races and made very few mistakes.
He is yet to show the devastating speed that marked his first F1 career but with Romain Grosjean also proving very competitive it seems likely that Lotus will claim their first win of the season very soon, possibly as early as the next race in Belgium.
Fernando Alonso however has been a class above everyone else all through the season. The Ferrari has not been the fastest car but Alonso has been exceptionally consistent and has not left any points on the track so far. He has maximised every race and claimed three race wins as Ferrari have developed their car into a front runner.
Having started the season one second off the pace the Prancing Horse is now galloping and armed with a 40 point championship lead this is now Alonso’s title to lose but with nine races remaining the unpredictability of 2012 could lead to some surprises!