From here on it is all downhill despite the fixture list being even more daunting than the schedule to date.
The calendar listed four opening flyaway races in Australia, Malaysia, China and Bahrain plus Canada’s race in June.
The nine week period covering the end of September to the end of November features no fewer than seven non European rounds flung as far apart as Singapore, Korea and Japan, India, Abu Dhabi, Texas and Brazil. The first 10 races were no cakewalk what with the hottest race in a decade (Hungary) and arguably the most hazardous (Britain) since that tragic run in 1994.
Add in team order debacles in Malaysia and the unpredictability of China, mixed weather in Melbourne and Germany’s threatened driver strike and all 22 drivers surely earned their spurs. That said, who tops our half-term report?
(position; driver/team; championship standing/points; rating/10).
1 Sebastian Vettel/Red Bull Racing; 1/172 points; 9/10
Until this year the sport’s youngest ever triple champion was considered by many to be an extremely quick, yet incomplete driver prone to unforced errors and heightened in cockpit emotion.
Malaysia was a case in point and Vettel simply could not accept that team-mate Mark Webber could be better on the day, albeit via a superior strategy.
It caused the German to jeopardise a team one-two. Still, four wins from three pole positions point to a combination of speed and strategy, as does a 38-point gap – equal to a win and third place – at the halfway point.
Undoubtedly F1’s top dog at present.
2. Kimi Raikkonen/Lotus; 2/134 points; 8/10
The laid-back Finn won Melbourne’s opener and has scored points in every round. Kimi has finished every one of his 30 races since returning to F1 last year after two seasons in world rallying scoring points in all bar one – for which he was blameless.
There is no better testament to his speed and consistency, even before the Lotus lack of outright pace, with the team run on a comparative is factored into the equation.
That he and his black car are ahead of Ferrari and Alonso at the halfway mark explains his popularity among fans and team bosses alike. A win plus five second places say it all.
3. Fernando Alonso/Ferrari; 3/133, 8/10
A year ago Ferdi was the undisputed speed king, having kept his woeful Ferrari in the championship hunt to the bitter end with a string of dogged performances. This season the evidence suggests Ferrari’s lack of progress causes his head to droop.
He has been out qualified too often for comfort by team-mate Felipe Massa and overtaken too easily by rivals. The Ferrari is sub standard but the Alonso of a year ago led the title hunt at this point despite a similarly disappointing car.
Alsonso won in China and on home soil in Spain, but on the flipside there have been too many non-podiums and non-finishes.
4. Nico Rosberg/Mercedes; 6/84; 7/10
Rosberg gets the nod ahead of team-mate Lewis Hamilton on account of two stonking wins. His Monaco victory ranked as a classic example of driving slowly enough to win, and Britain was a masterpiece of judgment under difficult conditions.
He has generally out qualified Lewis Hamilton and certainly shaded him more regularly than vice versa.
That Nico is the only non world champion in the top five speaks volumes for his progress this season.
5. Lewis Hamilton/Mercedes; 4/124; 7/10
Moody, mercurial and unbeatable on his day. There haven’t been too many of those this year but , when his mind is right and he is in tune with his car and kit the
combination is simply untouchable – as he proved in Hungary.
Hamilton was ahead of Rosberg in the title chase only because of the German’s lack of luck, but the tide turned on Sunday and it will be fascinating to see whether Hamilton keeps the momentum going to the end.
In the constructor championship the standings after 10 races accurately reflect the current status quo: Red Bull Racing (277), Mercedes (208), Ferrari (194) and Lotus (183).
More interesting is the tussle between Force India in fifth with 59 points and McLaren on 57.
Force India buys in chassis and transmission technology from McLaren and both use Mercedes engines!