With the 2005 season complete, it is time to look at the teams, reflecting on their changing fortunes and the satisfaction they have brought their fans this year. Comparing statistics is often an interesting place to start, so each team's performance from the last two years, along with the change between them, is being used as an indication of 'momentum' - and a starting point for a relative measure of "Fan Satisfaction".
|1st, 191 points|
At the tail end of 2004, with BAR threatening to take over second place in the Championship, the decision was made to continue emphasising development on the new car, even if it meant dropping to third. The loss of prestige was considered secondary to ensuring the new car could compete right at the front - and the decision paid off in spades.
This season, Renault started very strongly, demonstrating not only that they had done their homework regarding performance, but that the car had excellent reliability to boot. As the season progressed and McLaren resolved their performance issues, it became clear this would be a two-horse race; but careful management of resources and regular point scoring through the season, combined with determined effort at the end to do enough to finish on top, brought home the double crown.
From start to finish, the team maintained a united, focused approach, showing the teams with larger budgets that throwing money is not the only way to the front.
Prospects 2006: Considering the shape they are in, there must be looking to repeat the season, but the competition will be tough. Odds on winning again: Fair.
Fan Satisfaction: Very happy
|2nd, 182 points|
Considering their miserable 2004, there is a strong case that McLaren are the biggest improvers this year, which is reflected in their fan satisfaction ranking. The team started the season with a car that was too efficient, losing pace from an inability to get the most from its tyres, a situation that once rectified allowed them to shine.
Throughout the year, hard work from the team allowed them to continue bringing developments to the car that saw a decided advantage to the outfit for much of the second half of the season, though perhaps they needed to find a fraction more for the final race. Unfortunately, reliability, whilst much improved from last year, continued to be the McLaren Achilles heel: engine changes cost places on the grid, whilst driver injuries, collisions and unfortunate tactical calls - specifically, keeping Kimi Raikkonen out until his suspension failed at the Nurburgring - brought a high price in lost points at the chequered flag.
Despite falling short in both Championships, McLaren offered the fastest cars and provided most of the racing spectacle this season; after a massive improvement on last season, they have a lot to be happy about.
Prospects 2006: Never a team to be discounted, and with momentum on their side, McLaren will be looking for both Championships next year. Odds on succeeding: High.
Fan Satisfaction: Very happy
|3rd, 100 points|
After dominating 2004 in impressive style, the 2005 season has proven to be Ferrari's own annus horribilis. From the outset their car never looked on the pace of Renault; then despite promises of more to come, it didn't improve. Early blame landed on Bridgestone for failing to provide competitive tyres, until the team acknowledged the performance gap meant that there was simply a shortfall throughout the package.
Adding insult to injury, Ferrari opted not to accept the gentleman's agreement on limited testing, even discarding long accepted restrictions for race week and the summer break in their quest to improve the cars. It seemed that no matter how hard they tried, how much time was spent in the wind tunnel or at the circuit, and despite a couple of promising advances, the gap to the front could not be closed.
Finishing third in the Championship does not sound like a dismal failure, but with the tifosi expecting nothing short of another dominant season of wins, there is little consolation available: this season was an abject failure for Ferrari.
Prospects 2006: With Williams and Toyota moving on to Bridgestone rubber to help with development and a change in the engine format to throw confusion into the works, Ferrari have to be expecting to stop the backwards slide; whilst returning to Championship form is a tough call, it has to be their off-season aim in order to hope to retain Schumacher, even if the reality is that they face a rebuilding year. Target should be a top two finish. Odds on succeeding are: Even.
Fan Satisfaction: Bitterly disappointed
|4th, 88 points|
Following the hiring of yet another respected designer in 2004, the time had come for Toyota to show that they were not just taking part in order to make up the numbers, but that the money been thrown at the project was capable of delivering results. In the end, it seems they have accomplished this, even if there are lingering doubts about their ability to win races.
Everything the team did this year was a solid improvement on the last. They created a car that could produce quick laps, even claiming two pole positions, and this season they finished on the podium. They contended for points on every outing and basically demonstrated a return for the tremendous budget.
Whilst the gap to the front remained similar throughout the year, the competition toughened when McLaren and BAR started getting their acts together, yet the continued development allowed them to pursue points throughout. Attempts to manage parallel development of a B chassis were troubled, with the delay apparently impacting work on the race car as issues on the new one were resolved, but the strength and depth of resource now available to the team shows tremendous potential for the future.
Prospects 2006: Improving the car to close the gap to the front-runners is easier than getting it in front of them, but Toyota have put huge effort into building their development capabilities and should continue to forge forwards over the next couple of years. Even though the change to Bridgestone tyres introduces brand new unknowns, they should aim for another top four finish, but with race wins in 2006, with odds on succeeding: Strong.
Fan Satisfaction: Pleasantly surprised.
|5th, 66 points|
Although Williams had a poor year in 2004, at least they finished with a flourish and a win - something they can't boast about this season. Although the relationship with BMW had often been strained, the pressure told this season. BMW decided to go their own way and bought Sauber... and will be taking Nick Heidfeld with them next year.
Results on track looked poor from the outset; despite Mark Webber's ability to qualify the car well, finishing in the points - or in fact, finishing at all - was a challenge. Although developments were forthcoming and the team closed out the year with some good steps forward, it was all too little, too late.
The second Buttongate saga did nothing to improve the image of the team, helping HP to complete their decision not to renew their sponsorship - and promoting jokes that Button will feature on the rear wing next year. With a customer engine arrangement with Cosworth in the pipes for next year, it has been a tough season for Williams fans, with limited prospect for change.
Prospects 2006: A much tighter budget, a rookie driver and no manufacturer backing leaves Williams in a tough spot, yet they have to aim relatively high in order to win serious sponsorship, let alone another manufacturer. Accordingly, they will be aiming for a top fourth finish, with odds on achieving it: Poor.
Fan Satisfaction: Dissatisfied.
|6th, 38 points|
After the heights of 2004, there was nothing short of a win demanded of BAR this year, so the team seeing increased reliability issues in their search for speed was perhaps something to be expected. Unfortunately, the scrutineers and the FIA also decided they were taking liberties with the rules in that quest, so they were disqualified from Imola and then prevented from attending Monaco and Canada, two of their better prospects.
As if that wasn't enough, the inadequate performance gave Williams a chance to exercise an option on Button, triggering a second "Buttongate" scenario that was finally resolved only by Honda buying the team and promising to pay out very serious cash.
Adding to poor reliability, the race bans and Buttongate, the car simply wasn't as quick as Renault at the start of the season, and by the time they closed that gap, McLaren were the team to beat. On the positive side, Honda is now completely and unambiguously committed to the team and will fund them strongly, so taking the fight to key rivals Toyota shouldn't be quite so constrained.
Prospects 2006: Given Honda's backing, the team must move forward next season; after flashes of promise in qualifying and the race that were never delivered, it seems that there should be more to come. The incoming Rubens Barrichello's experience ought to help but the bottom line remains - a win is overdue. Odds on succeeding next year: Slim
Fan Satisfaction: Hugely disappointed.
|7th, 34 points|
Having taken on the ailing Jaguar team, there was little expectation for the Red Bull outfit to show well this year, even if Red Bull was prepared to foot the bills. In the end, it seems that the team did their homework well enough to have a half way decent season - particularly with new signing David Coulthard confounding his critics by regularly managing to end races in the points.
Politics became less of an issue, now that the team are owned by a drinks company rather than a major motoring name that was being embarrassed on the track, and it seems the revised atmosphere resulted in a compelling improvement in performance throughout the organisation.
That said, the team were still significantly under funded, with limited resource available to continue developing, so it became noticeably harder to maintain form as the season progressed. They are not at all ready to line up against the manufacturer based outfits.
Prospects 2006: With customer Ferrari engines in the next chassis, there have to be questions over whether they will have the performance all season to improve in the grand order of things, as they can hardly be expected to outperform Ferrari. Even targeting moving up the grid is a tough call as it will mean getting ahead of at least Williams or one manufacturer backed outfit. That said, finishing sixth or better is a respectable target - the odds of achieving it are: Fair.
Fan Satisfaction: Well pleased.
|8th, 20 points|
After a fairly respectable start to the season, Sauber seemed to be resigned to spending the year getting Jacques Villeneuve on terms with the car as Felipe Massa worked on scoring some points. In fact, despite a very tight budget, the car evolved in a way that worked for both drivers, bringing the Canadian into the equation, even if it was not enough for the team to get on terms with Red Bull.
Off the circuit, the team have lined up significant changes for next season as BMW bought the outfit from Peter Sauber. As a works team, BMW engines and Sauber design expertise could offer a strong synergetic base for development in future.
What was very evident this year was that the team remained committed to making what improvements they could all year long, staying competitive in the midfield. Occasionally decent showings with some aggressive racing had them keeping the better funded teams honest and gave the fans something to cheer for, but they slipped back behind Red Bull in the standings.
Prospects 2006: Losing Massa to Ferrari may be frustrating but the team have Heidfeld incoming and may well boot Villeneuve for a talented youngster if they can find an excuse. BMW will be starting a new five-year plan, so modest goals for the year will probably include a podium finish and of course, beating Williams. Odds on achieving them: Fair.
Fan Satisfaction: Disappointed.
|9th, 12 points|
Although the season was mostly spent trudging around at the back of the field, the team scored a podium finish this year - if under the strange circumstances of the Indianapolis event. Late on, when Minardi released their 2005 car and threatened to consistently outperform them, their hand was forced to use the new EJ15B, and the status quo was largely restored.
Off the track it was a tough season. Although Midland bought the team, they were not prepared to put any real investment into the current season as the focus was on getting things running properly for the next year. Distracting talk of buying in chassis appeared and disappeared in fairly short order, whilst the team worked under considerable confusion over their futures.
Despite that, one thing they really did a good job on was massively improving their reliability - finishing more races than anyone except Ferrari.
Prospects 2006: With the organisation shown so far by Midland, and expectations for all their rivals to continue improving their game, the team will have to make sure they really did get set up for the year in order just to avoid finishing at the bottom of the pile. Chances of doing so: Slim.
Fan Satisfaction: Pleasantly surprised.
|10th, 7 points|
From the outset, Minardi again looked to be struggling with budget and fighting to avoid finishing dead last in every race. Unlike previous seasons, they actually produced a new car, if somewhat late on, and proceeded to give Jordan a hard time: they finished regularly and showed an improvement.
That said, with Paul Stoddart selling the team to Red Bull, the Minardi name is about to be retired from the sport, even if the personnel remain. As a final season, it delivered the Minardi promise to fans - that of being a team for the purists, the innovators of speed on a tight budget, and of staying the underdog - but selling to the Red Bull juggernaut is also in some measure a disappointment.
Then again, a team dedicated to bringing fresh blood to the sport, but with a budget, will give prospective F1 stars of the future a genuine chance to impress, so that is not entirely a bad thing, either.
Prospects 2006: As Squadra Toro Rosso, finish off the bottom; this is eminently reasonable even with older equipment and rookie drivers, provided the budget is sufficient and the V10 not overly handicapped; odds on succeeding are: High
Fan Satisfaction: Unimpressed.