With Red Bull dominating the season, some leading F1 pundits have offered their suggestions for the second-best team on the grid.
While the Milton Keynes-based squad have scored more than double the points of their nearest rival as the season gears up for the second half, there is a genuine question mark as to who is the second-quickest team.
While Aston Martin’s AMR23 hit the ground running at the start of the season, the season has seen Ferrari, Mercedes, Aston Martin and, recently, McLaren, all squabbling over being best of the rest.
Which team has earned the praise of F1 Nation’s pundits?
A mid-summer break F1 Nation podcast had host Tom Clarkson chatting about the topic with Natalie Pinkham and Damon Hill, where Pinkham highlighted the progress McLaren have made.
“Had you asked me at the beginning of the season, obviously, I would have said Aston Martin, but they’ve just fallen away inexplicably,” she said, when asked to pick the team she’d put behind Red Bull.
“It seems to have puzzled them as much as it has us as fans. We wanted to see them up there, remember when Fernando [Alonso] made that bold claim that he was never going to finish off the podium again? And that just fell away horribly.
“I have to say McLaren, I mean to think that Lando [Norris] had three P17s earlier this season in Bahrain, Saudi, and Miami. And then to be finishing on the podium at consecutive races in Silverstone and Hungary, and then to be really in the fight with [Oscar] Piastri having an awesome weekend at Spa before that horrible moment on Lap 1 for the race itself.
“McLaren have been nothing short of remarkable. What it should do is give hope to the others that an upgrade like that can really turn the season back around for them.”
Clarkson said that Lawrence Stroll’s team, despite their recent slide, still have the edge on their rivals as to who has been best of the rest.
“I think we need a bit of context, when we’re talking about who’s had the best season so far other than Red Bull,” he said.
“Let’s not forget that Aston Martin were seventh in the Constructors’ Championship last year. They’ve been second for much of this year so far. OK, they’re very close to Mercedes in third now.
“Six podiums in the opening eight races. They get my vote for best so far.
“I think McLaren were desperately disappointing, given that they were fifth in the Constructors’ Championship last year, desperately disappointing early doors this year. Yes, the transformation has been amazing. But I think, if you look at the 12 races as a whole, Aston Martin get my vote.”
Hill pointed out that, despite Aston Martin’s strong start, he considered it to be more of a case of which team has progressed the most, ie. the team performing best coming into the summer break, and not the ones who started well.
“I’m going to throw someone else in there to consider because, although I agree with Natalie and I think it’s McLaren who have had the best season because they’re on an up right now,” he said.
“They must be going into the summer break thinking ‘This is great because we’ve gone the right way and we can keep going this way now we know what we’re doing’.
“The other team would be Williams, who, although they haven’t been right at the sharp end, they haven’t half done a fantastic job with probably minimal resources to get to where they are now and they definitely also have turned a corner.”