F1: Too Early to Declare a Champion? Numbers, Politics and Threories
Is it too early for Red Bull and Vettel to count their chicks before all their eggs hatch? A 38 point cushion and no clear challenger may have people considering it. We have seen Alonso lose the title with a bigger lead in the past, but this time, something is different. Vettel doesn’t seem to have one main rival that can challenge him. Instead, he seems to have a number of potential rivals which are all taking points away from each other. Is Vettel the clear favorite? While the Red Bull hasn’t been as dominant as in previous seasons, it does appear on the surface that Sebastian Vettel may well be on his way to title number four.
We are at the half-way mark of the F1 season. Ten races have been run with a total of 250 maximum points that were up for grabs. In the first half of the season, there have been six different race winners, three of which were multiple race winners. When Formula One returns from its summer break, we will have nine races left to run with a total of 225 maximum points available.
Sebastian Vettel leads the way with 172 points. Kimi Räikkönen currently sits second in the WDC race with 134 points. That’s a difference of 38 points. Immediately behind Kimi is Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso with 133 points. After his dominant performance and win in Hungary, Lewis Hamilton has crawled his way up to 124 points and arguable the last real championship challenging position.
If, for five of the next nine rounds, Kimi or Fernando were to finish first and Vettel were to finish second, Neither of them would have even caught the German. (A difference of 7 points over five races is only 35 points and just shy of the 38 required to tie Vettel)
If Vettel were to finish no better than third, then it would only take 4 races for him to be overtaken by Kimi or Nando. That would leave a 5 round “Battle Royale” for the title. The problem is neither the Lotus nor the Ferrari seem to be the fastest car on any given Sunday. The Red Bull however, does seem to be rather quick. Mercedes however have joined the party as well. They have been ridiculously quick in Qualifying but tyre management on Sundays has hurt them until now.
This is where it gets tricky. A new player has thrown his helmet in the ring. With a 48 point deficit, Hamilton could theoretically make a run for the title if everything goes his way. The new Pirelli tyres seem to have helped Mercedes lick it’s tyre degradation issues. If Mercedes can maintain their performance edge from Saturday on Sunday, things will certainly get interesting.
If ever there was a test, it would have certainly been the Hungarian GP. It was the hottest race of the season thus far and a high downforce setup which many expected to have adverse and negative effects on the Mercedes (given their recent struggles). This was not the case, in fact, quite the opposite as the German team dominated both qualifying and the race. It would certainly take a number of different scenarios to unfold in Hamilton’s favour, nonetheless, Lewis cannot be discounted from the championship equation.
Obviously, mathematically speaking, there are hundreds of different possible combination of events that can be played out, including DNFs, different race winners etc… We’ve already seen Rosberg claim two victories, however with 84 points, Nico can’t seriously be considered a contender. He can however, help influence the championship by taking away points from others. Vettel’s team mate Mark Webber who sits at 105 points can do the same. If not for some reliability issues and bad luck, he might have been able to steal more points in the first half of the season. Romain Grosjean seems to have found his groove which can also factor in helping decide the championship.
This is when strategy and team mates play their part. Arguably, Rosberg’s and Hamilton’s victories may be helping Räikkönen and Alonso in their championship bid indirectly. They have been able to steal 75 of the total 250 maximum points in the first half of the season. Whether one likes team orders or not, they become more strategic options and they will play their part in the remaining races. In a strange and ironic way, Formula One becomes more of a team sport only to assist selected individuals.
It might be too early for rivals to throw in their towels and admit defeat, after all, the road is long and anything can happen. Having said that though, we must keep in mind that for Vettel’s rivals, it will be an uphill climb. They may soon reach the point where the championship no longer lay in their own hands and they will have to hope that Vettel struggles or Red Bull misplaces their wings.