The title race 2012 September 24, with six races to go…

As indicated on the Official Formula 1 web site, the drivers’ championship stands as:

01 Fernando Alonso 194
02 Sebastian Vettel 165
03 Kimi Räikkönen 149
04 Lewis Hamilton 142
05 Mark Webber 132
06 Jenson Button 119

While there remains a maximum mathematical total of 150 for any driver on the grid, even if one driver were to gain all of those points, the other drivers would likely continue to amass points as well.

The logical favourite is the current points leader, Fernando Alonso, not only because he has a 29 point lead on his nearest rival, but also because he has demonstrated relentless determination to maximize the points haul for every race, regardless of the competitiveness of the equipment that he has had.  Furthermore, Ferrari, contrary to their ongoing claims of uncompetitive machinery, have come on terms with the leader in the development race, arguably McLaren, so that the most significant difference between the competitiveness of the McLaren and the Ferrari is the qualifying pace, only!

Second, after his Singapore victory, Sebastian Vettel, is charging hard in his Red Bull.  The reigning world champion is going through his first year since he joined Red Bull without a clear advantage in machinery (2009 the Red Bull was faster than the Brawn except for the double diffuser).  He has responded by upping his game, as evidenced in his driving in the second half of this year.  Already having established his credentials in the top tier of drivers, Vettel is currently the fastest driver on the grid.  Singapore was only his second victory of the year, yet he is in second in the driver standings, only 29 points behind Alonso.  Like Alonso, he has maximized points scoring for every race, regardless of the comparative competitiveness of the Red Bull machinery. 

Speaking of the machinery, this year has had no clear dominant car, but over the course of all of the races so far, I would be tempted to place the Red Bull tied for second with the Ferrari, behind only the McLaren.

Speaking of McLaren, there is no doubt that Lewis Hamilton is in the top tier of drivers, in fact, when completely on his game, he dominates more than anyone else on the grid; and that is saying a lot in the company of Alonso, Vettel and the other former world champions.  However, Lewis has shown he is unstable.  He has a history of reactivity that seems to have constrained his phenomenal capability; the tweeting of the telemetry after his exit from Spa is just one example in a long list.  So this fantastic driver, with arguably the best equipment over the course of the season so far, is only 4th in the championship, and a whopping 52 points behind championship leader Alonso.  It could be argued that this is because he has NOT maximized his points haul in every race of the year.  He is now only an outside contender to become world champion this year; he is not eliminated, we’ve seen one person on the grid make up this magnitude of points to win a world championship in the last race; that person BEAT Lewis in the final race, and Alonso.

Kimi, in terms of raw racing ability, is second to none on the grid.  He currently stands in third in the championship, but 45 points behind Alonso, with no wins.  But he has, like Alonso and Vettel, maximized his points haul even when the Lotus was not competitive, stayed out of trouble, most of the time, unlike his team mate Grosjean.  He is a long way back, but has the demonstrated experience in making up a sizeable gap to win a championship.

In my opinion Webber and Button are no, for all practical purposes, out of the running for the drivers’ championship.  Webber has maximized his points haul, but has still come up short, whereas Button, it could be argued, has not had the consistency, even accounting for the team errors that cost both him and Hamilton points, so far this season, to be champion.

I don’t know about you, but I really feel that this year’s formula has ultimately created a situation wherein the driver capability is the defining factor, and that factor this year is in extracting the maximum from whatever the competitiveness of the machinery is for that given race.  The people who have done that the best now stand in the top three spots in the drivers’ standing.  Let’s face it, Ferrari started the year with a dramatically inferior car, and Lotus has only really had observable dominance in Budapest, and then yet hindered by sub-par qualifying pace; and Vettel was just as fast as Lotus in race pace; so Kimi’s placement in the championship is even more extenuating.

Factors affecting the final six races and the championship:

1. Development:

All of the contenders must keep their development on pace or better, to win the championship. Ferrari just needs to maintain their comparative competitiveness, regardless of their media propaganda machinery, their car is now as competitive as any, except as noted, and their reliability is second to none.  ed Bull seems to be just hanging in there, and really need to improve their qualifying pace to give Vettel a chance.  At the other end of the spectrum, Lotus need to make gains against these two rivals; they need better race pace than Red Bull, and they need better qualifying pace compared to Ferrari; if their vaunted and much anticipated ‘device’ fails to deliver, then, unfortunately, I predict a two-way fight to the last corner in San Paulo, and Lotus won’t be there.  McLaren have the car, and the development pace, but now they are so far back with Lewis in the drivers’ standings, that not only do they need to maintain or exceed their rivals in development, they need a little luck, the bad kind, to befall Alonso, anyhow, for a real chance to win.  Even an Alonso DNF combined with a Lewis victory would still put his more than a race vicory’s worth of points behind Alonso, and counting on that to happen more than once to Alonso/Ferrari is pretty thin ice.

What I’d like to see:

A second world championship for Kimi, won in the last corner of the last race, in Brazil.

My prediction:

Vettel will win it in the last race.

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