Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Prizes and honour at stake as season approaches end

Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull's dominance has meant for only the 2nd time since 2005 Formula One has had 'dead rubbers' at the end of the season. The race to be number one may be over in both championships but there are still a few things worth keeping a eye on in Abu Dhabi and Brazil to keep you enthralled...

Constructor's championship: The top 4 is basically set and despite Renault's recent poor run (6 points in 6 races since Nick Heidfeld left the team) a 21 point margin over Force India should be enough to maintain 5th place. Things are much tighter from 6th to 8th:

Force India 51
Sauber 41
Toro Rosso 41

Sauber had started the season really well as their low tyre wear paid dividends in some of the races where cars were stopping 4 times. However the loss of 10 points in Australia after the rear wing was deemed illegal may come back to haunt the Swiss team. Force India have steadily improved after a difficult winter. Between Di Resta and Sutil, one has usually been in the hunt for a top 10 finish. Toro Rosso were not fighting for points with regularity early in the season but a focus on race performance and new aerodynamic updates have seen the team start to claw their way into the midfield battle and they now find themselves just behind Sauber on countback

On present form i feel Force India will have enough to hold onto 6th and that Toro Rosso will take some points to jump up to 7th. Sauber's best hope may be that Renault pick up form and that the top 10 becomes locked out by the top 5 teams and the championship standings remain stable until the end.

Lotus, HRT and Virgin look set to have another season without any points but no prize money on offer for the bottom 2 teams the highest finishing position obtained is the key factor here. Lotus have had 3 13th places this season which means they currently occupy that 10th position ahead of HRT (1 13th place) and Virgin (2 14th places) Abu Dhabi is extremely unlikely to be an abnormal race and the only way i can see Lotus missing out is if Brazil is a wet race and chaos ensues. It will take a lot of mayhem for HRT or Virgin to grab a 12th place though.

Team mate rivalry: At McLaren Jenson Button needs a maximum of 13 points in the final 2 rounds to cap off his excellent season and beat Lewis Hamilton. At Mercedes there is just 5 points between Nico Rosberg and Michael Schumacher. Both drivers have played down the significance of beating the other. Indeed i was surprised by how relaxed Rosberg was after India about losing 5th to Schumacher in the final round of stops. He came across as someone lacking that will to win but perhaps he will show it if he has a front running car. Toro Rosso have a difficult choice to make between 4 Red Bull junior drivers for 2012. The current holders of seats are Jaime Alguersuari and Sebastien Buemi and it is currently 26-15 to the Spaniard. Staying ahead going into the final race means the Swiss driver has to miss FP1 for reserve driver Jean-Eric Vergne and his strong form could mean a first season of beating Buemi and securing a 2012 drive.

Fastest lap award: This is an award that doesn't get much attention but it is still something to win and it is definitely going to be another prize heading to Red Bull as Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel are the only 2 drivers left in the running. It is currently 5-3 to Webber so Vettel needs to get the fastest lap in Abu Dhabi and Brazil to have any chance. A 2nd fastest lap at either of the final 2 rounds for Webber would mean he would win on countback even if Vettel makes it 5-5. It is possible that in a certain tie the countback could go beyond 4th fastest laps this year so it could get tight. Can Vettel sweep up another prize or will Webber get a consolation prize for his 2011 season?

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