With half-a-dozen races left in 2011, which drivers hold the upper hand in their team?
And which are glancing enviously at the other side of the garage?
Here’s how the team mates stack up with the end of the season in sight.
Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber were quite closely matched in 2010 but that hasn’t been the case this year.
Webber started the year some way off Vettel’s pace. But as he has improved his performance on the new tyres the gap has reduced. When we compared the performances of team mates earlier this year Webber was often making an extra pit stop per race compared to Vettel – that is no longer the case.
But Webber is still lagging behind in some areas, particularly starts. He has made a net loss of 20 places on the first lap this year, the worst of any driver.
Telling stat: The two Red Bulls have been on the track together for 729 laps this year, and Vettel has been ahead for 661 of them.
Lewis Hamilton has never ended a championship behind his team mate in the standings.
But with six races to go Jenson Button holds a nine-point lead over his team mate. He has been the highest-placed McLaren driver in the last three races.
Will Button sustain his advantage and inflict Hamilton’s first defeat from a team mate over a full season in F1?
Hamilton has generally been the quicker of the two, and if he can cut out the mistakes that have plagued his season over the final half-dozen races he has a solid chance of coming out on top.
Telling stat: Hamilton is 10-3 up in qualifying but his advantage is a much slimmer 5-4 in races where both have finished.
Ferrari continue to insist they will honour Felipe Massa’s contract for 2012.
Which is as clear an indication as we are likely to get that the team want nothing more than a seat-filler who will not destabilise Fernando Alonso.
This cost them second place in the constructors’ championship last year and may do the same again this year as Massa has consistently failed to get close to Alonso’s single-lap or stint performance.
Massa’s had some misfortune with slow pit stops but that alone does not explain the huge points gap between him and Alonso.
Telling stat: Alonso has more than double Massa’s points total with 172 to 82.
Nico Rosberg still holds the upper hand at Mercedes, though not as decisively as he did last year.
Michael Schumacher had strong races in both Spa and Monza. Rosberg’s elimination from the latter at the first corner allowed Schumacher to close the gap between them to just four points, setting up an intriguing contest over the final races.
The next race will be a particularly telling indicator of Schumacher’s revival, as he had a tough race in Singapore last year.
Telling stat: Rosberg has reached Q3 in every race but Schumacher has missed out five times (once due to a wheel coming off).
Renault dropped Nick Heidfeld two races ago and it seems he wasn’t out-performing Vitaly Petrov by the margins they wanted him to.
In particular, Petrov out-qualified him eight times in eleven races. Heidfeld accumulated three points more than Petrov, but that clearly wasn’t enough for a driver who was expected to be a team leader.
Bruno Senna has been with the team for the past two races but it’s rather early in the day to draw comparisons between him and Petrov, especially as both have been involved in first-corner collisions.
Telling stat: Heidfeld finished ahead of Petrov in five of the seven races where both finished.
Williams have found much of their operation wanting this year and already have new engines and designers in place for 2012. Should they do the same with their drivers?
Pastor Maldonado has acquitted himself well in qualifying but tended to drop back in the races.
It seems as though Rubens Barrichello is not beating his team mate by the kind of margin someone with his experience should be. But in the FW33 Williams have produced their worst car in a long time – perhaps ever – which makes it difficult to judge.
Telling stat: Maldonado’s average starting position is slightly better than Barrichello’s, but Barrichello finishes two places ahead on average.
Adrian Sutil is another driver who had a troubled start to the year but has clearly progressed as he’s become more familiar with the new tyres.
Having taken a battering from rookie team mate Paul di Resta in qualifying earlier on, Sutil has begun to restore the balance. He has brought the car home consistently as well.
But with Nico H?â??lkenberg waiting in the wings and Force India not taking a decision on their driver line-up until December, how this battle is resolved could decide who gets a drive in 2012.
Telling stat: Di Resta leads 8-5 in qualifying but Sutil has more points.
Sergio Perez continues to go from strength to strength and has out-qualified Kamui Kobayashi for the last four races in a row.
But as the competition in the midfield intensifies both are finding it increasingly difficult to bring home points.
Telling stat: Kobayashi scored 25 points in the first seven races but only two since then.
Like Sutil and Webber, Jaime Alguersuari has been on an upward trajectory this year as he has found his way with the new tyres.
In Alguersuari’s case, this has meant concentrating on race set-up at the expense of qualifying performance. As a result, he’s started 18th and gone on to finish in the points on four occasions this year.
He and Sebastien Buemi have repeatedly swapped places in the drivers’ championship. One of them needs to cement an advantage to ward off the threat from Red Bull Development Drivers Daniel Ricciardo and Jean-Eric Vergne.
Telling stat: Buemi has made a net gain of 22 places on the first lap of races in 2011, more than any other driver.
Jarno Trulli’s struggles with his power steering this year have been well-documented. He’s only beaten Heikki Kovalainen twice in qualifying this year and has been half a second off his team mate on average.
However he has retained his place at the team for next year.
Telling stat: Kovalainen has retired from more races due to mechanical failure than any other driver.
Vitantonio Liuzzi was never troubled by Naran Karthikeyan during their brief association. Daniel Ricciardo has shown promise and is eager to out-strip this former Red Bull Development Driver.
Telling stat: Karthikeyan is the only driver to have started more than one race in 2011 yet never out-qualified his team mate.
- Narain Karthikeyan 2011 form guide
- Vitantonio Liuzzi 2011 form guide
- Daniel Ricciardo 2011 form guide
The experienced Timo Glock has Jerome D’Ambrosio comfortably handled
Telling stat: Glock’s average margin of 0.611s over d’Ambrosio in qualifying is the largest of all the active team partnerships in 2011.
Which drivers have particularly impressed you this year? And who do you think should be doing better against their team mates? Have your say in the comments.
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Images ?é?® McLaren, Ferrari spa/Ercole Colombo, Daimler, Force India F1 Team, Red Bull/Getty images, Team Lotus