With Red Bull poised to wrap up their fourth consecutive world championship the battle to be ‘best of the rest’ is far from settled.
Ferrari, Mercedes and Lotus are vying for second place in the constructors’ championship which brings rich financial rewards as well as prestige.
The extra income would be welcomed by any of the teams but particularly Lotus, who are operating on a considerably smaller budget than their well-heeled rivals.
Further back in the championship Sauber’s resurgence could see them rise as high as fifth. Who will come out on top?
The race to runner-up
Here’s how many points Ferrari, Mercedes and Lotus have scored so far this year:
Maximum points remaining: 172
Mercedes can usually rely on having better qualifying pace but the Ferraris come one strong in race conditions – as was clear at Singapore. In Japan Lewis Hamilton’s first lap misfortune and Nico Rosberg’s hasty departure from the pits saw Mercedes squander vital points in their battle with Ferrari.
But the last two races saw Lotus take points off both teams which has brought them firmly back into contention for the runner-up spot. There are two main reasons for Lotus’s rise.
The first is the improving form of Romain Grosjean, who has out-qualified Kimi Raikkonen more often than not in recent races and led almost half the race in Japan.
Lotus are also suspected of gaining a similar advantage to Red Bull from the mapping of their Renault engine. Mercedes believe Renault have found a way of legally enhancing their car’s traction.
These two factors could prove decisive over the final races. Having lost Raikkonen along with technical figures James Allison and Dirk de Beer to Ferrari, Lotus could be about to have the last laugh this year.
Sauber’s late surge
Here’s how many points McLaren, Force India, Sauber and Toro Rosso have scored so far this year:
Sauber’s return to form will be a cause for sleepless nights at Force India.
The Swiss team is in a similar situation to Lotus – as well as making gains with their car in recent races, their championship situation has been bolstered by the improving form of their second driver.
In their case it is Esteban Gutierrez who scored the first points of his F1 career with a highly credible seventh place at Suzuka, behind team mate Nico Hulkeneerg.
Hulkenberg’s star is also rising. Since missing out on a switch to Ferrari he has produced giant-killing performances in Italy and Korea.
The Hungaroring was a turning point for the team as a new aerodynamic upgrade arrived and coincided with Pirelli’s changes to the tyre construction. Both have clearly been to their benefit, and the latter has clearly disadvantaged Force India, who look set to follow Toro Rosso in being overhauled by Sauber.
McLaren’s hold on fifth place may not be secure, especially if Sauber repeat their Japanese feat of getting both their cars home in front of the silver ones.
Over to you
Who do you think will come out on top in these three-way battles? Cast your votes in the polls below and have your say in the comments.
Who will finish second in the constructors' championship?
- Ferrari (34%)
- Mercedes (32%)
- Lotus (34%)
- Someone else (0%)
Total Voters: 299
Who will finish fifth in the constructors' championship?
- McLaren (81%)
- Sauber (18%)
- Force India (1%)
- Someone else (0%)
Total Voters: 293
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Images ?é?® Lotus/LAT, Daimler/Hoch Zwei, Sauber