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The 'state of play' heading into India

With four rounds remaining in the season a quick look at the constructors standings reveals that spectators can look forward to plenty of intriguing racing all the way through the field in 2012. | Analysis |
Friday, October 26, 2012

October 26th, 2012 (F1plus/Carl Leo) The large amounts of prize money awarded for the places from first all the way down to tenth in the Formula 1 Constructors Championship ensures that teams will fight tooth and nail right up to the final race. As the 2012 season winds down the on track action certainly won’t be doing the same and this should provide plenty of racing entertainment all the way through the field.

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From a spectator’s point of view, when the battles that take place lower down the order have some context to them it tends to make for a more entertaining spectacle. It’s not just about the top three; there are 24 drivers each fighting a world championship battle in their own right. So what’s the state of play as we enter the final throws of what’s been one of the most enthralling seasons on record.

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First of all we have the obvious fight at the sharp end with Ferrari, McLaren, and Red Bull hammering away for the top three spots. Red Bull is looking as though they are in the clear for first place again this year with a total of 367 points going into the final four races. Adrian Newey seems to have the car working perfectly after a shaky start and Vettel is driving it right to the limit as displayed in Japan and Korea. They could in effect have the Constructors Title wrapped up by Abu Dhabi if they dominate the next two rounds.

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Ferrari and McLaren are jostling for second position with Ferrari currently on 290 points and McLaren on 284. This is battle that could easily go either way. The driver dynamics at McLaren at the moment make them a difficult team to predict. Although he’s a consummate professional, Lewis Hamilton may not be as interested or motivated as he should be given his future plans, and McLaren may just be beginning to sideline him ever so slightly with the knowledge he’s off to Mercedes. In the sister car Jenson Button has enjoyed a resurgence in form of late so one has to assume he has a few good results to come this year.

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Ferrari wants to secure second place. (Photo: Ferrari Media)

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Ferrari on the other hand have a newly settled Felipe Massa, able to perform without an uncertain future having just penned a new one year deal, and of course a highly motivated Fernando Alonso, who has to be desperate to get that third title sealed before Sebastian Vettel does! On this evidence, archrivals McLaren and Ferrari look set to have an intriguing battle for second place right up to the final chequered flag in Brazil.

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Next in line for some prize money are Lotus and Mercedes, bridging the gap between the rest of the midfield and the main title contenders. Lotus has impressed this year and currently sits in a relatively safe fourth place on 255 points. Theirs has looked like the car that’s been the most consistent over the course of the season, repeatedly punted for a victory only to fall agonisingly short of the top step. Given their consistency and the equally consistent performance of Kimi Raikkonen, it seems clear they’ll either finish in their current position or even surprise the likes of McLaren and sneak into an unlikely third place if Romain Grosjean can convert his outright pace into good race day performances.

Mercedes on the other hand are sitting on 136 points in fifth place and will be all too aware of the Sauber team snapping at their rear wing. Ross Brawn’s troops will be looking to try and solidify that position further with good performances from Nico Rosberg who’ll be keen to show Hamilton he won’t have it his own way, and an outgoing Michael Schumacher who’s more than capable of the performances required. It seems a shame for them to be scrapping down in fifth after showing pace capable of winning races in the first few rounds.

With a string of good results Sauber could overtake Mercedes. (Photo: Sauber Media)

The next group consists of Sauber, Force India, Williams and Toro Rosso. Despite most of the attention focusing on the big teams at the top, this is where some of the hardest and most unforgiving racing takes place and this should provide for plenty of entertainment as the season draws to its conclusion. These teams don’t quite have the budget to compete at the sharp end and so every place gained on the constructors table provides valuable prize money, which in turn translates into much needed development funds for next season.

Sauber is leading this particular battle, sitting in sixth with 116 points and a chance of elevating themselves above Mercedes if they really step things up. One or two more podiums from the McLaren bound Sergio Perez, and some solid points finishes from an under pressure Kamui Kobayashi and you feel they may just have a small chance of closing that 20 point gap to the Silver Arrows.

Next is Force India with 89 points in seventh. They’ll need both their drivers to fire on all cylinders for all the remaining races if there is any hope of leapfrogging the Swiss outfit that sits 27 points above them. They’re clearly capable of this with both Paul di Resta and Nico Hulkenberg producing some brilliant results in recent races. Di Resta claimed a career best fourth in Singapore and Hulkenberg did the same in Spa amongst other solid points finishes. Let’s not forget it’s the Indian Grand Prix up next and if there’s one race where Vijay Mallya will be looking for a double points finish, it’s this one.

Williams showed a huge amount of promise in the early rounds with some strong performances and of course victory at the Spanish Grand Prix, their first since Juan Pablo Montoya in Brazil 2004. Occupying the eighth spot with 58 points they’ll feel that they don’t belong there and it’s not because they’ve produced a car that lacks pace or reliability. As proved in Catalunya their car has bags of potential yet their drivers seem to be letting them down. The 31 points to Force India looks a bridge too far for the Grove squad unfortunately. However we’re still assured plenty of entertainment from this team with a massive fight brewing between Pastor Maldonado and Bruno Senna sitting in fifteenth and sixteenth in the Drivers Championship respectively.

Toro Rosso is in a spot of bother down in ninth place with 21 points. They have however found a bit of extra pace in the last few races with Daniel Ricciardo scoring three consecutive points finishes and Jean-Eric Vergne Joining him in Korea for a much deserved double points finish. It looks unlikely that they’ll catch Williams at this stage but the prize money on offer for ninth is not to be scoffed at.

Caterham needs any of its drivers to finish a race in 12th to secure tenth place in the constructors standings. (Charles Coates / LAT Photo)

The “new” teams of Caterham, Marussia and HRT are functioning on a really tight budget, which means that securing prize money to fund their march toward the midfield is vital. Equally it means that this is a battle for survival and one that’ll rage until the season finale. In truth though, the battle for tenth lies with only two teams in the form of Marussia and Caterham.

Marussia snatched tenth spot from Caterham after Timo Glock secured a twelfth place finish in Singapore, and it was plain to see that this was like getting a win for them such were the celebrations. Caterham has only scored a best of thirteenth up until now which will seem a huge disappointment given they were expected to make the leap to the midfield at the beginning of the season.

So the importance of racing flat out to the end of the year is clear, an eleventh place finish or even a coveted single point in the final four rounds could decide whether Caterham or Marussia go into 2013 with the advantage and a small hope of catching up to the midfield.

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4 Sebastian Vettel 159
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3 Williams F1 254
4 Ferrari 208
5 McLaren 167
6 Sahara Force India 124

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