This year’s F1 Drivers’ Championship looks set top go down to the wire between the two Mercedes AMG Petronas drivers: Britain’s Lewis Hamilton and Germany’s Nico Rosberg.
It is highly likely that the title will be decided at the double-points final race in the desert in Abu Dhabi on 23 November. Between now and then, five races will be run in what is effectively a five race championship given how close the two drivers are in points following Rosberg’s retirement in the Singapore Grand Prix.
Mercedes has clearly been the car to beat all season and will likely remain so, although reliability issues are clearly still a potential threat to the team. Rosberg and Hamilton’s forms at the remaining five venues on the calendar are far from great either – let’s take a look.
Suzuka is the traditional home of the Japanese Grand Prix but did not host the race in 2007 or 2008, when it was staged at Fuji instead. Lewis won the Japanese Grand Prix in 2007 but thanks to the change in venue has never stood on the top step of the podium at Suzuka. He has in fact only made the podium there once, at his first appearance at Suzuka in 2009, when he finished third. Remarkably, he then finished fifth at the track three times in a row, before disappointingly retiring at last year’s Japanese Grand Prix.
With Lewis’ form so uninspiring at Suzuka you would be forgiven for thinking that Rosberg is the potential favourite here but in fact his record is equally poor. He was tenth in 2006, the year before Hamilton’s debut, and fifth when the circuit returned to the calendar in 2009. He retired in 2010 and 2012, struggled to 10th in 2011 and only managed 8th last year.
On that form, there is no real favourite for Suzuka, so expect a close race, hopefully without any Senna/Prost style Suzuka shenanigans!
The Russian Grand Prix takes place for the first time ever this October, around the 2014 Winter Olympic Park. It’s a journey into the unknown so impossible to call a winner before the cars hit the track.
The US Grand Prix struggled for years to find its identity on the F1 calendar, with the nadir coming at the 2005 US Grand Prix when only six cars made it to the grid at Indianapolis amid the Michelin fiasco.
Then came Austin in 2012 and the venue became an instant classic, fitting perfectly with the F1 brand. Hamilton brilliantly won the first race at the Circuit of the Americas, overtaking Vettel for victory. The Englishman followed that up with a fourth place in 2013; Rosberg on the other hand has thus far only managed a 13th and a 9th. Admittedly, the German had an inferior car but you’d have to put Lewis as the favourite for Austin.
Hamilton won his first and so far only world title at Interlagos in unbelievably dramatic fashion in 2008, but lost the title almost as dramatically the year before. There’s rarely a dull race at Interlagos, especially when the heavens open, which they often do – think 2003, 2008, 2012…
Lewis struggled to seventh in ’07 and crucially overtook Timo Glock at the final corner to be crowned champion and cruelly rob Felipe Massa of glory in ’08. The only time he has made the podium there was in 2009 when he came home third; he narrowly missed out on a podium the following year when he finished fourth. This was followed by two retirements, the latter being during his final race for McLaren when Nico Hulkenberg took him out. The Briton was only ninth last year; his Brazilian record is far from one of his best.
Rosberg has had similarly mixed results in Brazil: he retired in 2006 and 2009, was fourth in 2010 and fifth last year but has never had a podium there. 12th in ’08, sixth in ’10, seventh in ’11 and 15th in ’12 do not make for happy reading, so it’s hard to call one Mercedes driver over the other but Lewis has experience fighting hard against the odds in Brazil more than once in a title showdown.
Abu Dhabi, UAE
And so to the showdown, the controversial double points race. Of course, the fear is that it will all be settled in the desert and the title will go to the driver with the best reliability at the final race. Let’s hope that doesn’t happen.
Hamilton retired whilst leading the first ever Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in 2009 and retired again in 2012, but came second in 2010 and won brilliantly in 2011; last year Lewis was seventh.
Rosberg finished ninth, fourth and sixth at his first three Abu Dhabi Grands Prix before retiring in 2012 and finally getting a podium with third last year. Off the back of those results Lewis looks marginally the favourite but again it has to be pointed out that he has generally and a better performing car throughout his career than Rosberg; only since becoming teammates at the start of 2013 has Nico enjoyed a level playing field, as it were.