Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso still leads the charge with an eight-point gap ahead of Australia’s Mark Webber with his Red Bull team mate, Sebastian Vettel bringing up third spot, some fifteen points shy of Alonso. McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton also has an opportunity to claim the title, but with a 24-point deficit, the 2008 Champion would need an absolute miracle to claim the crown at the final hurdle.
One very interesting aspect about the current standings is that should Vettel be ahead of Webber with Alonso in 3rd in Abu Dhabi, the title would be handed to the Spaniard. Considering the work and effort that has gone into this season by Red Bull; that would be an absolutely absurd result for the Anglo-Austrian team.
For a Red Bull to stake a claim on the Driver’s Championship, it would require orders for Vettel to let Webber claim the race win and eventually the Championship. Red Bull’s owner, Dietrich Mateschitz, has stated that his team would not impose team orders; however it is not beyond the realms of possibility that a deal could be brokered by the driver’s pre-race that would allow just such a situation to play out.
If Red Bull were to lose out on a Driver’s Championship considering the advantage their car has had through much of the season, it would be a great embarrassment to the squad. Sometimes playing it fair is simply a short cut to defeat and it would go some way to proving Ferrari right following the scandal at the Hockenheimring in July.
The midpack sees something of a warm contest between Williams and Force India as they battle for sixth in the Constructors Championship. Williams jumped Force India in the standings following Nico Hulkenberg’s run to 8th place at Interlagos last week and now lead the Silverstone-based team by a single point.
While on paper, this might not seem like the most interesting of fights, a good result for Williams could change their current status somewhat. The team has reportedly been on the poorer end of the scale for some time, but recent dealing with Porsche and Hispania Racing have shun a light for the squad and with Pastor Maldonado waiting in the wings, things are brighter still – at least financially.
However, it does leave Williams with a conundrum – they have potentially three drivers for next year with Rubens Barrichello, as well as Hulkenberg and Maldonado. With Williams supplying gearboxes and hydraulics to Hispania next year, it is not inconceivable that the English team may desire Maldonado to be “farmed-out” to Hispania for a season.
It would give Hulkenberg an opportunity to get into his stride alongside the veteran Barrichello and affords the 23-year-old time to gain vital experience. As quick as Maldonado is (and he is), he is also somewhat prone to finding himself involved in accidents – allowing him to gain time in a Formula 1 car. It may be detrimental to the team if he were to replace either of its current drivers.
It is not only the front of the grid where things are hotting up. At the tail end, new teams Lotus, Hispania and Virgin go into the final race of the season battling for their own respective honour.
After eighteen events, Lotus lead the trio for tenth place in the Constructor’s Championship. For much of the year, it was thought their battle for the prized spot would be with Virgin Racing, but while the Richard Branson-branded squad has just behind Lotus in terms of pace, they still rank behind Hispania in the tables due to the Spanish team having better finishes earlier in the season.
This would be an embarrassing defeat for Virgin – Hispania have had much publicised financial problems throughout the year; something that has left them unable to develop their Dallara constructed machine. In fact, the car that Hispania will be taking to Abu Dhabi is nearly the same machine they raced in Bahrain way back in March.
What has been truly remarkable about the Spanish team’s effort is that despite their lack of updates, they have for the most part remained well within the 107% ruling that is the perceived cut-off point for competitiveness. Considering the sheer amount of updates that the likes of Red Bull, Ferrari and McLaren have poured into their cars this year; that is a stunning achievement.
The close of the 2010 Formula 1 season also marks the final race for Bridgestone as the tyre company ends its involvement in the sport following a fourteen-year spell. Although the Japanese company initially supplied the 1976 and 1977 Japanese Grand Prix respectively, the 1997 season was the company’s first year as a full-time supplier.
Bridgestone will be replaced by the Italian tyre company Pirelli, who will be making their return to Formula 1 following an absence of nineteen years.