The Four Musketeers


Four drivers. Four different teams. Will one man claim his fourth World Championship? Or can be stopped by one of three pursuers? Formula 1 is back from its summer break, a 4 week hiatus in which we've heard, speculated and pondered over just about every possible rumour you could think of. Some logical, some nonsensical. Now that it is back, will the rumours slow down? Ha. Not a chance. But thankfully we can switch - some of - our attention to racing. Hooray!

Sebastian Vettel heads into the second half of the season with a lead of 38 points over nearest rival Kimi Raikkonen. It sounds a big lead doesn't it? Under the current system however, 38 points surmounts to just one and a half race wins. I say 'just' as though it's an easy feat; it really isn't.

It is however, not an impossible advantage to claw back at. There are 9 races left, a possible 225 points up for grabs and a pleasantly pleasing amount of drivers and cars capable of winning any of them. With potentially eight drivers capable of taking the 25 points from a race weekend, does that benefit the current Championship leader the most? With drivers inevitably taking points away from each other, will consistency be the most important factor for the German looking to take his fourth consecutive title?

Consistently scoring points has been a trait of all four contenders this season. That may sound blooming obvious, after all these are the fastest drivers in the fastest cars, but it just goes to show the remarkable reliability and consistency that not only exists in modern Formula 1, but is needed to succeed. In 40 starts between them, Vettel, Raikkonen, Alonso and Hamilton have failed to finish in the points on just three occasions - with two of those being retirements.

Collecting those points on a continuous basis is good, but it's scoring the big points more often than not that are going to win you that championship. Of the races he has completed, Vettel has finished no lower than 4th, finishing on the podium 7 times. His main rivals have all had multiple finishes outside of the top 4, including an 8th for Alonso and a 9th and 10th for Raikkonen. It's that ability to not only score when it matters on the Sunday, but to score big.

Compare it to last season. Before heading off for the fly-a-ways last season, Vettel had one win from 13 starts. Now he has 4 wins from 10. Scary. He's won in the month of July. He's won in Germany. And then look at how he performed at the back end of last year...

Three men will be hoping that doesn't happen. Ok, I suspect it's more than three. Maybe a few million shouting at TV screens the world over would also like it to not. But realistically there's only three men who can stop him.

Lewis has the momentum. A chance of a win cruelly taken away from him in Silverstone, a brilliant pole in Germany and a dominating, powerful display and victory in Hungary saw the 2008 World Champion head into the break in arguably the best form of any driver on the grid. Can he build on that this weekend at Spa? What about beyond Spa? Looking back at previous years it would appear the Brit doesn't fare as well in the second half of the year, with a notable increase in retirements befalling his campaigns. With a 48 point deficit to claw back, he can afford no such bad luck. Finishing ahead of Fernando and Kimi will just not do. Outscoring Sebastian is the only way the Championship can be won. Seconds and thirds are good, but if there's a Red Bull and that finger on the top step, the result becomes almost irrelevant.

Just ask Alonso and Ferrari. A run of 7 podiums in the final 8 races last season still wasn't enough to secure the Championship. Why? Because Vettel was able win races, significantly outscoring the Spaniard more often than the favour could be returned. Last time around the gap was over 40 points, now it's under. It is possible. It is do-able. The question remains, will they? Will their cars allow them to?

We all know what Kimi brings to the table. Ice cream. Or is it the knack of scoring points in every race? At least one of the two anyway. 5 podiums and a race win have seen Kimi hold 2nd place in the standings, but it's that lack of outscoring on a steady basis that again sees him sit 38 points behind his good friend Vettel. The longest points streak in Formula 1 sounds impressive. Well it is to everyone, bar Kimi. He wants to win. He knows he needs to win. He knows he can win. But having that perfect weekend has eluded him and the team so often since his comeback that it remains to be seen whether it can be achieved again, not just once, but multiple times.

Lewis has the speed, Fernando has the guile and Kimi has the consistency. But what about Seb? Personally, I believe he possesses all three. That's not to say the others don't, but the traits I've labelled with each driver are commonly associated with them, and have been for some time. Is the key difference here going to be the car? Their driving abilities aren't in question. All are exquisite behind the wheel. But what about the stuff that surrounds the wheel?

The Red Bull is once again the best car, and seemingly suits every track on the calendar. The Ferrari may be quicker one weekend, the Mercedes another and the Lotus the following race. But the Red Bull will always be there. As will Sebastian. Its back to that word again, consistency. It works. It wins. The Championship is decided on who has the most points, not the most wins. (Thankfully!)

Fernando and the Ferrari don't look overly happy at the moment. Lewis and the Mercedes look brimming with speed, confidence and smiles. Kimi is Kimi.

Of the three challengers it's Lewis that looks the most likely to cement the strongest push. Will the team allow him to given what's around the corner next year? With personnel and budget to work on two fronts, you'd hope they would. A 48 point gap isn't insurmountable. Especially not if there's a World Championship waiting at the end of it; potentially even two.

Kimi will continue to score, and Fernando will I'm sure drag results out of nowhere. Can they both sustain a challenge for the rest of the year? Will their teams switch focus to next year sooner rather than later? Do they have anything to lose? 2nd's and 3rd's to former World Champions will mean very little unless they've had a serious push at the title, so why not just throw everything at it?

Four fantastic drivers, all capable of delivering excellence. One thing is for sure, we're in for one heck of a tussle. They all can win races. They all have team mates capable to taking points of rivals. Ultimately, they all have the potential to stop each other winning the title. Advantage Seb? Advantage Seb. What can the others do? Win. Win as often as they can. And then win some more. Let the battle, commence.

Paul Godley - 22/08/2013

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Top Drivers

Driver Points
Hamilton 252
Rosberg 211
Vettel 203
Raikkonen 107
Bottas 101
Massa 97



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