Formula 1: Can anyone overhaul Sebastian Vettel?
We analyse Vettel's closest competitors to see if they stand any chance of stopping him winning a fourth straight championship[
As we approach the halfway point of the 2013 Formula 1 season, Sebastian Vettel holds a 34-point lead in the driver’s standings over his nearest rival Fernando Alonso.
That equates to a race win and a fifth place required for Alonso to overhaul Vettel, assuming the German scores no points.
The season has been one of ups and downs, with the competitive order changing from race to race due to the nature of this season’s Pirelli tyres. However, Vettel has achieved his strong position through remarkable consistency amidst the turmoil. The three-time champion has four wins from nine races and only one finish below fourth.
Here we analyse the season so far of the drivers in with a shot of overhauling Vettel, and discuss their chances of being crowned World Champion come November.
Points (gap): 123 (-34)
Podiums (incl. wins): 5
The season started well for Alonso in Australia with Ferrari’s good race pace allowing him to climb from fifth on the grid to finish on the podium in second.
A catastrophic error by his team not to pull him into the pits with front wing damage on the first lap in Malaysia cost Alonso a probable podium, before a dominant victory came in China.
A further win came on home soil in Cataluña, with poor results in Monaco and Bahrain either side. Alonso has been consistent since then but has been outscored by Vettel despite the latter’s retirement at Silverstone.
Overall, Ferrari’s poor qualifying pace has left Alonso with too much to do in the race and as a consequence big points have not been achieved often enough.
On top of this, Malaysia demonstrated naivety on the team’s part, the lack of which allowed Alonso to run Vettel so close last season. Overall Alonso will see a missed opportunity to have been closer to Vettel, and will be hoping Ferrari make steps forward, especially in qualifying, in order to mount a challenge in the second half of the season.
Points: 116 (-41)
Raikkonen started the season strongly, with a controlled drive and excellent strategy in Australia earning a 20th career victory. Since then, the Finn’s Lotus team have struggled to compete near the front in qualifying, however, Raikkonen has continued to score good points, with four further podiums since Australia.
Lotus continue to be very strong in hot conditions, where rivals’ heavy tire usage is punished more severely and Lotus is more competitive as a result. Ultimately, Lotus could be hampered in development this year and also going forward through the loss of their inspirational designer James Allison. However, if Raikkonen can improve his performances in qualifying, results will surely improve in the races and he still has a chance to overhaul the huge deficit to Vettel in the standings.
Points: 99 (-58)
Hamilton’s new Mercedes team have been prolific in qualifying this season, scoring six pole positions from nine races, three of which went to Hamilton. This form, however, has not generally translated to the race, and Hamilton has struggled to convert strong starting positions, resulting in no wins.
Hamilton has complained all season of not feeling comfortable in the car, specifically under braking, but his form has improved with two consecutive poles in Britain and Germany.
Unless Mercedes can turn the race pace around in the rest of the season, Hamilton will be unable to challenge Vettel for the title.
Points: 84 (-73)
Three successive pole positions culminated in Nico Rosberg emulating his father Keke’s achievement of winning the Monaco Grand Prix, and Nico also inherited a race win in Britain, as first his teammate and then Vettel retired from the lead. Reliability troubled the early rounds for Rosberg and like Hamilton, dominant qualifying pace has failed to translate to good race pace.
Rosberg’s only chance of a title challenge is for Mercedes to find a solution to these problems fast.
Red Bull appear to be understanding the tyres more and more, and will only improve through the season. In Vettel they have one of the best drivers in the field, showing remarkable consistency and ominous dominance.
It is hard to look past Vettel achieving a fourth straight world championship. With Adrian Newey on board it is hard to see Red Bull being overhauled in the constructers championship either.
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