Lewis Hamilton may have clinched the 2018 drivers’ title last time out in Mexico but the constructors’ championship remains in the balance as Formula One heads to Brazil, the penultimate race of the season.
Focus on… Can Ferrari end the season on a high?
It’s no secret that Ferrari’s second half of the year has been one giant disappointment, but with the constructors’ crown still up for grabs, the Scuderia should remain optimistic.
Ferrari trails Mercedes by 55 points heading into this weekend’s Brazilian Grand Prix. With Abu Dhabi to follow in two weeks’ time, there is a maximum of 86 points to be scored by each team. It may be a long shot, but Ferrari still has a chance of ending its 10-year constructors’ title drought.
A breakthrough win for Kimi Raikkonen in the United States followed by a double podium in Mexico has seen Ferrari outscore Mercedes 70-47 in the last two races and turn an almost impossible task into one that isn’t out of the realms of possibility.
If Ferrari is to make further inroads they cannot afford another slip up in the final two races and will likely need to rely on at least one Mercedes retirement. The Brazilian Grand Prix has traditionally been an unpredictable race and one Ferrari will hope could cause the Silver Arrows some issues.
Should Mercedes leave Brazil with a 43 point lead the title would belong to them for the fifth season in a row but if Ferrari can close to within 25 or 30 points, it would certainly be game on at the season finale in Abu Dhabi.
Heading into the Brazilian Grand Prix, Ferrari sits 55 points behind Mercedes in the constructors’ standings.
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In need of a win? Sebastian Vettel
It’s hard to believe that Vettel’s last win was at the Belgian Grand Prix, seven races ago. For so much of the year the German was Hamilton’s main championship protagonist but a string of errors saw him quickly fall away.
With Hamilton being crowned champion in Mexico the pressure gauge will be released on Vettel who can now focus on returning to the top step of the podium and ending the season with a bang.
As mentioned above, Ferrari is still a chance of taking out the constructors’ championship and if they are to do so, Vettel would likely need to win in both Brazil and Abu Dhabi.
Vettel won 12 months ago in Brazil, beating Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas and teammate Raikkonen. Can he do it again?
In need of points? Daniel Ricciardo
If there was a consolation prize for the unluckiest driver in 2018, Daniel Ricciardo would be a shoo-in.
Since winning the Monaco Grand Prix in May, the Australian has endured a horror run. It seems just about every race he is struck down by a new Renault engine related drama, but the car has also let him down on occasion. Ricciardo has failed to score a podium in the past 13 races and in that time has been comprehensively outscored 181-74 by teammate Max Verstappen.
Emotions reached boiling point in Mexico last time out when Ricciardo suffered yet another engine failure late in the race, this time after securing pole position.
Ricciardo has just two races left at Red Bull before he makes his move to Renault ahead of the 2019 season. For his sake, let’s hope Red Bull and Renault can get it together.
Daniel Ricciardo of Australia and Red Bull Racing prepares to drive in the garage during qualifying for the Formula One Grand Prix of Mexico.
Mark Thompson/Getty Images
Available compounds: Medium, Soft, Super-soft
Minimum starting pressures: Front 23psi, rear 21psi
Mario Isola, head of car racing: “We’re not expecting anything very different to what we’ve seen during previous years in Brazil: the only change is that we’re bringing a nomination that is one step softer. The current medium and soft are similar to last year’s soft – supersoft tandem that formed the winning race strategy, while this year’s supersoft — the softest tyre we have selected for the weekend — is roughly equivalent to last year’s ultrasoft, which didn’t come to Brazil. So, this tyre effectively makes its debut at Interlagos. Dealing with traffic and going off-line is always an important aspect to managing the race in Brazil, and due to the high energy loads from the fast corners and possible high temperatures, degradation will be another factor to bear in mind — although we don’t expect it to be excessive under normal circumstances.”
Rain, and plenty of it, is expected this week in Sao Paulo. From Tuesday right through to Sunday the forecast shows cloudy conditions with persistent rain.
Despite the precipitation, humidity will remain high in Brazil throughout the week with Sunday also expected to be the hottest day at 27C.
Sebastian Vettel of Ferrari won the 2017 Brazilian Grand Prix.
Mark Thompson/Getty Images
Vettel is the favourite in Brazil at 13/8 while Hamilton is back at 21/10. Max Verstappen is offering great value at 15/2 to score back-to-back wins for the first time in his career.
If you think Fernando Alonso’s nightmares will continue this weekend, why not back him for the first retirement of the race at 10/1?
The drivers’ title might be out of reach but Vettel will want one last highlight before the year is done.
Winner: Sebastian Vettel
Bonus prediction: Another podium for Max Verstappen