Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Five Contenders: A Win at all Costs

Mathematically, eight drivers remain in the fight for this year's World Drivers Championship but most F1-realists would narrow the list to five main contenders: Webber, Hamilton, Alonso, Button and Vettel. Each of these drivers have strong motivations to strive for a win this year even though 3 of them are recent World Champions. Button won in 2009, Hamilton in 2008, Alonso is a two-time champion (2005 and 2006), and holds the title of being the youngest double champion.

This article examines the motivations of these 5 drivers to secure a win this year, and why this year's title will be just as nail-biting as Lewis' win in 2008. The drivers' current standings before the Singapore GP are in ().

Webber (1st): The oldest driver in contention for this year's Championship at 34 years old, has been the most consistent and has only had 1 retirement so far this season.
Coming back after a serious leg injury, he has risen above the 'perceived' favouritism in his team towards his team-mate to maximise the performance of his RedBull car, and has held onto the lead of the Championship table several times this year. He is ready for his first WDC since his debut in the sport 8 years ago; to be the first Australian winner since Alan Jones 30 years ago, and to proclaim himself as the ACTUAL Number 1 driver in his team.
Potential Record: Third ever Australian WDC, and first Australian winner in 30 years

Hamilton (2nd): Current youngest World Driver Championship (WDC) winner at 23years 300 days, beat Alonso's record of 24years 58 days in 2008. The following year was a year to forget, he just didn't have the car to deliver after the high of 2008.

He is back with a vengenance in 2010. The McLaren car is not the fastest on the track but it has proven to be quite reliable, which has been to Hamilton's advantage. He has been as aggressive as always and he now has a competitive, yet cooperative team-mate in Button to motivate him. Two retirements so far this season, but he admits Monza's could have been avoided.

With both McLaren drivers' contracts ending in 2012 and the team principal already scouting other teams, he needs another WDC win to convince McLaren to extend his contract: not just for his history with the team but because he deserves it.
Potential Record: Third Briton with 'just' 2 WDC titles

Alonso (3rd): is the highest earner in the paddock, reportedly earning 30million euros. Ferrari has entrusted him to revive their dominance in the sport and although the middle of the season was lacklustre, Alonso has remained within touching distance of the RedBull and McLaren drivers all season.

On a personal note, he will be looking for his 3rd title after a near-win in 2007 and several team changes since his last win with Renault.
Potential Record: Youngest three-time WDC winner

Button (4th): First WDC win in 2009 with the superb Brawn car. His move to McLaren has been smooth sailing by all accounts and he is demonstrating that having a different driving style to your team-mate is not necessarily detrimental to your success. He has made terrific tyre choices and set-up decisions, and has shown maturity in this driving and personal life. But some would argue that his passion and determination to win again is muted.

However, a win this year would make him the first Briton to win consecutive WDC. Surely, the prospect of that is worth getting fired up for.
Potential Record: First Briton to win the Championship in consective years.

Vettel (5th): On the other side to the paddock from Mark Webber is the man dubbed "Baby Schumi". Having demonstrated tremendous wet racing skills and being the youngest ever winner of a Grand Prix, Sebastian Vettel has won plaudits from everyone in the paddock. However within THIS season, he has made several catastrophic racing errors which have called his skills into question; Turkey and Belgium being the most memorable.

This year is his last hope if he wants to claim Hamilton's record of being the youngest F1 Champion. Vettel will be 23 years 131 days in Abu Dhabi on 12th November which would beat Hamilton's record by 169 days.
Potential Record: Youngest F1 WDC winner

The three other drivers still mathematically in contention are Massa (6th), Kubica (7th) and Rosberg (8th). With the exception of Massa, the other two are undoubtedly outperforming their team-mates in their respective teams; but Nico Rosberg has a bigger challenge on his hands; to demonstrate his skills without being intimidate by his 'legendary' team-mate (the 7-time F1 World Champion, Michael Schumacher) and gain recognition as a talented driver in his own right.

Massa has been the 'unofficial' Number 2 driver for a few years. Although he came close to winning the WDC in 2008, he has a mighty task ahead of him if he wants to win his first title this year, as Ferrari favours his team-mate and are not averse to some overt car-shuffling on the track.

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