The WDC. Where does it stand and how secure is Vettel?

Posted: August 30, 2011 by Matt Ruda in Insights

The Red Bulls had lost their magic. The other sharpenders where catching. There was a glimmer of hope, a chance that this WDC could go down to the wire like 2010. That was until Seb decided he fancied the top spot again. Red Bull’s 1-2 in soggy ol’ Belgium was seen by some as the endgame. “WDC over!” they say. But they are wrong. While improbably, there is still a chance someone can take it to Vettel. I pipped the McLarens (specifically Lewis) for this role, and have been sorely disappointed. Button had the raw pace on Sunday to take the fight to the Bulls. He had the will, and the ability to win. Actually, I’m almost sure he would have (although unpublished, I did pick Button to win over Lewis), but McLaren have shown their weakness once again.

Somehow Button believed he had another lap to go when the checkered flag dropped, and wasn’t able to set a flying lap to get out of Q2. This put him behind Senna and the Torro Rosso cars. As we know now, someone must have told Bruno that the car in front of him was driven by Prost, because we were soon treated to a Renault-Rosso pileup. Bits flew, and JB was left with a damaged wing, no right mirror, and loaded pants following a near miss involving carbon fiber and his face.

Conversely, Lewis seemed to be set up perfectly to beat Seb. While he lacked straight up speed, his performance in the corners was enough to compensate. But once again, fortune didn’t favor the bold overtaker. We found out that Hamilton is apparently a big fan of Kobayashi, as he went over to give him a hug just before the chicane. Kobayashi engaged anti-hug-judo-mode and Lewis got his second DNF of the year.

Ferrari seemed to do decent when they weren’t (in the words of the great Martin Brundle) “going hard.” To his credit, Massa had a good qualifying result which, if their Twitter account is to be believed, Ferrari didn’t notice. Fernando wasn’t having the best of weekends, and it looked as though Massa was set for a decent result, but getting passed left and right and punctures don’t really make for good finishes.

So where does that leave us? With seven races left, 175 points are still up for grabs. This narrows the WDC contenders down to just five drivers. We have Vettel, Webber, Alonso, Button, and Hamilton still in the mix, while it is mathematically impossible for Massa and back to win it. The following is my opinion on who can do what to take the fight to Vettel, starting with the man himself. A note on the “Vettel Must Place” line. This is assuming two things. First, that Seb constantly finishes in that place. I could run all the possible combinations of outcomes, but that would be boring. I’ve included how many points he must get on average so you have some idea. Secondly, this assumes the driver in question takes the win every race.

Driver: Sebastian Vettel

Gap to First: 0

Chances of Taking it: Uber

Seb drove a flawless race in Spa. He was untouchable in the early season, and while he wasn’t 20 hours ahead this time, he never had to work for it. It was a brilliant effort by Red Bull, and the WDC has never looked more secure.

Driver: Mark Webber

Gap to First: 92

Vettel Must Place: Below 4th (average 11.86 points per race)

Chances of Taking it: None

Webber is Seb’s closest rival right now. Sunday’s 1-2 showed the Aussie still has pace to keep up with Vettel, and was catching him in the later stages of the GP (which was probably from Vettel taking it easy, but one can dream). The problem is, Red Bull have shown they are not above team orders, despite what Horner said in 2010. Even if Vettel somehow gets reeled in, chances are Webber would get the call on the radio telling him to pull back. On that though, I should have listed his chances of “taking it” as high. Poor Webbo…

Driver: Fernando Alonso

Gap to First: 102

Vettel Must Place: ~Below 5th (average 10.43 per race)

Chances of Taking it: Low

Alonso is creeping his way up closer to the top with consistent finishes in the top end of the points. While he must be commended for his consistency, it’s not enough right now. The gap to Vettel is too big. To take the title, Alonso must pull something out, and fast. Pressure to win in Monza, followed by a soft/super-soft combo in Singapore may just save Fernando’s chances, but it depends on what tires are brought to every race from there on. Ferrari cannot keep pace with the medium tire, and if it’s used too much Ferrari can kiss their chances goodbye.

Driver: Jenson Button

Gap to First: 110

Vettel Must Place: Below 5th (average 9.28 points per race)

Chances of Taking it: Medium

I’m putting all my hopes on Jenson right now. The gap may be bigger than Alonso’s, but JB’s form in the last few races astounds me. He is on the ball, consistent, and clearly the man to beat for second place. The team need to work out some issues (knowing how many laps remain in quali, learning how to tighten a wheel nut), but if these things are ironed out expect Jenson right up there.

Driver: Lewis Hamilton

Gap to First: 113

Vettel Must Place: Below 5th (8.85 points per race)

Chances of Taking it: None

As much as it pains me to say it, Lewis is out of the race for the WDC title. True, mathematically it is possible, but the chances of Webber overtaking Seb are low enough. Vettel only needs two wins and a 4th to knock Hamilton out of the running. Additionally, Lewis cannot translate consistent pace into consistent driving. Even after a long break, a chance to refocus, Lewis is still making mistakes that make him look like more like Petrov, not like a world champion. If he’s not being aggressive to the point of stupidity (Monaco, Hungary spin) he is being rammed by psychotic Venezuelans. Here’s to hoping for a bright 2012.

  1. thevillainf1 says:

    Spa did put a serious dent in my- already faint- hopes for the WDC. Other teams had to come out swinging to start destabilizing the Vet, but instead we end up with a fairly dominant Red Bull 1-2 on a track that’s not supposed to suit them…
    I agree that if anyone is to do it, it’s JB. Ferrari aren’t on it, though they’ll probably show up well at Monza with major upgrades like they always do at the home GP, but it won’t be enough.
    JB has the race pace, now just to sort out quali. For them to have any hopes Vet needs to be dropped into the pack. They can’t let him keep getting these front row starts. A lot of it is down to strategy as well this year. Mclaren keep cocking up the race weekends for one of their drivers. They need to make sure both have it spot on. With Massa’s improved qualifying, even he perhaps has a role to play to hold up Vettel during the races with his abysmal race pace 😉

  2. JourneyTH says:

    I wouldn’t list anyone’s chances as Medium. The WDC is pretty damn done. This just doesn’t happen.

    But, yeah, best looking contender is Jenson – on top of his game, consistent, really impressive in races.

    Webber would be right up there. His race pace is fucking great. But the starts. Every race. And now is a point RBR just won’t allow it even if he rebounds from that.

    Alonso – eh, I’d rank him pretty on par Jenson.

    Hamilton – no comments on him, but thanks for the subtle obligatory Petrov-bash, Matt. You ass.

  3. Petrov-bash? Again? Really? I’m no big fan, but it’s a bit harsh. Not to mention it stopped being original 9998734 years ago.

  4. Kiel says:

    The WDC was looking grim going into this weekend in the first place……….If Alonso had the machinery to push Vettel I think he would do the best out of the other contenders…..but he doesn’t unfortunately and theres a limit to how much he can pull that car week in week out. If Ferrari sort themselves out and the weather suits them in Monza they will be strong and if McLaren have a trouble free weekend. It should be a podium without a RB driver

  5. Gareth says:

    It was surprising (and depressing) that Red Bull was so good in Spa. Realistically, they only have one weak track left in Monza. Perhaps Mclaren should put focus on carrying what seems to be good momentum ( for JB at least! ) into next season, as this one is pretty much over it pains me to say.

    It would be a nice surprise if there was no RB driver on the podium in Monza, we can hope…

  6. war:head says:

    I agree on the ‘low’ for Alonso but a ‘medium’ for JB?
    For JB to win the WDC, Vettel has to finish below 5th on average, which means there has to be a fifth car besides the McLarens and Ferrari to beat Red Bull and thus making it irrelevant what the former two teams do.
    They can drive the hell out of the remaining tracks as long as there is no third team fast enough to cut RB down to size. And this is unlikely to happen, even with the improvements the Mercs seem to have accomplished.
    This is hardly even a ‘low’ I sense here…

  7. JMD says:

    WDC is Vettels and WCC is Redbull’s to lose now basically …. realistically, what else is there to say.

    Does this mean the season is over? Well for me, no ‘cos I enjoy the racing and honestly; racing at the back of the field for 16th position is often as exciting as racing for the win notwithstanding the obvious difference. Who will take the runner up will be cool to see and then there are the in-team battles down the field.


  8. I guess the only way RB can lose the WDC/WCC at this point is by Renault engines blowing up, KERS/DRS failing for a whole weekend or other mechanical problems/DNFs. If Vettel finishes the WDC is his.

  9. Raj says:

    alonso has the biggest chance to stop vettel but frankly if vettel scores a top 5 finish like last year at monza the wdc is his

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