As the 2014 Formula One season draws to a close, the identity of the winner of the Driver’s championship has become the subject of great speculation. With Mercedes GP having captured the Constructor’s championship with three races to go, it comes as no surprise that the only contenders for the title are both Mercedes drivers.
The intense, somewhat antagonistic rivalry between Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg has been the source of much of this year’s excitement, most recently we saw a collision between the teammates at the Belgian Grand Prix, which Hamilton claimed was a deliberate move by Rosberg “to prove a point”.
But the pair’s growing mutual antipathy points to the closeness of the title race. With a maximum of one hundred points on offer from the remaining races, the Mercedes drivers are separated by a mere 17 points, not even a gap of one victory. More telling perhaps, is the Mercedes drivers’ commanding lead over their fellow competitors, with the nearest rival, Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo trailing second placed Nico Rosberg by 75 points. Mercedes dominance across the board is clear, though the pace of the car itself must be considered as an important factor in the team’s success. Certainly, this seems to be a triumphant year for the German manufacturer; the Constructor’s Championship has been won with races to spare, and seven of the top ten drivers use the Mercedes PU106A Hybrid Engine in their cars.
It follows then, that the Driver’s Championship will be determined by combination of the best driver and the best car setup. This is demonstrably true, particularly when looking at the fortunes of Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso. Widely regarded as the best driver in the competition, the Spanish driver is currently languishing in sixth place in the standings, having achieved only two podiums this year. Additionally, the Ferrari team is ranked fourth in the constructor’s championship, a disappointing record which has prompted Alonso’s departure from the team at the end of the season, citing a lack of confidence in the constructor’s ability to produce a competitive car.
It is clear then, that victory relies as much on the car as it does the driver. But do the points tell us everything? The standings can be misleading. This is most evident when comparing the Mercedes drivers’ individual performances.
In qualifying, Nico Rosberg has outperformed Lewis Hamilton, attaining eight pole positions to Hamilton’s seven. However despite being separated by just 17 points, Hamilton can boast nine victories to Rosberg’s four. Thus two factors are apparent; firstly Rosberg has capitalised on reliability problems with Hamilton’s car, achieving podium finishes whilst Hamilton has been forced to retire. Secondly, and perhaps more importantly for the course of the season, Hamilton has proven he is the better driver in on-track duels for first place. Of the three occasions where Rosberg has won from pole position, only once has Hamilton started from second on the grid, and even then he was prevented from challenging the leader due to debris in his eye. Up to this point in the season, Hamilton has never lost a one on one battle with Rosberg.
The implications are clear then; Hamilton has proven to be more capable of thriving under pressure on the track, an important psychological advantage going into the final three races. Rosberg is yet to prove he can beat Hamilton in this scenario, and therefore seems less likely to emerge as the new Driver’s Champion.
Thus all things considered, it seems likely that barring any unforeseen mechanical problems or dramatic mistakes on the part of Lewis Hamilton, we will see a British driver crowned the champion at the season’s end.