There are now just five races remaining in 2012, and the battle for the World Championship is entering its final stretch. With three quarters of the season down there are now only four drivers realistically in with a chance of taking the title. Here I look at each of their chances of taking the title in Brazil on 25th November.
Following victory in the past two races, world champion Sebastian Vettel is finding form at just the right time. His win in Japan has propelled him to within just 4 points of Fernando Alonso, and with his Red Bull team making significant improvements to his car, the German is looking good as he hunts down the Ferrari driver. Although doubts over his ability to race through the field still remain, if Vettel can consistently qualify the car well from now until the end of the season he won’t need to worry about that. He is certainly the favourite right now as he looks to achieve his goal of becoming only the third driver in F1 history to win three titles on the bounce.
For championship leader Alonso, the situation couldn’t be any more different. The Spaniard has seen a once convincing lead in the standings all but wiped out and he is now looking firmly over his shoulder at the charging Vettel. His car is lacking pace and updates on the Ferrari haven’t produced the upturn in fortunes both he and the turn have hoped for. Alonso hasn’t even led a lap of a Grand Prix since his win in Hockenheim six races ago and despite a series of strong, consistent performances earlier in the season that saw him build up his lead, two retirements in the last four races have halted his momentum and it’s hard to see how even he will be able to keep Vettel at bay for the remainder of the championship.
Kimi Raikkonen doesn’t look likely to challenge. Despite lying in third place in the standings, the Finn has yet to win a race in his comeback year and the Lotus hasn’t looked as threatening as it did earlier in the season. The car is due some large updates this weekend, but even with a surge in performance it remains doubtful that Raikkonen will be able to claw himself properly into the championship fight. As things stand Kimi will be doing well if he manages to take that elusive victory before the season is out.
Lewis Hamilton on the other hand is still in with an outside shot. Although the McLaren driver could only manage fifth last weekend, a lot of that was down to poor set-up choice and his car not being particularly well suited to the Suzuka circuit. If you look back before last week, the McLaren has consistently been the best car over the last few races and if they can re-discover that form from Korea onwards, Hamilton will have a chance. He will realistically have to finish on the podium in each of the last five races, and probably win more than once, but if he can achieve it, and he is more than capable of doing so, then he will have a chance to win the championship and end his McLaren career in style.