They might not be likely to win either of the titles this year, but how their drivers fare in the last six rounds of the championship could well decide who wins it.
Lewis Hamilton and Kimi Raikkonen – the last two drivers’ champions – are still able to win the drivers’ championship, but their chances are incredibly remote. Another 13 points for Button will put Raikkonen out of the hunt; 16 more for Button will end Hamilton’s chances.
Thinking more realistically, what’s the best finishing position they can hope to achieve?
Picking off the (impressively consistent) Nico Rosberg for fifth should be straightforward given the form of their respective teams. McLaren in particular should be very strong at stop-start Singapore, though Spa may not suit them quite as well.
The remaining positions depend on how the Brawns and Red Bulls fare in the latter stages of the season.
Jenson Button will be losing sleep over the prospect of another race like Valencia, spent trapped behind KERS-powered Ferraris and McLarens while his team mate dashes off to win.
The progress McLaren and Ferrari have made in the last two races is most clear here.
McLaren’s surge forward has captured most of the attention, but without the absent Felipe Massa Ferrari would probably be doing even better. Unless Luca Badoer is substantially quicker at Spa this weekend, or he is shortly replaced with a driver who is competitive right from the off, Ferrari can kiss third place in the constructors’ championship goodbye.
Another team suffering from a one-sided driver line-up is Williams. Yes, Kazuki Nakajima has had some misfortune, but there’s no getting away from the fact that all of Williams’ 29.5 points have been scored by team mate Rosberg.
Williams are slowly catching Toyota, who also supply their engines. Since locking out the front row of the grid at Bahrain, Toyota’s performance has been wildly inconsistent. Ending the season behind their customer team for the second time in three years would be a massive blow – especially in a year when they allegedly have set themselves the target of winning their first race.
The front running cars are affected by track temperature in different ways. Brawn seem to have got a handle on their tyre warm-up problems, though they may still be vulnerable in the sort of cool weather we can expect this weekend. Lower temperatures is good news for McLaren and Red Bull.
What we can’t predict as successfully at the moment is how changing development priorities will affect the championship. The likes of Ferrari have talked about shifting their development focus to 2010, while McLaren are still bringing major improvements onto their 2009 car – even shipping out new parts to Valencia on Sunday morning.
Where do you think McLaren and Ferrari – and their drivers – will finish in the championships? At which circuits will they be strongest?
Points in full: Championship standings after Valencia