Max Verstappen, Charles Leclerc, 2019

What’s at stake in the season finale: The six remaining championship contests

2019 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

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The top places in the championships were locked in weeks ago, but there are several other important positions waiting to be decided at this weekend’s season finale.

And don’t think there’s only pride at stake in these battles for the lower places. Some of them, particularly in the constructors’ championship, could decide the destiny of millions in prize money.

Some teams threw a double-six at the Brazilian Grand Prix: Ferrari didn’t score, but Toro Rosso, McLaren and Alfa Romeo all cashed in. This has left several finely-poised contests in the standings ahead of the final reckoning this weekend at Yas Marina.

Verstappen versus the Ferraris

When Sebastian Vettel bounced off his team mate and took both of them out of the race in Brazil, he also ruled himself out of finishing third in the championship.

That means we now have a two-way fight for third between Max Verstappen and Charles Leclerc. Verstappen will have serious bragging rights if he manages to end the year ahead of both Ferraris, which have usually been quicker than his Red Bull.

With an 11-point lead over Leclerc ahead of this weekend’s race, he has a good chance of getting it done. The pair have had some exciting battles this year, and the prospect of finishing as ‘first-non-Mercedes’ will add a little extra spice any on-track encounters between them this weekend.

Gasly or Sainz for sixth?

Carlos Sainz Jnr, McLaren, Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez, 2019
Sainz could snatch an unlikely sixth
An ill-judged overtaking move by Lewis Hamilton cost Alexander Albon a podium finish at Interlagos. It also means that we could see a driver from outside Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull finish inside the championship top six for the first time in four years.

Following their surprise podium finishes two weeks ago, Pierre Gasly and Carlos Sainz Jnr are tied on 95 points, 11 ahead of Albon, going into the final race. Gasly and Albon have part-timed at Red Bull this year, while sixth place for Sainz would be a further sign of the progress McLaren have made throughout the season.

While Albon clearly has the most competitive car of the three, he also has the most ground to make up, making this a tough one to call.

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Midfield runner-up

Sainz has already shown a clean pair of heels to his rivals in the midfield, leaving Ricciardo on top of a very tight-knit group behind. We could see some late movement in here, potentially involving Sergio Perez and Kimi Raikkonen, who’ve consistently gathered points for Racing Point and Alfa Romeo respectively.

Points for everyone?

There’s only one driver left who hasn’t scored a point this year. The zero next to George Russell’s name is bound to be a point of irritation for him. He’s consistently out-performed team mate Robert Kubica during 2019, but it was the canny Kubica who grabbed Williams’ only point of the year at Hockenheim.

Russell’s chances of matching that this weekend are extremely slim, notwithstanding his little-heralded 12th place in Brazil, Williams’ best result in a dry race this season.

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Top half for Toro Rosso?

Pierre Gasly, Toro Rosso, Interlagos, 2019
Toro Rosso could finish in the top half
Gasly’s windfall second place propelled Toro Rosso up to sixth in the constructors’ championship. That puts them on course to equal their best ever result, but they could go one better.

There’s just eight points between Toro Rosso and Renault, who are having a disappointing end to 2019. They’ve already fallen from the fourth place they took last year, and losing to Toro Rosso would be especially galling for Cyril Abiteboul given his remarks about the team at the beginning of the year.

Racing Point stumbling

After successfully protesting Renault at Suzuka it seemed Racing Point were the team most likely to beat them to fifth place. But after Perez’s superb performance in Mexico he slipped up in Austin, getting a penalty which forced him to start from the back, and said the team lacked straight-line speed in Brazil.

They now find themselves under threat from Alfa Romeo, who landed a Brazil bonanza of 22 points with a double top five finish. It’s unlikely they’ll find the 10 more they need to end the year ahead of Racing Point, but the pink team seems down on its luck lately, and Lance Stroll has contributed little since the summer break.

Over to you

How do you think these six contests will be decided? Or do the points tables not matter to you once the championships have been won?

Have your say in the comments.

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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25 comments on “What’s at stake in the season finale: The six remaining championship contests”

  1. Verstappen will finish 3rd unless he has a dnf and Leclerc gets on podium. Barring similar mishaps Sainz will also finish ahead of Gasly and Albon.

    1. Verstappen will finish 3rd unless he has a dnf and Leclerc gets on podium.

      As the gap is only 11 points there are many permutations in which Leclerc can regain 3rd place, including one where Verstappen gets on the podium from pole and being voted DOTD and DOTW.

      1. Nah. I think it is obvious Verstappen will take third. And then at the prize giving gala in Paris they will remove him from the podium just as he intends to collect his trophy. I mean, it’s only fitting

        1. This year Verstappen has improved his driving performance by quite a lot so thats a bit harsh.

          1. This year Verstappen hasn’t had Riccardo along side him… that’s been his area of improvement.

            What was Riccordo thinking? I guess all those cameras around him, that F1 series they made for Netflix would have been a factor, now he’s out of the spotlight with talents is languishing in x place. This sport could use more drivers from humble backgrounds.

  2. Tornillo Amarillo
    26th November 2019, 13:58

    Interesting to see what happens with Renault.

  3. Tough one that is…
    Scenario 1 (normal race)
    Leclerc or Verstappen wins, since Hamilton’s PU is wasted as we could see in Brazil. Smooth Operator does his thing again. Racing Point, Haas and Williams have thrown the towel, so no surprises there. Ah, Ricciardo shows again he’s worth it. Vettel third.

    Scenario 2 (crazy race)
    Bottas wins coming all the way from the back due to his engine change. This time Leclerc takes Vettel out so they are even and the air is cleared for 2020. Hamilton hits Albon again and steal the torpedo nickname for himself. Verstappen second after contact in the first lap had him rowing throughout the grid. Magnussen does his famous blocks on Hulk, who at this time thinks “well, it’s my last race, so…”

  4. People talk about the step McLaren had made this season but only a few realize the superb season Sainz had completed!
    He has make even a bigger step than McLaren in his race approach and speed.

  5. Albon has to finish at least 4th to take back 6th in the WDC should both Sainz and Gasly fail to score any points at YMC. Had he finished 2nd last time out in Brazil, then he would now be 12 points ahead of Sainz/13 ahead of Gasly, or nine ahead of Sainz/ten ahead of Gasly presuming Hamilton would’ve eventually passed him for 2nd place into T1 the next time approaching it. Being 11 points behind both makes it difficult for him to re-overhaul them with only a single race left. Oh well, he’s going to finish well ahead of both in the WDC next season should he drive at RBR the entire season.

  6. If Leclerc is sidelined by mechanical trouble or colliding with Verstappen, Vettel can still edge him out for the year. Up by 6 points if he wins, tie him with a 2nd and fastest lap , however that be 3 DNFs for Leclerc and only 2 for Seb.

  7. Of course the most exciting contest is for the Hulk; will he get his first podium.

    1. This would be so bittersweet. I’d pay to see it.

      1. Same here

  8. Red bull could have easily beat ferrari in the constructors if they had two number 1 drivers like Ferrari and merc. They lost some cash but I doubt the corporation of red bull is in much need of cash so they probably don’t care

    1. @carlosmedrano
      Red Bull prefers a real number 1 driver, opposed to having the 2 wanna be’s Ferrari is employing; and Ferrari knows that with Red Bulls number one driver they would have won at least one championship.
      To bad Danny Ric crumbled under Max his pressure and fled, else you would have been right though: with all Danny’s 4th and 5th places Red Bull would have beaten Ferrari!

      1. No one fled, Ricciardo was rather tired with Red Bull’s constant favouritism of the wonderkid. The chosen one. However you want to call him.

        1. Chalk that one up to poor man managment. There was nothing between them, both were equally talented drivers.

        2. @pironitheprovocateur
          “However you want to call him.”
          Fastest man on the planet.
          Best driver on the grid.
          Destroyer of teammates.
          Extremely exciting.
          Better than Danny Ric.

          But, after hearing the crowd in Brazil chanting his name, guess “God’s gift to
          real F1 fans” will do.

  9. Hulk podium. Calling it now!

  10. If it weren’t for all the car troubles and reliability DNFs, Norris would be right up there with Sainz too. Such a shame.

    I hadn’t realised both Ferraris will finish outside the top 3 in the drivers championship. That’s an embarrassment mostly of Vettel’s making.

    1. @JC Sainz has 50 points more than Norris (more than twice). I think Norris has done a great job, and his season should be valued as a competitive season against a team mate with experience and speed, but Lando has only had one more mechanical DNF than Carlos:

      Sainz: Australia, Bahrain, Belgium, Italy
      Norris: China, Norris, Germany, Belgium, Mexico

      With experience he’ll learn to stay out of trouble, even when it’s not of his own making (as it was often this year), and he’s obviously got the speed.

  11. Is the Honda PU only winning at high altitudes? Maybe we will know in Abu Dabi.

    1. Honda has a great Turbo made by their Aircraft department which is working great at high altitudes but also in lower parts. The only thing they need to work on is the electric part of the engine.

  12. I’m gonna root for a smooth operation!

  13. Ves only cares about one position in the WDC.

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