Both Formula 1 titles may be done and dusted already, but there are plenty of scores to settle in the final triple-header of a frantic and unprecedented season.

Here’s what’s left up for grabs heading into the final run-in across the Middle East…

The battle for ‘best of the rest’

With Lewis Hamilton wrapping up a record-equalling seventh world title with three races to spare, and Mercedes having already claimed the constructors’ crown, attention turns to those in the chasing pack.

Valtteri Bottas currently lies second but is just 27 points clear of Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, who could yet take runner-up spot in the championship with a strong end to the season with Red Bull closing the gap to Mercedes, which stopped developing its 2020 car a long time ago.

But the most intriguing battle is the one for P4. The position is currently held by Sergio Perez, who unfathomably remains without a seat for next year despite his sublime drive to finish second in Turkey. A first podium of 2020 vaulted the Mexican up to fourth, just three points clear of Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc, who threw away a shot at a podium with a late mistake in Istanbul.

A brilliant second half of the season for Renault has placed Daniel Ricciardo right in the mix, with the Australian just a point behind Leclerc and four adrift of Perez. Behind Ricciardo the McLaren duo of Carlos Sainz and Lando Norris are lurking, while Alex Albon is only a couple of big results away from pulling off a late charge to fourth, though such a feat seems unlikely.

Perez is the man in form heading into the final three races, having scored points in every race he has seen the chequered flag in so far this year and finishing outside of the top six just once in the last six rounds - including two fourth places.

The four-way fight to join F1’s top three

A highly competitive squabble in F1’s midfield has perhaps been the highlight of the 2020 season, with an intense scrap to seal a rare spot among the sport’s ‘big three’ nearing its conclusion. With three races to go and the pendulum of performance swinging back and forth weekend-by-weekend, it’s anyone’s guess as to who will come out on top.

Racing Point, McLaren and Renault have been locked in a three-way squabble for supremacy in the midfield for much of the season, but recent improvements have helped Ferrari creep back into contention after a woeful start to the year.

Racing Point - which appears to boast the fastest car out of the four teams with its controversial ‘pink Mercedes’ - holds the much-coveted third spot by five points from McLaren, which is continuing an aggressive development push that is not being carried out to the same extent by any of its rivals.

Renault has scored two podiums in the last four events but fell 24 points behind Racing Point following a disappointing result last time out. Meanwhile, Ferrari’s run of upgrades has hauled it back into the frame as the Scuderia logged its best result of 2020 with third and fourth in Turkey.

Ferrari’s true form will be revealed in the final three races which includes an unknown quantity in the shape of Sakhir’s outer circuit. Both track layouts having high power demands, which has been an evident weakness of its SF1000.

The Bahrain opener is likely to be a key race in deciding the fight for third place.

Earning Red Bull’s second seat

Albon has three more races to prove to Red Bull that he is the right man for the job to continue in the second seat alongside Verstappen for 2021.

The Thai racer has found himself under some momentous pressure in recent weeks amid a difficult first full-season in Red Bull colours having been overwhelmingly out-performed by Verstappen.

Red Bull’s intention is to retain Albon, who enjoyed arguably his strongest weekend of the season yet in Turkey despite a costly spin which prevented him taking a potential second podium of the year.

Three solid and error-free performances across the final three weekends would likely be enough for Albon to successfully convince Red Bull that it should stick with its current line-up.

However, three sub-par showings for Albon would open the door for two attractive options who are on the market and available should Red Bull opt to shake things up for 2021.

Free agents Perez and Nico Hulkenberg have made the most of their respective opportunities to show Red Bull what they can do and must patiently play the waiting game to find out whether their services will be required with the Milton Keynes outfit having time on its side and in no rush to make a final decision before the end of the season.

This final trio of races will provide Albon with his last chance to stamp his authority over what is ultimately his seat to lose and seal his place at Red Bull.

Gaining vital momentum for 2021

On paper, it might appear that there is very little to fight for heading into what can be regarded as a damp squib of a finale, but there is more reason compared to recent years to end the season on a high note with teams carrying their cars over into 2021 and facing a lack of pre-season testing ahead of next year.

After his horror show in Turkey, Bottas stated that he is looking forward to racing without the pressure of a title fight to see whether that changes anything in his fight against Hamilton.

Bottas could equal his career best tally of four victories in a season if he wins at least two of the final three races, and a strong end to the season could provide him with a key confidence boost heading into the winter as he looks to recover from his latest defeat to Hamilton. It was that sort of form at the end of 2015 which helped set up Nico Rosberg’s title-winning campaign a year later, though 2020-spec Hamilton is a much improved beast from his 2016 equivalent.

If Hamilton triumphs at all three of the remaining races, he will match the record benchmark shared by Sebastian Vettel and Michael Schumacher for most wins in a single season with 13.

Following his first podium in over a year in Turkey, Vettel is keen to put a difficult 2020 season behind him with a strong end to the year across the final three races before he makes the switch to the soon-to-be Aston Martin squad alongside Lance Stroll.

Ferrari itself will be looking to confirm its end-of-year progress heading into an important year in 2021 as it gears up for a hoped return to winning ways in F1’s looming regulation overhaul in 2022. Sainz and Ricciardo will also be eyeing a solid end to the year ahead of their anticipated swaps to Ferrari and McLaren respectively.

Schumacher’s championship chase for F1 debut

Formula 2 returns after its mini-break to conclude its campaign with Mick Schumacher - son of seven-time champion Michael - aiming to secure the championship title ahead of his anticipated graduation to F1 next year.

Schumacher leads the standings with two rounds to go by 22 points over nearest rival Callum Ilott, with a maximum of 48 available per weekend. Red Bull and Honda protege Yuki Tsunoda sits 44 points off Schumacher in third with a slim chance of winning the F2 title in what has been a mightily impressive rookie campaign, with the Japanese racer expected to earn a 2021 promotion to AlphaTauri providing he secures the necessary points for a superlicence.

It is unlikely that Schumacher will wrap up the championship at the Bahrain opener, but he can take a massive step towards the title and an F1 seat with Haas for 2021 with another strong weekend.

 

Comments

Loading Comments...