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Lewis Hamilton was crowned a five-time world champion at the end of the grand prix in Mexico and his mighty Mercedes AMG stands upon the brink of clinching a fifth consecutive constructor’s title this weekend in Brazil.
With both championships pretty much done and dusted, many a Formula One spectator will ponder the question of what reason is there to view the remaining two races in Brazil and Abu Dhabi.
Start times for anyone viewing on the east coast of Australia already will have little motivation, given the 4:10am lights out at Interlagos and then the midnight start at the Yas Marina circuit for the 2018 finale.
However, there are still a few key narratives yet to unfold in 2018 and despite the title bout itself having fizzled out for the second straight year – here are five other unfinished stories for Formula One this year.
Will Bottas win a race?
From the dizzying heights of his maiden season with world beaters Mercedes AMG in 2017, to the dismal depths of 2018, having been consigned to the role of ‘wingman’ for Hamilton’s championship bid – will we see Valtteri Bottas stand on the top step of the podium this year?
Despite having been in contention on many occasions this season, the Finn has been robbed and often quite brazenly of the chance to claim victory. Baku; a race which Bottas had all but won, blew up in the air just like his Pirelli tyre – which had caught a piece of debris.
Bottas is the only driver of the top six and indeed the top three teams, who has not won a race this season, with his compatriot Kimi Räikkönen having broken his long drought back in Austin.
Looking back to 2017, Bottas claimed back-to-back poles in Brazil and Abu Dhabi, losing out to Vettel at Interlagos and then controlling the grand prix at Yas Marina. However, with the dented confidence that he is driving with, following the wingman relegated – the likeliness of a Bottas victory is slim, though it’d be nice to be proven wrong.
Where does Dan’s misery end?
It was thought that Mark Webber had it tough, finishing as runner up to Sebastian Vettel all the time at Red Bull, but it pales in comparison to the torrid run of luck that his fellow Aussie in Daniel Ricciardo has endured in 2018.
Eight DNFs, including back-to-back retirements due to mechanical failures at the last two races in Austin and Mexico City, have almost outweighed the two victories achieved at the start of the season – including the stunning maiden win in Monaco.
Since announcing that he would part ways with Red Bull at season’s end, Ricciardo has only had three points-scoring finishes in seven races, with a best only of fourth in Japan. So diabolical has been 2018, that outside of his wins in Shanghai and Monaco, the affable Aussie has not stood on the podium anywhere else.
Though with two races to go, it is hoped that this partnership which have yielded all seven of Ricciardo’s race wins so far, can end on a positive note with no more retirements and possibly a podium.
It’s hard to believe that only two races remain in the Formula One career of Fernando Alonso, who announced earlier in the season that he will race elsewhere in 2019.
Hard to believe, because for the last four seasons, a driver that has won two world championships and 32 grands prix with over 300 race starts under his belt – has been meandering for minor points in an undercooked McLaren.
Powered by Honda or by Renault, there’s no doubt that the team that Alonso had won races for back in his first stint at Woking in 2007, have had fundamental car design issues, which still may take years to address.
Years, that the 37-year old Spaniard does not have the patience for to once again be successful in Formula One.
Sitting tenth now in the standings, Alonso realistically could only hope to move up into eighth, with seven points separating he from Kevin Magnussen and Sergio Perez. Though with those two equipped with faster cars, the likelihood of that is quite slim.
Haas versus Renault
The midfield more often than not provides a bulk of the entertainment during a grand prix and this year, it has been Haas and the manufacturer team Renault that have been in the thick of it.
Battling now for the coveted fourth spot in the constructor’s standings, a much-improved Renault from 2017, currently holds a 30-point advantage over Haas whom also have had a breakout 2018 campaign.
Its fascinating to think, that both teams only joined the Formula One grid back in 2016 (even though Renault was born out of the former Lotus team) and have made such strides forward in the championship and are yet to have a car on the podium.
With the advantage currently held by Renault, it is difficult to see Haas overcome the deficit. However, while it is still a mathematical possibility the thought cannot be ignored and a bonkers Brazilian Grand Prix, could be the catalyst for that.
Force India’s fairy-tale finish
As detailed above, McLaren have had a woeful season and the switch from Honda power to Renault has only exposed fundamental issues on the chassis side, which may take years yet to rectify.
For the sake of some pride though, they face an unlikely battle to keep their sixth place in the constructor’s championship, with the team who were in that position before the mid-season break and the Belgian Grand Prix.
Force India were stripped of all its constructor’s points ahead of Belgium, following the team’s buyout from administration and registration as a new entry on the Formula One grid. Having in the same amount of time since Spa, scored 47-points between Perez and Esteban Ocon, to McLaren’s 10-points – there is only 15-points separating both teams with two races to go.
It would be incredible, if in the space of nine races that Force India end up outscoring McLaren and still finish sixth in the championship, having had their points reset midway through the season.
Had that not happened, Force India would theoretically still be in contention for fourth alongside Renault, the position in which they finished for the past two seasons.