Trying to work out who will be the Formula 1 world champion in 2023 is not the most thought-provoking question, with Max Verstappen all but set to clinch the crown at the very next race in Qatar.
The Dutchman bounced back from a sloppy Singapore Grand Prix where Red Bull were beaten for the first time this season to dominate the Japanese Grand Prix and put himself on the cusp of winning a third successive world title.
It’s Verstappen’s team-mate Sergio Perez who is favourite to finish second, and help the team complete a first-ever one-two finish in the drivers’ title. He stands on 223 points and a full 177 points behind Verstappen but a clear 33-points ahead of anyone else giving him a nice race-win buffer over his competitors. However after an error-strewn horror show in Suzuka where he retired from the race and his form criticised, is his season in danger of going on a downward spiral?
The seven-time world champion spent the entire season playing catch up, however, thanks to being the only driver alongside Verstappen to have scored points at every race this season, the Brit has surged into the top three. With just six races left and an inferior car to the Red Bull, the gap may just be too big for the British star to pip Perez but if anyone can, then there are few better bets than Hamilton to pull off the unthinkable.
Alonso started the season like a train, bagging six podiums from eight races and reminding everyone why he is a two-time F1 world champion. However, Aston Martin's struggles in the development race have limited Alonso to just one top-three finish since. While form isn't in his favour, the Spaniard remains in contention with 174 points, making the long odds on a proven megastar intriguing for a late-season punt.
Sainz has enjoyed a late-season burst of form which has currently peaked with him being the only driver to score 25 points at a race this season outside either of the Red Bull drivers when he triumphed at the Singapore Grand Prix.
That’s a massive plus in his bid to hunt down Perez, but a big negative is he already trails the Mexican by 73 points.
If you don’t fancy one Ferrari star to close the gap at this late stage of the season, then maybe you could be persuaded to back his team-mate in the chase.
It’s been a scrappy season for the Monegasque driver who trails Sainz by 15 points in the championship. However, he has often been the naturally faster of the two Ferrari drivers and a trio of fourth-place finishes indicate he is getting back into the groove.
A wonderful first season as Lewis Hamilton’s team-mate saw him beat the seven-time world champion to give him a huge boost. Mercedes have extended his contract as a result but his second season hasn’t been much of a success.
With just 115 points and just one podium all season, it’s hard to see him getting back into the fight for second. Although the Sao Paulo Grand Prix is on the way where he took his first and so far only win in F1 last season.
One of the biggest stories in the second half of the 2023 season has been McLaren’s revival, mainly led by British star Norris who has started to rack up podiums. Four second-place finishes in the last seven races make him one of the most in-form drivers on the grid and coupled with his reputation and potential to be a future F1 world champion, could see him eat away at the gap to second despite sitting on just 115 points.
Oscar Piastri (1000/1)
A brilliant debut season for the Australian who continues to improve and enjoyed his first F1 podium at the most recent Japanese Grand Prix with an excellent drive. On 57 points, a charge to second now would be nothing short sensational for the McLaren rookie… and also incredibly unlikely.
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