With Lewis Hamilton 33 points adrift of team-mate Nico Rosberg, mathematically Rosberg can finish second in all remaining rounds and still claim his first ever Formula One title, therefore Red Bull’s form is key for Hamilton to have any chances of still winning this years F1 championship.
Red Bull remain the only team other than Mercedes to win this year; both Red Bull Racing drivers have had one victory this season, Verstappen in Spain, and Ricciardo in Malaysia. However, victories aside, Red Bull have been splitting the Mercedes cars throughout the year, and the dominant constructor has only enjoyed 4 1-2 finishes this year.
Mathematically, Daniel Ricciardo is officially out of the championship race, meaning either Rosberg or Hamilton will win the drivers championship. Red Bull’s engine saga during the end of last year saw the team make a slower start to the season, however they quickly built up their form, and by Hungary the team were ahead of Ferrari in the constructors championship.
Red Bull Racing’s recent surge has meant the team are gunning for race victories and podium finishes, rather than aiming for the world championship – this is the inevitable case as the team had a less dynamic start to 2016. This means both Ricciardo and Verstappen are keen on race victories for personal pride, and of course, to jump as near as possible to the Mercedes drivers in terms of points.
Red Bull’s increased performance could be nothing but good news for Lewis Hamilton in the world championship. Hamilton is currently 33 points shy of Rosberg, and just four races remain in this seasons 21-race calendar. This means if Hamilton wins every race and Rosberg finishes second, the British driver will still finish second in the championship. For Hamilton to still win the championship, Nico Rosberg needs at least two finishes outside the top two positions, and Hamilton needs to win every remaining round.
Whilst it may seem like an uphill challenge for Hamilton to win the championship, statistics suggest the British driver may still have a chance. This season, a Red Bull driver has finished in second place 8 times in the 17 races that have taken place thus far, which equates to the team finishing second in 47% of the races. And achieving this may be even easier for Red Bull in the latter stages of the season, as their performance continues to improve as the races progress. The second challenge: Lewis Hamilton must win all the remaining races of the season. Nico Rosberg managed four consecutive victories at the start of the season; The German championship leader won in Australia, Bahrain, China, and Russia.
Red Bull’s quickly improving pace to interfere in the championship battle was eminent in Friday Practice for the United States Grand Prix, where on the absolute qualifying simulations, Rosberg just had a 0.194s advantage over Red Bull’s Ricciardo, whilst the Australian driver pipped Hamilton to third place.
In terms of the long-run pace for the Daniel Ricciardo, its ever more competitive compared to Mercedes. Ricciardo averaged a faster stint on both the super-soft and soft tyres, whilst Mercedes had the slight edge on the medium tyres.
“We made some changes between the two sessions, and we look pretty good for now, hopefully we stay like that,” Ricciardo said, commenting on Red Bull’s form during Friday Practice in Austin.
“We should have a good race on Sunday if that’s the case.
“It’s nice to start the weekend on the right foot. There’ll be a bit of finetuning as always, but we don’t have to search for too much at the moment.
“I think we can still find a bit more. I’m sure Mercedes will probably have a bit more. If we’ve got the pace we had today against Mercedes then it’s going to be a fun race.
“I’m not sure where they are with engines and how conservative they are running, but today we looked good. Let’s see what happens over the next 48 hours.”