For the first time in the 2017 season, Lewis Hamilton took the lead in the championship following his win at Monza, sneaking ahead of Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel by three points. The momentum has swung between Mercedes and Ferrari numerous times over the thirteen races but Vettel has had the edge in the standings until Sunday. The Mercedes looks to be the stronger overall package but Vettel has been marginally more consistent than Hamilton and there are some circuits coming up that will suit the Ferrari, so who will come out on top? Let’s look at the final seven races of the season:
Given Ferrari’s impressive performance in Monaco and Hungary, this looks likely to be their strongest remaining circuit. Mercedes will be quick but it could be a case of damage limitation, particularly if Kimi Raikkonen is on the pace, as he was in the two previously mentioned circuits. One potential spanner in the works is Red Bull – if they can avoid any engine penalties, this is their best chance to add to their solitary 2017 win. This one is tough to call, but I would expect Vettel to retake the lead in the championship.
The Sepang circuit is a mix of long straights, fast and slow-speed corners, so I would expect Mercedes to be marginally quicker than Ferrari. High temperatures and the threat of tropical thunderstorms have the potential to mix up the order, but in a straightforward dry race it’s unlikely that Red Bull will be able to mix it with the top two.
Mercedes dominated at the other two high-speed circuits – Silverstone and Spa – so the smart money will be on another win for the Silver Arrows in Suzuka. Ferrari will no doubt bring major upgrades between now and the end of the season, and we would expect them to focus on improving their performance at this type of track. Engine upgrades will also be a key factor in the final run in.
Much like Sepang, Austin is a circuit with great variety which should offer a close battle between the title contenders. Mercedes are likely to have an advantage in the first half of the track, with Ferrari gaining time in the latter half. With such a narrow gap between Hamilton and Vettel, and the momentum constantly shifting, neither can afford an off weekend in pursuit of the title.
This is a track that is likely to strongly favour Mercedes, given its long straights and sweeping S-section. There are a number of slower corners but if the current disparity in engine performance remains, it looks unlikely that Ferrari will be able to recover the lost time. Red Bull will almost certainly not be a factor in Mexico City.
Based on current car performance, this is likely to be closer than Mexico but overall, Mercedes should once again have the edge. They have been dominant in Sao Paulo in the V6 turbo era and will surely be favourites to win again. The weather may be Ferrari’s best hope of taking their first win at Interlagos since 2008. Engine penalties will also become more of a factor as the season wears on – Ferrari have used more components than Mercedes so far.
Most F1 fans will be hoping that the title fight comes down to a shootout under the lights in Abu Dhabi. In terms of car performance this could be a very close race, given the number of medium and low-speed corners, but the speed of the development race makes it impossible to make any solid predictions at this stage. There is also the pressure of a potential title decider to consider – Hamilton and Vettel have seven titles between them, but could they crack under the pressure?