Which of the Top Four Contenders Will Win the Formula One Championship?

Daniel ChalmersSenior Analyst IJuly 27, 2008

With four Formula One title contenders, Paul Murtagh and I discuss each contender’s chances and decide who we think is favourite for the title.

Here is the table as it stands:

Lewis Hamilton: 58 points

Felipe Massa: 54 points

Kimi Raikkonen: 51 points

Robert Kubica: 48 points

After the French GP, Hamilton was 10 points behind Massa, but after two brilliant wins and problems for the Ferrari drivers, Hamilton has stormed ahead and is now four points clear of Massa.

Raikkonen has fallen to seven points back. The fact that BMW Sauber have been slipping back and Kubica’s off in the wet Silverstone race means he has now slipped to a double-figure deficit to the leader for the first time since Round 1.

Here are the bookies' odds for the title from respected bookmaker Williamhill:

Lewis Hamilton: 4/7

Kimi Raikkonen: 5/2

Felipe Massa: 4/1

Robert Kubica: 25/1

Williamhill has certainly taken note of Lewis Hamilton’s excellent two race victories and with McLaren’s upturn in pace, have made him firm favourite for the championship with very short odds.

Raikkonen is placed as second favourite, despite being behind Massa in the championship. Like many fans, Williamhill are being careful in case the real Kimi Raikkonen, which we don’t seem to be seeing at the moment, turns up in the near future. Of course, being the reigning champion counts for something in the betting odds.

Massa is out at 4/1 and as he is only four points behind, some fans may see these at pretty decent odds. Kubica has now gone back to 25/1. The bookmakers are obviously thinking that after a decent season so far the challenge is starting to fade.

Here is the discussion between Paul and myself:

 

Daniel Chalmers

Let’s talk about all of the championship contenders and their seasons along with their chances for the championship. Let’s start off with Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen. I was expecting much more from him this season; he has been one of my major disappointments.

Paul Murtagh

He has been disappointing this year. Every race weekend goes by with many people wondering which Kimi will turn up: the extremely fast driver who won the title last season and drove well at Malaysia, Spain and France, or the erratic Kimi who had disasters in Australia, Monaco and Britain. It really hasn't gone well for him and it's been more down to luck than skill that he still has a chance.

Daniel

Yeah definitely, if it weren't for Hamilton and Massa making big errors in other races, too, he wouldn't be in touch in the championship race. He should consider himself lucky to be in strong contention still. Why do you think he hasn't been able to deliver race in, race out so far?


Paul

That is a great mystery, and one I don't think even Kimi can answer. I expected him to dominate this year due to the confidence of finally winning the title, but it hasn't happened. He will be glad of the summer break so that he can go away and think about things and hopefully come back stronger for the last six races of the season.

Daniel

I think perhaps he doesn't have as much desire to be champion; he doesn't care if he wins or not. His attitude is "life goes on" whether he wins or loses. Sometimes a huge drive to be champion can make you faster and more determined, and I don't think Kimi has it at present. My other theory is that he came back from a big gap last season so thinks coming back from seven or eight points will be easy, but his opposition is far tougher this season. McLaren have no politics hanging over them, and Massa is stronger, too.

Paul

Do you think that the Kimi situation is similar to that of Mika Haikkinen in 2001? Back then, Mika was a double world champion and nearly won the title in 2000, but a few poor races at the start of the season left him de-motivated, and he turned his back on the sport at the end of the year. Could Kimi do the same?


Daniel

Well, Finns don't stay in F1 for as long as other drivers. I think Kimi enjoys racing in F1, but he hates everything else out of the car. I thought he would be more up for this season after being champion, but he is capable of rising his game. I would still put my safe money on him, despite being very indifferent so far in 2008.

Paul

What about his teammate, Massa? He showed a lot of signs of improvement since the start of the season, but at the last two rounds in Britain and Germany he has been poor. Is this just a blip or could it be the start of a downturn in form for the Brazilian?

Daniel

Massa is definitely faster this season, and he has become a more mature and all-rounded driver. He even comfortably beat Kimi in the wet conditions in Monaco which I feel is significant. He fought through the field in Montreal, but the last two GPs have showed the old Massa hasn't left us completely.

Paul

What do you think has been the difference to Massa this season compared to previous years? After all, he won three races last season yet never looked like challenging for the title. So far, he has won three races this season and is in with a good chance.

Daniel

I think he has done better at tracks he hasn't gone as well on in the past. Monaco is the best example. He has never had a decent race there until this season, battling back from a low position. In Canada, his great pass on Rubens and Heikki showed his race craft is getting better; however, his defence of positions is still appalling and that needs to change.

Paul  

Can you see him keeping up a title charge for the rest of the season? Apart from Brazil, he never finished last season strongly, and the way it's looking at the minute, he is Ferrari's best hope of winning the driver's title.

Daniel

Kimi and Lewis's errors have maybe flattered him a bit. After giving Lewis a gap the size of the Grand Canyon at the hairpin in Germany, he isn't quite at the heights necessary, I think in all honesty, his best bet is more errors from Lewis and Kimi.

Paul

Can you see Lewis winning the title, then? He has probably looked the most solid out of the top three drivers.

Daniel

I think Lewis has put himself in a very good position, he is getting to grips with his McLaren, and his last two performances have been supreme, but he has shown that he can crack under pressure.

He has had a few very bad races, and I think as team leader that has brought him a new set of challenges, such as car setup and even more media interest.


Paul

You mentioned there that he can crack under pressure. Is that a reference to Bahrain, Montreal, and France?

Daniel

Yeah definitely, in Bahrain he wasn’t focused at all at the start. In Montreal, he made a very amateur mistake, and he never recovered from his penalty in at Magny-Cours. I think we have seen two different Lewis Hamiltons this season, like we have seen two Kimi Raikkonens. If Hamilton can build on the momentum he has, he could be unstoppable. People said that after Monaco and then look what happened!

Paul

Do you think that Lewis' personal life affects his on-track performance at all? It is well-documented that he enjoys a busy social life, especially when compared to his title rivals.

Daniel

The best way to look at it is to look at his schedule between France and Silverstone, he only had one's day rest but he still dominated the entire field in the rain. So maybe no is the answer in that case. Sometimes its better to keep busy, but I do think that closer to the end of the championship battle, he needs to focus more on the racing and McLaren need to give him less commitments, too.


Paul

And what about the fourth title contender this year, Robert Kubica? He has just come out of nowhere with a title charge, taking his first win and scoring consistently. Can he really challenge for the title right up to the wire?

Daniel

Kubica has been the best driver out of all the contenders so far. He has been consistent and got the best out of his car at most races. However, he has been very lucky that the other contenders have all made a string of errors, and that’s why he is where is in the championship at present. BMW are falling back now I feel, so I think his challenge may be fading now, sadly for him.

Paul

Do you think that had he been in a McLaren or Ferrari this year then he would be challenging for the title, or is it the fact that the BMW Sauber suits his driving style?



Daniel

I think with a faster car, he would be challenging for the title, I think he has changed his style of driving and done a lot of work outside the car in order to improve his performance. He has made no major errors. All he has lacked is the car to challenge for wins at every event. If he was in a McLaren or Ferrari, he may well be leading quite comfortably in my opinion. The future is bright for him.

Paul

But no title challenge this year in your opinion?

Daniel

No, not this season, unless the other three make some more mistakes or BMW can suddenly find a lot more performance. However, I think they have too much of a gap to make up now.

Paul

Yeah, I would agree with you on that. So time to put your neck out. Who will win the title?

Daniel

Well, it's a tough decision. This season, we have seen uncharacteristic errors from the McLaren/Ferrari contenders. However, I now believe it’s going to be a straight fight between Raikkonen and Hamilton. I just can't see Massa getting the job done in the final two or three races. He would need to rely on the others to make errors. Who do you favour out of Hamilton and Raikkonen?

Paul

After the last two races, you have to say Hamilton. A lot will depend on how Raikkonen can recover after a few erratic races and if he can motivate himself enough to keep pushing even when he's stuck down the field. But if I had to choose now I would go with Hamilton.

Daniel

I am very inclined to agree with you there. The real Raikkonen will return I think, but he has a lot of work to do and much tougher opposition than this time last season. The McLaren team seem to be finding more performance, and Lewis also has Kovalainen out of the championship and able to help him out. Raikkonen and Massa will probably take points off each other. Everything is pointing towards a Hamilton WDC but if he makes an error in the next race, Ferrari and their drivers are right back in it again. He needs to take the opportunities in the next couple of races to build the gap. But don't rule out Ferrari but for sure Hamilton is now firmly the title favourite, for now at least.


Paul

No matter what, we will have a battle right to the final race in Brazil

So who are you backing to go all the way and win the title? Looking at the odds at the top of the article, who will you put some of your hard-earned cash on?

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