The 2023 Formula 1 season is nearly over – in some people’s minds, it already is. And not just Nyck de Vries and Liam Lawson, a large portion of the F1 has switched off with Max Verstappen winning the world championship with a record number of Grand Prix left in the season.
If you’re in that camp then we can’t help you – but hopefully see you again next March – though there are plenty of F1 fans still tuning in week after week and with a healthy amount of battles to be decided at the 2023 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
It’s the first time the first time since 2015 that the top three has been confirmed ahead of the last race of the season, but there’s a battle royale just below that with four drivers in contention for fourth and the constructors’ championship is also far from set in stone.
Sainz vs Alonso vs Norris vs Leclerc
Carlos Sainz currently leads this battle for fourth in the standings, level on 200 points with Fernando Alonso but ahead thanks to his Singapore GP victory.
The tiebreaker for both championships is the driver or team with the highest-placed finish, then the most number of highest-placed finishes if two competitors have the same peak, then the highest second-best finish and so on.
Alonso was third for much of the season but has slipped in recent races and was strangely outshone by Lance Stroll at the 2023 Las Vegas GP. It looks like he’ll struggle to overhaul his compatriot provided Sainz has a clean race, but he needs to look over his shoulder in Abu Dhabi as well as ahead.
If Alonso can remain in the top five then it’ll be his best championship finish since 2013 but that will be no mean feat given the quality behind.
Lando Norris was rock bottom of the standings after the Saudi Arabian GP but from Austria onwards has scored 183 points – more than any other driver bar Verstappen.
That, plus a strong tiebreaker, means he only needs to gain five points on Alonso and six on Sainz to jump the Spaniards.
Meanwhile, Charles Leclerc is in trouble – he’s behind everyone in the tiebreaker and 12 points away from the Iberian duo. He could still jump either with a podium finish though provided they don’t score, and is close enough to beat Norris in a straight fight.
Mercedes vs Ferrari
The big one… To one side. Mercedes appear completely done with the season and team principal Toto Wolff admitted he wouldn’t cheer for second place, but it’s a different story in the other set of garages.
But Ferrari were livid in Las Vegas that Mercedes allegedly blocked the stewards from exploring options to waive Sainz‘s penalty for replacing components damaged by a track malfunction on The Strip Circuit.
“Four points is nothing,” an impassioned Sainz told Sky Sports after battling from 12th on the grid to beat both Mercedes in Las Vegas. “We will go to Abu Dhabi to fight, I want to beat them after what happened this weekend.”
They’re separated by just four points with Ferrari boasting the only victory between the pair, so it’s effectively a straight fight to the finish line at the Yas Marina circuit, best team wins.
This really shouldn’t even be a fight, Mercedes led by 22 points when Leclerc crashed out on the formation lap of the Brazilian GP, but Ferrari have still managed to outscore Lewis Hamilton and George Russell 34-14 since.
McLaren vs Aston Martin
The Battle of Britain looked over when Norris scored McLaren‘s sixth podium in four races to finally overhaul Aston Martin, but mean racing green machines have hung around like a limpet up a whale’s behind and still only trail by 11 points.
Aston Martin have shaved nine points off the gap in the last two rounds chasing fourth in the constructors’ championship, but will rue not making more gains in Las Vegas where Norris failed to finish after both McLarens were eliminated in Q1.
They’ll likely need another slice of misfortune to befall their rivals to reclaim fourth with the flying papaya also set to win the tie-break, but Aston Martin deserve credit for keeping this battle open until the end, while McLaren would cap a truly remarkable comeback.
Lance Stroll vs Pierre Gasly
Admittedly not the most titanic battle, but there’s still a spot in the top 10 up for grabs and that’s not to be sniffed at.
It would mark Stroll‘s highest-ever championship finish, or add to Pierre Gasly‘s impressive record of three top-half finishes in the past four years.
Gasly actually led this battle two races ago but Stroll has wrestled back control with two successive fifth-place finishes while the Frenchman tumbling out of the points in Las Vegas despite starting fourth.
It’s still within reach though – Gasly‘s Dutch GP podium means he needs to outscore Stroll by 11 points.
Williams vs AlphaTauri
Maybe it doesn’t mean much to you, but there’s around $10 million on the line for seventh place in the constructors’ championship, with Williams currently leading by seven points.
AlphaTauri scored 16 points in their impressive Americas triple-header resurgence which keeps the race alive combined with Williams‘ non-score from P5 and P6 on the Las Vegas grid.
What’s more, the tiebreaker could change hands if AlphaTauri level it up too, making it the most dynamic battle of the weekend… Kind of.