CLASS 1.5: WHO WILL BE CROWNED THE 'BEST OF THE REST' CHAMPION?
The 2018 Formula One World Championship is near the end, with the final weekend in Abu Dhabi in one weeks time. Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes are the world champions, however there are still some matters that haven't been closed.
For example the most obvious one would be third place in the drivers championship. Kimi Raikkonen is leading fellow Finn Valtteri Bottas by nine points heading into Abu Dhabi, and either one could finish on top. One could argue Verstappen is still within a shout, being 20 points behind Kimi, but I would be very surprised if Red Bull could challenge in Dubai.
Renault have all but sealed fourth place in the constructors championship, with Haas taking fifth place, however in the midfield battle things get a bit more interesting.
The so-called Class 1.5 has perplexed me at times, but has also fascinated me. Over the season I have grown into it, with eight different winners in the class.
So what I have been doing over the past two weeks is some hard number-crunching to find out who is leading the so-called Class 1.5.
Now I'm sure many of you would think that looking at the championship standings, Nico Hulkenberg would be leading the way, with Perez, Magnussen and Alonso following the way, but this isn't really the case. So what I'm going to do is individually evaluate how each driver has performed in Class 1.5.
NICO HULKENBERG (RENAULT)
POLE POSITIONS: 5
Nico Hulkenberg for me has been one of the best performing drivers of 2018. He has scored some big points for Renault which has helped them edge away over Haas in the past few races.
With six class wins and five pole positions (the highest qualified driver of the fourteen eligible drivers), he is undoubtably the winner of Class 1.5... or is he?
Though he has scored six class wins (a P5 in Germany, four P6 finishes and a handful of P7 finishes), he has sometimes been inconsistent, especially in the first half of the season, where sometimes for two to three races he wouldn't score any points in Class 1.5
This means he narrowly leads Esteban Ocon in the championship, and whether he will be able to hold on for the title in Abu Dhabi, we will have to wait and see.
ESTEBAN OCON (FORCE INDIA)
POLE POSITIONS: 4
Recently Ocon has received a lot of slack after his incident with Verstappen, however the Frenchman has been performing well this season, despite this translating into no drive for 2019.
With four pole positions, he has scored the second most behind Hulkenberg and generally in the 2018 season that has been the story: Ocon qualifies well but fails to translate that in the race.
Though he had a rocky start to the season, since Monaco - where he won (Class 1.5) - he has been scoring big and consistent points, to even lead the championship at certain points, including as recently as Russia.
His slow start to the season has cost him the championship lead, but with Abu Dhabi as the final round, of which Force India should be strong in, he could clinch the title from Hulkenberg.
SERGIO PEREZ (FORCE INDIA)
POLE POSITIONS: 1
Sergio Perez has had another pretty great season. He may have only taken one pole position, but his form on the weekends have been the opposite to his team-mate; failing to qualify in the Top 8 consistently, but does well in the race.
Of course the highlight of the season for him was that podium in Azerbaijan, currently being the only podium finisher outside of the top 6.
Mid-season his team-mate Ocon was getting the better of him, but since Spa he has slowly been pulling him back, and is now only nine points behind him.
Perez can still technically win the title, but it would mean Hulkenberg would have to retire, and Ocon would have to finish 5th (Class 1.5) or below, so it is unlikely, but a good season nonetheless.
CARLOS SAINZ JR. (RENAULT)
POLE POSITIONS: 2
Though he has scored no class wins, Carlos Sainz Jr. has been one of the most consistent drivers in F1 period. This shows that despite Nico Hulkenberg taking six class wins, he is only twenty points behind him, which is down to his eight 'podiums' and eleven 'top four' finishes.
The fact that he took 'pole position' in France and Hungary might annoy him that he didn't finish as the best of the rest for one race, but his consistent points scorning has enabled Renault to pull away from its competitors.
KEVIN MAGNUSSEN (HAAS)
POLE POSITIONS: 3
Kevin Magnussen has been the saviour for Haas. Sure, Romain Grosjean has had a pretty decent team-mate, but he didn't score any points in F1 for eight races. However Magnussen has been, like Sainz, a very consistent scorer, and two wins to his name proves his potential.
Magnussen started the season off very well, taking wins in Spain and France, making it seem like it was a two-horse race between himself and Hulkenberg.
However as Hai's in-season development decreased he has been struggling to score big points, P3 (Class 1.5) in Brazil being a good finish for him.
He resides in fifth place in the championship but a poor second half to the season has mean't that he hasn't been able to continue his championship campaign against the Force India's and Renaults.
CHARLES LECLERC (SAUBER)
POLE POSITIONS: 0
Charles Leclerc. In Australia, he was a rookie; now he is a future Ferrari driver in 2019. He has had a pretty great season, having scored two wins in Russia and Brazil showing his development.
With Sauber developing quickly in the mid-season, this has enabled him to score bigger points for the Swiss team, and some consistent big scoring has mean't he's overtaken Fernando Alonso for sixth place in the championship with one round to go.
That's not to say it has been perfect. There was a time in the mid-season where he didn't score a point for five races, from Austria to Spa.
Still though, you cannot undermine the Monegasque's talent.
FERNANDO ALONSO (MCLAREN)
POLE POSITIONS: 0
Well its a pretty horrible way to say goodbye to arguably one of the greatest F1 drivers of our time.
The season started greatly, with him being a clear championship contender, scoring consistent big points, but McLaren's advantage over the midfield dwindled and eventually they became one of the slowest cars on the grid. This obviously did not help Alonso's campaign, and his finishes in the second half of the season show this.
However it could also be down to commitment. The Spaniard is saying goodbye to F1 this season and does he really want to fight over 12th place in a race? No is the answer.
ROMAIN GROSJEAN (HAAS)
POLE POSITIONS: 3
Well, its been a very interesting season for Romain Grosjean. It was an awful start to the season, failing to score a point in F1 for eight races, until BAM! In Austria, he finishes in P4, and kick-starts his season.
One can only imagine if he was performing better in the first half of the season, but he has been improving throughout the year, and had strong pace in qualifying, but lacked conviction.
Let's hope RoGro does better in 2019.
PIERRE GASLY (TORO ROSSO)
POLE POSITION: 1
Part of the young generation, this Frenchman is moving to Red Bull in 2019 to replace outbound Daniel Ricciardo, and this season it has been pretty good.
An obvious highlight would be his P4 in Bahrain, just the second race of the season in the eighth fastest car.
He scored some small but consistent points throughout the season, and a second class win in Hungary would have helped his motivation.
Whether he will do this well at Red Bull is another question, but Gasly has been one of the brightest newcomers of 2018.
MARCUS ERICSSON (SAUBER)
POLE POSITIONS: 1
The Swede had been renowned for being a pay-driver up until 2018, where he began to deliver some decent results.
Against Leclerc, it was always going to be hard to shine, and he will have to settle for being Sauber's third driver in 2019.
He hasn't been able to claim any class wins but in the second half of the season he began to perform nearly on par with Leclerc, scoring consistently near the top ten and sometimes in the top ten, and it was a nice qualifying in Brazil for him, starting the race in P6, from which he eventually retired.
STOFFEL VANDOORNE (MCLAREN)
Well, its been a hard year for Stoffel. After joining McLaren full-time in 2017 he hasn't quite been able to show his talent due to his team-mate being Fernando Alonso and the fact that the car was pretty awful.
He hasn't had any amazing results, and currently resides near the lower half of the table, however when you consider how many people think he is one of the most underperforming drivers on the grid, he has been able to beat the two Williams and Hartley quite easily.
There's no way in saying its been a good season for Vandoorne - it just wasn't as bad as it seemed from the outside.
BRENDAN HARTLEY (TORO ROSSO)
Like Vandoorne, it has been hard for the Kiwi in 2018. Making his full-time debut in F1 with Toro Rosso was a hard start, but like Vandoorne he has grown into the car and in the second half of the season he was at the very minimum on par with his team-mate.
Whether he will stay in Formula One in 2019 or be replaced by Alexander Albon we don't know, but Hartley has been improving in F1 and hopefully he will be able to prove himself with another year.
LANCE STROLL (WILLIAMS)
Well, it has been a tough year for Williams, but the combination of their two drivers giving it their all has made it seem that they're on the way up.
Lance Stroll started the season well, scorning some good points but in the second half of the season he lacked consistency, occasionally scorning some good points but having off-days too often.
He'll be off to Force India next year, and we will see how good the Canadian is against Sergio Perez.
Sirotkin was in the same situation with Stroll, it has been a tough year for Williams, but the combination of their two drivers giving it their all has made it seem that they're on the way up.
Sirotkin hasn't had stand-out results like Stroll but has been consistent. It looks like Robert Kubica will be taking his seat in 2019 though.
So here are the championship standings with one round to go:
1. Hulkenberg (Renault) - 228
2. Ocon (Force India) - 213
3. Perez (Force India) - 204
4. Sainz (Renault) - 198
5. Magnussen (Haas) - 193
6. Leclerc (Sauber) - 157
7. Alonso (McLaren) - 156
8. Grosjean (Haas) - 139
9. Gasly (Toro Rosso) - 126
10. Ericsson (Sauber) - 107
11. Vandoorne (McLaren) - 105
12. Hartley (Toro Rosso) - 68
13. Stroll (Williams) - 64
14. Sirotkin (Williams) - 34
And here are the constructors standings:
(1. Force India* - 427)
1. Renault - 426
2. Haas - 332
3. Sauber - 264
4. McLaren - 261
5. Toro Rosso - 194
6. Racing Point - 193
7. Williams - 98
If Force India did not go under administration, then they would have been leading the constructors championship with one round to go, but instead they lie in sixth place, one point behind Toro Rosso.
And I promised graphs, so let us have graphs.
FORCE INDIA/RACING POINT
So, with one round to go, Nico Hulkenberg leads the Class 1.5 by just fourteen points from Sergio Perez and fifteen points from Esteban Ocon, with all three drivers in with a shout for the title in Abu Dhabi. The Force India's are likely the be the fourth fastest team in Abu Dhabi, so Nico Hulkenberg must score at least 10 points to claim the title.
I hoped you have enjoyed this in-depth article, and I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.