x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 29 July 2017

Title battle is a four horse race

As the drivers dried themselves after the chaos of the wet at Silverstone, the Formula One fraternity can relish arguably the most exciting title battles in years with four drivers separated by just two points at the halfway stage.

As the drivers dried themselves after the chaos of the wet at Silverstone, the Formula One fraternity can relish arguably the most exciting title battles in years with four drivers separated by just two points at the halfway stage. The 2007 championship was enthralling, with Kimi Raikkonen pipping Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso, but with nine races to go we are set for an even more thrilling climax.

Hamilton's majestic win at the British Grand Prix leaves him locked on 48 points with the Ferrari drivers Raikkonen and Felipe Massa. You cannot argue with the fact that Hamilton has inherited the rain master tag from the retired Michael Schumacher after making it three wins from four wet races with his lastest triumph in Britain. The Briton does have a knack of bouncing back when he is at his lowest ebb and after the humiliating pitlane crash in Canada, and the needless stop-go penalty in France, he hit back in style here.

The mistakes will have to be eliminated if he is to defeat Ferrari and win the championship, but despite three non-finishes from nine races he is well in contention to be champion. Raikkonen recovered from the fateful decision to stay on worn intermediate tyres at his first pit-stop - just as more rain arrived - to finish fourth, although not without a few spins along the way. The Finn does have a great ability to get points even when not at his best or when fortune has gone against him, and those five points he earned that could so easily have been lost could prove crucial when the season finale in Brazil arrives in October.

But while it is doubtful that he could have stayed anywhere near Hamilton when the conditions were at their most treacherous, the Italian team still cost him a possible three points for second place by firstly making the wrong call and then allowing him to spend nine laps out on the track losing five seconds a lap. But at least he fared better than Massa who had a nightmare after starting as he meant to go on by spinning on the opening lap at Bridge.

The Brazilian spun at least five times during the race and he looked more rookie than world champion contender. But now the lead trio are tied together, while the BMW Sauber of Robert Kubica lurks just a further two points behind. The Pole had his first non-finish since the opening race when he spun off in the wet, denying him third place. On pure pace he is not a genuine championship contender, but if he remains consistent and Hamilton, Raikkonen and Massa continue to throw in costly mistakes, then he could be a surprise champion. His teammate, Nick Heidfeld, is only 12 points adrift of the lead trio, but his poor qualifying leaves him generally with too much to do in the races and he is unlikely to figure. The season has been extremely unpredictable and it is almost certainly go to get even more so. The next round in Germany on July 20 is at Hockenheim, a race that was off the calendar and thus will be new to Hamilton. But it isn't a real Ferrari circuit either, with the Scuderia having only won there six times in the last 15 years. Hungary in early August was won by McLaren and Hamilton in 2007 and they will hope to have the same speed advantage again. The European Grand Prix at Valencia on Aug 24 is completely new to the series and so there is no form guide for that race - although the twisty nature of the track on paper would appear to favour the McLaren team. The only thing for certain is that there will be plenty of twists and turns between now and Brazil when we will find out who the champion will be. @Email:gcaygill@thenational.ae