The 2019 Formula 1 season is nearing its business-end, and only two drivers remain in contention for top honours.
Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas, team mates and drivers for Mercedes-AMG, have four races to battle it out and be crowned this year’s champion.
But who will come out on top? Hamilton has been the star driver this year with nine victories behind his name, while Bottas only managed to get his third of the season last weekend in Japan.
Both drivers are exceptional in their own right, yet Mercedes will have to back either one of its drivers as the season draws to a close.
With no other team or driver in the way of the works team taking both titles home this year, will the Mercedes boys be allowed to race each other on track? Or will spectators be deprived of proper head-to-head racing?
Will Lewis Hamilton bag his 6th Formula 1 title at the end of the 2019 season, or will Valtteri Bottas cause an upset and grab his first? Email us.
Bottas’ chances of being champion
Having a partner in Hamilton is no easy task - just ask Nico Rosberg. Yet it is something that will surely test your metal as a driver. When Bottas signed with Mercedes in 2017 as replacement for Rosberg, he could not have predicted that he’ll be in Hamilton’s shadow for the entirety of his tenure at the team.
That year, in his debut for Mercedes, Bottas showed glimpses of a driver who could topple Hamilton, but he quickly had to settle for the role of Hamilton's support as he struggled to maintain momentum. 2018 was much of the same, albeit a bit worse, but he got his 2019 campaign off to a good start. Unfortunately, with only two victories in the season’s first half - Australia and Azerbaijan - Bottas quickly found himself lagging his illustrious team mate in the standings.
Against Hamilton, Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari), and the two 21-year-olds Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) and Max Verstappen (Red Bull Racing), Bottas remained in the shadows, yet managed to attain good results. Bottas never really rattled the establishment but ensured his position behind Hamilton in the overall standings. His consistency helped ensure that his team won the Constructor’s championship for the sixth consecutive year last weekend in Japan.
But can Bottas win the driver's championship? Mathematically, yes.
With four races remaining and 25 points for a race victory, there are still 100 points to play for - 104 if you include the single point for setting the fastest lap in a race. Bottas currently sits on 274 points, 64 behind Hamilton on 338. For Bottas to be crowned champion, he’d have to win every single one of the remaining races and hope that Hamilton fails to complete at least three races, or score very poor points.
F1 is known for throwing curveballs, and Bottas will be praying for one in 2019.
Championship is Hamilton’s to lose
Is there a more exceptional driver in the modern era of F1 than Lewis Hamilton? Here’s a driver who’s won five F1 championships, has 82 victories to his name (second only to Michael Schumacher on 91 wins), is the sport’s number one qualifier with 87 pole positions, and has won more than 50% of all the races since the hybrid-era’s inception in 2014.
It's this kind of racing pedigree that ensured Hamilton’s five championships over the years, and he’s on the brink of clinching a sixth title. With only Bottas left to challenge him, Hamilton does not need to drive the tyres off his car. He can, theoretically, ensure that he ends every race in the top five and still come out on top; much like Rosberg did in 2016.
But Hamilton won’t do that, and he will continue to battle it out for top honours in the remaining races. In the 12 years that Hamilton’s been in F1, he has beaten all of his team mates in the overall standings, bar 2016.
If Hamilton ends up losing this year’s championship to Bottas, it would be through either mechanical problems on his car, or because he suddenly decided to quit the sport before the year is over. And seeing that neither of these scenarios will come into effect, it won’t take a betting man to know who’ll come out on top in 2019.
The first of the final four races is this weekend's Mexican GP.