With seven races left and nothing to choose between McLaren, Racing Point and Renault, all eyes will be on the fight for P3 in the closing stages of 2020.
Ferrari’s fall from grace has opened the door for a team other than the Italian team, Mercedes or Red Bull to finish in the top three of the Constructors’ Championship for the first time in five years.
All three contenders are still in the mix, but which one has the best chance of doing so? Let’s weigh things up…
McLaren currently leads the fight, sat in P3 with 106 points. It’s a spot that the British team has occupied for the majority of the season, despite the fact that they’ve rarely had the third quickest car. This is because things have more often than not been flawless on race day.
Whenever chaos has ensured ahead, Lando Norris and/or Carlos Sainz have been well placed to make the most of it. Both have a podium to their name and Norris was unlucky not to join the Spaniard there at Monza. This is partly down to their driving but also because reliability issues and strategy errors have, for the most part, been few and far between.
However, as Renault and Racing Point have begun to improve their own execution of Sundays, it has become clear that both are more often than not stronger than McLaren when it comes to raw pace. Due to this, and a Russian Grand Prix that saw neither orange car score a point for the first time in 13 races, P5 is just seven points away.
That doesn’t mean finishing the season in P3 is impossible by any means. The MCL35 is still strong at tracks that suit it, and when it lacks speed, the team and drivers have proved capable of making up for it elsewhere. However, to hold on, Andreas Seidl and co will most likely need their rivals to run into trouble, and not face any such issues themselves.
Racing Point is the opposite of McLaren. The team has managed to build the third strongest car on the grid but has often failed to turn that into points on Sundays.
In all fairness, the pink panthers would be sat in P3 if not for the 15-point deduction that came as a result of the copycat scandal, and the loss of Sergio Perez for two races was bad luck. Nevertheless, results have too often not been as good as they should have been., with both cars finishing in the top six on only one occasion.
There have been a number of reasons for this. Driver errors, reliability issues, crashes. In all of those areas, the team has struggled more than McLaren. However, when things go well, they go very well, as shown by Perez’s dominant P4 finish last time out in Sochi.
If both Perez and Lance Stroll can stay out of trouble and aren’t plagued by mechanical problems, the pace of the car should be enough for them to consistently pick up such results and help their team leapfrog McLaren, especially considering how strong the recent upgrades look. Given that one of them has retired in four of the 10 races tough, that’s a big if.
Renault may have the least points of the three teams, but when it comes to form and momentum, the French works team has the edge heading into the final stretch of the season.
A disappointing start to the season saw Daniel Ricciardo and Esteban Ocon pick up just 12 points between them in the first three races, leaving the team in P6 in the Constructors’ Championship behind Ferrari. However, they have since stormed back past the Scuderia with 63 points in the last four outings.
This has been largely down to the fact that the car has excelled at low downforce tracks due to its excellent straight-line speed. Ricciardo, in particular, has made the most of this to secure four consecutive top-six finishes. The only disappointment in recent times has been the failure of the team to score a podium finish.
The strong run has left Renault seven points off a top-three place in the standings, but improvements are still needed if they want to take it. Specifically, qualifying pace, how the car fairs on high downforce circuits and the performances of Esteban Ocon, who has 27 points less than his team-mate and has beaten him just once when both have finished.
All three teams have a genuine chance of taking P3 and that may well be the case up until the final Grand Prix in Abu Dhabi. That being said, this season’s “best of the rest” title is Racing Point’s to lose.
As we said, the RP20 is undoubtedly the strongest car of the three. While the performances of McLaren and Renault fluctuate depending on the type of track, the 2019 Mercedes, as Cyril Abiteboul would say, is quick regardless of the circuit layout.
It’s better than the R.S.20 in the corners and has more straight-line speed than the MCL35. This is set to be the case more so than ever with the upgrades the team is introducing for the final seven races.
What’s more, they have two highly motivated drivers. Stroll will be keen to prove he deserved to keep his seat for next season, while Perez will want to show the team they made a mistake in letting him go.
The same can’t be said for Sainz and Ricciardo who are both leaving for new teams at the end of the year. Given this, it’s not hard to imagine their performance levels dropping off ever so slightly in the final few races. In such a close fight, that could make a big difference.
If every race was incident-free, Racing Point would probably secure their first-ever top-three finish in the Constructors’ Championship relatively comfortably. With two new tracks (three if you include the alternate Bahrain layout) on the horizon and the Nurburgring in variable conditions up next though, that’s not going to happen.
A puncture, engine failure, driver error or Safety Car could end up being the difference between P3 and P5. Only one thing is certain – watching it all unfold is going to be a lot of fun.