Can Sebastian Vettel Still Take Second?

Sebastian Vettel (photo by Ferrari)

 Sebastian Vettel (photo by Ferrari)Heading into the U.S. Grand Prix in late October, we wrote an article about the fight for second in Formula, and noted that at the time the momentum seemed to be with Sebastian Vettel.

With two wins to Nico Rosberg’s zero since the end of June (at the time), and generally better form of late, Vettel appeared to be in position to seize the second spot on the podium. Neither would win in Texas, as Hamilton claimed yet another first place finish, but Rosberg’s November 1 win in Mexico City put him significantly ahead of Vettel.

And this season, that’s really the only race that matters. The two German drivers represent the only significant face-off between Mercedes and Ferrari, as the former attempts to sweep first and second and Ferrari looks to gain some momentum with Vettel. Really, we all ought to have known it was coming to this. Heading into 2015,Lewis Hamilton looked a sure bet to retain his crown atop Formula 1, and the champion has delivered and then some. Coming off 11 race wins last season, Hamilton has taken the top spot 10 times this season, with Brazil and Abu Dhabi left as opportunities to equal or surpass last year’s win total.

Sure enough, Hamilton is cruising toward first place, which leaves the Vettel vs. Rosberg duel as the only real intrigue left for F1 fans in 2015. But is that contest over as well after Rosberg’s race in Mexico, or does Vettel still have a chance to come out on top?

Purely in mathematical terms, the contest isn’t over, though it’s something of a long shot for Vettel. As shown in the driver standings, Vettel currently sits 21 points behind Rosberg, which means even if he were to win the final two races of the season, he’d need Rosberg to finish with just 29 points combined in those same races. There are a number of ways that could hypothetically happen, but given that Rosberg has now finished second or better in three of the last four races, it’s looking less and less likely that Vettel will be able to catch up.

Also working in Rosberg’s favour is his performance last year in the final two races. Rosberg won in Brazil a year ago, and though he didn’t fare as well in Abu Dhabi, Vettel didn’t finish better than fifth in either race. Vettel’s performance can more or less be tossed out, because he’s transitioned to a new car in the time since and we know his capabilities on any track in the world. But the recent history would suggest another advantage for Rosberg.

Really, all signs are pointing toward a one-two finish for Mercedes. But even if Vettel should have to settle for third place, it will be better than some anticipated for his debut season with Ferrari. If the former champion can manage to make these last two races dramatic, it could provide some nice momentum heading into his second campaign in 2016.

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