Engines poised to play major role in F1 title chase

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Let’s say you’re a Formula 1 driver.

Let’s say there are five races left in your F1 season.

And let’s say that you had one more engine you could use before you got docked 10 spots on the gird, per F1 rules.

Finally, just for fun, let’s say you were in the hunt to win the world drivers title.

Would you be nervous?

Well, that’s where four of the five title contenders are sitting as we head to the Singapore Grand Prix. Heck, for two of them, it’s even worse.

The Formula 1 site has — and hat tip for it — a post up outlining how many engines, of the eight allowed, all the drivers have left. (And, yes, although I think we did answer this question, Nick Heidfeld is inheriting Pedro de la Rosa’s over-the-line ninth engine. So anyone who thought Nick might beat out Kamui Kobayashi during the last races, maybe think again.)

Well, things are a bit tight in Maranello. Kind of bad in Woking. And half the drivers at Red Bull are in trouble. (Are… is? Half is just one in the case. Hmmm. I’d probably just rewrite the whole thing if I were copy editing.)

Here’s the full list:

Engine usage to date:
McLaren Mercedes
1 Jenson Button 7
2 Lewis Hamilton 7

Mercedes GP
3 Michael Schumacher 7
4 Nico Rosberg 7

RBR Renault
5 Sebastian Vettel 7
6 Mark Webber 6

Ferrari
7 Felipe Massa 8
8 Fernando Alonso 8

Williams Cosworth
9 Rubens Barrichello 6
10 Nico Hulkenberg 7

Renault
11 Robert Kubica 6
12 Vitaly Pertrov 6

Force India Mercedes
14 Adrian Sutil 7
15 Vitantonio Liuzzi 7

STR Ferrari
16 Sebastien Buemi 7
17 Jaime Alguersuari 7

Lotus Cosworth
18 Jarno Trulli 7
19 Heikki Kovalainen 7

HRT Cosworth
20 Sakon Yamamoto 7
21 Bruno Senna 7

BMW Sauber Ferrari
22 Nick Heidfeld (formerly Pedro de la Rosa’s car) 9
23 Kamui Kobayashi 7

Virgin Cosworth
24 Timo Glock 7
25 Lucas Di Grassi 7

You’ll note, Mark Webber is sitting pretty niftily right now, having not used an extra engine at Monza. His teammate, Sebastian Vettel, is a bit more on the edge, having just one more engine he can use before being punished (unless he recycles an old one).

The two McLaren drivers are in the same spot. They’ve got one more fresh lump to bolt onto their cars.

But Fernando Alonso? If he swaps out his engine for a new one, he’s going to find himself starting from mid-pack — not the way to win races and titles.

What you’ve also probably noticed: Renault engines are, if not the most powerful, the most reliable. Both Robert Kubica and Vitaly Petrov and play rock’em sock’em engines and be OK.

So, do you think the engine rule will end up having a major effect on the championship hunts? One thing I find interesting is whether Alonso, certainly, but also Vettel and Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button, will feel the need to limit their practice times at all to save their engines. And with Singapore and the entirely new track in Korea coming up, practice is going to be crucial.

Watch those practice lap numbers, in other words. Not to mention keep your eyes out for smoke.

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