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With only the Italian and Abu Dhabi meetings left on the 2013 calendar, it is time to look at both the championship chances of those at the sharp end of the table, as well as their future prospects. Firstly, however, let's look at the teams.
Although they lead the championship by almost 100 points, ART's one-lap pace hasn’t been up to scratch. They have only one Saturday pole, thanks to Facu Regalia in Germany, and two fastest laps, one courtesy of Jack Harvey and the other two also Regalia's. Having said that, they have had drivers on the podium in every single Saturday race thus far, managing two in Valencia, Britain, Germany and Belgium. The less lucrative Sunday race hadn’t yielded them a single podium until the Daly-Regalia 2-3 finish in Spa. In spite of this, the three ART drivers are all in the top 7 in the standings.
MW Arden have four fastest laps, with two each for Kvyat and Sainz, and Saturday’s pole position in Belgium also via Sainz. The team is struggling against ART who now have an effectively insurmountable 89-point lead. ART's three wins are matched by Arden, although two of the latter's were from Sunday’s reverse grid races. In spite of this, and Visoiu's anonymity outside his two Sunday wins, all three drivers have cleared 40 points – not something every team can boast.
One of the season's big revelations has been the new Koiranen team, sitting a comfortable 3rd with 4 races to go. 31 points behind Arden and 63 ahead of Manor, the Finnish team have certainly made their mark. Vainio has claimed the rookie team's two wins, one on Saturday and one on Sunday, as well as one pole and a fastest lap. Korjus adds the same into the mix minus the race wins. They could be sitting a solid 2nd overall had Kujala not been holding them back, yet to score a single point as the season draws to its climax.
Marussia-Manor came into this season with Tio Ellinas the title favourite. He took pole, victory and the fastest lap in Barcelona before tailing off and scoring no repeats of any of these achievements. To date, Barcelona’s Saturday race remains the team's only 2013 win while only 10 of their 105 points don’t come from Ellinas.
Carlin's only race win came on Sunday in Belgium, embarrassingly not from one of their regular drivers. Eric Lichtenstein managed to go through until the end of the Hungarian weekend without a single point, at which stage his one-off replacement Alexander Sims came 5th in the Saturday race at Spa-Francorchamps and took the win and fastest lap on Sunday. Without Yelloly's consistent there-or-thereabouts scoring for regular finishes in the top 6, Carlin would be on their knees.
Bamboo are the 6th-placed team in the standings and have a 46-point deficit to Carlin – that gap almost matching the team's total haul so far. With no poles and only McKee's win and fastest lap on Sunday in Germany, the team need to work hard over the winter to learn how to set up the new generation GP3 car to maximise performance, or they will remain forever in the midfield at best.
Jenzer are only 2 points behind Bamboo heading into Monza, having taken only a single point in the both the German and Hungarian weekends, and nothing at all in Belgium or Valencia. Niederhauser started the year well with two podium finishes in Barcelona but only scored a single point since. Fontana managed a podium at Silverstone where he enjoyed his best weekend to date of 2013, only taking 2 more points across the rest of the season. Gomez, there for her money more than her talent I fear, is yet to score. To her credit she is learning fast and experience may help her to come good in 2014, assuming she can hold her drive.
Trident are only 10 points behind their Swiss rivals, having taken a Sunday win at Silverstone thanks to Venturini. Aside from Fumanelli's 12 points in Barcelona Venturini has been solely responsible for the team's points and that shows: for a team of Trident's experience I would expect them to have at least cleared 50 points, even in a barren year. They have only 2 weekends left to show me they can do that.
Last but not least come Status. I have never pretended I am unbiased when it comes to this team, the first one I started following when I started watching when the 2012 season began. However, I can't find any positives in their 2013 achievements. They lie 9th of 9 in the standings, two of their drivers haven’t scored and Adderly Fong only put them on the map at all with a 9th in the British race on Saturday. That leaves the team with only 2 points, although a one-off appearance for Sims, who of course won in his second race for Carlin in Belgium, secured the team a further 16. Unless Sims goes back into one of those cars for the remaining 4 races there is no chance of Status clearing even Trident this season.
Facu Regalia heads into the final 4 races as one of a pair of drivers currently beating the pre-season title favourite Tio Ellinas. He is also the only driver to clear 100 points before leaving Belgium, his 16-point lead over teammate Daly leaving him with 115 points and a commanding, if potentially, vulnerable championship lead as the circus heads to Monza. If Regalia wins the title this year he should be able to jump into GP2, ideally alongside Abt as Calado takes a test role with Force India but that is perhaps too speculative. If he doesn’t win the title I expect ART to promote him to GP2 anyway as long as they have a seat, but otherwise there will be other interested teams.
Conor Daly sits only 4 points ahead of Ellinas but with what seems to be the better car. Manor haven’t won since their first outing, while ART have commanded the championship as a team from Valencia onwards. Having run a GP2 car in Malaysia I expect promotion for Daly as well, even if my gut tells me Regalia won't be beaten by his teammate this year.
Tio Ellinas came into 2013 as the title favourite, but for one reason or another he has failed to match 2 of the 3 ART drivers and is narrowly beating Koiranen's best, Korjus, by only 2 points. Unless Marussia can get a firm grip on the car – and fast – Ellinas' title hopes may fade entirely, although I wouldn’t put it past his Marussia backers to give him some Friday running in F1 ready for a 2015 seat. A braver man than I might even suggest a 2014 F1 ride could be on the cards if Tio can turn the tables on ART but I doubt he'll get there that quickly.
Kevin Korjus basically epitomises what is so impressive about Koiranen's debut season, sitting as he does with only 2 points to gain if he wants to beat Marussia's only remaining title hope. If he doesn’t get promotion to GP2 next year I will be disappointed, although a second year partnered with Koiranen will likely yield the title as the top 3 are unlikely to stay in the series for 2014.
Daniil Kvyat is the only MW Arden driver in with even an outside shot at the title, sitting 27 points from Regalia but enjoying a recent upturn in form. In some respects it will take a mammoth effort for him to win the title but all it would take is a bad Saturday for ART in Monza and if Kvyat can capitalise the championship gets thrown wide open. I expect another GP3 season for him before he looks for promotion – a promotion I expect to take him to World Series rather than GP2. However, given the difference in costs between those two options Kvyat could easily follow da Costa's route into World Series for 2014 even if he doesn't finish higher than 5th in GP3, almost certainly joined by teammate Sainz if Red Bull continue to see promise for F1 in him.
At this point I have to put in a good word for Alexander Sims. He has given 27 points to Lichtenstein's car that it otherwise wouldn’t have scored. He has also taken Fong's car and added 16 points where the regular driver had only managed 2. He seems to be an expert at taking an unfamiliar car, throwing it around a bit in qualifying to find the limit, then extracting the maximum from it no matter what. If he doesn’t get a full-time GP3 drive for 2014 I will be very disappointed.