Max Verstappen has almost certainly locked up the Formula One World Championship for 2023, given his dominance in the first half of the season.
His Red Bull team has been an unbeatable force this year, claiming 12 victories out of 12 races and setting a record-breaking streak of 13 consecutive wins since Abu Dhabi last year.
However, behind Red Bull, a tight battle is unfolding for the best position in second place.
Aston Martin started the season with the second-fastest car but has recently lost some pace.
Mercedes is consistently competing for podiums but struggling to achieve significant performance improvements like some of its rivals.
Ferrari has shown glimpses of strong performance but remains inconsistent; and McLaren, which started the season without much hope, emerged as the closest rival to Red Bull in Silverstone and Budapest.
Although it may seem insignificant and somewhat cliché, if we remove the two Red Bull drivers from the standings, we would have an exciting title race.
As it stands in the current fight for third place behind Red Bull, Fernando Alonso would lead his old rival Lewis Hamilton at the top of our fictional standings, creating a fierce battle in the second half of the year.
Charles Leclerc could still be a contender with surprise factors if only Ferrari could be more consistent in extracting performance from their car.
Meanwhile, the resurgent Lando Norris would have secured his two first F1 victories and might even dream of challenging for the title at the end of the season.
Hamilton downplays Verstappen’s dominance. This is such an intriguing prospect that we decided to spend some of the early F1 summer break analyzing the data.
If you remove Verstappen and Sergio Perez from the results of the first 12 races and redistribute the points (including for fastest laps and sprint races), the results would look like this:
Alonso and Aston Martin leading by 18 points. Alonso’s dominance in this fictional championship would be based on five race victories in Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Miami, Monaco, and Canada.
In the early part of the year, he would look like an unstoppable championship leader, justifying his move from Alpine to Aston Martin and ending his decade-long F1 win drought.
But starting from the race in Canada, his results would start to decline, with his old rival, Hamilton, closing in with three consecutive second-place finishes before the summer break.
There would be a flashback to their time as teammates at McLaren in 2007 when their internal disputes allowed Kimi Raikkonen to snatch the title from both of them with a one-point difference in the final race.
Of course, the significant difference this time is that they are driving for two conflicting teams, and Alonso would exert immense pressure on Aston Martin to deliver car updates capable of performing well in the second half of the season.
Nevertheless, the two-time world champion is likely to find himself in a title challenge, fighting against all odds and trying to dispel the ghosts of near-misses in 2010 and 2012.
Questions will also be directed at Lance Stroll, who would be in seventh position in the standings and often unable to provide the support Alonso needs at the front of the grid.
In the constructor’s championship, Aston Martin would be trailing 42 points behind Mercedes and likely keeping an eye on its position relative to Ferrari and McLaren in the second half of the year.