Mercedes-Benz may not be known as a powerhouse for hybrid road cars, but since the current generation of hybrid Formula One cars was introduced in 2014, the German carmaker has dominated. It won both the drivers’ and constructors’ championships in 2014 and 2015, and it just clinched the 2016 constructors’ title.
F1 awards both a drivers’ championship and the constructors’ title for teams every year, and while the season isn’t over, Mercedes has the constructors’ title in the bag. A win by driver Nico Rosberg at the 2016 Japanese Grand Prix over the weekend made it mathematically impossible for any other team to challenge Mercedes for the championship.
In addition to its third straight constructors’ championship, Mercedes will almost certainly attain a third straight drivers’ title. Its pair of drivers — Rosberg and reigning world champ Lewis Hamilton — are the top two contenders. Rosberg’s win in Japan extended his lead over Hamilton to 33 points. Hamilton is a three-time world champion, while Rosberg has never won a championship.
Rosberg started from pole position at the Suzuka Circuit, with Hamilton next to him on the front row in second. A bad start, however, saw Hamilton drop back to eighth, and he was never really in contention for the win after that. The British driver finished third, about 6.0 seconds behind his German teammate. Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen split the two Mercedes drivers, taking second place.
Rosberg now has 313 points to Hamilton’s 280, with only 100 points up for grabs in the four remaining races. The German driver only needs two second-place finishes and a third-place finish to clinch his first title, even if Hamilton wins all four races. The next race is the United States Grand Prix in Austin, Texas, later this month.
The battle between the two Mercedes drivers has injected some drama into what has otherwise been a fairly dull F1 scene dominated by the German carmaker. Ferrari, Renault, and Honda have struggled to match the power and reliability of Mercedes’ hybrid powertrains, although the Renault-powered Red Bull team and the Ferrari factory team have put up more of a fight this year than they have in the past two seasons.