As the father of a seventh grader who is making his first foray into Algebra, this is shaping up to be a difficult autumn at the Schofield homestead.
What does that have to do with Formula 1? Hear me out.
Heading into the Singapore Grand Prix, one of the major storylines is just how soon Max Verstappen can claim his third-straight Drivers’ Championship.
However, while Verstappen cannot put both hands on that trophy this weekend, there is a slim chance that he, along with the rest of Red Bull, can mathematically wrap up their second-straight Constructors’ title.
It would take a lot, but since it is mathematically possible, it is worth working through the scenarios. Thanks to some seventh-grade math.
First, the standings. Red Bull sit atop the table with 583 points on the season, followed by Mercedes in second place, and Ferrari in third. Mercedes currently have 273 points on the year, while Ferrari have 228 in their account.
Mathematically speaking, the Silver Arrows are the only team with a realistic — albeit slim — path towards overtaking Red Bull, but it would take a lot. We can start with Ferrari to illustrate how. With eight races remaining, the maximum points a single team can take from a given weekend are 44 for non-Sprint races. That accounts for 25 points for the first-place finisher, 18 points for the second-place finisher, and an extra bonus point if one of the drivers finishes with the fastest lap.
However, that number increases on Sprint weekends, of which three remain: The Qatar Grand Prix, the United States Grand Prix, and the Brazilian Grand Prix. The most a team can take from a Sprint race is 15 points, eight to the first-place finisher, and seven to the second-place finisher.
So the maximum amount of points available to teams over the final eight races is 397: 44 points from the eight grands prix, plus another 15 points from the three Sprint races. So using Ferrari as the example, say Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz Jr. combine to sweep the season, finishing 1-2 in each race along with the three sprint races. They would finish with 625 points.
With Red Bull sitting at 583 on the year, Ferrari would then need Verstappen and Sergio Pérez to bank 41 points or less to secure the title. Given that this season, Red Bull is averaging 42 points per weekend, that is probably not happening with eight races to go. With the first tiebreaker in the Constructors’ Championship being total team wins, if (in this scenario) Red Bull manages just 42 points from the rest of the season and they finish level with Ferrari, they would still win the tiebreaker with their 14 wins compared to eight from Ferrari.
Now let’s look at Mercedes, who are a bit closer to Red Bull on the table, sitting 310 points behind Red Bull with 273 points on the year. Say instead it is Lewis Hamilton and George Russell who pull off the season sweep, adding another 397 points to their tally. That would put the Silver Arrows on 670 points for the year.
That would leave Red Bull 87 points behind. Again, with Verstappen and Pérez averaging 42 points per weekend, it would take a disaster of unseen proportions for Red Bull to not make up that ground.
Having walked through what it would take for Ferrari or Mercedes to overcome Red Bull, let’s walk through the narrow path that the Bulls have to claiming victory this weekend.
When the teams leave Singapore behind, there will be a maximum of 353 points available to a particular team in the “season sweep” scenario. Red Bull would need to have a lead of at least that amount following the Singapore Grand Prix to clinch the title this weekend.
How can they get there? First they would need a 1-2 finish of their own from Verstappen and Pérez. That would put Red Bull on 626 points for the year, and eliminate Ferrari from contention, as the maximum number of points available (353) would only get the Scuderia to 581.
However, a 1-2 finish from Verstappen and Pérez alone would not be enough to eliminate Mercedes. Remember, following Singapore the maximum amount of points available are 353. With Mercedes sitting on 273 points, adding those maximum points gets you to 626, creating a tie with Red Bull.
But that is before considering what Hamilton and Russell can do this weekend, as well as the bonus point for the fastest lap in the Singapore Grand Prix.
If Verstappen and Pérez finish 1-2 in Singapore, and one of them secures the fastest lap, then Red Bull clinches the title if Mercedes scores a single point or less. Such a finish from Red Bull would give them 44 points in Singapore, getting them to 627 points on the year. Then, with the best finish possible from Mercedes being 626 points, it would be enough to clinch.
Should Verstappen and Pérez finish 1-2 in Singapore without securing the fastest lap, then they would still clinch should Mercedes fail to score a single point. That would mean the best finish possible for Mercedes would equal the 626 points Red Bull would have in this scenario, and Red Bull would win thanks to their number of wins this season, which would break that tie.
Of course, given that Mercedes have averaged 19.5 points per race this season, it is far more likely that Red Bull clinches in the next race, the Japanese Grand Prix.
But there are scenarios, however slight, where they can put both hands on that trophy this weekend.
(I was told there would be no math).