Sixteen races down and four to go and, whilst Lewis Hamilton may have a vice-like grip on what will be his third world title, it is clear the rest of us have plenty to play for in our respective fantasy campaigns. Whether it is glory at the top of the pile, mediocrity in the middle or avoiding a wooden spoon in your own mini-league, there are plenty of points still up for grabs in the home straight. As always, I’ve taken a look at those drivers and teams that are firing or failing as their own campaigns near an end.
Nico Rosberg (£20m) – It would be more than fair to say that Nico’s year has been a massive disappointment. The German driver would have hoped to be taking advantage of Lewis basking in last year’s triumph to lead a charge to his own maiden title. However, a mixture of reliability problems and a failure to match the Englishmen’s supreme pace has left him fighting to even be second-best. In fantasy terms, despite bucking the trend and grabbing maximum qualifying points in the last two races, Rosberg has been left trailing Hamilton by a huge 192 points and second-place Vettel by 95 points. His retirement in Russia will have hit hard for anyone attempting an end-of-season shake-up in their outfit in a bid to catch-up with their rivals.
Felipe Nasr (£3m) – I have to admit that I’ve probably been a little critical of the Sauber outfit as the season has worn on. Points have been drying up for the Swiss-based team and their golden-boy Nasr has been under pressure from sterling performances from the brilliant Verstappen and even his own team-mate, Ericsson. Despite this, a superb sixth-place in Russia may well have cemented Nasr’s bid to be the best-value fantasy driver this season – at 63.33 points per million spent, Nasr is over 13 points clear of his nearest rival. Sauber will be keen for a strong finish to the season so don’t discount the young Brazilian stretching his advantage still further.
Force India (£12m) – I hate to boast (well, kind of!) but I did tip Force India for a strong finish to the season before Monza and I’m pleased to say they have delivered with solid finishes in the next four races peaking with a fantastic podium for Perez in Sochi. Given better luck and reliability and it may have been an even second-half of 2015 for the team and whilst 92 points have been accrued by the Silverstone-based outfit, comparing favourably to all but the big 4 teams, unfortunately their price of £12m is still prohibitive for most fantasy players. At 7.67 per million spent, Lotus (9.43pms) and Sauber (8.5pms) both fare better whilst saving between £5m to £8m for that stretched budget. I remain confident that this balance could be redressed in 2016.
Other Tips – Hamilton clinched victory in Austin last time out and passed his team-mate Rosberg in doing so although he’ll be hoping to find his qualifying pace again and make this year’s race that little bit easier. Ricciardo is unlikely to match his podium finish from last year as Red Bull & Toro Rosso both face grid penalties if they utilise the upgraded Renault engines (but driver bonus points could be generous here to those wanting to be bold). Expect Ferrari to be strong again in the States too as Vettel pushes for an impressive second-place Championship finish in his début Ferrari season.
Weather is likely to be a massive factor with flood and storm warnings in place for central Texas. Again, it may pay to be bold with your line-ups and predictions, especially if you are chasing the pack in your own fantasy league. Tyre choices will largely depend on whether Austin can miraculously produce one of its (on average) three-hundred sunny days a year but it would be a brave person to predict this. Safety car statistics are limited for this particular circuit though it’d be difficult to see a clear race unless the weather sharply turns. Rosberg and Vettel may be hoping for divine intervention if they are to stop the Hamilton-express roaring ever closer to the F1 crown.