Ferrari On Course for Bronze

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Red Bull and Mercedes may have dominated the title race this year but there has also been plenty of drama in behind, with the battle for the lesser places in the standings ongoing with two races to go.

Carlos Sainz has shone in his debut campaign for Ferrari.

With two rounds of the 2021 Formula 1 season to go, the title battle between Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen – coupled with the off-field antics of the bosses of their respective teams – is hogging the spotlight.

However, look a little further down the grid and there’s plenty of intrigue to be found ahead of the first-ever Saudi Arabian Grand Prix this weekend.

Ferrari could wrap up third place in the Constructors’ standings in Jeddah, having edged clear of McLaren in their duel to finish best of the rest. However, it won’t be easy for the Scuderia to complete the job if the Saudia Arabian Grand Prix plays out like the previous race in Qatar, where five teams were in the mix for the minor places in the top-10.

Despite the switch from a purpose-built circuit to a street venue, teams are predicting the race conditions in Saudi Arabia will be similar to Qatar, setting up nicely for Ferrari, McLaren, Alpine, AlphaTauri and Aston Martin to make a push for points.

McLaren Stuttering Over the Line

McLaren could desperately use a positive weekend after a tough run of results, taking just four points from the last three races. The 2021 season has provided plenty of highs for the Woking-based outfit, most notably Daniel Ricciardo’s win in Italy to go with four podiums for Lando Norris, but is now in danger of fizzling out.

They trail Ferrari by 39.5 points in the Constructors’ standings, while Scuderia duo Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz could both leapfrog fifth-placed Norris in the drivers’ championship if they finish ahead of the Brit in Jeddah. Ferrari have been super consistent and reliable of late, with Sainz currently on the longest active point-scoring streak of any driver after 13 top-10 finishes.

Meanwhile, Leclerc has recently been flirting with a podium spot with three fourth places in the last seven races and is 11/2 to end up in the top three in Saudi Arabia, while Sainz is 4/5 for the top six.

With Ricciardo having failed to score a point in the last three races, it looks up to Norris to carry the fight to Ferrari for McLaren and he’s 4/9 for the top six. However, even that might not be enough to stop Ferrari from confirming third place in the team standings.

Alpine and Alonso Ascending

Rather than established duo Ferrari and McLaren providing a credible threat to Red Bull and Mercedes’ hold on the podium places in Saudi Arabia, it could be Alpine who mount the stiffest challenge for the top-three for a second race running.

Fernando Alonso secured a 98th career podium finish and first since 2014 in Qatar when taking third place and is 18/1 to finish in the top three in Jeddah.

Alpine were outstandingly quick in both qualifying and the race in Qatar, with Esteban Ocon taking a highly credible fifth place. The Enstone-based outfit have shown themselves to be capable of upsetting the established order on occasions this year – who can forget Ocon’s win in Hungary – and should go well again in Saudi Arabia.

AlphaTauri looked like they might join Alpine in enjoying a double points finish after a strong qualifying showing but couldn’t find the necessary race pace to compete as both Pierre Gasly and Yuki Tsunoda slipped out of the top-10.

Taking their place were Aston Martin as they record only their third double points finish of the year. Having added Sebastian Vettel to their staff in the off-season, Aston Martin expected to be much higher up in the constructors’ standings than seventh but should feel confident of a strong showing this weekend given their previous success at street venues.

Do it for Frank

The bottom three of Williams, Haas and Alfa Romeo look like bringing up the rear once again in Saudi Arabia, although it would be poignant if Williams could pull something out of the bag to mark the passing of team founder Frank Williams last weekend.

George Russell has posted four points finishes this year and is 5/2 for a fifth in Jeddah.

*All odds correct at time of writing.

Chris is broadcast and written journalist with a wealth of experience, across a number of different sports. As well covering football on the radio, he is a regular online and print contributor on the likes of rugby union, American Football and Formula One.
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