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Key Battles to Watch in the Second Half of F1 Season

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A win here or a DNF there can change a lot of things in Formula One but there are a few races to watch in the second half of the 2012 season. The first, and perhaps closest, is the battle for the constructor's title and while Sahara Force India and Williams F1 are not charging for the win, they are only 7-points adrift of each other. In Formula 1, every point counts and equals a big pay day at the end of the year.

Teams
Red Bull/Renault 246

2 McLaren/Mercedes 193
3 Lotus/Renault 192
4 Ferrari 189
5 Mercedes 106
6 Sauber/Ferrari 80
7 Williams/Renault 53
8 Force India/Mercedes 46

Currently in eighth, Force India's Nico Hulkenberg feels there is no reason they can't fight for seventh place in the constructor's battle. Sitting on 46 points means that a good showing from both drivers finishing in the points will gain them the position. Williams, meanwhile, sits on 53 points and the Win in Spain most certainly gave them the edge over Force India. Hulkenberg said:

"We already showed last year that our development speed is very competitive and I do not see a reason why we shouldn't be able to repeat that again," he's quoted on F1's website.

"We're only seven points shy of Williams and I think we can catch them. I don't know whether it's possible to catch Sauber. It will be difficult, but the whole team will try their very best, that's for sure."

Another race might just be between Lotus F1 and McLaren. Lotus sits atop a pile of points equalling 192 while McLaren have 193 and one point isn't difficult for the team to pick up given the performance of Kimi Raikkonen and Romain Grosjean. Given Kimi's penchant for running well at Spa Francorchamps, he could make this jump in a week's time. You can throw Ferrari in that mix, at 189 points, and you have a three-way run for second in the constructor's title.

Perhaps a little more challenging is Sauber's 80 points to Mercedes's 106. Sure, it's 26 points away but Michael Schumacher's poor luck and DNF's this season could continue and if it does, Kamui Kobayashi and Sergio Perez just may help the team gain a position. Given Sauber's performance in Hungary, they'll need to do a lot to raise their game.

All of these battles will be tarnished by the mad dash for performance gains we call the development war. Finding pace through mid and late season improvements is part of the game in F1 and no doubt that Ferrari, McLaren, Red Bull, Mercedes and Lotus will bring a litany of upgrades for the remainder of the season. Who will come out on top? Your guess is as good as mine. The unpredictable nature of the 2012 season adds even more intrigue and it could be anyone's game come Brazil.

Drivers

As for the Driver's Championship, Ferrari's Fernando Alonso has a comfortable lead and it will take some doing to knock him from the top of the podium. Farther back on the grid, however, there are a lot fo great battles.

Fernando Alonso 164

2 Mark Webber 124
3 Sebastian Vettel 122
4 Lewis Hamilton 117
5 Kimi Räikkönen 116
6 Nico Rosberg 77
7 Jenson Button 76
8 Romain Grosjean 76
9 Sergio Pérez 47
10 Kamui Kobayashi 33
11 Pastor Maldonado 29
12 Michael Schumacher 29
13 Paul Di Resta 27
14 Felipe Massa 25
15 Bruno Senna 24
16 Nico Hülkenberg 19

Key among these are the Intra-team battles between Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel, the refreshing battle between Kimi Raikkonen and Lewis Hamilton (shades of 2007) and the two groups of 20's and 70's. There are five drivers with 24-29 points and three drivers with 76-77 points. That's a close battle and look for Romain Grosjean as well as Jenson button to go head-to-head in the second half of the season as both drivers have found their set up and are starting to hit the mark.

From the 20-something group, you have to give a nod to Michael Schumacher, in the hopes his luck turns around, and Pastor Maldonado who has won one race already this year and thrown away more points that he's captured. If Maldonado finds patience and a modicum of race craft in the second half, he could launch himself into 9th or 10th place.