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Fantastic four - F1's remaining championship battle - The constructor's fight is the heart of the 2011 season

Published by Christine

At the Korean Grand Prix, Jaime Alguersuari finished in a very strong seventh place, with teammate Sébastien Buemi ninth. Between the two, Toro Rosso managed to pick up some much-needed results, and the well-timed finish sees the team close up the gap to Sauber in the Constructor's Championship. Now, Toro Rosso are part of the only really intriguing battle left in the 2011 season.

Four teams are within 35 points of each other - starting with Renault in fifth place down to Toro Rosso in eighth. With three races left in the season, there are 129 points still available in the constructors battle. Of course, it's unlikely we're going to see Toro Rosso take a 1-2 finish any time soon, but there are points available for those midfield runners who work the hardest.

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5th place - Renault, 72 points

Renault have the lead of the four-way battle so far, and I think they can probably keep hold of their fifth place position. However, their recent run of bad form hasn't helped their position, and it's disconcerting to think of how much further ahead they could be if things hadn't gone downhill so quickly.

It's very telling that Vitaly Petrov sits only just above Nick Heidfeld in the driver standings, despite the latter having sat out the second half of the season. Poor reliability, plus some bad luck in the form of an out-of-control Liuzzi have left Renault on something of a downer.

Speculation over the future of the drivers will not be helping morale, particularly with the impending decision over Robert Kubica's return. Both must be feeling the pressure as their performances rise and fall each race. The constructor's battle is not one that grabs the headlines often, but I imagine the drivers are being urged to pick things up over the remaining three races. If they can do that, their fifth place should be secured.

6th place - Force India, 49 points

The competition between Force India and Sauber has been raging since the start of the season - both have been strong mid-field teams with the occasional race showing a flash of brilliance and the odd weekend that heads in the other direction. Their results have been evenly matched across the year, so that there are now just nine points in it. Although Force India do have the capacity to catch Renault, their number one priority is keeping Sauber behind them.

Burned by the 2010 championship, in which Williams overtook them for sixth place and beat them by one single point, Force India want to keep a keen hold on their standings place. Recent results have been hit and miss, but the pairing of Paul di Resta and Adrian Sutil seem to have found the secret to a decent qualifying. They are routinely spotted making their way into Q3, even if they rarely make an appearance out on track for that final session.

To retain their position ahead of Sauber, they'll either need a really strong result in the next few weeks, or to continue finishing 8th, 9th or 10th, and hope that their rivals run of bad form continues to the end of the season.

7th place - Sauber, 40 points

Sauber are the other half of the intense championship rivalry with Force India. Last year, they finished eighth behind them, with a far greater points difference than we've seen so far this season. In 2011, Sauber have shown both how sturdy their cars are - particularly in the hands of Kobayashi - and how light they can be on their tyres.

As the year has rolled on, though, other teams are starting to get to grips with the compounds, and that advantage is potentially slipping away. In Korea, we saw Pérez have an unexpected pit stop on the very last lap as his rubber was ruined - whereas the rest of the teams were finding the tyre wear much less than expected.

With just three races left, there's room for both Sauber and Force India to qualify well and finish races in the points paying positions - both have shown they can do it, but not on a consistent basis. It'll be a matter of who can dig deep and get results in the remainder of the season.

8th place - Toro Rosso, 37 points

Sébastien Buemi and Jaime Alguersuari have had a topsy-turvy year. Throughout the season, we've been pondering who has the upper hand, which of the two could face the chop if the team start changing their drivers. Alguersuari has been creeping ahead, and his strong finish in Korea will have done him no harm at all.

The team have occasionally shown some speed, but more often or not they have been towards the back of the mid-field pack, spending time with the Lotus and Virgin drivers each race. However, if they can keep up the form of this past weekend into the next few races, there's scope for moving up not just one constructor's place, but potentially more.

The difference between a fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth place finish in the standings at the season end can be crucial to a team. The extra prize money can make all the difference to a mid-field runner who needs all the help they can get. These four are unlikely to move any further forward or fall much further back, but the order they will be in once 2011 is done is hard to predict.