Heading into the final round in the All-Star Series, both Pro Cup championships are up for grabs.
Mercedes Formula 1 reserve Esteban Gutierrez currently leads the drivers’ championship, but the entirety of the top 10 in the standings, including Gutierrez’s team-mate Anthony Davidson, remaining in mathematical contention.
The team’s championship is down to a likely two horse-race between Aston Martin Racing on top with 466 points, and Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport, trailing by 47 points.
Williams Esports is also still technically in contention, but has a likely 135-point deficit to the championship leaders.
What’s most impressive about Aston Martin’s position at the top of the table is that its drivers are yet to win a single race in the championship.
Contrast that to Mercedes, which has three wins courtesy of Gutierrez and an additional one from Davidson.
Aston Martin’s drivers Nicki Thiim and Charlie Eastwood, who are currently second and third in the drivers’ championship, collectively have fewer podium finishes than Mercedes have wins.
But what has kept Thiim and Eastwood within touching distance of Gutierrez in the standings is the consistency in terms of results.
The first round went extremely well for Mercedes, the team winning won both the normal and reverse-grid race around Malaysia.
Gutierrez qualified in second for the first race, and a mistake for leader Alex Buncombe at the penultimate corner gave Gutierrez the victory.
He subsequently surged 28 positions in the reverse-grid race to finish ninth, which, combined with Davidson’s win, meant Mercedes left the first round at the front of the teams’ championship.
Meanwhile, Aston Martin had a quieter time, its two drivers slotting into the top five in the first race and then finishing 13th and 16th in the reverse-grid race.
The second round of the championship, held at the Portugal circuit, was when Aston Martin really came into title contention.
Gutierrez beat the two Aston Martin drivers by finishing third on the opener, but Thiim and Eastwood were in inspired form in the reverse-grid race, gaining 32 and 22 places respectively over 10 laps.
Amazingly, even with Davidson starting ahead of both Aston Martin drivers in the reverse-grid race, Thiim beat his Mercedes rivals as he gained 32 places in the 10 lap race to finish in third.
Their combined efforts trumped those of the Mercedes line-up, and the team ended the round just one point adrift.
The status quo was maintained at Zandvoort, where Mercedes scored just one point more than Aston – but at the Indianapolis road course the British marque made a break for it.
Thiim and Eastwood qualified either side of third-placed Gutierrez – and while the Mexican was shuffled back to seventh in the race, not helped by an aggressive first-lap defence from Thiim, the two Aston drivers made it onto the podium.
Whilst Gutierrez fell back to seventh in the first race, Thiim kept second and Eastwood capitalised on Gutierrez’s lack of pace to finish in third.
Eastwood then further bolstered Aston Martin’s title hopes by making up 29 places in the seven-lap reverse-grid race and bagging a fourth-place finish, giving him a remarkable 76 points across the two races.
In total, 184 of Aston Martin’s points have come from the reverse-grid races, its drivers always making up a near-unrivalled amount of positions in the second heat.
Mercedes did score one win in reverse-grid events unlike Aston, but this was aided by Davidson not setting a qualifying time in Malaysia.
To illustrate the consistency of the Aston Martin drivers, Eastwood has finished as high as third but never any lower than 13th, and that lowest result came at Malaysia, where 39 drivers took part in the race.
Meanwhile, Thiim has finished on the podium twice, the second time in a reverse-grid race where he started from 35th, and has secured three fifth-place finishes.
Gutierrez is without a doubt one of the fastest All-Star drivers in clean air, but has had lows of 17th and 20th in reverse-grid events that have left him vulnerable to Thiim and Eastwood.
And while Davidson’s 106-point haul from reverse-grid races beats both his team-mate’s and the two Aston drivers’, he’s never finished higher than 13th in the opening race.
Mercedes still has the advantage in the drivers’ championship though, and for Gutierrez one more race win or podium finish may make his points lead unassailable for either Thiim or Eastwood.
Pro Cup drivers’ standings (top 10)
Pro Cup teams’ standings
The final round of the second All-Star Series season will take place on Saturday June 30, starting at 4pm GMT, and can be streamed live on The Race YouTube channel.