Craig Lowndes – TeamVortex (Triple Eight)
Qual average: 13.6 Best race result: 3rd Championship position: 7th
Qualifying is obviously Craig’s problem and, from the outside, it appears that he hasn’t been able to deal with the new tyre over one lap as well his two team-mates.
Last year he wasn’t quite qualifying like he did when he was 25, but he wasn’t far away. This year, to be qualifying in the 20s, that just shouldn’t happen for anyone at Triple Eight.
All the ingredients are there though to turn it around and his ability to drag results out from where he’s been qualifying has been impressive. It’s been amazing to watch.
Jamie Whincup – Red Bull Holden Racing Team (Triple Eight)
Qual average: 4.6 Best race result: 1st Championship position: 2nd
Jamie has been outstanding this year, there’s no other way to describe it. I rate him the highest out of anyone in the field to be honest, not only his past but his present.
His desire and the way he goes about his business, he’s as hungry as ever which after six championships you can’t give him enough credit for.
It took him a long time to win a race this year, but Penske hasn’t gone up one gear, they’ve gone up three. Jamie and Triple Eight have responded to that in a champion manner.
Shane van Gisbergen – Red Bull Holden Racing Team (Triple Eight)
Qual average: 3.9 Best race result: 1st Championship position: 4th
What Shane did to come into Triple Eight last year and win the championship was remarkable, but Jamie has probably lifted a little bit extra and it’s a really interesting battle between the two.
Shane came out very, very strongly in Adelaide but lately Jamie has had a little edge on him in qualifying in recent races.
But Shane is always there or thereabouts. Clearly Darwin really hurt his points, but there’s plenty of time to come back.
Scott McLaughlin – Shell V-Power Racing (DJR Team Penske)
Qual average: 1.7 Best race result: 1st Championship position: 1st
Having seen Scotty up close at GRM, nothing that he does surprises me. He’s very much the young champion-to-be, in every aspect of how a young driver needs to go about it.
The way the whole team has moved forward is just mind-boggling. I often say a team is not just one person but clearly Ludo Lacroix has made a significant difference there and brought it together.
Scotty has had a hand in that too and now he’s gelled with Ludo it’s a very, very hard combination to beat.
They sent a message to the category early in the year that said, ‘unless you lift your game, you’re going to be left in the red and yellow wake’.
He’s certainly the favourite for the title, but there’s a lot of racing to go so you can’t take anything for granted.
Fabian Coulthard – Shell V-Power Racing (DJR Team Penske)
Qual average: 5.0 Best race result: 1st Championship position: 3rd
It’s been impressive the way Fabian has lifted in reply to McLaughlin and they’re clearly working well together, which has been important for the team.
Unfortunately he’s had a shocker in Townsville and he’s now in a situation where he has to put it behind him in order to get back to where he was.
You’ve got to have a very strong constitution to deal with going from leading the championship to being over 150 points behind. It’s a big beating to take mentally.
A big challenge for Fabian is that Scotty over one-lap. No team-mate has been able to match him since he entered Supercars. It’s his forte and he’s not going to lose that skill.
Championships aren’t decided by who is the outright fastest in qualifying, but it’s certainly hard if you’re starting behind more often than not.