Three-time world champion Niki Lauda has written off Lewis Hamilton’s title hopes for this season, believing that Sebastian Vettel will seal a fourth consecutive championship with races to spare.
Lauda, who holds the role of non-executive chairman at Mercedes, but he has not played up the chances of one of his drivers winning the drivers’ championship in this season, even going as far as to predict that Vettel will become world champion at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in November.
“Vettel is no longer fighting anyone,” Lauda told German publciation Bild. “I am committing myself: in Abu Dhabi, he is world champion.”
“His lead is already big enough after Spa, where he dominated even though the Red Bull was not really suited to the track. His best circuits are still yet to come. Red Bull won’t be the favourite at Monza but on all other circuits he has the best car.”
The German driver has built up a sizeable lead in the last few races, putting him in a strong position to win a fourth consecutive title. Last year, he trailed Fernando Alonso by a mammoth 39 points following the Italian Grand Prix before hitting the front during the Asian rounds, winning four consecutive races and eventually claiming the title in Brazil. Therefore, it is hard to see Vettel not winning this year’s championship, but his fortunes could very easily change at Monza next weekend.
Hamilton did appear to be one of the few drivers who could seriously challenge Vettel heading into the second half of the season, but the Briton’s inability to put up a fight at the Belgian Grand Prix despite starting from pole position suggests that his car doesn’t quite have the pace to tackle the Red Bull this season.