When will Vettel be crowned world champion?

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Without wishing to be too cynical, it would appear that the 2013 Formula One world championship is slowly becoming a foregone conclusion. Following a scintillating run of five wins in the last seven races (it may well have been six had he not retired at Silverstone), Sebastian Vettel enjoys a 60 point lead over Fernando Alonso and he will be keen on extending this gap in the coming races. Assuming that this title is Seb’s for the taking, just when will he be crowned world champion?

Japanese Grand Prix

The earliest possible chance for Vettel to be crowned champion of the world for a fourth time will be at the Japanese Grand Prix on October 13. Vettel’s championship lead currently stands at 60 points. Wins in Korea and Japan will give him a 110 point lead with just 100 to play for (that is before we take Alonso into account). To stand any chance – as slim as it may be – of winning the title after the Japanese Grand Prix, Alonso must pick up ten points in the next two races. Given that he has scored at least 18 points over each two-race period in 2013 so far, it is unlikely that Vettel will walk away from Suzuka a four-time champ. The more probable ‘four’ Vettel will boast is a fourth win at the circuit, known to be one of his favorites.

Indian Grand Prix

The final Indian Grand Prix until 2015 is the most likely location of Vettel’s coronation. Buddh International Circuit will welcome the drivers at the end of October, and Vettel is the only winner at the circuit (it has only run twice, though). After this race, there will be 75 points left on the table. Therefore, Vettel must extend his lead over Alonso at a rate of 5 points per race in the next three grands prix. With a win putting a driver at least 7 clear of P2, if Vettel were to win the next three grands prix, he would be crowned champion in India regardless of what Alonso does. The magic number for Seb in the coming weeks is 15. Should he be a further 15 points better off than Alonso following the next three races, he will be champion in India.

Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

Should Vettel fail to extend his lead over Alonso before the race in India, he will take some comfort in knowing that Abu Dhabi is a near-certainty. For Alonso to prevent the German driver from being champion by the time the checkered flag falls at Yas Marina, he must outscore him by at least 11 points. So far in 2013, two-time champion Alonso has failed to do this, with his best aggregate advantage over Vettel in a two race spell being 8 points (Canada and Britain). So long as Seb keeps within touching distance of the Ferrari, the title will be his.

It will take a remarkable turnaround for Vettel to be prevented from taking a fourth straight title, although this was a given. However, by breaking it down into figures, it is all the more evident that the German driver can put the champagne on ice and begin to plot his assault on a fifth championship in 2014.

F1 Preview: 2018 Australian Grand Prix

Photo: Getty Images
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Save for two occasions, in 2006, and 2010, the Australian Grand Prix has served as the season-opening event for the FIA Formula 1 World Championship since 1996, and this weekend’s event will be the 21st time that the city of Melbourne has kicked off the Formula 1 campaign.

The 2018 season is the fifth one of the current hybrid power unit era, the second season of the current aero regulations, and the second under Liberty Media’s guidance.

Last year saw titans Mercedes AMG Petronas and Scuderia Ferrari duel for supremacy for most of the season before Mercedes distanced Ferrari late in the season to take the constructor’s title and the driver’s title, with Lewis Hamilton, who is now tied with Sebastian Vettel on four world championships apiece.

Four drivers on the grid have Formula 1 world championships to their name: Hamilton, Vettel, Kimi Raikkonen, and Fernando Alonso. Scuderia Toro Rosso’s Brendon Hartley also has a world championship to his name as a two-time titlist in the FIA World Endurance Championship.

So, what can viewers expect from the 2018 curtain-raiser in Australia? A handful of things to watch are below?

2018 Australian Grand Prix – Talking Points

Does Anyone Have Anything for Mercedes?

Only on one day during pre-season testing did a Mercedes driver lead the way – Lewis Hamilton was fastest on the final day of Week 1 at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya.

However, all indications were that was by design, with the team focusing the majority of the second week, if not the entire second week, on long runs with their W09 EQ Power+ chassis.

Such a decision is an ominous one, in that it indicates the team is very comfortable with the amount of speed in the car and did not see a need, or desire, to show their hand during testing.

With that in mind, the Mercedes duo of Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas may yet again have the best and fastest cars, and the team looks poised to potentially make it five constructor’s and driver’s championships in a row.

Ferrari and Red Bull Look to End Mercedes Reign

The biggest threats to Mercedes are undoubtedly Ferrari and Red Bull, the only other teams to win in 2017.

And both teams displayed a lot of pace during testing, particularly in the “one-lap speed” category. Ricciardo set a lap record around the Catalunya circuit during the second week, only for Vettel to supplant that mark later in the week. Teammate Kimi Raikkonen led the way during the final day of testing.

It is unknown how that pace will translate over the course of a race distance. Mercedes appeared to have an edge on both Ferrari and Red Bull over long runs and race simulations, but there is also a theory that neither Ferrari nor Red Bull had their true long-run form on display.

Still, if a team is going to knock off Mercedes, it will likely be either Ferrari or Red Bull.

McLaren on the Rebound?

Put simply, the previous three seasons for McLaren F1 Team were a bit of a disaster. Their partnership with Honda yielded point totals of 27 (2015), 76 (2016), and 30 (2017) in a three-year venture that was defined by poor reliability and underwhelming power.

The relationship hit a boiling point last year and both entities parted ways ahead of the 2018 season, with McLaren signing a new power unit deal with Renault.

Testing went better than in previous years, though the team continued to battle reliability problems. However, all issues appeared to be minor, needling issues rather than more significant, foundational problems, as the other Renault teams (Red Bull and Renault Sport F1 Team) had solid runs with few reliability issues.

The car does appear to have speed in it, so if the reliability problems are behind them, McLaren could be in for a rebound season.

Stuck in the Midfield Again

Formula 1’s battle amongst the midfield is set to be as fierce as ever as a host of a several teams have a chance at being “best of the rest.”

Sahara Force India has been the frontrunner from the the midfield teams each of the last two years, finishing fourth in the constructor’s title in both 2016 and 2017, though if the steady conflict between drivers Esteban Ocon and Sergio Perez continues through 2018, it could hamper their efforts significantly.

Renault Sport F1 Team and Haas F1 Team look to improve on their 2017 form, while Toro Rosso is in a new partnership with Honda power units…and has experienced a surprisingly smooth pre-season as Honda’s 2018 platform looks significantly better, with the team enjoying a solid run of testing with few, if any, reliability problems.

Williams Martini Racing and Alfa Romeo Sauber appear to be at the back of the pack entering the season, but both could battle for points finishes if those ahead of them falter.