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.