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.

Lewis Hamilton takes F1 pole in dramatic Russian GP qualifying

Russian pole Lewis Hamilton
Dan Istitene - Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images
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SOCHI, Russia — Lewis Hamilton took a step closer to equaling the Formula One win record Saturday by clinching pole position at the Russian Grand Prix, after narrowly avoiding early elimination when Sebastian Vettel crashed.

Hamilton charged to a track-record time of 1 minute, 31.304 seconds, beating the Red Bull of Max Verstappen by 0.563 for his fifth straight pole position. Hamilton can achieve his 91st career win in the race on Sunday, matching the record held by Michael Schumacher.

Hamilton’s Mercedes teammate, Valtteri Bottas, was beaten into third by Verstappen’s fast run at the end of the session and was .652 off Hamilton’s time.

The long run from the grid to the first significant turn means Bottas could yet threaten to overtake Hamilton at the start Sunday using the slipstream from his teammate’s car.

“It’s nice being on pole but here is probably the worst place to be on pole,” Hamilton said.

“This year you’re seeing that our cars are more draggy and there’s more tow this year than we’ve seen in other years. So I generally expect one of (Verstappen and Bottas) to come flying by at some point. I think I’m just going to focus on my race and run the fastest race I can.”

Bottas earned his first win at the 2017 race in Russia after starting third and overtaking the two Ferraris ahead of him at the start.

Verstappen and Bottas both start the race on medium tires, which could give them an edge in terms of pit strategy over Hamilton, who is on soft tires, which wear much faster.

“I’m just going to have to nurse those tires for as far as I can. These guys, if they get by, they’re going to be pulling away,” Hamilton said.

Verstappen said he was delighted to start second.

“I wasn’t expecting that and of course it’s great for us. If we can get a good start tomorrow you never know what can happen,” he said.

Vettel lost control of his car over the kerb on the inside of the 90-degree, right-hand turn four and spun into the wall, before the Ferrari bounced back onto the track. Teammate Charles Leclerc was following closely behind and narrowly missed the wrecked car, driving over its discarded front wing.

“Oh my God, that was very, very close,” Leclerc told his team over the radio. Leclerc qualified 11th and Vettel 15th as Ferrari failed to reach the top-10 shootout with either car for the third time in four races.

Vettel’s crash meant the red flag was waved while Hamilton was trying to set his first valid lap time to make the third session – after his first attempt was earlier ruled out for going off the track.

After the track was cleared and the session restarted, Hamilton had to rush his out-lap to make it over the line in time for another flying lap with just a second to spare.

“It was horrible,” Hamilton said. “Heart in the mouth.”

Hamilton was also asked to report to race stewards over another incident in which he went off the track in the first part of qualifying. No further action was taken. It was found Hamilton didn’t gain an advantage because the lap time wasn’t counted.

Hamilton is the runaway championship leader with a 55-point advantage over second-place Bottas and 80 over Verstappen. If he can earn four more pole positions in the last seven races, he would be the first driver to 100 in F1 history.

Earlier in the third and final practice Saturday morning, Hamilton set the pace with a time of 1 minute, 33.279 seconds that was 0.776 better than his Mercedes teammate Bottas, who had been quickest in the first two sessions.