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.

Coyne transitioning from underdog to Indy 500 threat

Photo: IndyCar
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For most of the team’s existence, Dale Coyne Racing has been the Chicago Cubs of American Open Wheel Racing – a team whose history was more defined by failures, at times comically so, than success.

The last decade, however, has seen the tide completely change. In 2007, they scored three podium finishes with Bruno Junqueira. In 2009, they won at Watkins Glen with the late Justin Wilson.

The combination won again at Texas Motor Speedway in 2012, and finished sixth in the 2013 Verizon IndyCar Series championship. That same year, Mike Conway took a shock win for them in Race 1 at the Chevrolet Dual in Detroit.

Carlos Huertas scored an upset win for them in Race 1 at the Houston double-header in 2014, and while 2015 and 2016 yielded no wins, Tristan Vautier and Conor Daly gave them several strong runs – Vautier’s best finish was fourth in Race 2 at Detroit, while Daly finished second in Race 1 at Detroit, finished fourth at Watkins Glen, and scored a trio of sixth-place finishes at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course, Race 2 at Detroit, and the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

And 2017 was set to possibly be the best year the team has ever had. Sebastien Bourdais gave the team a popular win in the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, and then rookie Ed Jones scored back-to-back top tens – 10th and sixth – at St. Pete and the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach to start his career.

But, things started unraveling at the Indianapolis 500. Bourdais appeared set to be in the Fast Nine Pole Shootout during his first qualifying run – both of his first two laps were above 231 mph –  before his horrifying crash in Turn 2.

While Jones qualified an impressive 11th and finished an even more impressive third, results for the rest of the season became hard to come by – Jones only scored two more Top 10s, with a best result of seventh at Road America.

But, retooled for 2018, the Coyne team is a legitimate threat at the 102nd Running of the Indianapolis 500.

Bourdais, whose No. 18 Honda features new sponsorship from SealMaster and now ownership partners in Jimmy Vasser and James “Sulli” Sullivan, has a win already, again at St. Pete, and sits third in the championship.

And Bourdais may also be Honda’s best hope, given that he was the fastest Honda in qualifying – he’ll start fifth behind Ed Carpenter, Simon Pagenaud, Will Power, and Josef Newgarden.

“I think it speaks volumes about their work, their passion and their dedication to this program, Dale (Coyne), Jimmy (Vasser) and Sulli (James Sullivan) and everybody from top to bottom. I can’t thank them enough for the opportunity, for the support,” Bourdais said of the team’s effort.

Rookie Zachary Claman De Melo has been progressing nicely, and his Month of May has been very solid – he finished 12th at the INDYCAR Grand Prix on the IMS Road Course and qualified a strong 13th for the “500.”

“It’s been surreal to be here as rookie. I’m a bit at a loss for words,” Claman De Melo revealed after qualifying. “The fans, driving around this place, being with the team, everything is amazing. I have a great engineer, a great group of experienced mechanics at Dale Coyne Racing.”

While Conor Daly and Pippa Mann struggled in one-off entries, with Mann getting bumped out of the field in Saturday qualifying, Daly’s entry essentially puts three Coyne cars in the race – Daly’s No. 17 United States Air Force Honda is a Dale Coyne car that has been leased to Thom Burns Racing.

Rest assured, the days of Coyne being an “also ran” are long gone, and a Coyne car ending up in Victory Lane at the biggest race of the year would complete the Chicago Cubs analogy – the Cubs won a World Series title in 2016, and an Indy 500 triumph would be the crowning achievement in Coyne’s career.

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