AP

After Suzuka win, it is a question of when, not if, Hamilton wins third title

Leave a comment

Following the Singapore Grand Prix relative “disaster” for Mercedes AMG Petronas and Lewis Hamilton’s first and thus far only failure to finish this season, order and the form book was restored this past weekend with the Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka.

Hamilton won, Rosberg was second, and Hamilton’s championship lead has increased back to 48 points over Rosberg with just five races to go in the 2015 Formula 1 season.

The points lead has swung a fair bit in the last two races. Hamilton’s win coupled with Rosberg’s late-race DNF at Monza just three races ago pushed the lead from a semi-close 28-point mark, just more than a race win worth of points, to a full 53 points – meaning Hamilton had a full two races banked before he might lose the points lead.

Rosberg could only close it back by 12 down to 41 after a fourth place in Singapore with Hamilton’s DNF. With Hamilton leading a 1-2 finish this weekend, the team’s eighth this season, the gap is now back to 48.

The good news for Rosberg is that regardless of what happens in two weeks’ time at Russia, he’ll have a mathematical – if remote – chance of overtaking him once the series hits North America for the United States, then Mexican Grands Prix.

But in all likelihood, it’s shaping up that Hamilton will secure his third World Championship in either Austin or Mexico City, and almost certainly by Interlagos.

If he does so at either circuit, it will mark the fifth different circuit in five years where a driver has clinched the World Championship.

Hamilton cannot clinch the title in Sochi in two weeks time.

With a lead of 48 points, another win and a non-points finish for Rosberg could extend Hamilton’s lead to a maximum potential number of 73 points leaving Sochi. A maximum of 100 points are still available in the final four races.

At that maximum gap, Hamilton would only need to score only two more points than Rosberg in Austin to clinch the title on U.S. soil.

It’s something that hasn’t happened at Austin, never happened at Indianapolis when it was late in the calendar from 2000 to 2003 and hasn’t happened in the U.S. since 1982, when Keke Rosberg took the crown at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas following a turbulent season. Nelson Piquet also won the title in Las Vegas a year earlier.

A more likely scenario is that if Hamilton and Rosberg ended 1-2 again in Sochi, Hamilton would have 55 points in hand going to Austin, and a third successive 1-2 – something which the pair has not done this season – would give him a 62-point lead going to Mexico City.

That’s in a best-case scenario for Rosberg if he can’t defeat Hamilton in either or both of the next two races.

He can’t overtake Hamilton in the next race and can only do so leaving Austin with two straight wins and two straight Hamilton non-scores, which is possible, but unlikely to occur.

If he’s down 62 at Mexico City, Rosberg would need to gain more than 12 points there – the easiest way would be a win with Hamilton fourth or worse – to keep any mathematical hopes alive going into Interlagos.

The last incarnation of the Mexican Grand Prix, run from 1986 to 1992, never saw a title clinched in those years. The race occurred in October, May, June and March; it will be held in November this year.

It would be the first time since 1968, when Graham Hill clinched the World Championship, that a title could be clinched at Mexico City. Hill emerged victorious over Jackie Stewart and Denny Hulme.

In simplest terms, if Hamilton wins the next two races and Rosberg fails to score at either Sochi or Austin, Hamilton wins the title at Austin.

If Hamilton continues to bank enough points and Rosberg stays mathematically alive through those two, it’ll most likely come down to Mexico City where he’ll wrap up a third title.

It would be fitting to see Hamilton clinch a title on North American soil, given his love, adoration and time spent in the U.S. and Latin America in recent years.

Additionally, if Hamilton wraps up the title before Abu Dhabi, as is likely, it will be the first time the title will be clinched ahead of the last race since Sebastian Vettel in 2013. It could be the fourth consecutive odd year the title gets wrapped prior to the last race (2013, 2011, 2009), and would be the first time Hamilton will have done so in his career.

And it seems highly likely we’ll be writing about Hamilton’s latest title being clinched in his third different location (Brazil in 2008, Abu Dhabi last year).

RACES WHERE WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP WAS CLINCHED, LAST 10 YEARS (CHAMPION)

  • 2014: Abu Dhabi, Race 19 of 19 (Lewis Hamilton)
  • 2013: India, Race 16 of 19 (Sebastian Vettel)
  • 2012: Brazil, Race 20 of 20 (Sebastian Vettel)
  • 2011: Japan, Race 15 of 19 (Sebastian Vettel)
  • 2010: Abu Dhabi, Race 19 of 19 (Sebastian Vettel)
  • 2009: Brazil, Race 16 of 17 (Jenson Button)
  • 2008: Brazil, Race 18 of 18 (Lewis Hamilton)
  • 2007: Brazil, Race 17 of 17 (Kimi Raikkonen)
  • 2006: Brazil, Race 18 of 18 (Fernando Alonso)
  • 2005: Brazil, Race 17 of 19 (Fernando Alonso)

RACES WHERE CHAMPIONSHIP WAS CLINCHED IN U.S. (CHAMPION)

  • 1982: Caesar’s Palace Grand Prix, Las Vegas, Race 16 of 16 (Keke Rosberg)
  • 1981: Caesar’s Palace Grand Prix, Las Vegas, Race 15 of 15 (Nelson Piquet)
  • 1977: U.S. Grand Prix East, Watkins Glen, Race 15 of 17 (Niki Lauda)
  • 1974: U.S. Grand Prix East, Watkins Glen, Race 15 of 15 (Emerson Fittipaldi)
  • 1970: U.S. Grand Prix East, Watkins Glen, Race 12 of 13 (Jochen Rindt)*
  • 1959: U.S. Grand Prix, Sebring, Race 9 of 9 (Jack Brabham)

*Posthumous World Champion

RACES WHERE CHAMPIONSHIP WAS CLINCHED IN MEXICO CITY 

  • 1968: Graham Hill
  • 1967: Denny Hulme
  • 1964: John Surtees

Mario Andretti says Colton Herta could be next American star in F1

Leave a comment

Mario Andretti’s last Formula One victory is also the last by an American driver in more than 42 years on the international open-wheel road racing series.

If you had told Andretti that while he was celebrating on the Grand Prix of the Netherlands podium on Aug. 27, 1978 at the Vandzoort circuit, he wouldn’t have believed it.

“Absolutely not,” Andretti told Kyle Petty during the most recent “Coffee With Kyle” episode (video above). “It’s a shame. Somehow we have so much talent here, and either there’s no invitation or something there. But I think it’s time to give some of this young talent that, in my opinion, is absolutely capable.”

The Dutch GP was the last of Andretti’s 12 victories in F1 and came during his championship season. No one since has come close to matching his success in F1.

Mario Andretti drives his Lotus-Ford to victory in the 1978 Grand Prix of the Netherlands (Bernard Cahier/Getty Images).

Andretti’s son, Michael, took a full-time ride with McLaren in 1993 but left with three races remaining in a season marred by crashes and mechanical problems.

Scott Speed was the last American to run a full F1 season in 2006, and Alexander Rossi made the most recent F1 start by a U.S. driver in 2015. Rossi has said he has no desire to return to racing in Europe after winning the 2016 Indianapolis 500 and becoming an IndyCar championship contender.

But Mario Andretti believes Andretti Autosport has another rising star with F1-caliber ability.

“Colton Herta is one that comes to mind,” Mario Andretti said. “As a young lad, his dad sent him to Europe, he was doing Formula 3, and he knows most of the circuits there. He’s trained. He’s showed in his rookie season and won some premium races at COTA (and Laguna Seca), beat two of the very best Indy has to offer (in) Will Power and Scott Dixon.

“This is one kid I’d love to see him get a break over there to fly the U.S. colors again.”

Herta, 20, seems interested in exploring an F1 leap over the next few years. After winning Sept. 13 at Mid-Ohio from the pole position (his third career victory in the NTT IndyCar Series), the No. 88 Dallara-Honda driver is ranked fourth in the standings in his sophomore year and regarded as one of the series’ top prospects.

Herta recently told RACER.com “I’d love to give Formula 1 a crack” but said he also would be happy driving in IndyCar and IMSA.

A naturalized U.S. citizen who told Petty about spending several years with his family in an Italian refugee camp before coming to America, Mario Andretti said F1 brought an enormous sense of patriotic pride.

“Formula One is like the Olympics in a sense,” he said. “You’re in a different country, a different continent. When you earn that highest step of the podium, they play your national anthem. That’s when you take nothing for granted. You feel like I’m representing my country, and the proudest moments are those.

“I’d just like to see some other American drivers experience that. It’s time.”

Mario Andretti with four-time NASCAR champion Jeff Gordon and six-time Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton before the Nov. 22, 2015 season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway (Jared C. Tilton/NASCAR via Getty Images).

During the “Coffee With Kyle” conversation, Andretti also discussed:

–His versatility as a winner in IndyCar, sports cars, NASCAR and Formula One;

–His 1967 Daytona 500 victory and how he enjoyed racing with crew chief Jake Elder at the famed Holman-Moody team;

Mario Andretti Colton Herta
Mario Andretti and Kyle Petty saluted “The King” by wearing their Richard Petty-style hats during the latest “Coffee With Kyle” (NBCSN).

–Why he delayed his entry to F1 for a few years because of his earnings power in IndyCar. “I always say I’d race for free, but at the same time, you’re thinking of family and the future,” he said. “It was in the back of your mind that you can’t give up the earning power of IndyCar. That kept me from going full time in Formula One, but I always said that sometime in my career, I’d have to devote a period to Formula One.”

–On what it was like racing in an era when driver deaths were more prevalent. “If you’re going to do this, you’re not going to dwell on those negatives,” Andretti said. “There’s no way. You knew it was present. Especially in the ‘60s at the beginning of the season at the drivers meetings, you couldn’t help but look around and say, ‘I wonder who is not going to be here at the end of the season.’ We’d lose four to five guys. In ’64, we lost six guys.

“It’s something if you dwell on that, you’re going to take on a different profession. It’s a desire and love to want to drive that overcame all that and then the confidence it’s not going to happen to me. And then you pray.”

Watch the full “Coffee With Kyle” episode in the video above or by clicking here.

Mario Andretti looks on before the 103rd Indianapolis 500 on May 26, 2019 (Chris Graythen/Getty Images).