Lewis Hamilton took a potentially-decisive stranglehold on the 2018 FIA Formula One World Championship by winning the Singapore Grand Prix for the fourth time, converting from pole position, the 200th by a English driver in Formula One, to claim his fourth win in the last five races, and put Sebastian Vettel firmly on the back foot as they head to Sochi for the Russian Grand Prix.
Hamilton (281 points) for Mercedes leads by 40 points over Ferrari’s Vettel (241 points) as the quest for five world championships swings heavily in the British driver’s favour. If Hamilton claims pole position in Russia, it would be his 80th in Formula One, and should he win on Sunday, it would be the 70th win of his career, and move him to within 21 of Michael Schumacher’s record of 91 wins, who Hamilton replaced of course after Schumacher retired from the sport for a second time at the end of 2012.
Behind the championship battle, the fight for third is intensifying with Kimi Räikkönen (174 points) and Valtteri Bottas (171 points) now being separated by just three points after finishing fifth and fourth respectively in Singapore, and are most certainly looking very much the support cast in their teammates quest to claim their fifth world championship.
Max Verstappen (148 points) has moved closer to the battle for third in the championship after finishing in third in Singapore, but his Red Bull Racing-TAG Heuer teammate Daniel Ricciardo (126 points) is falling away from this battle despite ending a run of two-straight retirements with a sixth-place finish at the Singapore Grand Prix. Ricciardo is now officially out of contention for the 2018 FIA Formula One World Championship, even though it wasn’t expected that he could fight for the championship in 2018.
Behind the clear top six, there are eight drivers fighting for seventh in the world championship, as well as places inside the top 10, with those eight drivers separated by 26 points with six races left in the season.
In terms of the Constructors’ World Championship, Mercedes (452 points) extended their lead to 37 points over Ferrari (415 points) after their shock performance in Singapore, with Red Bull Racing-TAG Heuer (274 points) in a clear third. Behind them, Renault (91 points) pull away again from Haas-Ferrari (76 points) in the battle for fourth, while McLaren-Renault (58 points) are in a clear, but stagnant sixth, followed by Force India-Mercedes (32 points), Scuderia Toro Rosso-Honda (30 points), Sauber-Ferrari (21 points), and the hapless Williams-Mercedes (seven points), whose best chance for points in the final six races might be here in Sochi.
So, who will win the Russian Grand Prix?
Since the race came into the championship in 2014, Mercedes have won each of the four races in Sochi, with Lewis Hamilton taking the first two in 2014 and 2015, before Nico Rosberg won in 2016 to complete a run of seven-straight wins, including four at the start of 2016, and Valtteri Bottas claimed his first race victory in his Formula One career after holding off Sebastian Vettel in 2017.
Overall, I think Mercedes are going to have a tough battle with Ferrari once again, but it won’t be just Hamilton and Vettel, but both Bottas and Kimi Räikkönen will play a huge part. In my opinion, it is most certainly a must win for Vettel, but whoever finds their stride the best at the start of the weekend will most certainly be the ones to beat, and I think Hamilton might just snatch another race from underneath the noses of Ferrari, and pull the world championship further away from Vettel.