After Lewis Hamilton took his eighth race victory of the season, and his fifth in six races, albeit in somewhat controversial circumstances in regards to team orders, the 2018 FIA Formula One World Championship heads straight from Sochi to Suzuka for the Japanese Grand Prix, Round 17 of the championship, a championship that is heading towards the grasp of Hamilton for the fifth time.
Hamilton (306 points) leads the world championship for Mercedes by 50 points over Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel (256 points), with Hamilton having achieved the same amount of points in 16 rounds that he did after 16 rounds in 2017, with Vettel having nine points than he did at the same point last year after finishing third in the Russian Grand Prix, and unless Vettel responds soon with some victories, his chances of winning the 2018 championship will have floated out the window, much to the disappointment of the Vettel and Ferrari supporters.
Behind the top two in the championship, Hamilton’s teammate Valtteri Bottas (189 points) has overtaken Vettel’s teammate Kimi Räikkönen (186 points) into third in the world championship after finishing second in Russia, which was after being ordered by his team to change positions with his teammate, while Räikkönen wasn’t really in contention for the win, or perhaps even the podium in finishing in a lonely fourth.
Besides Hamilton and Vettel, only Bottas and Räikkönen still remain in mathematical contention to win this year’s world championship.
Max Verstappen (158 points) is now out of mathematical contention for the championship in 2018 despite a storming drive from 19th on the grid to lead the race after Lap 19, and led the most laps in the race (24) on-route to finishing in a highly commendable fifth, just 31.016 seconds behind Hamilton, while his Red Bull Racing-TAG Heuer teammate Daniel Ricciardo (134 points) finished in a low-key sixth from 18th on the grid after some early minor front wing damage affected his pace before his only pit-stop of the race.
Behind the top six in the championship, we have a strong five-way battle for seventh in the championship with Kevin Magnussen (53 points), Nico Hülkenberg (53 points), Fernando Alonso (50 points), Sergio Pérez (47 points), and Esteban Ocon (47 points) all separated by just six points.
As far as the Constructors’ Championship is concerned, Mercedes (495 points) have extended their lead over Ferrari (442 points) to 53 points, with Red Bull Racing-TAG Heuer (292 points) in a strong third, and will be hoping to get another victory or two before the end of 2018.
Beyond the top three, Renault (91 points) are still in fourth, but have had their margin over Haas-Ferrari (80 points) narrowed to just 11 points, with McLaren-Renault (58 points) in a clear sixth. Behind them is a tight fight for seventh between Force India-Mercedes (35 points), Scuderia Toro Rosso-Honda (30 points), and Sauber-Ferrari (27 points), with Williams-Mercedes (seven points) looking very secure in 10th and last position in the Constructors’ Championship.
So, who will win at Suzuka?
Right now, you wouldn’t bet against Lewis Hamilton from winning the Japanese Grand Prix for a fifth time, and winning at Suzuka for the fourth time, but has only taken one pole position at Suzuka, which was last year on-route to his fourth Japanese Grand Prix victory, with his only other two pole positions in Japan coming at the Fuji Speedway in his first two years in Formula One back in 2007 and 2008.
However, it is most certainly a must win race for Sebastian Vettel and Ferrari if they want to challenge Hamilton and Mercedes for the championship, but right now, it appears to be an uphill challenge for Vettel and Ferrari.
Hamilton to take the win, and a very strong stranglehold on a fifth world championship.