2019 Chinese Grand Prix – Preview

It was heartbreak in Bahrain for Charles Leclerc as a first-ever win in Formula One disappeared due to an engine issue, it was devastation for both Nico Hülkenberg and Daniel Ricciardo for Renault, who were heading towards points finishes before they retired at the start of Lap 54 (and within metres of each other) due to power-unit and power loss issues respectively, with Ricciardo lucky not to be electrocuted by his own car, but it was joy once again for Mercedes as Sebastian Vettel succumbed once again to the pressure that Lewis Hamilton applied to him, and then took advantage of Leclerc’s problems to take the 74th race victory of his career in a Mercedes 1-2.

So, what will happen this weekend at the Shanghai International Circuit in Round Three of the 2019 FIA Formula One World Championship, which is also the 1000th race in the history of Formula One?

Looking at the championship standings, Valtteri Bottas (44 points) leads the championship by a single point over teammate Hamilton (43 points) after finishing second at the Bahrain Grand Prix after taking advantage of Leclerc’s issues. However, you sense Mercedes have plenty of work to do as Ferrari showed the speed that they had during pre-season testing, and without the problems for Leclerc, would have won in Bahrain.

Max Verstappen (27 points) is third in the world championship for Red Bull Racing-Honda after finishing fourth in Bahrain, but Red Bull right now don’t look like serious championship contenders, and maybe, despite the reliability of the Honda power-unit compared with the Renault power-unit, may not be getting the results from it that they have been looking for.

Leclerc (26 points) is a point behind Verstappen in fourth, ahead of teammate Vettel (22 points) after a performance throughout the weekend in Bahrain, which included him becoming the second-youngest driver in history to take pole position in Formula One, that should have been rewarded with his first-ever race win.

However, Ferrari have at least shown the speed that everyone was expecting from them, but they must sort out any niggling reliability issues they might have because they can’t afford to give a team like Mercedes any sort of advantage, and have now given themselves a bigger mountain to climb than what it should have been.

As for Vettel, he was dominated by his teammate in Bahrain, and then had his pants, figuratively speaking, pulled down by Hamilton. Vettel really needs to win in China to reassert his authority over teammate Leclerc, and lay down some kind of marker towards Mercedes in the championship battle.

Behind the top five in the world championship, Kimi Räikkönen (10 points) is sixth in the standings for Alfa Romeo Racing-Ferrari, ahead of Lando Norris (eight points) for McLaren-Renault, who claimed his first-ever points finish in Formula One after finishing sixth in Bahrain, while Kevin Magnussen (eight points) for Haas-Ferrari, Hülkenberg (six points) for Renault, despite stopping near the end of the Bahrain Grand Prix, and Pierre Gasly (four points) for Red Bull Racing-Honda complete the Top 10 in the championship after the opening two rounds.

Gasly has struggled so far to match the performance of his teammate Verstappen in his first two races with Red Bull, and really needs to put in a great performance in Shanghai to keep any doubters at bay.

Looking at the Constructors’ Championship, Mercedes (87 points) leads by 39 points over Ferrari (48 points), with Red Bull Racing-Honda (31 points) a further 17 points behind in third. Behind them, Alfa Romeo Racing-Ferrari (10 points), McLaren-Renault (eight points), Haas-Ferrari (eight points), Renault (six points), Scuderia Toro Rosso-Honda (three points), and Racing Point-BWT Mercedes (three points) have all scored points in 2019, while Williams-Mercedes (zero points) don’t look close to scoring a single point right now with a best finish of 15th through George Russell in Bahrain proving how far the once mighty team have fallen.

So, who will win Formula One’s 1000th race?

It is looking like a battle between Mercedes and Ferrari, and quite possibly, the straight-line performance of Ferrari might show through this weekend, but you cannot rule out Lewis Hamilton, and I am predicting a battle between him and Sebastian Vettel, the most successful drivers currently in the sport with five and four world championships respectively, and 74 and 52 race victories respectively, to decide who will win the 2019 Chinese Grand Prix, and the 1000th race in Formula One history.

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2019 Bahrain GP – Preview

The speculation that Mercedes had been knocked off their perch as Formula One’s dominant force had been greatly exaggerated, but it was Valtteri Bottas, not Lewis Hamilton, who took full advantage to win the 2019 Australian Grand Prix, claiming the single point for the fastest lap of the race to take the lead of the 2019 FIA Formula One World Championship, which heads to the Bahrain International Circuit in Sakhir for the 2019 Bahrain Grand Prix.

Bottas (26 points) leads the championship by eight points over his teammate and defending world champion Hamilton (18 points) after defeating him by 20.886 seconds at Albert Park to claim the fourth race victory of his career, a performance Bottas himself regarded as the best of his career.

However, Hamilton suffered floor damage to his car on the fourth lap of the Australian Grand Prix, affecting the aerodynamic performance of the car, denying him any opportunity to challenge his teammate for the race victory after claiming pole position for the sixth-straight year, and the eighth time at Albert Park, becoming just the third driver after Michael Schumacher (Suzuka) and Ayrton Senna (Imola) to achieve eight pole positions at one circuit.

Whether Hamilton would have won the opening race of the season without his floor damage is up for debate, but it certainly would have been a lot closer, that is for sure!

Max Verstappen (15 points) is third in the world championship for Red Bull Racing-Honda after pushing Hamilton close at Albert Park, ahead of the two Ferrari’s of Sebastian Vettel (12 points) and Charles Leclerc (10 points), who after dominating pre-season testing, finished 57.109 and 58.203 seconds behind Bottas at the opening race of the season, and rightfully would feel ashamed of their performance in Melbourne, and will be hoping that this performance is just a one-off, and that they can challenge Mercedes for the championship throughout 2019.

Behind them in the standings are Kevin Magnussen (eight points) for Haas-Ferrari, Nico Hülkenberg (six points) for Renault, Kimi Räikkönen (four points) for Alfa Romeo Racing-Ferrari, Lance Stroll (two points) for Racing Point-BWT Mercedes, and Daniil Kvyat (one point) for Scuderia Toro Rosso-Honda, who all scored points in the opening race of 2019.

However, it was a disappointing weekend in Australia for Daniel Ricciardo, his first race with Renault, having some difficulties or teething issues with the car in practice, qualifying outside of the Top 10 in 12th, and then sustaining damage to his car just metres off the start line on Sunday, which forced him to retire from the Australian Grand Prix after 28 laps.

Ricciardo will be hoping for a much better weekend in Bahrain, but you sense the best result he can hope for at the moment, given the car that he has at the moment, is a sixth or seventh-place finish, and most likely a lap down on the leaders (Mercedes, Ferrari, and Red Bull Racing-Honda).

So, who is going to win the Bahrain Grand Prix?

In my opinion, it is always very hard to see a team bouncing back to win the next race after being smashed by almost a minute in the previous race, but if Ferrari’s performance in pre-season testing was genuine, and that Mercedes, and to a lesser extent Red Bull Racing-Honda haven’t actually gained genuine performance between pre-season testing and the first race, and that both of their performances in Australia were simply track specific, then they are a strong chance to bounce back.

However, it is not the first time that a team involving Lewis Hamilton has gained a huge chunk of time, usually in the region of about a second, in a short space of time to instantly become more competitive.

Think mid-season in 2009 when McLaren, the team Hamilton was driving for at the time, moved from near the back of the field, where they were at the British Grand Prix, to challenging Brawn and Red Bull, on speed at least, at the following race at the Nürburgring in Germany, with Hamilton winning the following race in Hungary.

Think 2011, when McLaren (with Hamilton) moved from what many predicted was a midfield position for the team in pre-season testing to being arguably the second-best car on the grid for the start of the season in Australia, although comfortably behind Red Bull generally throughout 2011.

It cannot be a coincidence because if you were to add a second to the times both Mercedes achieved in qualifying at Albert Park, those were the times/margins that many experts thought Mercedes were behind in relation to Ferrari, and to a lesser extent Red Bull Racing-Honda.

Hamilton has proven, if the form is genuine, to be the face of the catalyst of turning the competitiveness of a team around once again, and if you believe this, then you cannot be surprised of his standing today as a five-time Formula One World Champion!

I am predicting Hamilton to bounce back from the floor issue he suffered in the race with his car in Australia to win in Bahrain, but I think Max Verstappen can put in a sterling performance to finish in second, with Valtteri Bottas to finish in third, just ahead of the two Ferrari drivers.

2018 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix – Preview

After 20 hard-fought, and exciting races, the 2018 FIA Formula One World Championship comes to a close at the Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi for Round 21 of the championship, a season that will be remembered for Lewis Hamilton winning his fifth world championship, equalling the record of Juan Manuel Fangio, and moving to within two of Michael Schumacher’s record of seven world championships.

However, the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix will mark the end of the Formula One career of two-time world champion Fernando Alonso. 313 entries (311 starts), 32 wins, 97 podiums, 22 pole positions, and 23 fastest laps, racing for the likes of Minardi, Renault, McLaren, and Ferrari over the course of 17 seasons in Formula One. It has truly been a remarkable career for the most part.

For the record, Hamilton (383 points) leads the championship for Mercedes by an unassailable 81 points over Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel (302 points), but the focus in the world championship lies in the battle for third between Kimi Räikkönen (251 points), Valtteri Bottas (237 points), and Max Verstappen (234 points) with only 17 points separating the three with one race to go.

Both Räikkönen and Verstappen have been in great form in recent races, with the Finn having three-straight podiums in the last three races, including claiming the United States Grand Prix, and will be looking to secure third in the championship before leaving Ferrari for Sauber-Ferrari next year, while the Dutchman has been on the podium in four-straight races, including winning the Mexican Grand Prix, and should have won in Brazil after Esteban Ocon, who was attempting to unlap himself, collided with Verstappen while he was leading the race.

However, Bottas hasn’t been on the podium in the last three races, finishing fifth in all three of those races, and will be desperate to get a win before the season comes to an end.

As far as the championship permutations for third, this is how each driver can claim third in the world championship.

For Räikkönen:

  1. If he finishes ahead of Bottas and Verstappen.
  2. If Bottas wins the race, Räikkönen must finish 4th or higher.
  3. If Bottas finishes second, Räikkönen must finish 8th or higher assuming Verstappen doesn’t win the race.
  4. If Bottas finishes third, Räikkönen must finish 10th or higher assuming Verstappen doesn’t finish inside the top two.
  5. If Bottas finishes fourth or lower assuming Verstappen doesn’t finish inside the top two.
  6. If Verstappen wins the race, Räikkönen must finish 5th or higher.
  7. If Verstappen finishes second, Räikkönen must finish ninth or higher assuming Bottas doesn’t win the race.
  8. If Verstappen finishes third or lower assuming Bottas doesn’t finish inside the top two.

For Bottas:

  1. If Bottas wins the race, Räikkönen must finish 5th or lower.
  2. If Bottas finishes second, Räikkönen must finish 9th or lower assuming Verstappen doesn’t win the race.
  3. If Bottas finishes third, Räikkönen must finish 11th or lower assuming Verstappen doesn’t finish inside the top two.

For Verstappen:

  1. If Verstappen wins the race, Räikkönen must finish 6th or lower.
  2. If Verstappen finishes second, Räikkönen must finish 10th or lower assuming Bottas doesn’t win the race.

Behind the top five in the championship, Daniel Ricciardo (158 points) will finish in sixth, while there is, mathematically at least, a six-way battle for seventh in the standings between Nico Hülkenberg (69 points), Sergio Pérez (58 points), Kevin Magnussen (55 points), Fernando Alonso (50 points), Esteban Ocon (49 points), and Carlos Sainz Jr. (45 points), while Romain Grosjean (35 points), Charles Leclerc (33 points), and Pierre Gasly (29 points) all remain in mathematical contention of finishing inside the top 10 in the world championship.

As far as the Constructors’ Championship is concerned, Mercedes (620 points) claimed their fifth-straight championship in Brazil, and lead by an unassailable 67 points over Ferrari (553 points), while Red Bull Racing-TAG Heuer (392 points) will finish in third.

Behind the clear top three, the battle is still on for fourth between Renault (114 points) and Haas-Ferrari (90 points), while McLaren-Renault (62 points) are sixth, but could still be challenged by Force India-Mercedes (48 points) and Sauber-Ferrari (42 points), who could still yet be challenged by Scuderia Toro Rosso-Honda (33 points), while Williams-Mercedes (seven points) will certainly finish 10th barring a minor miracle.

So, who will win the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix?

I think Mercedes will be strong once again in the United Arab Emirates, but I think they will face some strong competition from Ferrari. Red Bull Racing-TAG Heuer can challenge, but they will need to focus fully on the race if they are to challenge.

In my view, this is the best chance for Valtteri Bottas to claim a race victory in 2018, and if he does claim victory in Abu Dhabi, it will certainly be well-deserved!

2018 Brazilian Grand Prix – Preview

It was a magnificent win for Max Verstappen at the Mexican Grand Prix, another tough race for Daniel Ricciardo ending in his eighth retirement of the season, but the biggest headline was Lewis Hamilton becoming just the third man after Juan Manuel Fangio and Michael Schumacher to win five Formula One World Championships, an incredible achievement.

However, the focus now turns to the Autódromo José Carlos Pace in São Paulo, Brazil for the penultimate round, Round 20 of the 2018 FIA Formula One World Championship, and a battle not only for the Constructors’ Championship, but also for third in the Drivers’ Championship.

Hamilton (358 points) became a five-time Formula One World Champion after his fourth-place finish in Mexico, a performance in any other circumstances would have been described as a lacklustre one, finishing 78.738 seconds behind race winner Verstappen, and the last car on the lead lap. Hamilton and Mercedes will be looking for a much better performance in the final two races of the season in Brazil and Abu Dhabi, two circuits which should suit Mercedes on paper much better.

Sebastian Vettel (294 points) has secured second in the world championship after finishing second in Mexico, which wasn’t enough to keep the championship battle going in his Ferrari, but the positive sign for the Prancing Horse is that Ferrari have regained the speed that they had before the flyaway races, winning in Austin with Kimi Räikkönen, and being the second-best car in Mexico behind Red Bull Racing-TAG Heuer at a track which very much suited Red Bull.

Talking about Räikkönen (236 points), he leads a three-way battle for third in the world championship with Hamilton’s teammate Valtteri Bottas (227 points), and Verstappen (216 points), while Ricciardo (146 points) will finish 2018 in sixth after retiring for the second-straight week, this time due to a hydraulics failure.

Behind the top six in the championship, there is a huge scrap for seventh with Nico Hülkenberg (69 points), Sergio Pérez (57 points), Kevin Magnussen (53 points), Fernando Alonso (50 points), Esteban Ocon (49 points), and Carlos Sainz Jr. (45 points) all within 24 points of each other with two races remaining.

Looking at the Constructors’ Championship, Mercedes (585 points) could claim their fifth-straight championship Brazil, currently leading by 55 points over Ferrari (530 points). Red Bull Racing-TAG Heuer (362 points) are locked-in for third with Renault (114 points) close to locking up fourth ahead of Haas-Ferrari (84 points).

Then beyond the top five, McLaren-Renault (62 points) are hanging onto sixth ahead of Force India-Mercedes (47 points), while a great battle continues for eighth in the championship with Sauber-Ferrari (36 points) overtaking Scuderia Toro Rosso-Honda (33 points), while Williams-Mercedes (seven points) will finish 10th in the Constructors’ Championship barring a minor miracle.

Looking at the championship permutations, Mercedes can claim the 2018 Constructors’ World Championship in Brazil if they are not out-scored by Ferrari by 13 points or more. If Ferrari finish first and second in São Paulo, the battle will go down to the final race in Abu Dhabi regardless of what Mercedes does. However, if one Mercedes driver finishes the Brazilian Grand Prix inside the top two, the other Mercedes driver must finish fifth or higher unless the first Mercedes driver win, with a Mercedes win being enough to clinch the Constructors’ Championship regardless of what Ferrari does.

And, we also have the battle for third in the championship on the line in Brazil, which can be decided in favour of Kimi Räikkönen:

  1. If Räikkönen wins the race, Bottas must finish 6th or lower.
  2. If Räikkönen finishes second, Bottas must finish 9th or lower, and Verstappen must finish 4th or lower.

So, who will win the 2018 Brazilian Grand Prix?

In my opinion, I think Mercedes will return back to their best form, but I still suspect Ferrari will be with them in the battle for the victory at the Autódromo José Carlos Pace. Overall, I think Sebastian Vettel will find his best form to claim his sixth race win of the season, but I think the two Mercedes will be on the podium to claim their fifth-straight Constructors’ World Championship.

2018 Mexican Grand Prix – Preview

Kimi Räikkönen took his 21st career race victory in Formula One, but his first since the 2013 Australian Grand Prix, when he was with the Lotus F1 Team, by taking out the 2018 United States Grand Prix, his first win in the United States, holding of Max Verstappen, who charged from 18th on the grid to claim second, and claimed the Driver of the Day award, and Lewis Hamilton, with Mercedes taking a strategic gamble by taking the pit-stop under the virtual safety car, but it backfired, but despite requiring a second pit-stop, Hamilton charged back to finish in a close third.

And with this, the 2018 FIA Formula One World Championship battle is still alive heading into the 2018 Mexican Grand Prix, Round 19 of the championship.

Hamilton (346 points) leads the world championship for Mercedes by 70 points over Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel (276 points) after another disappointing performance by the German, finishing in fourth after spinning on the opening lap when racing Daniel Ricciardo, throwing away yet another opportunity for a crucial race victory.

Behind Hamilton and Vettel in the championship, Vettel’s teammate Räikkönen (221 points) has re-taken third in the standings ahead of Hamilton’s teammate Valtteri Bottas (217 points), while Verstappen (191 points) is closing in on both of them in a close fifth for Red Bull Racing-TAG Heuer, but the Dutchman’s teammate Daniel Ricciardo (146 points) is still mathematically in the hunt, but realistically knows that sixth is the best he can do this year in the world championship after suffering his seventh retirement of the season.

However, while the battle for third in the championship is starting to heat up, the battle for seventh in the standings has been blown wide open, with Nico Hülkenberg (61 points) moving up to seventh after a sixth-place finish at the Circuit of the Americas for Renault, with Sergio Pérez (57 points) slipping one place back to eighth in the world championship after finishing in the same position at the United States Grand Prix for Force India-Mercedes.

Behind Hülkenberg and Pérez, the trio of Kevin Magnussen (53 points) for Haas-Ferrari, Fernando Alonso (50 points) for McLaren-Renault, and Esteban Ocon (49 points) for Force India-Mercedes, who in the case of Alonso retired from the United States Grand Prix, and in the case of Magnussen and Ocon were disqualified after technical breaches in regards to their fuel usage, with Magnussen using beyond the maximum 105kg of fuel, and Ocon for exceeding the fuel-flow limit on the opening lap of the grand prix, while Hülkenberg’s teammate Carlos Sainz Jr. (45 points) moves into the tussle for seventh in the world championship after finishing seventh in Austin.

Looking at the Constructors’ Championship, Mercedes (563 points) have had their lead narrowed slightly to 66 points over Ferrari (497 points), while Red Bull Racing-TAG Heuer (337 points) will finish third regardless of what happens in the final three races of the season, but behind them, Renault (106 points) have taken a firm grip on fourth ahead of Haas-Ferrari (84 points), while Force India-Mercedes (47 points) close in on McLaren-Renault (58 points) for sixth, a tight battle continues for eighth in the championship between Scuderia Toro Rosso-Honda (32 points) and Sauber-Ferrari (28 points), while Williams-Mercedes (seven points) have had a lock on 10th in the Constructors’ Championship for quite a while.

So, with the opportunity of both the Drivers’ World Championship, and the Constructors’ World Championship to be claimed this weekend by Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes respectively, this is how they can do it.

For Hamilton to claim his fifth world championship at the Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez in Mexico City:

  1. If Vettel wins, Hamilton must finish 7th or higher.
  2. If Vettel doesn’t win, Hamilton becomes a five-time Formula One World Champion.

For Mercedes to claim their fifth-straight Constructors World Championship at the 2018 Mexican Grand Prix, Mercedes must out-score Ferrari by 20 points or more.

So, who will win in Mexico?

Red Bull Racing-TAG Heuer have been targeting this race as a chance to grab a win before the 2018 season comes to an end, and judging by their form in Austin, they are a strong chance of success, and with the high altitude reducing the power-unit advantage of Mercedes and Ferrari, you could see a race victory from either Max Verstappen or Daniel Ricciardo, and if that happens, Lewis Hamilton will be a five-time world champion.

2018 United States Grand Prix – Preview

Lewis Hamilton has taken six of the last seven races, and now has the distinct opportunity to become only the third driver in history to become a five-time Formula One World Champion when Round 18 of the 2018 FIA Formula One World Championship takes place from the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas for the 2018 United States Grand Prix.

Hamilton (331 points), who has won the United States Grand Prix six times, including five times at the Circuit of the Americas, including in each of the last four years, leads the championship for Mercedes by 67 points over Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel (264 points) after claiming his fourth win in a row at Suzuka, and with the big step-up in performance Mercedes has taken, particularly during the flyaway races, it is almost a fait accompli that Hamilton will take out his fifth world championship, if not in the United States, at the following race in Mexico.

Behind the top two in the championship, the battle, in terms of the points score, has really fizzled out in the battle for third, with Hamilton’s teammate Valtteri Bottas (207 points) starting to take a firm grip on third in the world championship ahead of Vettel’s teammate Kimi Räikkönen (196 points), who will be looking to finish his time with Ferrari on a high before joining Sauber-Ferrari in 2019.

Max Verstappen (173 points) is fifth in the championship for Red Bull Racing-TAG Heuer, and has a good chance of finishing third or fourth in 2018, ahead of his teammate Daniel Ricciardo (146 points), who seems destined to finish his final year with Red Bull, before linking up with Renault in 2019, in sixth position in the world championship despite three-straight points-scoring finishes.

And, behind the top six in the championship, we have five drivers separated by just four points battling to finish seventh, with Sergio Pérez (53 points), Kevin Magnussen (53 points), Nico Hülkenberg (53 points), Fernando Alonso (50 points), and Esteban Ocon (49 points) jostling between each other for the “best of the rest” title.

Looking at the Constructors’ Championship, Mercedes (538 points) have a stranglehold on the world championship, leading by 78 points over Ferrari (460 points), and could take their fifth-straight Constructors’ Championship at the next round in Mexico.

Red Bull Racing-TAG Heuer (319 points) are guaranteed to finish third at worst, should they, as expected, not be able to catch Ferrari, while the battle behind only continues to heat up, with Haas-Ferrari closing in on Renault for fourth, McLaren-Renault coming under increasing pressure from Force India-Mercedes for sixth, while Sauber-Ferrari are still in touching distance of Scuderia Toro Rosso-Honda for eighth, while Williams-Mercedes are destined to finish 2018 in 10th.

Looking at the championship permutations, Lewis Hamilton must finish inside the top six at the 2018 United States Grand Prix, and ahead of Sebastian Vettel if he is to become a five-time world champion this weekend. Hamilton will become a five-time world champion at the Circuit of the Americas if:

  1. If Hamilton wins, Vettel must finish in 3rd or lower.
  2. If Hamilton finishes in 2nd, Vettel must finish in 5th or lower.
  3. If Hamilton finishes in 3rd, Vettel must finish in 7th or lower.
  4. If Hamilton finishes in 4th, Vettel must finish in 8th or lower.
  5. If Hamilton finishes in 5th, Vettel must finish in 9th or lower.
  6. If Hamilton finishes in 6th,  Vettel must finish outside of the points-scoring positions (11th or lower).

So, who will win the 2018 United States Grand Prix?

Unless Ferrari magically find some mind-blowing speed, Mercedes are most certainly the team to beat, and given what we saw in Russia and Japan, it would not be surprising if Mercedes finish first and second in Austin, and if that is the case, as long as Hamilton wins the United States Grand Prix for the seventh time, and at the Circuit of the Americas for the sixth time, he will claim his fifth world championship, and join Juan Manuel Fangio in equal-second for the most Formula One World Championships.

2018 Japanese Grand Prix – Preview

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.