2018 F1 Title Permutations: USA

The title battle is now an exclusive race between two drivers – Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel. Kimi Raikkonen and Valtteri Bottas are now firmly out of mathematical contention and, should Hamilton’s form continue, it won’t be too long before a fifth title is his. Here’s how the title can be won and lost over the final four races.

The simplest permutation heading into the U.S. Grand Prix is that if Lewis Hamilton out-scores Sebastian Vettel by eight points, he will be declared the 2018 World Champion.


  Driver Team Points
1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 331
2 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 264

The statistics are now very much in Lewis Hamilton’s favour. The championship leader after the Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka has only failed to win the championship on three occasions (Michael Schumacher in 1997, Mark Webber in 2010 and Fernando Alonso in 2012). Even if Sebastian Vettel wins all of the next three races, Hamilton would have to score no more than seven points in Texas, Mexico and Brazil combined for Vettel to head into the final round of the season with the championship lead.

The title situation is very similar to last year. After seventeen rounds in 2017, Hamilton led the way with 331 points, while Vettel had 265. Last season, Hamilton took the title honours in Mexico, at the nineteenth round of the year, but it’s plausible that he could do so a round earlier in 2018 – a statistic which would have seemed highly unlikely at the mid-point of the season. 

How Lewis Hamilton can win the title at the U.S. Grand Prix

The US Grand Prix at Texas has only ever been won by two drivers – Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel. Hamilton is by far the most successful driver at the track, with five wins to Vettel’s one. If Hamilton takes another Texas victory, Vettel would have to finish as runner-up to keep a very unrealistic title chance alive. That scenario would leave Vettel needing to win all three remaining races with Hamilton not scoring a point in all of them. Vettel has finished as runner-up to Lewis Hamilton only once so far this season, at the Hungarian Grand Prix.

Lewis Hamilton must finish in the top six if he’s to win the title at the eighteenth round. If he does so, Vettel must finish in a position lower than those listed below to win the title:

If Hamilton finishes… He’ll be champion if
Vettel finishes lower than
1st 2nd
2nd 4th
3rd 7th
4th 8th
5th 9th
6th 10th

The championship leader after the U.S. Grand Prix since the race moved to the Circuit of the Americas in 2012 has never failed to go on and win the title. That statistic certainly goes in Hamilton’s favour – no matter what happens in Texas, he’ll still be leading the title hunt on the Sunday evening.

Hamilton has never taken the title in the same country twice before, but this season will be the first time it happens – he’s won his previous four titles in America, Mexico, Brazil and Abu Dhabi. (This will also be the case if Vettel wins the title – he can only do so in Abu Dhabi, where he was crowned champion in 2010).

How Sebastian Vettel can still win the title

With just four races, 100 points remaining on offer and a 67 point deficit, a championship turn around for Sebastian Vettel seems unlikely, although mathematically possible.

Vettel’s hopes rely mainly on things going wrong for the Mercedes driver – and even then the Ferrari driver will still have to work for a fifth title. If Hamilton fails to finish all four remaining races, a podium finish in all four wouldn’t necessarily secure the title for Vettel. Vettel would need at least three second places and one third place to win the title – though plenty of other combinations would do (for example, one win and three third place finishes).

Should Vettel wins all four remaining races, he’ll be champion if Lewis Hamilton scores no more than 32 points. If Hamilton scores 33 points in this scenario, the pair would be tied on 364 points at the end of the season and the title would be decided by who had the most second place finishes. In that case, the title would be Hamilton’s, as he’d have a maximum of four second places compared to Vettel’s two. (Vettel couldn’t pick up any more second places this year if he wins all the remaining four and Hamilton could only pick up one more – the 36 points on offer from two second place finishes would automatically make Hamilton champion).

Here are the scenarios which would secure Vettel the title, presuming he finishes on the podium in all of the remaining four races:

If Vettel finishes Hamilton can score
no more than
1st, 1st, 1st, 1st 32 points
1st, 1st, 1st, 2nd 26 points
1st,1st, 1st, 3rd 23 points
1st, 1st, 2nd, 2nd 19 points
1st, 1st, 3rd, 3rd 13 points
1st, 2nd, 2nd, 2nd 12 points
1st, 2nd, 2nd, 3rd 9 points
1st, 2nd, 3rd, 3rd 6 points
2nd, 2nd, 2nd, 2nd 5 points
1st, 3rd, 3rd, 3rd 3 points
2nd, 2nd, 2nd, 3rd 2 points

Of course, there are plenty of other scenarios available: for example, Vettel could fail to score at one of the remaining four races and win all the other three and would win the title if Hamilton scored no more than eight points overall.

What is clear from all of these permutations, however, is that the title is now Hamilton’s to lose.

A New Points Record?

The most points Lewis Hamilton can score this season is 431. The current record of points scored in a single season is 397, from Sebastian Vettel in 2013. Hamilton needs 67 points to beat this record – a feat he could achieve by scoring two second places and two third places in the remaining rounds.  The most points Sebastian Vettel could score this year is 364, which is less than he scored in his 2011 and 2013 title winning years.



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