There are now just four drivers left in mathematical contention for the 2018 Drivers’ Championship. Max Verstappen has dropped out of the title hunt as a result of his fifth place finish in Sochi. Here is how the championship battle looks ahead of the Japanese Grand Prix
NOTE: You can find updated title permutations for the U.S. Grand Prix here.
The simplest title permutation heading into the last five rounds is that if Lewis Hamilton wins three of the remaining five races, the title is his – regardless of where Sebastian Vettel finishes in any of them.
CURRENT CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS:
Sebastian Vettel could win all five remaining races and still not win this year’s championship. If Vettel wins all five and Hamilton finishes as runner-up in all five, Hamilton would still win the title by fifteen points. If Vettel won every race and Hamilton came third in all of them, the pair would be tied for points – but Vettel would win as he’d have more wins across the season (ten to Hamilton’s eight).
An easier way of digesting this is to consider that if Hamilton finishes on the podium in all of the last five races, he’s guaranteed to win the title, under the condition that one of those podium finishes is a second place finish or higher. Hamilton’s chances of finishing on the podium in the last five races seem quite high – he’s had top three finishes in every race since the British Grand Prix.
With a fifty point deficit and five races remaining, Vettel needs to outscore Hamilton by an average of ten points per race in the five remaining races. Hamilton can retire from the next two races with Vettel winning both and Hamilton would still lead the title hunt. If that were to happen, the pair would be tied on 306 points heading into the final three rounds of the season.
Hamilton could win the title as early as the U.S. Grand Prix
If Sebastian Vettel retires from the Japanese Grand Prix, Hamilton would have a mathematical chance of taking the title at the next round, regardless of where he finishes at Suzuka. If Hamilton wins in Japan with a Vettel DNF, Hamilton would secure his fifth title if he out-scores Vettel in the U.S. Grand Prix. If Hamilton retired from the U.S. Grand Prix, or finished outside the points, Vettel would still have to finish in the top ten to keep any slim title aspirations alive.
Even if Hamilton wins the Japanese Grand Prix and Sebastian Vettel finishes as runner-up, the U.S. Grand Prix will be Hamilton’s first chance of sealing the title. Hamilton would have to win in Texas with Vettel finishing no higher than seventh, or finish second with Vettel failing to score, for him to take his fifth title.
If history repeats itself…
If the results from the end of the 2017 season are mirrored this season, Lewis Hamilton would win the title with 388 points compared to Sebastian Vettel’s 326. The end of the last season was not particularly representative though – Vettel retired in Japan with technical issues, Vettel and Hamilton collided in Mexico leaving them both with less points than they should have had, and Hamilton crashed out of qualifying in Brazil leading to him having to charge through the field in the Grand Prix.
How the championship results would look if 2017 results were repeated:
|TOTAL POINTS SO FAR IN 2018:||306||256|
|JAPAN||25 (1st)||0 (DNF)|
|USA||25 (1st)||18 (2nd)|
|MEXICO||2 (9th)||12 (4th)|
|BRAZIL||12 (4th)||25 (1st)|
|ABU DHABI||18 (2nd)||15 (3rd)|
|FINAL POINTS TOTAL:||388||326|
A new points record for Lewis Hamilton?
Lewis Hamilton has now scored more points this season than Vettel did in total when he won the title in 2010 and 2012. Hamilton could yet beat Vettel’s record total of 397 points in a single season if he scores 92 of the available 125 over the last five races. That’s the equivalent of one win, three second places and one third place finish, though there are plenty of other combinations of results which would see him seal that honour. The most points Hamilton could score this season is 431, if he won all five remaining races, which would be 34 more points than the current record. The most points Vettel can score this season is 381.
The Unlikely Champions
Kimi Raikkonen and Valtteri Bottas can both still win this year’s title, but it would take extraordinary circumstances for them to do so. If neither finish in the top two in the Japanese Grand Prix, their mathematical chances of winning the title this year are over.
The only way in which Kimi Raikkonen can win a second World Championship in 2018 is if he wins all five remaining races, with Lewis Hamilton scoring no more than four points and his team-mate Sebastian Vettel scoring no more than 54 points.
Valtteri Bottas, too, still has a mathematical chance of winning this year’s championship. He’ll do so if he wins every race remaining this season, with Lewis Hamilton scoring no more than seven points and Sebastian Vettel scoring no more than 57 points. He could also win the title by scoring four wins and a second place finish, with Hamilton failing to score and Vettel scoring less than fifty points.