After the crushing first lap crash that forced his retirement in Sunday’s Singapore Grand Prix, Sebastian Vettel’s gap to Lewis Hamilton in Formula 1’s World Drivers Championship has expanded to a whopping 28 points.
The biggest consequence of this newfound gap is that Lewis Hamilton is now an entire race victory ahead – meaning if Hamilton was to retire from next fortnight’s Malaysian Grand Prix, a maximum points victory for Vettel still wouldn’t hand him the championship lead back.
So, with just six races to go in this crazy season, is there actually any realistic chance of Sebastian Vettel clinching his fifth world championship title?
Well firstly, with regards to statistics, if Ferrari and Vettel were to win the next four races in Malaysia, Japan, USA and Mexico – that would see Vettel indefinitely take the lead of the championship back, irrespective of where Hamilton finishes. Equally so, if Hamilton was to take the top step in the next four events – he would win the World Championship by default.
This proves there’s no denying the championship can still swing either way – Vettel’s not currently even close to the ‘mathematical contention’ cutoff. Even after the terrible performance in Singapore, Maurizio Arrivabene, Ferrari’s Team Principal, was quick to point out how realistic Ferrari’s chances are in the 2017 championship.
“But [the crash] doesn’t mean that the battle is all over,” he told media on Sunday evening in Singapore, “just that it has become more difficult.” Sebastian Vettel similarly echoed the thoughts of his Team Principal, saying he felt the upcoming races will certainly bring “opportunities.”
And, he’s not wrong; there is no specific track in the final six races that should particularly cause problems for Ferrari. Unlike Monza or Spa – which were almost guaranteed Mercedes victories, the following six tracks all have relatively balanced demands on aerodynamics and power unit efficiency.
Another advantage which Ferrari have over Mercedes is the introduction of their fourth Internal Combustion Engine (ICE).
This vital component of the power unit was reportedly supposed to be ready for Monza, but the Scuderia needed more time to develop their new and innovative 3-D printed pistons, which are said to give massive performance gain.
According to Autosport, Ferrari have been evaluating this concept as early as February.
3D printing provides such an advantage for the ICE because designers can build the pistons layer by layer, consequently allowing honeycomb designs which “bring the advantage of strength without the drawback of weight.”
If Ferrari’s fourth and final ICE for the season solves the apparent power unit disparity to Mercedes, then the remaining tracks will almost entirely suit Ferrari, given their percieved aerodynamic advantage over the Silver Arrows.
In a sense, what this proves is that Ferrari undeniably have the machinery to complete the task required. There’s no reason that they can’t win the four races ahead of them – it’s admittedly unlikely, but certainly not impossible.
Indeed, earlier in this very season, it took Lewis Hamilton just seven races to completely evaporate Vettel’s 25 point gap he left the Monaco Grand Prix with. And in those crucial rounds, Hamilton only finished on the podium three of the seven times, somewhat proving the importance of consistency in this championship.
Consequently, it’s obvious that Ferrari’s bid for their first World Champion since Kimi Raikkonen in 2007 has become a whole lot more difficult because of the disappointing result in Singapore. But, consistently strong finishes leaves the fate of the season purely in the hands of Lewis Hamilton.
Throughout 2017 so far, there’s been multiple twists and turns – it wouldn’t be surprised to see yet another one considering the season isn’t even three-quarters of the way done yet…