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Is There Any Chance for Vettel to Win the Championship?

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Vettel - 2017 US GP FP1

Following an unfortunate streak of bad results in the 2017 Formula One World Championship, Sebastian Vettel is now 66 points behind rival Lewis Hamilton in the title fight. With three races to go and 25 points to be earned for each win, there is a maximum 75 points still up for grabs. Mathematically, this means Vettel is still in the running.

However, it’s highly likely Hamilton will secure the championship as early as this Sunday. Even if Vettel wins the Mexican Grand Prix, Hamilton can win the championship by finishing no lower than fifth. If Vettel finishes second, Hamilton can win with just a ninth place finish. Note that Hamilton has only finished lower than fifth once throughout the entire season and never lower than seventh. Meanwhile, if Vettel finishes in Mexico any lower than second, Hamilton will automatically win the championship.

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Should Vettel win all three remaining races and should Hamilton somehow score only nine points in the meantime, the two drivers would finish the championship in a tie—but Hamilton’s nine Grand Prix victories over Vettel’s potential seven would win him the tie-breaker.

If, by some miracle, Hamilton fails to score any points at any of the remaining races despite having the fastest and most reliable car on the grid, the odds would yet be in his favor, as Vettel would still need to score 67 points over the course of three races. This would require two race wins and a second-place finish at the minimum—no easy feat when you still have Valtteri Bottas in the other Mercedes and a resurgent Red Bull Racing team to compete with.

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It is also important to note that while reliability issues or accidents could befall Hamilton, they are far less likely to take place given his commanding position in the championship. Drivers or teams who enjoy such considerable points leads as Hamilton and Mercedes have no need to take unnecessary driving risks or push the car to the limits of its engineering. Instead, they will be doing everything they can not to tempt fate. If that means losing a bit of performance, so be it—they can afford it.

So while Vettel is still technically in contention for the title, realistically it is almost certain Hamilton will end 2017 with a fourth championship to his name.