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The man who would be king

With Hamilton on the brink of fourth F1 title, here is how the season so far has turned in his favour

Image Credit: AFP
Mercedes' British driver Lewis Hamilton gestures on the podium after his victory in the Formula One Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka on October 8, 2017.
Gulf News

Fortune has favoured Lewis Hamilton recently in his bid for a fourth Formula One drivers’ championship.

He is not over the line yet, but determined driving and favourable incidents elsewhere means he scored 31 points more than title rival Sebastian Vettel in the past two races and is now 59 ahead with only 100 still available in the remaining four grands prix.

Will there be more twists in the tussle between two drivers who have won six of the last seven world titles between them? Which Mercedes – reliable or suspect – will turn up in Austin?

All will be clear this weekend. Here we look at how Hamilton went from trailing Ferrari’s Vettel to sitting in the 2017 championship driving seat.

Fortune has favoured Lewis Hamilton recently in his bid for a fourth Formula One drivers’ championship.


 

1. Australian GP

March 26

Qualifying: Hamilton, Vettel, Bottas

Result: Vettel, Hamilton, Bottas

Points: Vettel 25

Hamilton 18

It was all looking good for Hamilton as he secured pole position in Melbourne, matching Ayrton Senna’s record of six poles in Australia. But the Mercedes driver was given a rude awakening on race day. Although Hamilton started strongly, Ferrari’s performance on the ultra-soft tyres made the difference. An early pit stop from Hamilton was a tactical error and he ended up in traffic behind Max Verstappen, allowing Vettel to head off into the distance. The German was then able to pit and return with a comfortable lead and secure the win.

 

2. Chinese GP

April 9

Qualifying: Hamilton, Vettel, Bottas

Result: Hamilton, Vettel, Verstappen

Points: Vettel 43

Hamilton 43

Pole again for Hamilton, and this time there were no mistakes, signalling the beginning of a title fight between the Briton and Vettel. Hamilton claimed his fifth win in Shanghai by leading from wire to wire, proving Mercedes were not going to give up the drivers’ title without a fight. Following a poor qualifying, Vettel recovered from fifth to finish as runner-up. All square after round 2 ...

Dutchman Max Verstappen completed the podium in what would prove to be a breakout year for the teenager.

 

3. Russian GP

April 30

Qualifying: Vettel, Raikkonen, Bottas (Hamilton 4th)

Result: Bottas, Vettel, Raikkonen (Hamilton 4th)

Points: Vettel 86

Hamilton 73

More question marks over the reliability of the Mercedes as Hamilton struggled to fourth in qualifying and could improve on that during a race in Sochi. Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas helps limit the damage by grabbing victory ahead of Vettel – powering past both Ferraris at the start on his way to his maiden victory in 81 starts – but the German still stretched his lead in the standings. Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen finished third to ensure Hamilton missed out on the podium altogether.

 

4. Monaco GP

May 28

Qualifying: Raikkonen, Vettel, Bottas (Hamilton 14th)

Result: Vettel, Raikkonen, Ricciardo (Hamilton 7th)

Points: Vettel 129

Hamilton 104

Hamilton’s hopes suffered a major dent with a woeful qualification and a lack of overtaking opportunities on the streets of Monte Carlo meant he could only finish seventh.

The alarm bells were really rising in the Mercedes camp now as it looked like they had no answers to the dominant Ferraris of Vettel and Raikkonen. As if to signify the shift in momentum, this win was Ferrari’s first 1-2 finish since the 2010 German Grand Prix.

The underlying current was Raikkonen’s displeasure as seemingly having to give up his position to Vettel while leading. There were denials but it seemed Ferrari manipulated the pit stops to ensure a win for Vettel. Rumblings of discontent surface despite a 25-point lead for Vettel.

 

5. Canadian GP

June 11

Qualifying: Hamilton, Vettel, Bottas

Result: Hamilton, Bottas, Ricciardo (Vettel 4th)

Points: Vettel 141

Hamilton 129

A flicker of hope in Montreal as Hamilton and Mercedes bounce back with another wire-to-wire win, closing the gap to Vettel from 25 points to 12. Hamilton’s sixth win at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve took him one short of Michael Schumacher’s record but, more importantly, got him back in the running after a rocky period.

 

6. Belgian GP

August 27

Qualifying: Hamilton, Vettel, Bottas

Result: Hamilton, Vettel, Ricciardo

Points: Vettel 220

Hamilton 213

After trading wins in the UK and Hungary, Hamilton was still trailing Vettel by 14 points as the season headed to Spa-Francorchamps for the Belgian Grand Prix. He started the race from pole for the 68th time, equalling the record of Schumacher, and defiantly held of the charging Vettel throughout, showing his tenacity and determination to get his hands on a fourth title. The Mercedes was still struggling but Hamilton’s driving was exceptional to shave Vettel’s lead from 14 points to seven.

 

7. Italian GP

September 3

Qualifying: Hamilton, Verstappen, Ricciardo (Vettel 7th)

Result: Hamilton, Bottas, Vettel

Points: Hamilton 238

Vettel 235

The pendulum was swinging big time now. Having whittled down Vettel’s lead, Hamilton took over at the top of the standings for the first time with a dominant race at Monza, right in front of thousands of Ferrari’s devoted followers. During jeers on the podium, Hamilton said: “Mercedes power is definitely better than Ferrari power, so it worked well this weekend,” suggesting the team’s troubles were behind them.

 

8. Singapore GP

September 17

Qualifying: Vettel, Verstappen, Ricciardo,

Result: Hamilton, Ricciardo, Bottas

Points: Hamilton 263

Vettel 235

Hamilton said he would need a “miracle” to win in Singapore following a poor fifth in qualifying – instead was given a gift. With the Ferraris clearly more powerful during practice and qualifying, Hamilton looked up against it. Enter Vettel. He was at least partly at fault for an opening-lap crash, taking Raikkonen and Verstappen out of the running and wrecking his own car and chances in the process, It presented Hamilton with the opportunity to take a huge leap toward the title and he duly delivered, even as his car lost pace with Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo looming.

 

9. Malaysia GP

Qualifying: Hamilton, Raikkonen, Verstappen (Vettel no time)

Result: Verstappen, Hamilton, Ricciardo (Vettel 4th)

Points: Hamilton 281

Vettel 247

The gremlins that plagued Hamilton during the 2016 season, which saw him relinquish his crown to Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg had now clearly migrated to Ferrari. Technical issues meant Vettel started from the back of the grid having failed to set a time in qualifying, while Raikkonen lost power en route the start of the race and was forced to retire before the lights went out. While Vettel charged up to fourth and Verstappen took the victory, Hamilton’s slog to second while keeping his car out of trouble was more than enough to allow him to get one hand on the drivers’ championship trophy.

 

10. Japan GP

October 1

Qualifying: Hamilton, Bottas, Vettel

Result: Hamilton, Verstappen, Ricciardo

Points: Hamilton 306

Vettel 247

Gremlins 2. Riding high on momentum and confidence, Hamilton made it four from five at Suzuka, stretching his lead over Vettel to 59 points in the process. It was a comfortable afternoon for the Briton as his German rival retired after just four laps with a spark-plug failure. Now it’s all eyes on Austin, Texas as Hamilton’s impending fourth coronation awaits.

 

Head to head in 2017

Vettel

Average Start 3.44

Average Finish 2.57

Pole Positions 3

Race Wins 4

Podium Finishes 10

Top five Finishes 13

Finished Races 14

Points: 247

Hamilton

Average Start 2.88

Average Finish 2.38

Pole Positions 10

Race Wins 8

Podium Finishes 11

Top five Finishes 15

Finished Races 16

Hamilton F1 Points: 306

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