Lewis Hamilton, reigning Formula One World Champion, can join a select group of drivers as a three-time champion if he can outscore nearest rival Sebastian Vettel by nine points in Sunday’s United States Grand Prix at Circuit of the Americas in Elroy, Texas.
Hamilton, who has a chance to win his third United States Grand Prix in four years, requires four-time German champion Vettel to finish anywhere but in the top-3, and that would be enough for the British driver to add a third title to those of 2008 and 2014. The achievement would place him alongside Jack Brabham, Jackie Stewart, Niki Lauda, Nelson Piquet and childhood idol Ayrton Senna as the only three-time champions in F1 history.
Hamilton, who leads the standings with 302 points, has won an astonishing nine races this season. Vettel, with 236 points, has managed three victories despite Ferrari’s persistent problems.
Hamilton’s chances of winning the title Sunday have been boosted by the news that Vettel has been hit by a 10-race grid penalty. Ferrari is introducing a new engine for the Austin race as they plot to make a serious dash at Mercedes’ overwhelming supremacy. They are being penalized since they have already used up their allotted four engines this season.
“We will have the hit of a 10-place penalty for a new engine at this event, but it has always been the plan,” said Vettel. “It’s not a big secret, no surprise for us. This was always the plan for us, to have the strongest engine available at every single point of the season. I think our engine guys have done a massive job, so this should not be understood as a downside. If anything this is very positive.”
With Vettel unlikely to finish in the podium, it’s safe for Hamilton fans to begin premature celebrations.
— Formula 1 (@F1) October 23, 2015