Lewis Hamilton will have his first chance to clinch a sixth F1 world championship in Sunday’s Mexican Grand Prix.
Hamilton leads Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas, his only remaining title challenger after the Finn’s impressive win at Suzuka, by 64 points with this weekend’s race in Mexico City the first of four left in the 2019 season.
There are a maximum of 78 points up for grabs in the three races after Sunday — meaning Hamilton needs to increase his current advantage by 14 points or more on Sunday evening to be champion.
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A 78-point advantage leaving Mexico would be enough as, although Bottas would still be able to tie Hamilton’s tally by the end of the season, the Englishman is guaranteed to win on any victory countback. He currently has six more race wins than Bottas, nine to three.
For Hamilton to be champion at the Mexican GP, the following permutations apply:
If Hamilton takes victory (25pts) and fastest lap (1pt), he will be champion if Bottas finishes fourth (12pts) or lower.
If Hamilton takes victory without the fastest lap, he will be champion if Bottas finishes fifth (10pts) or lower.
If Hamilton finishes second (18pts) with the fastest lap (1pt), he will be champion if Bottas finishes eighth (4pts) or lower.
If Hamilton finishes second without the fastest lap, he will be champion if Bottas finishes eighth, without the fastest lap, or lower.
If Hamilton finishes third (15pts) with the fastest lap (1pt), he will be champion if Bottas finishes ninth (2pts) or lower.
If Hamilton finishes third without the fastest lap, he will be champion if Bottas finishes 10th or lower without the fastest lap.
If Hamilton finishes fourth or lower, the title race definitely goes on to the United States GP next week.
Mexico City was the scene of Hamilton’s last two title triumphs, in 2017 and 2018, although in those seasons there were only two races to go afterwards.
And although the mathematics could work in Hamilton’s favour on Sunday night, the Briton is not anticipating another Mexico coronation given Mercedes’ recent form at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez.
Requiring much smaller points swings in 2017 and 2018, Hamilton clinched the titles on those weekends despite finishing only ninth and fourth respectively.
“I don’t anticipate it will be Mexico,” said Hamilton after Suzuka. “I think we will be battling for a good few races.”
Hamilton has only outscored Bottas by 14 or more points once this season.
The last time the Drivers’ Championship was clinched with three or more races to spare was in 2015, when Hamilton secured his third crown.
But what is certain after the last race in Japan is that one of Mercedes’ drivers will end the year as world champion, meaning the 2019 constructors’ champions will clinch a record sixth-successive title double.