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Has Vettel lost the F1 World Championship?

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As the Scuderia lined up for the start of the Singapore Grand Prix, its eyes were set on victory.

The tight and twisty road course in the heart of Marina Bay offered the best chance for Ferrari to drum home a perfect score on a circuit where Mercedes has previously failed to perform – the two Silver Arrows finished fifth and sixth back in their dominant 2014 season after an anomaly weekend.

Instead, Sebastian Vettel shot his championship aspiration’s in the foot as the lights went out on Sunday afternoon. Veering across to tame a fast-starting Max Verstappen caused a chain collision which left himself, team-mate Kimi Raikkonen, Verstappen, and the McLaren of Fernando Alonso, out of the Grand Prix after just two corners.

With title-rival Lewis Hamilton scoring a perfect 25 points for a win, Vettel may have been forgiven for writing it off as a bad weekend, but forward two weeks to Malaysia and disaster has struck once again.

Engine difficulties on Saturday led to Vettel being unable to set a lap-time, forcing the German driver to start from the back of the field while his rival started on pole.

A dramatic fightback on the super-soft tyres in the closing stages brought Vettel back to fourth, but with Hamilton scoring 18 points for second, this means more ground lost on a circuit where Ferrari should have dominated based on its Friday Practice pace.

Vettel’s incident with Lance Stroll at the end of the race, which left his Ferrari with no rear tyre, could force a gearbox change and a five-place grid penalty for the next round in Japan.

Rewind the clock to Silverstone, a puncture for Vettel on the penultimate lap dropped him from fourth to seventh, rewind further to Azerbaijan, Vettel’s deliberate contact with Hamilton while behind the Safety Car led to a ten-second stop-and-go penalty and a loss of a race win.

The point here is that mistakes have hampered the form of the Ferrari team. It may have the best all-round package of the current grid but points are being lost in silly areas.

If anything, Vettel is lucky to head into next weekend’s Japanese Grand Prix with only a 34-point gap to overthrow. Although Ferrari know this could easily have been more, they have a right to feel aggrieved that they could easily be leading the Championship had these incidents not come their way.

As we have seen in the past, F1 championships are often decided by who has had the best rub of the green, who can last the distance in key races and who can pick up points when they shouldn’t.

Lewis Hamilton’s engine failure in last year’s Malaysia Grand Prix lost the Brit 25 points that should have been his, Felipe Massa suffered a similar incident while leading at Hungary in 2008, a year where he lost the title by one point.

Even Vettel has seen the effect of luck on a championship campaign. In 2010, Vettel arrived at the final grand prix in Abu Dhabi having never led the Championship, only to produce a shock victory when nearest rival Fernando Alonso got stuck behind the Renault of Vitaly Petrov.

I have no doubt that the Championship race will go down to the wire, but Mercedes now look in pole position to claim a fourth consecutive drivers and constructors title.

Ferrari aren't necessarily out of the hunt just yet, circuits in Japan and Brazil may work with their existing package, with Mexico City also a possibility to score a victory and close in on Hamilton's points advantage.

Luck plays a big part in F1, but you earn success by making sure you finish in every possible race you can.

Vettel’s Singapore shunt may well have handed a lucky charm to Hamilton to grab a fourth world title, a year on from when his team-mate Nico Rosberg was handed a similar one himself.

How luck can change. But there is no guarantee Hamilton and Mercedes will have a perfect run to the championship just yet. Luck is fickle in Formula 1 after all. 

Image Credit - Wikipedia Commons 

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