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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 September 2018

Hamilton v Vettel: who will be crowned F1 champion?

As F1 returns this weekend with the Belgian Grand Prix with the Mercedes-GP driver holding a 24-point advantage over his Ferrari rival in the title race, Graham Caygill gives his predictions for the outcomes of the final races of the season

Lewis Hamilton, left, leads Sebastian Vettel by 24 points in the drivers' standings. AFP
Lewis Hamilton, left, leads Sebastian Vettel by 24 points in the drivers' standings. AFP

Formula One returns to action at the Belgian Grand Prix this weekend after a short summer break.

Lewis Hamilton heads to Spa-Francorchamps with a 24-point lead over title rival Sebastian Vettel. Mercedes-GP also hold a 10-point advantage over Ferrari in the constructors' championship.

The pair, both four-time world champions, are duking it out to become only the third man, after Juan Manuel Fangio and Michael Schumacher, to claim a fifth title.

Here is a look at the remaining nine races on the schedule, how each track may favour either Hamilton and Vettel, and who will be crowned world champion at the season-ending Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

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Read more:

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Graham Caygill: F1 title fight between Hamilton and Vettel after team orders

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Belgium, Sunday

Spa-Francorchamps is set up to favour Ferrari, if it is dry, with the long straights and fast sweeps suiting their chassis, so a first pole for Vettel at the track since 2011 is a very real prospect.

Wet weather is forecast though. If the heavens do open, the pendulum swings back in Mercedes' favour as they were superior in the rain in qualifying in Hungary last month.

Prediction: Ferrari if it's dry, Mercedes if it's wet

Italy, September 2

Mercedes believed that Ferrari had a power advantage worth almost half a second in Germany last month, and if that is still the case when the teams arrive in Monza this should be a Ferrari procession.

Ferrari have not won their home race since 2010 and Vettel can be a hero to fans of the Tifosi by taking the chequered flag.

Prediction: Ferrari dominate

Singapore, September 16

Ferrari were dominant in qualifying last year, but Vettel crashed out on the first lap after causing a multi-car collision and the race was gift wrapped for Hamilton.

Lightning is unlikely to strike twice on the streets of Singapore though and this will likely be an exercise in damage limitation for Hamilton at a track that has rarely been a strong one for Mercedes.

Prediction: Vettel to make up for last year's disappointment with victory

Russia, September 30

There have been four stagings of the Russian Grand Prix and Mercedes have won every time.

The low degradation asphalt should benefit Mercedes, who have been harsher on their tyres this season then Ferrari.

Prediction: Mercedes to make it five wins on the trot

Japan, October 7

Hamilton had the edge over Vettel last year in qualifying but we never got a proper race between them as the German retired with a spark plug failure early on.

Pole position and track advantage is crucial here and for that reason this feels like Vettel is perfectly set up to give Ferrari a first win at Suzuka for 14 years.

Prediction: Vettel prevails

United States, October 21

Scene of probably Hamilton’s most dominant drive in the second half of 2017 as he passed Vettel before going on to win comfortably.

Hamilton goes very well at Circuit of the Americas, winning five of the six races held there.

Ferrari should be stronger this time around, but it is hard to look beyond Hamilton given his formidable record in Austin, Texas.

Prediction: Hamilton to triumph

Mexico, October 28

Mercedes were pretty ordinary, by their standards, in Mexico last year, with Ferrari and Red Bull both quicker and Vettel and Hamilton were out of contention after colliding at the start.

Hamilton will have a hard task to match Vettel at a venue where the long start-finish straight should give Ferrari an edge in qualifying.

Prediction: Ferrari on top

Brazil, November 11

Vettel won last year at Interlagos but Hamilton appeared, judging by his crash in qualifying, to already have his mind fixed elsewhere having already wrapped up the title.

The Ferrari driver controlled the race from the front, and with an improved package this year Vettel will expect to complete a repeat result.

Prediction: Vettel victorious

Abu Dhabi, November 25

Records are meant to be broken; Ferrari have never won the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in nine previous attempts.

But their superior engine power will boost them on the two long straights, and they should be equal to Mercedes in the tight twists of the final section.

Vettel knows how to win at Yas Marina Circuit, having done it three times for Red Bull. He can make it four.

Prediction: Ferrari first home

Title outcome

If those predictions stand up then Ferrari and Vettel would win seven of the remaining nine races.

That would put Vettel in with a great chance of overhauling Hamilton, despite the current points deficit, and see him crowned world champion for a fifth time - and a first with Ferrari - in Abu Dhabi later this year.

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