MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Lewis Hamilton is a racing certainty to become Britain’s first four times Formula One world champion and any lingering smidgen of a doubt should be swept away at a coronation in Mexico City on Sunday.
The Mercedes driver, 1/500 odds on title favorite with British bookmakers who know a safe bet when they see one, has a 66 point advantage over Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel with three races remaining worth a grand total of 75.
Hamilton is also well clear in terms of the number of wins, the first decider in case of a points tie, with nine to Vettel’s four.
Put simply, Vettel has to score 17 points more than Hamilton at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez to keep his championship hopes on life support as far as the next race in Brazil.
Regardless of where the German ends up, Hamilton need only finish fifth to get the party started.
And if the Ferrari driver retires during the race, Hamilton will be world champion before he has even seen the chequered flag.
The high-altitude circuit could well favor Ferrari more than Mercedes, but Hamilton won from pole position last year and arrives this time with a haul of five victories from the last six races.
The pressure, what little there is remaining, is all on Vettel.
It will take the biggest comeback the sport has ever seen to deny Hamilton now, even if Mercedes continue to urge caution.
“I can imagine every scenario,” team boss Toto Wolff told reporters in Texas on Sunday night when asked if he could envisage Hamilton not winning.
”This is motor racing. Sebastian had a DNF (did not finish) in Singapore, scored little in Sepang (Malaysia) and DNF at Suzuka.
“So it is not done until you’ve mathematically achieved it,” added the Austrian, whose team have already wrapped up the constructors’ championship for the fourth year in a row.
Red Bull could also be in the mix on Sunday, with Max Verstappen also very much in the spotlight after criticizing stewards for imposing a time penalty in Austin that demoted him from third to fourth.
That argument is likely to rumble on for a while.
Mexican fans will meanwhile be firmly behind Force India’s Sergio Perez, still hoping for a dream appearance on his home podium, and will have an extra local to cheer on when Alfonso Celis Jr takes part in Friday free practice.
New Zealander Brendon Hartley will have a second chance to push his claims for a Toro Rosso drive after making a strong debut in the United States last weekend.
The 27-year-old has been kept on while Russian Daniil Kvyat is dropped to make way for the returning French rookie Pierre Gasly.
Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Nick Mulvenney