Despite Lewis Hamilton no longer thinking the 2011 title fight is effectively over, not everyone in the F1 paddock agrees with him.
Renault’s departing team manager Steve Nielsen told Brazilian O Estado de S.Paulo correspondent Livio Oricchio that he thinks Sebastian Vettel will wrap up his second championship long before the 2011 season has ended.
“I believe the points gap will grow and that will Vettel will do it by Suzuka,” he said, referring to the Japanese Grand Prix in October.
After Suzuka, there are still four grands prix left to run, and Telegraph correspondent Tom Cary admits he is also worried.
“We are entering dangerous territory here; slow death by asphyxiation,” he wrote after Valencia. “Not since Michael Schumacher bored everyone into submission in 2004 have fans been forced to contemplate hegemony on this scale.”
F1 chief executive Bernie Ecclestone said before leaving Valencia last Sunday that Vettel is “sure to be champion” in 2011.
Former Renault team boss Flavio Briatore told Radio Monte Carlo that he reckons Vettel will have won by Monza, two races before Suzuka, but Rubens Barrichello thinks that is unlikely.
“To win at Suzuka he needs to increase his gap to 100 points, which at this rate is very possible,” said the Brazilian.
Ferrari boss Stefano Domenicali is reserving his judgement until after Silverstone, where the off-throttle blown exhaust clampdown takes effect.
“There may be a change in what we have seen so far, even if I recognise that Sebastian has a considerable advantage.”