Lewis Hamilton could get one over on his former foe, Max Verstappen, if the right circumstances come about.

Lewis Hamilton has been given a crafty method by which he could potentially stop Max Verstappen sealing his second world title at the Japanese Grand Prix on Sunday. A range of permutations would do the job for the Dutchman but the most likely one – a win and a fastest lap – could be scuppered by an opportunistic decision late in the race.

Lewis Hamilton’s hopes of winning this year’s title are already over with Verstappen’s triumph a case of ‘when’ rather than ‘if’. But the Brit would surely like to take some of the gloss off his rival’s impending win by throwing a spanner in the works on Sunday.

The Red Bull star could put himself mathematically out of reach by notching the race win and collecting the bonus point for fastest lap, regardless of how others perform. Someone else snatching the fastest lap could leave it out of his hands, however, as explained by Sky Sports pundit Ted Kravitz.

“As for the title, it’s a win and fastest lap that will guarantee it for Max Verstappen,” he told the Sky Sports F1 YouTube channel.

Lewis Hamilton Max-Verstappen

“Is there anyone at the end of the race tomorrow, if Max has fastest lap, that would pit for brand new tyres and deny Max Verstappen the chance to win the title here in Japan by nicking fastest lap? George [Russell] ummed and ahed when asked about it, saying it would be nice to be in a position to deliver fastest lap in the race anyway.

“Would someone try and take the Championship off Max? It would be naughty. I wouldn’t put it past someone but I don’t think Mercedes are going to do it because I don’t think their car is fast enough. We’ll see what happens tomorrow.”

Mercedes were strong in the rain during FP2 on Friday but struggled to keep up with Ferrari and Red Bull when it was time for qualifying on Saturday. Even Alpine outperformed them on the whole as Hamilton took P6 on the grid with Russell two back in P8.

Fighting for their first win of the season could therefore be a long shot, although gunning for the fastest lap on brand new tyres remains a remote possibility. Even if Hamilton does take the bonus point away from Verstappen, he will still clinch the title with a win if Charles Leclerc finishes third or lower, regardless of how Sergio Perez performs.

In fact, Verstappen could even seal the deal by finishing as low as sixth, providing that Leclerc and Perez both have disaster races at Suzuka. The Dutchman pipped Hamilton to the 2021 crown in controversial circumstances via a gripping one-lap shootout in Abu Dhabi last year.

This season has been far more conclusive with Red Bull putting together a dominant package that looks set to land them both individual and team honours. Mercedes had been on a streak of eight consecutive Constructors’ Championships since 2014 but they have struggled to adapt to the new ‘ground effect’ era.

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