Sebastien Vettel's ten-place grid penalty at the US Grand Prix has handed the opportunity for title-favourite Lewis Hamilton to secure his third Drivers' World Championship with three races to spare.
The German was given the penalty after using his fifth engine; which is more than permitted in a season. Vettel has proven to be Hamilton's closest rival - alongside Nico Rosberg - in the chase for the Drivers' Championship, with Mercedes having already secured the Constructors' World Championship.
In no rush to secure the title, Hamilton has called it a "blessing" if he does win his third championship this weekend, having had a smooth season compared to last year's inconsistencies where he managed to win the championship in the final race at Abu Dhabi.
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The 30-year-old needs to outscore Mercedes teammate Rosberg by two points and outscore Vettel by nine to complete a Mercedes double for the second year running.
Following the news of the German's penalty, Vettel told BBC Sport: "If you look at this race isolated it is not great news, but it was always the plan to have a fresh engine here."
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"The plan was to have maximum power in every race. We take a hit here, but you have to see the positive in that we were able to make big steps and not just the penalty."
He is currently 66 points behind Hamilton and the news certainly doesn't help his title credentials; having won three races compared to the Brit's nine.
Hamilton's requirements to secure this title this weekend would have been made tougher had Rosberg not had to retire at the Russian Grand Prix in the last race.
"I've got nothing to lose - I want to win," Rosberg told BBC Sport. "I have the opportunity to win and it's a great target to have. I'm focused. That's it."
Speaking to BBC Sport, Hamilton has said he is in no rush to secure the title, as long as it is secured by the end of the season's final race; a spectacle that would be good for the sport's fans, who have endured another generally uncompetitive season.
"I'm aware that if things go my way I can win the world championship at the US Grand Prix this weekend, but it is honestly not something I have thought about at all," Hamilton told BBC Sport.
"I have no idea what the permutations are that would make it happen and I won't look into them before the race."
Should Hamilton win the race, Vettel would have to finish second to prevent the Brit from winning the title this weekend. However, if Hamilton finishes sixth or less then the title challenge carries over into the next race in Mexico City at the Mexican Grand Prix.
F1 fans: Do you think Hamilton will be just as dominant in 2016? Have your say in the comments section below!
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