Jenson Button has backed Lewis Hamilton to beat Sebastian Vettel and clinch his fourth Formula 1 Drivers' Championship title in 2017 owing to the massive points difference between the two drivers going into the final five races of the campaign.
The Briton has extended his lead over the Ferrari driver to 34 points in the matter of two races and is now favourite to win the 2017 title. The sudden change in the title race was brought about due to a combination of driver error and engine troubles the Italian team encountered in the last couple of races in Singapore and Malaysia.
Vettel was just three points behind Hamilton going into the race in Singapore and was favourite to take over the lead after qualifying on pole with the latter in fifth place. But an aggressive start saw him collide with Kimi Raikkonen and Max Verstappen and crash out of the race while Hamilton went on to win and extend his lead to 28 points.
To add to his problems, Ferrari encountered major engine problems in the next race in Malaysia, which saw Vettel start at the back of the grid after failing to set a time in qualifying. He stormed up to fourth place, but the Mercedes driver, who qualified on pole, finished second behind Verstappen. It was a case of what if for the Italian team, who clearly had the pace to win the race.
The F1 juggernaut is currently in Japan for the 16th race of the season and the Briton looks favourite after qualifying on pole position for Sunday's (8 October) race. Apart from the massive points lead, Button believes Mercedes' strong reliability will not allow Vettel to close the gap by the time they get to the final race in Abu Dhabi.
In 2016, Hamilton had wretched luck in terms of reliability as he suffered more than one engine failure with the key one being when he was leading the race in Malaysia. In contrast, 2017 has been free of reliability issues and the 2009 world champion does not see it affecting Mercedes for the remainder of the campaign.
"You'd have to say Lewis because the points gap is massive," Button told reporters in Japan, as quoted by Sky Sports.
"I know that it can turnaround pretty quickly in this sport but reliability-wise they've looked very strong this year. You would say that this year Lewis has had his fair share of luck that he didn't have last year. It's evening itself out," the 2009 world champion with Brawn Racing explained.
"Last year he was so unlucky with reliability issues. This year it's the other way round it seems. But it's so much fun to see the racing between those guys. I'm really happy that it's happened and I think a lot of people are tuning on because of the fight between two different manufacturers."