Japanese grand prix betting unfocused hamilton in danger of blowing title bid

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We all love a good conspiracy theory. Whether it be Neil Armstrong stepping out of the lunar module into a TV studio, or FBI agents shooting President Kennedy from a grassy knoll in downtown Dallas, you don't have to be paranoid to believe there are dark forces at work.

The List of conspiracy theories on Wikipedia is long enough to publish as a book in its own right. Aliens from outer space, people who invented ways to run a car on water but weren't allowed to develop them, enough material for a thousand Hollywood blockbuster films.

Not mentioned yet, though, is the sinister plot by Mercedes to make sure Lewis Hamilton doesn't win this year's World Drivers' Championship. But it must be going on, mustn't it?

It's not so long ago that Hamilton was [1.3] to collect his third title in a row, but he's not even odds-on any more. Last week's debacle in Malaysia when he was cruising to victory only for his engine to blow up with a dozen laps left has seen to that. Hamilton is now [2.64] while his big rival Nico Rosberg is [1.62] favourite.

The theory is that Mercedes, a German car manufacturer, want Rosberg, a German driver, to win the world title. It's no more true than the idea that the American Government was really behind the 9/11 attack, but that didn't stop Hamilton accusing his team in an angry moment in Malaysia last week. "Why are my engines always failing when Rosberg's always work?" he wanted to know.

Mercedes have since investigated. The cause was a big end bearing failure, they say - presumably through whistled teeth before warning that it will be an expensive job and asking: "Who serviced this the last time?"

The truth has been that while Hamilton has had some bad luck with engines, he's also contributed to his own downfall in part with some peculiar behaviour.

He was still at it today, spending the official press conference ahead of the Japanese Grand Prix on his phone taking Snapchat pictures, turning himself into a rabbit complete with carrots.

He might see that as fun, but it is another sign of a lack of concentration, and it hardly fits with the official story that he's moved on from Malaysia and is fully focused on putting things right.

The races Lewis has thrown away through bad starts have cost him just as many points as engine failures - something I flagged up at the start of September.

If Hamilton doesn't win this weekend, he will have to finish first in every remaining race (assuming Rosberg is second each time) to retain his title.

Ironically both Hamilton - [2.2] to win in Japan - and Rosberg, [3.6], are likely to suffer because of the latest technical trouble. Mercedes say they will run their power units on reduced settings while they go on investigating the cause of the faults, and that might well give Red Bull more chance.

Daniel Ricciardo is [7.8] to follow up last week's win with another, while Max Verstappen is [8.8]. It will be worth watching the market for Red Bull to provide the Winning Car.

Personally I'd still love to see Lewis rise above all this and complete his hat-trick of titles (and his fourth in total). I'd like him to show that there isn't a conspiracy at work. But to do that he has to get his mind properly fixed to the job.

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