With Lewis Hamilton stretching his lead in the standings to 48 points following victory in the Japanese Grand Prix, most observers of Formula One view the remaining five races as little more than a formality, and expect Hamilton to comfortably sew up his third world championship well before the season's end.

Formula One history though is littered with seasons in which foregone conclusions became forestalled, with drivers on the cusp of championship victory losing out through either a poor run of form, costly errors under pressure or a scintillating charge from a rival.

As these six comeback title victories demonstrate, there's hope yet for Nico Rosberg and Sebastian Vettel as they look to overhaul Hamilton and take the crown.

2010 - SEBASTIAN VETTELPoints deficit overhauled - 31 points in 6 races

Circumstances at the Abu Dhabi finale unexpectedly fall Sebastian Vettel's way to snatch an unlikely first world championship title

Vettel himself has a strong pedigree when it comes to stirring late season charges, winning the final nine races of his dominant 2013 campaign, claiming his third championship in 2012 after overhauling a 44-point midseason margin to Fernando Alonso, and putting together a challenge in 2009 that briefly looked set to threaten Jenson Button's seemingly serene march to his maiden championship.

It was in 2010 though that Vettel mounted his greatest late season charge, coming from behind as a rank outsider in a five-man championship battle to dramatically overhaul Red Bull teammate Mark Webber, Alonso and the McLaren pair of Lewis Hamilton and Button to become the youngest title winner in F1 history.

The first half of Vettel's season had been troublesome, and despite winning the Malaysian Grand Prix the German was initially out-performed by Webber - who positioned himself as the outstanding candidate to take the Red Bull's first championship by beating Vettel outright in the Spanish, Monaco and Hungarian GPs.

Vettel further blotted his copybook with costly collisions at the Turkish (with Webber) and Belgian (with Button) GPs, and at his furthest behind the championship leader, after the Belgian GP, trailed Hamilton by a daunting 31 points.

Victory in Japan hauled Vettel back into contention before a costly engine failure when leading the Korean GP looked to have laid his ambitions to rest for good. Fortunately for Vettel though, his rivals were still taking points off each other, with the McLarens' performance dropping off and neither Alonso nor Webber able to make a break from the pack.

A win for Vettel in Brazil, heading home the other four contenders, eliminated Button from the chase and set up a grandstand four-way showdown at the final race in Abu Dhabi. Vettel was still an outsider in third place in the standings though, 15 points behind Alonso and requiring an unlikely sequence of results to take the title. On race day the stars aligned for Vettel, with Alonso and Webber mistakenly covering each others' strategies and getting stuck in the lower points positions while Vettel took a serene victory from pole position to seize the championship at the very last.

Each of the five contenders had enjoyed periods of sustained form and supremacy throughout a dramatic campaign, but it was Vettel who hit his stride when it mattered - winning three of the final four races to claim the first, and most improbable, of his four consecutive titles.

2007 - KIMI RAIKKONENPoints deficit overhauled - 17 points in 2 races

Kimi Raikkonen's sole championship win in 2007 was predicated on the most unlikely of last-gasp comebacks, overhauling a near-impossible 17 point deficit (under the ten points for a win scoring system) in the final two Grands Prix to snatch the title from underneath the noses of squabbling McLaren teammates Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso in his debut season for Ferrari.

Although he won the opening race in Australia, Raikkonen and Ferrari were very much the undercard to the Hamilton, Alonso and McLaren show. Hamilton's maiden campaign was simply sensational, and challenged the no.1 driver status Alonso had assumed upon replacing Raikkonen as McLaren's lead driver.

The McLaren was the clear class of the field, but by refusing to favour the challenge of either of their contending drivers and play a team game, McLaren allowed Ferrari and Raikkonen to stay in the hunt. Although McLaren descended from discord into all-out civil war both on and off the track during the campaign, the Woking outfit maintained their performance advantage - with Raikkonen mostly keeping a watching brief on the Hamilton vs. Alonso title battle.

At its biggest margin, after the US Grand Prix, Raikkonen's deficit to Hamilton stood at 26 points, and the gap stayed consistently around the 15-20 point mark through the second half of the campaign despite Raikkonen's sequence of seven consecutive podium finishes from Hungary to the end of the year.

After Hamilton's victory at the Japanese Grand Prix he led Alonso by 12 points and Raikkonen by 17 with only two races and 20 points to play for. In China a catastrophic strategy error saw Hamilton slither into retirement on balding tyres and Raikkonen won from Alonso - setting up a three-way title showdown at the final round in Brazil.

Trailing Hamilton by seven points and Alonso by three, Raikkonen was still very much an outside candidate - needing to win to stand any chance of overhauling the McLarens. An outright Ferrari pace advantage combined with gearbox issues for Hamilton and a generous helping of support from Ferrari teammate Felipe Massa saw Raikkonen lead home a Ferrari 1-2, with Alonso a full minute behind in third and Hamilton limping home a lap down in seventh.

Raikkonen took the title by a single point from both Hamilton and Alonso, capitalising on the insular nature of McLaren's internal enmity to sneak up almost unnoticed and seize a most unlikely championship victory.

1986 - ALAIN PROSTPoints deficit overhauled - 11 points in 2 races

Alain Prost hauled himself into contention for McLaren as he took advantage of squabbling between Nigel Mansell and Nelson Piquet at Williams

For Raikkonen in 2007, read Alain Prost in 1986. As the third wheel in an increasingly bitter intra-team feud, Prost was able to capitalise on the squabbling between Williams-Honda drivers Nigel Mansell and Nelson Piquet to snatch the championship for McLaren at the death.

Prost had cantered to his first title in 1985, but the re-emergence of Williams, powered by the formidable Honda turbo and their signature of double-World Champion Piquet to partner Mansell, meant that Prost was unlikely to have things his own way in 1986.

Despite taking an early lead in the standings, Prost was overhauled by the superior speed of the Williams pair through mid-season, and with just two races left sat third in the drivers' championship - 11 points behind Mansell and one behind Piquet with only nine points available for a win.

The penultimate race in Mexico saw Prost haul himself crucially back within one win of Mansell, taking second as the Williams pair trailed home fourth and fifth. Heading to the final race in Adelaide Mansell held a six-point advantage over Prost, with Piquet one point further back - meaning a third place finish would be enough for Mansell to clinch his maiden title.

In a classic denouement, all looked lost for Prost when he dropped back after an early puncture, but it proved to be the making of his race. On fresh rubber Prost was able to catch the Williams pair, and passed Mansell on lap 44. Following Prost's teammate Keke Rosberg's retirement from the lead, the three contenders were circulating 1-2-3 in close formation on lap 64 when Mansell's right rear tyre spectacularly exploded at 190 mph on the Brabham straight - pitching the Englishman into immediate retirement.

Fearing a repeat on the sister car, Williams called Piquet in from the lead to change tyres - leaving Prost out front to cruise to victory and the championship. If not quite the tortoise and the hare, it was certainly a title born of Prost's calculating consistency as the Frenchman became the first driver to retain the World Championship since Jack Brabham in 1960.

1983 - NELSON PIQUETPoints deficit overhauled - 14 points in 3 races

Circumstances at the Abu Dhabi finale unexpectedly fall Sebastian Vettel's way to snatch an unlikely first world championship title

Three years earlier the roles had been somewhat reversed, with Prost, then driving for Renault, cast as the charging championship favourite with a seemingly unassailable lead and Piquet, racing for Brabham, playing the role of pursuer in chief.

This was the true dawn of the turbo age, the turning point at which the fledgling technology finally allied reliablilty to its unquestioned power advantage. Prost and Renault started the season slowly, but four victories and trademark consistent scoring saw the Frenchman lead the championship from round six onwards.

It was a four-way battle, with Ferrari drivers Rene Arnoux and Patrick Tambay also giving chase, but Prost held sway - and even after an uncharacteristic error led to a collision with Piquet at the Dutch GP, Prost headed the standings by eight points from Arnoux and 14 from Piquet with three races to go.

A Piquet victory from Arnoux at the Italian GP, coupled with Prost's retirement with a turbo failure, saw the pack close in. Piquet positioned himself as Prost's closest challenger by winning the penultimate European GP with Prost in second and the Ferraris out of the points - eliminating Tambay from the hunt.

Heading to the final race in South Africa, Prost led Piquet by two points, with a further six points back to Arnoux. As a championship showdown the drama was short-lived. Starting fourth, Arnoux retired with a engine failure on lap nine. From fifth on the grid, Prost battled up to third place, but he too saw his turbo expire, retiring on lap 35.

This left Piquet out front, and only needing to finish fourth or higher to claim his second title. Playing the percentages game, Piquet slowed, and was passed by teammate Riccardo Patrese, Andrea de Cesaris' Alfa Romeo and Niki Lauda in the McLaren. Lauda's late engine failure saw Piquet come home in third, clinching an improbable championship by two points from Prost. Prost was summarily fired by Renault and would play the bridesmaid again to Lauda at McLaren the following season - before finally clinching his first title in 1985.

1976 - JAMES HUNTPoints deficit overhauled - 17 points in 3 races

One of the sport's most famous rivalries was immortalized by James Hunt's comeback against the Niki Lauda following his injury and determined return to racing

Formula One's most celebrated scriptwriter's dream season has been immortalised in print and on the small and silver screens to an extent that the detail of James Hunt's extraordinary comeback to win the title has been shrouded in the mythology of caricatured heroism, medical science-defying miracles and the blood and thunder of muscular wheel-to-wheel racing in an era when Grand Prix drivers represented the epitome of the lauded male archetype and danger skulked at every turn.

At the heart of the narrative of what made 1976 so extraordinary are the improbable mathematics of James Hunt's comeback from a mid-season 47-point deficit to defending champion Niki Lauda to claim the championship at the very last in a soggy climax at Mt. Fuji.

Although Hunt's comeback was heavily mitigated by circumstances that saw Lauda miss two races after a near-fatal fiery accident at the Nurburgring, he only made up 21 points, or less than half of his greatest total shortfall to Lauda during the three race period that Lauda was incapacitated by injury.

Some of the fluctuations in the points gap can be accounted for by the contentious and prolonged disqualification processes surrounding the Spanish (Hunt won, was disqualified and reinstated two months later following an appeal) and British (Hunt won, and was disqualified two months later after an appeal from rival teams) GPs. After his retrospective disqualification from the British GP was confirmed ahead of the Canadian GP, Hunt trailed Lauda by a daunting 17 points with three races to go.

Hunt duly won in Canada with Lauda finishing out of the points, reducing the arrears to eight points with two races to go. Another Hunt victory at Watkins Glen, with Lauda third, saw Hunt bring the gap down to just three points ahead of the final race in Fuji.

Hunt's cause was helped by Lauda's struggles on his premature return to the cockpit. In his three GPs back behind the wheel heading to the last race in Japan, Lauda had collected only seven points. In fact Lauda collected 61 of his season's total haul of 68 points in the first nine rounds, meaning that Hunt was essentially homing in on a fixed target throughout the second half of the campaign.

Come the final showdown in Fuji and, with torrential conditions prevailing, Lauda withdrew from the race after just three laps. The fixed target for Hunt was now set in stone, and he duly took third place to seal Formula One's most improbable title by a solitary point.

1974 - EMERSON FITTIPALDIPoints deficit overhauled - 9 points in 3 races

Emerson Fittipaldi's second drivers' championship win was also a first title for McLaren, and it capped a famous and unlikely conclusion to one of the most hard-fought seasons in Formula One history.

The 1974 grid was one of F1's finest, including such luminaries either in or approaching their prime as Fittipaldi, Ronnie Peterson, Jody Scheckter, Carlos Reutemann, Clay Regazzoni, Niki Lauda, and drivers including James Hunt, John Watson, Graham Hill, Denny Hulme and Jacky Ickx making up the front-running numbers either at the top or tail ends of glittering careers.

The championship was keenly and evenly fought, with seven drivers across five teams taking victories across the year. Over the course of the season the title fight distilled into a four-way fight between Fittipaldi's McLaren, the Ferraris of Regazzoni and Lauda and the Tyrrell of Scheckter.

After the Austrian GP, with three rounds to go, Fittipaldi found himself at the bottom of the contenders' pile, trailing Regazzoni, Scheckter and Lauda. Crucially for Fittipaldi though, the margins between the challengers were small. With no driver able to make a break from the pack, only nine points covered the top four at such a late stage of the season.

The four became even more tightly bound after the Italian GP, when podium finishes for Fittipaldi and Scheckter shuffled the pack but reduced the top to bottom arrears to eight points. The penultimate race in Canada saw Fittipaldi make his move - becoming the only one of the four contenders to win any of the last four races in a slow bicycle race to the title, eliminating Lauda from contention and jumping to a tie with Regazzoni at the top of the standings in the process.

The final race at Watkins Glen saw all of the cards fall in Fittipaldi's favour. After all three challengers qualified poorly, Regazzoni's Ferrari was troubled with mechanical gremlins from the outset in the race, and he quickly fell out of contention. This left Scheckter, with an seven-point deficit to Fittipaldi, needing an unlikely sequence of results for the title to come his way. Despite some feisty on-track dicing with his Brazilian rival, he too fell victim to mechanical gremlins - allowing Fittipaldi to coast home in fifth place and seal a glorious comeback championship win.