59 points is the Championship lead Lewis Hamilton controls going into the US Grand Prix. With just 100 more points available, it seems odds on that Lewis will become a four-time World Champion and become Britain’s most successful F1 driver with regards to Championships.
However, it is unlikely that Lewis will do that here in Austin. And make no mistake, there are still a few banana skins that could trip Hamilton up before the season is out.
For Lewis to win the title in the US, a country where he has been dominant in an F1 car– only failing to win one of the races he has competed in the country–he has to beat Sebastian Vettel by 16 points. In the context of the last three races, that seems eminently possible–to suggest that the last three races have been anything short of disasters for Ferrari would be an understatement. However, in the context of the season, that might not be so easy.
While in the hands of Lewis, the Mercedes has been the quickest car over one lap. However, in a race situation, it has been much different. Ferrari’s easier to dial-in car coupled with the skill of Sebastian Vettel has seen them become far more than a thorn in the side of German manufacturer and the British driver. Had it not been for their chaotic issues in the Asian portion of the season, they could be leading both Championships.
With that in mind, it can be expected that Ferrari will be competitive in Austin, sealing off the prospect of the Championship being won.
The reason for Mercedes’ fear is the next race is in Mexico, and though Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez is known for its long straight–seemingly a Mercedes advantage–the fact it is at high altitude means the teams run at maximum downforce. The other races with the cars at maximum downforce this season, Hungary, Monaco and Singapore, have seen Mercedes at a significant disadvantage to Ferrari. It is also not beyond the realms of possibility that a rejuvenated Red Bull could put their hat in the ring for Mexico, furthering the risk for Mercedes.
This reticence will continue through Brazil and Abu Dhabi. The Autódromo José Carlos Pace is characterised, much like Hungary, as having a twisty infield section suited to better handling cars. And Abu Dhabi is similar to Mexico; it has two long straights–one slightly kinked–, but it has a tight 3rd sector that could help the Ferrari’s in particular.
The idea that the Championship is over is slightly premature, and the pressure on Hamilton to win it in America is heightened by the worries of the team for the final three races.
US GRAND PRIX PREDICTIONS
Pole Position: Lewis Hamilton–As the record pole guy, it is hard to bet against him extending his record at a track he dominates.
1st–Lewis Hamilton–Having won 4 of the 5 races in Austin, once again it is hard to bet against Lewis winning again. He won’t win the title, though.
2nd–Sebastian Vettel–Sebastian and Ferrari will fight back–they have to–as such the German ace will follow the Brit across the line. I just don’t think the Ferrari has the power to match the Mercs here.
3rd–Valterri Bottas–I have a feeling he will qualify well but will be overwhelmed by the Ferrari of Vettel. Lewis could do with his teammate following him home for his Championship hopes.
Kiwi, Brendon Hartley, joins the circus in his first race for Toro Rosso in America.
McLaren released a hilarious video confirming Fernando Alonso has signed for 2018.
Speaking of the Spaniard, Fernando Alonso will be sporting the same helmet he wore in this year’s Indy 500.
Red Bull announce that Max Verstappen has signed through to 2020.