US Grand Prix Preview: Payback Time?7 min read
Lewis Hamilton stands on the brink of clinching his fifth World Championship crown – his fourth in the past five years. Ferrari is yet to win an US Grand Prix; they’ll have to hit back hard at Mercedes if they are to have any chance of keeping Sebastian Vettel’s slim title chances alive past this weekend at the Circuit of The Americas in Austin, Texas.
Hamilton is enjoying a 67-point lead in the championship, so can clinch the title with victory if Vettel fails to finish directly behind him in second place. In fact, he only needs to outscore Vettel by eight points to be crowned champion.
There are six different scenarios that will see Hamilton claim his fifth world title:
Hamilton first, Vettel third or lower.
Hamilton second, Vettel fifth or lower.
Hamilton third, Vettel seventh or lower.
Hamilton fourth, Vettel eighth or lower.
Hamilton fifth, Vettel ninth or lower.
Hamilton sixth, Vettel out of the points.
Will the US Grand Prix be where the Championship reaches its conclusion?
Lewis Hamilton has claimed the last four victories on the spin, momentum is clearly on his side. But Lewis has only ever won five races in a row once before; in 2014 when he claimed victory in Italy, Singapore, Japan, Russia and the United States. The stats would lead us to believe that Lewis Hamilton is a shoe-in for victory this weekend.
Hamilton has won every US Grand Prix since 2014, whereas Vettel has only driven to victory here once. Hamilton also clinched his third world title at the US Grand Prix back in 2015. However, it is worth noting that Ferrari have managed to claim victory in Silverstone, Spa and Montreal this season, races that have previously been happy hunting ground for Mercedes.
Vettel’s biggest obstacle to continuing his title hopes will be Lewis’ team mate Valtteri Bottas. The Finnish driver has shown that he is prepared to play the team game to ensure Mercedes claim both championship titles. Bottas has found his way to the second step of the podium seven times already this season, an eighth this weekend could help Hamilton become World Champion for the fifth time.
Winning from the front
A good show in qualifying could well be key, as each of the six of the US Grands Prix raced at the Circuit of The Americas have been won from the front row of the grid. With history on his side, and the quickest car in the field, it is difficult to see anything other than Lewis Hamilton taking pole. But, at 1/2 it’s equally as difficult to be backing Hamilton to be the fastest qualifier.
Hamilton, however, has only managed pole position at the US Grand Prix twice in the ‘power-unit era,’ albeit, these have come in the last two seasons. Therefore, it may be worth having a speculative punt on an outsider.
The forecast shows rain currently for qualifying, and we know how good the Red Bulls are in inclement weather. Verstappen has out-qualified his teammate, Daniel Ricciardo, in each of the last eleven races, so I would be picking him in a straight fight between the pair currently. It’s also worth noting that, should Verstappen take pole position, he would become the youngest ever F1 pole-sitter, beating Sebastian Vettel’s record of 21-years and 72-days.
The US Grand Prix has been won from second place for three out of the six races held at the Circuit of The Americas. Bearing this in mind, statistically there’s value in backing the race to be won from second place at 5/2.
The US Grand Prix victor will be..?
There is one obvious answer, Lewis Hamilton. Hamilton has an outstanding record in the US and if required Bottas will move out of the way to help Lewis. But, do you really want to be backing the Brit at 8/15?
The race is currently looking like it will be a dry, but windy, affair. That would lead me to rule out the Red Bull’s due to the power deficiency of their Renault power unit.
Ferrari do seem to be in crisis, with even their Team Principal, Maurizio Arrivabene, coming under fire in the Italian press. Raikkonen has been 111 races without a victory and Vettel has seen a plethora of errors, by the team and himself, mean he has only won one of the last seven races.
Should the wheels come off again for Vettel again this race, Hamilton may not need to win. Lewis owes Valtteri for the team orders in Russia that moved the Finn into second in a race weekend that he had dominated. He will, surely, repay the favour at some point this season and this weekend could well be the time. Whereas, I wouldn’t be backing Bottas as a straight win – we don’t know what will happen to Vettel – he’s definitely worth an each-way shot at 7/1, with the hope that he can claim victory to give us the full returns.
Back Max Verstappen to be the fastest qualifier at
Back the race to be won from second place at
Back Valtteri Bottas (Each Way) to win the US Grand Prix at