Andrew Mount tells us who his money’s on at this weekend’s US Grand Prix…
Lewis Hamilton could secure a fourth Formula 1 Drivers’ Championship on Sunday as the 2017 season heads to Austin for the United States Grand Prix.
Returning to the Circuit of the Americas, one of the newer tracks on the calendar and a venue modelled on its European counterparts, there are scores old and new to settle in the Texan desert as the F1 season begins to roar towards its conclusion.
Fresh from a tenth victory of the campaign in Japan earlier in the month, championship leader Hamilton arrives at a track he’ll have fond memories of (he won four of the five races at this venue since it was introduced to the calendar back in 2012).
With a handsome lead of 59 points, the Mercedes driver could be crowned champion on Sunday but won’t be resting on his laurels.
— Lewis Hamilton (@LewisHamilton) October 17, 2017
His track experience will be especially important when it comes to dealing with Sebastian Vettel.
He is the only other driver to have won a Grand Prix at this circuit, as well as having clocked the fastest lap in four of those five races.
Whether or not Hamilton can be caught in the overall standings, Vettel will certainly be keen to get one back on his rival here after a return of just 12 points from a possible 75 in the last three races.
Away from the ‘battle’ for the title itself, seen by some at this stage to be something of a foregone conclusion, it’s also worth considering those slightly further down the table.
Valtteri Bottas has impressed on occasions this season, particularly early on, winning twice and currently finding himself in third place on 234 points.
He will no doubt be keen for a first top-three finish in the final Championship standings, but isn’t quite as safe in this position as Hamilton is in the lead, with Daniel Ricciardo not far behind him in fourth.
— Formula 1 (@F1) October 19, 2017
Bottas is left with something to prove in Austin after finishing 16th in this race last year and retiring in 2015.
Ricciardo will give the Finn plenty to think about, having finished third here last year and in 2014.
The Red Bull driver has podiumed in nine of his last twelve races and the available odds for him to make the top three again looks a solid bet.
A further layer of intrigue added to this race is the driver changes triggered by Jolyon Palmer parting company with Renault, a change described by the driver himself as “making sense”. Carlos Sainz Jr. replaces him while Brendon Hartley comes in for Sainz at Torro Rosso.
These drivers will be looking to impress in Austin and there could be some fierce battles further down the order.
Despite these lively outsiders this weekend will once again be primarily about Hamilton and Mercedes, who can themselves seal the title in the Constructors Championship with a good showing.
Their determination to avoid complacency could be key, as Toto Wolff, their Head of Motorsport, remarked earlier in the week:
“We approach every race with a healthy dose of scepticism rather than wishful thinking, and our focus must be on making sure we score every point within our reach this weekend in Austin.”
He is predictably priced up at odds-on for the race but Hamilton seems to be in a prime position to capitalise on his previous form and experience at this track.
Though he is likely to face a fierce challenge from Vettel (particularly in qualifying, with the German’s previous record in terms of lap times at the Circuit of the Americas), he should be capable of taking another step towards this year’s world title, perhaps even winning it, and confirming his place as one of the very best Formula 1 drivers we have seen in recent times.
Grosvenor Sport Racing Odds
Lewis Hamilton to win – 17/20
Daniel Ricciardo top three – 6/4