Date published: October 17 2018
Only Lewis Hamilton can snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, both at the United States Grand Prix and in the championship race.
Racing to a 67-point lead thanks to his ninth win of this season at the Japanese Grand Prix, Hamilton can wrap up the World title at the next race – all he needs is to outscore Sebastian Vettel by eight points.
That means a race win with Vettel third would do the trick as would a P2 with Vettel fifth or lower. Such is Hamilton’s advantage that even a sixth-place finish could win him the title, depending of course on where Vettel is on the day.
And Vettel, and Ferrari, have no one but themselves to blame.
(Pic of Vettel and Hamilton)
Not to detract from the incredible form that Hamilton has shown – “class act” says Toto Wolff – since the summer break, winning four of five races, but Vettel and Ferrari have all but gifted the British racer a fifth World title.
It is, however, a deserved one given that Hamilton and Mercedes have avoided the pit falls and general implosion that their title rival has suffered.
And what better place for Hamilton to wrap it up than America, the country where he has claimed six of his 71 grands prix wins.
Although he has only raced on US soil seven times, his record is impressive. He took his first US win at Indianapolis in 2007 and five years later began his love affair with the Circuit of the Americas in Austin.
Dry or wet, it makes no difference for Hamilton who has mastered the track with five wins in six visits.
It is, however, not all lost for Vettel, who has also shown form at COTA. He was triumphant in 2013 and has an additional three podiums to his name.
But while the focus on the track will be on the title race, one eye will need to be turned to the skies as downpours – similar to that of 2015 when Hamilton took the title away from Nico Rosberg – are predicted for this weekend.
Remember that moment that Rosberg threw the P2 cap at his team-mate?
Torrential rain is forecast for all three practice sessions and qualifying, which could shake up the grid ahead of a dry race.
The Red Bull racers, still down on power compared to the W09s and the SF71Hs, will be hoping to benefit from that as will the midfield behind them.
Daniel Ricciardo is desperate to get back on form having been trounced by Max Verstappen in recent weeks. Both Red Bull drivers want to close out their season with another win, although the power needed at the Circuit of the Americas may be too much for their RB14 and its Renault engine.
Meanwhile Renault and Haas are locked in a battle to finish this season ‘best of the rest’ with all the millions that come with fourth place. Renault currently have the position but only by eight points while it is the Ferrari-powered Haas team who have shown better pace since the summer break.
Behind them, in the standings if not out on track, chasing down McLaren for sixth place – 26 points the difference – may seem a step too large for Force India, however, with four races remaining it could yet happen while Toro Rosso will be looking to hold off Sauber.
As for Williams, anything but a double DNF may be considered a good weekend at this point.