Round 18 of the Formula 1 World Championship, the United States Grand Prix is here and Lewis Hamilton has the chance to clinch his fifth world championship. A Mercedes 1-2 would be enough to seal the title at the same place he did in 2015.
Lewis Hamilton needs to outscore Vettel by 8 points so here are the permutations: Hamilton wins if he is 1st and Vettel is 3rd or lower, if he is 2nd and Vettel is 5th or lower, if he is 3rd and Vettel is 7th or lower, if he is 4th and Vettel is 8th or lower, if he is 5th and Vettel is 9th or lower and if he is 6th and Vettel does not score any points.
Realistically the title is settled with Vettel needing to win every race from now on with Hamilton averaging 4.5 points per race (2 DNFs and 2 3rd places or a 2nd and a 4th) if he is to win the title. Whilst the title seems impossible for Vettel from this point Vettel and Hamilton should know this points swing has been possible before, when last season from Singapore to US Vettel recorded 2 DNFs and a 2nd and a 4th place finish.
COTA has been a very interesting track over the 6 years it’s been on the calendar. In 4 of the 6 Grand Prix held here so far the winning move has been an on track overtake. 2012 Hamilton over Vettel, 2014 Hamilton over Rosberg, 2015 Hamilton over Rosberg, 2017 Hamilton over Vettel. It is fitting that the only two drivers to have won at this track are the title rivals Hamilton (5:2012,2014-2017) and Vettel (1:2013).
The track itself is one that encourages overtaking with the uphill run into the wide entry angle turn 1 allowing for late braking and switchback moves like we saw from Ricciardo, Vettel and Bottas last year. Turn 12 on the back of the long DRS straight saw the winning moves take place in 2012, 2014 and 2017. The turn 12-15 complex following that straight is a great sequence of corners that with wide entry angles allow for divebombs and potential switch back attempts like we saw in 2017 between Vettel and Hamilton.
The following long right hander from turn 16 to 19, (reminiscent of turn 8 in the old Istanbul circuit) with these post 2017 cars which have the grip to take multiple lines through the corner, has also been the scene of some great battles such as the one between Sainz and Perez in 2017. It was turn 16 at which Rosberg had his infamous ‘gust of wind’ moment handing victory and the title to Hamilton in 2015.
Turn 17 where the controversial Verstappen-Raikkonen incident happened last year has had a new kerb (dubbed hilariously by COTA’s twitter as the ‘Verstopper’) installed to stop drivers cutting across that corner in a similar fashion this year.
Pecking Order Predictions
At the front it will judging by recent form be Mercedes a couple of tenths ahead of Ferrari again as Red Bull will likely take their lonely third place again. Although the technical sectors 1 and 3 combined with the threat of rain may help them spring a surprise.
The midfield battle as ever will be very interesting to watch. At the head of the midfield will likely be Force India and Haas followed closely by Renault who will be hoping to overturn their engine power deficit in sectors 1 and 3. Probably just behind or on a par with Renault will be the Sauber and Toro Rosso teams. Then McLaren and Williams will again be rounding out the bottom of the grid as both of those teams have all but given up on this year a long time ago.
There is a large chance of a washout for Friday’s practice sessions and potential for rain in FP3 and Qualifying while the race is predicted to be bone dry. This could leave the teams with a predicament as they won’t have representative conditions for the race to work with in practice for car setup and tyre data a similar situation to that in 2015 which resulted in one of the most entertaining races of that year, so you can definitely hope for a good race and potentially championship crowning weekend.