Eight points. Eight points is all that it will take at this weekend’s U.S. F1 GP at Austin for Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton to be crowned the 2018 F1 champion. Such has been the reversal of fortunes and a demonstrably mature drive from Hamilton in the second third of the season that the consistency of his performance has steadily increased his lead race by race.
What this means for both he and Sebastian Vettel is that Hamilton will lead their championship match up by five to four after this weekend, presuming that Hamilton finishes in the points. This needs to be pointed out as history has shown drivers resorting to the almost unthinkable and deliberately removing themselves and their rival during a race.
Here’s how it’s been worked out. If Hamilton wins then Vettel needs to be third or lower. Second, then fifth or lower, third, then seventh or lower and so on. Should the pointers towards his win happen he will become just the third five time champion in F1 history, behind Juan Manuel Fangio and Michael Schumacher.
But, as so often happens in motorsport, the unlikely can happen, and it’s still mathematically possible for Vettel to hold Hamilton out until the Mexico GP.
However it’s likely that the history that both Vettel and Hamilton have at the Circuit of the Americas track will be in Hamilton’s favor. Both drivers have won here, but it’s five to one in favor of the Briton.
Red Bull’s woes continue and this time with some not so subtle sniping from Max Verstappen. With Daniel Ricciardo’s tenure at Red Bull ending soon, Verstappen was pointing out the expected boost the team will receive from the Honda power units for 2019 in a not so subtly veiled jab at his soon to be ex-team mate. Ricciardo will no doubt be hoping that his move to Renault proves otherwise.
Williams have picked up a new driver. George Russell, a British driver that currently leads the F2 championship series and drives for Mercedes in that championship, made contact with the Williams team in July of 2018 and put forward, in a meeting with Williams team management soon after, a solid case as to why. That bold approached has resulted in a contract with the Williams team.
Russell adds:” Mercedes have always had the approach that if we’re performing and doing the job, they will do everything in their power to give us the opportunity. Regardless of what happened to Esteban, I was reaching all my targets set for me from Mercedes and they believed I deserved an opportunity. And did everything they could to help me secure that.”
McLaren have also gone for young, up and coming, talent. Another Briton has scored a drive with Lando Norris, a team reserve driver, being promoted to the top echelon. McLaren Racing CEO Zak Brown says that Norris has the maturity the team was looking for. Brown called Norris into his office at the end of the Monza race weekend and said, simply:” Well done Lando, you’re driving for us next year.” Brown goes on to say:” When I told him he had got the ride, he didn’t jump up and down. He was cool and measured. That’s Lando. He’s very mature. He’s very genuine. There’s a ..shyness to him that I’m sure over time will evolve.”
The Circuit of the Americas is regarded as one of the best tracks in the calendar by design. The physical layout of the location, including an elevation change of 131 feet and a steep uphill let corner, allowed the designers to “borrow” elements from other circuits and build in factors to add to the visual and real driving appeal. One of those factors is the COTA being one of just five tracks that run in an anti-clockwise direction.
Rubber choice from Pirelli will be soft, supersoft and ultrasoft tyres. The COTA surface isn’t regarded as being as hard on the rubber as others. However the design and layout do bring in high lateral forces and with some tight corners, heavy braking.
Practice gets under way at 10:00 local time on Friday October 19, with qualifying at 16:00 local. The race is Sunday October 21 and 13:10 local.