Don’t bet against Lewis Hamilton wrapping up his third Formula One drivers’ championship title this weekend. He goes into the United States Grand Prix with a 66-point lead over Sebastian Vettel and 73 points over Nico Rosberg. He needs a 75-point lead when the chequered flag falls on Sunday to secure the crown.
Hamilton has already won nine of the fifteen races so far this year, and a tenth win on Sunday will clinch the championship for him unless Vettel finishes in second position. As he is once again the clear favourite to win – his odds on winning are 1.50 compared to Rosberg’s 2.75 – the chances are we’ll see a coronation this weekend.
Mercedes’ technical trouble
The only way to get good odds by betting on Hamilton this weekend is to back him not to finish the race: you’ll get odds of 7.00 on that. This is a tip worth considering, for after a solid start to the season Mercedes’ reliability appears to have deserted them. Since the team introduced an upgraded version of its all-conquering power unit in the Italian Grand Prix they have failed to sustain their solid record of finishing races: Rosberg’s car dropped out in the closing stages at that race, Hamilton retired in Singapore and Rosberg’s car again let him down last time out in Russia: three race-ending failures in four events, The biggest threat to Hamilton securing this title this weekend could be his own car letting him down – and that’s before we factor in the possibility of a crash or spin putting him out.
Force India’s first podium finish of the season in Russia caught the eye, but don’t be tempted to bet on another top-three finish for them this weekend. The Sochi circuit played to the car’s strengths on the straights and the circumstances of the race were almost tailor-made for Sergio Perez’s tyre-nursing style. However the winding opening sector at the Circuit of the Americas will tip the balance in favour of teams like Red Bull. Moreover, it shouldn’t be forgotten that Perez started the last lap in Russia in fifth place before Kimi Raikkonen clattered into Valtteri Bottas, taking both out.
Rain may mix things up
Rain figures prominently in the early weather forecasts for this weekend in Austin and an unpredictable wet race could throw a spanner in the works as far as Hamilton’s championship chances are concerned.
As always, Red Bull is the team to keep an eye on when the weather turns bad. As has been the case with most of their recent cars, the RB11 generates superb amounts of downforce from its wings, aiding its cornering performance and making it the car of choice when the skies turn grey. As the weekend progresses and confidence in the forecast grows, keep a close eye on Daniel Ricciardo’s odds on victory: they’re a huge 151.0 at the moment but may soon start to look more realistic.
Williams is a team which has generally struggled in wet weather conditions of late and it was telling when it rained during practice for the last race in Russia both the FW37s hit the track in an effort to aid the team’s understanding of this weakness. Ironically one of the team’s drivers – Bottas – clearly has an excellent touch for wet conditions (he dragged the team’s woeful 2013 car to third on the grid in the rain in Canada). But as is always the case in F1, great driving talent counts for little without a competitive car – a fact not lost on Hamilton’s rivals.
Keith Collantine is the editor of Formula One blog F1 Fanatic