Our Formula 1 scribe is predicting a return to form for Sebastian Vettel at this Sunday's United States Grand Prix.
This weekend the drivers and the fans will be leaving the carnage that was the Japanese Grand Prix, where surprise after surprise dazzled the drivers and the crowds, and head to America. Land of the free, where bald eagles soar and you get bottomless cokes at every fast food restaurant. Truly a land of opportunity. This weekend we will see the drivers racing on the ultra-modern Circuit of the Americas, where facilities and safety features are top notch, but the track itself ,which has been laid out by Architect Hermann Tilke, is definitely a challenging one. The switchback sequence of bends in the opening sector lets the drivers know that they're in for a tough day's racing right from the outset.
If you are a Hamilton fan and thought that Lewis's championship hopes looked bleak by end of the Malaysian Grand Prix, then the Japanese Grand Prix must have knocked you for a six. The Brit, did quite well in qualifiers, lining up second on the grid next to Mercedes-AMG Petronas teammate Nico Rosberg. Unfortunately, that's as far as his luck extended this time because he flubbed his start. And by the end of turn one, Hamilton was in eighthHamilton didn't suffer alone, though.
The beginning of the race was absolute carnage - almost a replica of the start in Malaysia. Those at the front of the grid got caught by the damp track, while those further back had to swerve to avoid colliding into the cars at the front. With only Mercedes' Nico Rosberg and Red Bull's Max Verstappen managing clean starts. The former took full advantage of his positive start and went on to claim yet another victory.
Verstappen also took full advantage of his clean start building up a comfortable gap between himself and the following pack. The young Dutchman would come under pressure from Hamilton late on in the race.
Thanks to the Mercedes team's strategy, or Ferrari waiting too long to pit, Hamilton managed to fight his way up to third on lap 3. Unable to make a DRS-enabled pass on Verstappen down the front straight toward the end of the race, the Mercedes driver took a creative line through Spoon corner. Closing in down the back straight, Hamilton made a cheeky evasive turn inside to try a pass through the final chicane. Verstappen saw what he was trying to do and in a smart move, moved over in the braking zone while Hamilton was still behind him, closing the door on Hamilton's efforts. Hamilton squawked over his team radio, but seemed resigned to a third place finish after the incident.
The Ferrari's of Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Räikkönen crossed the line fourth and fifth. The Scuderia team tried an aggressive, final stint after Hamilton successfully undercut Vettel in the pits, but would ultimately come up short.
Daniel Ricciardo struggled to get to grips with the track and was forced to settle for a sixth place finish. Sergio Perez and Nico Hülkenberg followed the Red Bull home in two-up formation for Force India, Williams doing the same in the final two points-paying positions with Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas crossing the line in ninth and tenth, respectively.
The circuit of the Americas is a long and tricky track stuffed in equal measure with long straights and windy turns. The drivers will be racing for 56 laps covering a total distance of 308.405KM. The track itself is one of the longer ones measuring in at 5.513KM. There are twenty corners overall in the race.
The first DRS detection zone is on the straight between corner 10 and 11 with the activation zone coming just after the 11th corner. The drivers then enter into a zigzag of left and right turns in sector three, and the second DRS activation zone is between the more subdued 18th and 19th corners.
After the twentieth corner, they hit a straight where the second DRS activation zone starts and ends just before the first corner. The weather this weekend will be warm for all three days, with temperatures going from 26 degrees on Friday to 29 degrees on Sunday. There will be some cloud cover on Saturday and Sunday, but nothing to be seriously concerned about.
United States Grand Prix | Sunday 23 October | Circuit of the Americas | 20:30
To Win Outright
Lewis Hamilton 12/10 | Nico Roberg 12/10 | Daniel Ricciardo 10/1 | Max Verstappen 10/1 | Sebastian Vettel 10/1 | Kimi Raikkonen 10/1 | Sergio Perez 250/1 | Nico Hulkenberg 250/1
Podium Finish: Daniel Ricciardo 66/100
Red Bull’s Ricciardo has shown real promise this season. Especially in the latter part. Running up there with the big dogs like Ferrari and Mercedes, he is really giving them a run for their money and I think he stands a good chance of getting a podium finish, if not another outright win.
Fastest Qualifier: Lewis Hamilton 11/10Hamilton has struggled for form of late but you can never discount the Brit. He enjoys racing in the States and has a solid qualifying record at the Circuit of the Americas. I think it would be a safe bet to put Hamilton on fastest qualifier but do not rely on him to show his usual gusto on race day.
To Win Outright: Sebastian Vettel 10/1
Ferrari really are really due a win. They may have a much slower car than their counterparts over at Mercedes but Vettel has enough race craft to cut the gap down by taking a few smart lines. The ?German represents terrific value at 10/1 for a win.