US Grand Prix preview: Hamilton set for victory parade at a favourite venue

It was always going to be a tall order for Lewis Hamilton to outscore teammate and title rival Valtteri Bottas by 14 points and take a sixth world drivers’ title in Mexico.

Yet, by nursing his degrading hard compound tyres to score a superb victory from long time rival Sebastian Vettel and Bottas, Hamilton will almost certainly get the job done at one of his favourite venues, the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas.

The mighty Hamilton, who has won five of the last seven races at ‘COTA’ stands on the brink of surpassing the legendary Juan Manuel Fangio and stand alone with six titles, one behind the great Michael Schumacher. To achieve this stupendous feat, the Mercedes maestro needs only four points, no matter where Bottas finishes to become champion.

The intriguing nature of the Hermann Tilke designed COTA track incorporates many similar sections inspired by the greatest circuits, including Silverstone, Suzuka, Hockenheim, Spa-Francorchamps and Interlagos. It’s little wonder, then, that it’s a favourite amongst many drivers and especially the Englishman.

“We have a decent track record in Austin; however, we had a difficult weekend in Texas last year as we struggled with tyre management,” commented Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff. “The W10 treats its tyres more gently than our 2018 car, so this should be less of an issue this year.

“COTA has produced great racing with lots of overtaking, so we hope for another spectacular Sunday in Austin.

Out to spoil Hamilton’s party, yet only realistically in the sense of denying him the race win, will most likely be Ferrari, who claimed an emotional victory thanks to Kimi Raikkonen last year.

“We have started the last six races from pole position but have only gone on to win three of them and we certainly want to do better than that,” said team boss Mattia Binotto in Ferrari’s race preview.

“We are encouraged by the fact that we now have a package that allows us to fight for wins on most tracks. It’s a significant improvement on how we started the year and credit must go to all the people in Maranello and at the track, who have worked so hard to fight back from where we started.

“It’s always special to race in the US, a country with a huge history of motor racing. We won here last year and the team’s motivation will be to try and bring home a very good result.”

With three races of the season remaining, it’s not just the action at the front end of the grid that will be grabbing the attention of the passionate American motorsport fans.

The midfield battle is also heading to an exciting climax, with just nine points separating fifth-paced Renault from seventh-placed Racing Point in the constructors’ standings.

And, following on from his brilliant drive to 7th from 11th on the grid in Mexico, Sergio Perez is hoping for another strong showing in what he classifies as his second home race.

“Austin has always felt like a second home race for me because of the number of Mexican fans who come along,” said Perez. “It feels strange to be going there after Mexico because it’s usually the other way around. I enjoy having these two races next to each other – they are both highlights of the year for me and very enjoyable. I always notice the Mexican flags in the grandstands and it gives you a boost.

“There are parts of the lap that remind me of other tracks. The quick part in sector 1 is similar to the first sector in Suzuka, for example. It’s just a good fun track that’s very satisfying to drive. It’s definitely one of the best modern tracks.”

Fraser Masefield

Sports news and features writer, web editor and author.