F1: United States Grand Prix Preview

Valtteri BottasLewis Hamilton has established a good lead at the top of the Formula One Drivers Championship and can extend his advantage at this weekend’s United States Grand Prix (Race: 8pm GMT, Sunday, live on Sky Sports).

Hamilton was a comfortable victor in Russia three weeks ago. He qualified on pole position and led every lap of the race, finishing 13 seconds clear of his Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg, who did well to recover to second following a minor off on the first lap.

The win saw Hamilton extend his championship lead to 17 points with just three races to go, although double points are on offer at the final race in Abu Dhabi. Valtteri Bottas (pictured) came home third for Williams, ahead of the McLaren pair of Jenson Button and Kevin Magnussen, who completed a clean sweep of the top five positions for Mercedes-powered cars.

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Fernando Alonso finished sixth for Ferrari, ahead of the Red Bull pair of Daniel Ricciardo and Sebastian Vettel, and his teammate Kimi Raikkonen. Sergio Perez completed the top 10, edging out the Williams of Felipe Massa and his Force India teammate Nico Hulkenberg.

The grid will be four cars lighter this weekend, with Caterham and Marussia suffering from financial difficulties that have prevented them from taking part. Both are hopeful of securing the necessary financial backing to return before the end of the season.

The Circuit

This weekend’s event will be the 44th United States Grand Prix and the 36th held under the auspices of the Formula One World Championship. The Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas will play host to the event for the third consecutive year. It is popular with the drivers due to its variety of corner types and requires a medium-to-high downforce setup.

Weather forecasts suggest it will be a mild and sunny weekend. Pirelli have chosen their soft and medium compound tyres for this weekend’s event. Most drivers are likely to adopt a two-stop strategy.

Mercedes

Hamilton has firmly established himself as the championship favourite with a string of excellent drives in recent races. He has won each of the last four Grand Prix, qualifying on pole position for three of them and thrice setting the fastest race lap. He looks to have both a psychological and performance advantage over his teammate Rosberg.

The British driver won the inaugural race at the Austin circuit in 2012 and finished fourth last year, five places ahead of Rosberg, after qualifying fifth on the grid. He enjoys the circuit and gets plenty of support from the American side of his family when he races there. Hamilton looks well placed to secure a pole position and race win double again this weekend.

The Race

Bottas has enjoyed a very impressive season for Williams, recording five podium finishes and only failing to score points in two of the 16 races to date. He has more than double the number of points of his teammate Massa and can be fancied to again score well on Sunday.

The Circuit of the Americas shares certain characteristics with both Silverstone and Suzuka. Williams ran well at both circuits, with Bottas finishing second in Britain and then qualifying third in Japan. He scored his first F1 points at last year’s United States Grand Prix and will be hopeful of making a strong challenge for a podium finish this time around.

Button has driven superbly in recent races. He finished fifth in Russia and fourth in the treacherous conditions in Japan before that. Indeed, he has only once failed to finish in the points during the last eight races. He finished 10th in last year’s United States Grand Prix and fifth in the inaugural race in Austin the year previous.

McLaren hold a 20-point advantage over Force India in the battle for fifth in the constructors’ championship. They need to score well this weekend in an effort to build up an unassailable advantage ahead of the double-points race in Abu Dhabi at the end of the year. They too performed well at Silverstone and Suzuka, and Button will aim for a top six finish on Sunday.

Thousands of Mexicans are expected to descend on Austin to support Perez and his countrymen Esteban Gutierrez this weekend. Next year, the Mexican Grand Prix will return to the calendar, but for now this is as close to a home race as the pair get.

Perez qualified and finished seventh for McLaren in last year’s race and looks the more likely of the two Mexican drivers to score points this weekend. He has finished in the top 10 in each of the last five races and while Force India seem to be losing ground to some of the other teams, they should be sufficiently quick for him to make it six in a row on Sunday.

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