Lewis can clinch it in US

Hamilton in driving seat for fourth world title

20 October 2017 - 07:58 By AFP
Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton.
Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton.
Image: REUTERS/Toru Hanai

Lewis Hamilton will seek a fifth win in six visits to Texas this weekend and hope for further Ferrari misfortune as he bids to clinch his fourth world title at the US Grand Prix.

The Briton leads nearest rival Sebastian Vettel by 59 points with four races remaining and will take this year's crown if he can outscore him by 16 points.

In short, that means that if Hamilton wins, Vettel must finish in the top five to keep his own challenge alive - a seemingly straightforward prospect if he and Ferrari can avoid the mishaps that have afflicted them in the past four races.

Since their home Italian Grand Prix at Monza, Ferrari have succumbed to a series of mechanical setbacks and mistakes that culminated, at the Japanese Grand Prix on October8, in Vettel being forced to retire due to the failure of a $60 spark plug.

That embarrassing exit followed a crash with his Ferrari teammate Kimi Raikkonen in Singapore and an engine problem in Malaysia - incidents that allowed Hamilton to capitalise for Mercedes by grabbing three wins in four races.

Hamilton now has 306 points and Vettel, the only other man to have won at Austin's Circuit of the Americas, has 247.

A dramatic, tense and hotly contested race is in prospect on Sunday when the ceremonial preliminaries may see Hamilton "take a knee" during the playing of the anthem in support of the protest, initiated by NNFL players, against racial injustice and police brutality.

With temperatures forecast to continue at around 30C, it may be that conditions favour Ferrari's faster, but less reliable car at a track that Hamilton, chasing a sixth overall US GP win, relishes.

Hunting his ninth win this year, Hamilton will know that Vettel is sure to mount a ferocious attack of his own to prevent him joining the German and Alain Prost as four-time champions.

Only Michael Schumacher, with seven titles, and Juan-Manuel Fangio, with five, have more and a fourth Hamilton triumph would make him the most successful British driver.

But as Ferrari seek to preserve their challenge with improved reliability, Hamilton's main threat may come from Red Bull's Max Verstappen, who won in Malaysia three weeks ago, or Daniel Ricciardo, like Hamilton a man very at home in the US.