US Grand Prix Preview: Hamilton’s American dream to finally become reality

Having missed out on winning a dream championship in the ultimate sporting holy grail last year, Lewis Hamilton has a chance to realise this goal 12 months later. He needs just four points this weekend to seal a sixth world championship.

It would make him only the second driver in history to claim six titles, and put him one behind the great Michael Schumacher. What’s more, for the first time in his career he is set to win the championship three years running. He would be one behind Sebastian Vettel for consecutive championships won (2010-2013) and two behind Michael Schumacher (2000-2004).

The stats are both remarkable and stunning. Hamilton is a living legend of the sport right in front of our eyes, but for him, and many others, it is not just about the numbers.

It was evident last year, when Kimi Raikkonen took the win away from Hamilton, that a moment which would have achieved hopes and dreams conceived long ago had escaped Hamilton’s grasp. It was no secret that he would have loved to claim his fifth title at what is considered to be the home of world sport, with some of the most energetic and adoring fans of not just Formula One, but of many others too. To win the championship in the US, like he did in 2015, would be another huge accolade for Hamilton, and it is something that would mean so much to him personally.

His title rival Valtteri Bottas, however, will still be full of belief that he can at least overshadow his team-mate’s inevitable title celebrations with a victory at the 5.5-kilometre-long Circuit of the Americas. While it is almost impossible for him to win the championship from here, Bottas had a positive race in Japan, winning from second on the grid. But a stunning drive from Hamilton in Mexico, out-qualifying Bottas while the Finn’s Mercedes took a huge bite out of the barrier, saw him fend off Sebastian Vettel with a mega second stint to take a well deserved win, and put himself in prime position for the championship this weekend.

2019 Mexican Grand Prix, Sunday – Wolfgang Wilhelm

The Mercedes cars are expected to be challenged well again by Ferrari this year. The two teams been typically evenly matched at this circuit in each of the last two seasons, but Ferrari’s advantage in power this year will leave them hopeful of a victory again as they did last year, and team principal Mattia Binotto’s plans for ‘better race management’ in the last three races of the season may aid them achieve a win in what has turned out to be another heart-breaking season for the Scuderia.

The tricky first sector will certainly help to bring the Red Bulls into play, with Alex Albon’s impressive performances seeing him prove his worth at the Austrian team. He has out-scored Verstappen since they have been team-mates, although this has been down to a few slices of misfortune for the Dutchman, as well as one or two clumsy errors. Red Bull, however, should not be expected to challenge for the win, frustrating for them after a thoroughly wasted opportunity by Verstappen in Mexico.

Coming home this weekend are Haas, but we should not expect a particularly happy home-coming for them in what has been a confusing, tiresome and dire year. Kevin Magnussen and Romain Grosjean are really just looking forward to 2020 now, but the home crowd may just inspire a point or two from the French-Danish partnership which has been tested and strained at various different points of the season.

Though Lewis Hamilton’s partnership with race engineer Peter Bonnington will not return until Brazil, Hamilton has no intention of holding back on the title party this weekend, but Valtteri Bottas and Ferrari have no intention of seeing him stand on the top step on race day.

 

[Featured image – Ferrari Media]

MotoGP Americas GP Review – Captain America is an Understatement

The Americas Grand Prix – for the fifth consecutive season – went to Marc Marquez, as the Spaniard took his first victory of the season in scorching weather conditions on Sunday afternoon. The Repsol Honda team achieved their first podium of the season and their first double podium since the Catalan Grand Prix last season, with 1st and 3rd. Splitting the two Hondas was Movistar Yamaha’s Valentino Rossi, who not only took 2nd and his best ever result at COTA but also the lead of the championship for the first time since Malaysia 2015. 2017 is already looking like a season we will cherish.

As the lights went out, it was formation flying into turn one for Repsol Honda, with Dani Pedrosa leading Marc Marquez through the first few turns. Valentino Rossi was in 3rd with the likes of Jorge Lorenzo moving through from row two to challenge him, taking series leader Maverick Vinales for 4th.

Following all the squabbling, a shock was about to rock COTA. Coming through turn 18, Maverick Vinales crashed out in a shower of sparks, throwing his M1 Yamaha into the Texan dirt for his first DNF of the year. The Spaniard looked like he had been rattled all weekend, following a fallout with teammate Rossi in qualifying and a dual with Marquez for pole position. Either way, he cost me £15 after I backed him to break Marquez’ stranglehold on the circuit.

This promoted reigning double Moto2 champion Johann Zarco to fourth, immediately giving the Frenchman hope for a podium challenge. However, with 15 laps to go, Rossi and Zarco would have their first fallout of the season. After a slight mistake by the 9-time champion at turn one, Zarco got a better run through the fast turn two, before pouncing on Rossi at turn three. Valentino, maintaining the racing line through the turn two and three section, was forced to take evasive action as the Frenchman barged his way in. Not too long after, Rossi was handed a 0.3 time penalty which was to be added on to his time at the end of the session, having gained time on Pedrosa up ahead – although in the eyes of many, it was involuntary course cutting. The incident continued in the post-race press conference, with Valentino saying that “the problem is Zarco”. More on that as the season unwinds.

By this time, Marc Marquez had taken the lead away from Dani Pedrosa and had began to clear off into the distance. Pedrosa did take another stab at retaking the lead at turn 12, but ran wide on exit and allowed Marquez to hold on, which was how it remained to the end.

Further down, there was a big scrap between Iannone, Miller, Petrucci and Lorenzo. Iannone took his best result on the Suzuki thus far with 7th, ahead of Danilo Petrucci who beat Lorenzo and Miller – the Australian starting the year with three top 10 placings.

There was a high number of crashers in the race, with Loris Baz, Sam Lowes, Karel Abraham and Alvaro Bautista all hitting the floor, with Pol Espargaro retiring his KTM, as well as Aleix Espargaro having numerous problems with the Aprilia. Alvaro did remount to gain 1 point.

Cal Crutchlow caught and passed Johann Zarco to take 4th place and remain 5th in the championship after his podium in Argentina. Zarco finished 5th with his joint best finish in the premier class.

The battle for 2nd however was yet to be settled. Valentino Rossi was closing on Dani Pedrosa and in the closing laps, he took the 2nd place on the road. He eventually pulled clear by over two seconds to take second ahead of the former double 250cc champion.

In the end though, Marc prevailed and what a sensational way to kick-start his season too! He’s flying high but as Wayne Rainey once said, “It’s the start of the ground war” when we hit Europe. Jerez is the next round and you can be sure to tune in to see who will be our Spanish Grand Prix winner. Rossi won there last season and will be looking to repeat the feat.

The gap at the top of the championship tree is a mere six points, with Vinales slotting into 2nd. 12 points further back is Marc Marquez and then it’s the first Ducati, in Andrea Dovizioso – already 26 points down on Rossi.

The next race is Jerez and as ever, there will be unrivalled coverage across the weekend, with qualifying, warm-ups and race day commentary on Twitter as well as a shed load of content flying fresh off the press online!

Kiko Giles @MotoGPKiko