The COVID pandemic took the US Grand Prix away from us last year, meaning the circus did not roll into either North of South America, as Canada, Brazil and Mexico also missed out on a place on the 2020 calendar.
The latter two of those races are still set to take place, but first Formula One will venture over six thousand miles from its last destination of Turkey to Travis County Texas, and the 42nd Formula One Championship Grand Prix in the United States.
Max Verstappen enters round 17 in the lead of the 2021 standings by six points from Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton, whose last win here came in 2017, while the Dutchman is yet to register a win at the 5.4 kilometre Circuit of the Americas, but Red Bull have won here before.
That came back in 2013 with Sebastian Vettel, en route to culminating that season with a record nine wins in a row, and Red Bull, as has been the tale of the season, are breaking the Mercedes hybrid tradition this season. So we should anticipate another strong Red Bull performance here.
Mercedes will be buoyed by the fact that Hamilton came through the tough test of Istanbul two weeks ago in the wet conditions having started 11th following a grid penalty, and he managed to limit the damage done to his championship challenge by finishing fifth. His team mate Valtteri Bottas also took victory one year on from his horror show at the same race, making for a decent afternoon for the silver arrows. Red Bull, meanwhile, managed a double-podium, with Sergio Perez having a brilliant afternoon, coming home third behind team mate Verstappen.
At a track this weekend though that is notoriously difficult through the first sector, but awash with power-necessitating sections, it will be tight battle between two teams that have been exemplary out front all season long.
McLaren and Ferrari have meanwhile dropped Alpine behind in the battle for third, which Mclaren lead currently by 7.5 points from the Scuderia. Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc are separated by just half a point, and their remarkably consistent form will be a source of positivity particularly heading into the new regulations of 2022. Across at McLaren while Daniel Ricciardo is still trying to make things work at McLaren – his win in Monza covering over what has been a very difficult season for the Australian, often soundly beaten on pace by team mate Lando Norris. However, the pair are currently sitting ahead of Ferrari, which would ultimately make for a good first season at the Woking outfit for Ricciardo if they can stay there.
Williams suffered their first non-points scoring race last time out since the Netherlands, as they seek to remain in front of Alfa Romeo for what be an immensely respectable eighth in the Constructors’ standings.
The last two races here have been won by Finns, while exactly half of the races contested at COTA have been won from pole, in races that have seen titles decided, dominant victors emerge, a sight to savour in Kimi Raikkonen’s final win, and splendid Verstappen drives.
We are not about to crown a new champion this weekend – rest assured this title race is going to the wire – but this could be a race to see who can draw fastest and take a real advantage in Texas.