Lewis Hamilton could clinch his fifth Formula One World Championship in Austin.
The Mercedes driver heads into Sunday’s race needing to outscore Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel by just eight points to seal the title.
His task has been even more straightforward courtesy of a three-place grid penalty handed to the German for ‘insufficiently’ slowing down while a red flag was active.
So, Hamilton has plenty of leeway to get the job this weekend – but it’s worth remembering that his brilliant season has put him in this commanding position.
Here, we look back at six key races in the battle for this year’s championship race.
Hamilton started as he meant to go on after he delivered an emphatic statement to his rivals by putting his Mercedes on pole, a staggering seven tenths clear of anyone else. He should have gone on to take the chequered flag following a flawless race only for a pit-wall blunder by his Mercedes team during a late safety car period to gift-wrap the victory to Vettel.
Vettel’s championship challenge has been littered by errors, and he made his first of seven this year in the closing stages of a frantic Baku race. The Ferrari driver was running in second place before he attempted a gung-ho pass on Valtteri Bottas for the lead. His move backfired as he ran off the track and dropped two places to fourth. Hamilton, who had been off-colour for much of the weekend, then took the chequered flag after Bottas’ tyre exploded on the penultimate lap.
Another mistake by Vettel cost the German further points at the Paul Ricard Circuit. As Hamilton galloped to a regulation victory from pole, Vettel collided with Bottas at the opening bend. The Ferrari driver, handed a five-second penalty by the stewards for his role in the coming together, damaged his front wing and had to stop for repairs before clawing his way back to fifth. Vettel’s demise, and Hamilton’s victory, enabled the Briton to reclaim the championship lead.
Hamilton started 14th in Hockenheim after his Mercedes broke down in qualifying, while Vettel secured pole. Vettel appeared set to take victory only to crash out of the race following a late rain shower. To make matters worse for the Ferrari man, Hamilton benefited from the subsequent safety car to seal a remarkable victory. Afterwards, Hamilton’s former rival Nico Rosberg claimed it was the darkest day of Vettel’s career, and it was hard to disagree. Indeed, it could be argued that it was an incident from which he never recovered. He has never led the championship since.
Monza’s ‘Temple of Speed’ became Ferrari’s ‘Temple of Doom’ after they fluffed their lines on home turf. Ferrari had the superior machinery, but it was Hamilton in his Mercedes who claimed one of the finest wins of his career. Vettel was last at the end of lap one after clumsily colliding with Hamilton. He recovered to finish fourth, but his team-mate Kimi Raikkonen was unable to stop the rampant Mercedes from passing him for the victory in the final stages of a stunning drive.
Hamilton delivered the lap of his life to upset the odds and place his Mercedes on pole position. Hamilton should never have been in contention for the front slot at a venue which has proved a bogey track for the Silver Arrows in recent years, but not only did he take pole, but the size of his gap to the rest was mighty, too: more than six tenths faster than Vettel, and seven tenths ahead of team-mate Bottas. No wonder Hamilton described it as magic. Overtaking is impossible at the Marina Bay track, and Hamilton perfectly executed the win.