The demise of Sebastian Vettel and Ferrari has left the door wide open for Lewis Hamilton to walk straight through and collect his fourth World Drivers’ Championship – and it could all be wrapped up as early as this weekend.
With a 59-point lead heading to the Circuit of the Americas, Lewis Hamilton is in a commanding position and if Vettel finishes sixth or lower, Lewis will be crowned the 2017 Formula One World Champion.
Coming out of the summer break, it looked as if we had a championship battle that was going down to the wire but the spectacular collapse of Ferrari over the three Asian races have put both drivers’ and constructors’ titles all but out of reach.
The catastrophic start in Singapore was followed by reliability issues for both cars in Malaysia and Japan, pressing the Ferrari management to reinforce its quality control department – a move that could open the door to chaos as the pressure grows after every session that they don’t better Mercedes in.
Just to add insult to injury, the F1 paddock now heads to Austin, Texas, for the seventeenth round of the season. Since the opening of the Circuit of the Americas, the track has become a fortress for Lewis Hamilton as he has taken victory in four of the five grand prix held at the track – a scary stat if you support the prancing horse.
Despite not having the glamour of Monaco or the history of Monza, COTA is a hidden jewel in the Formula One calendar. One of my favourites, COTA takes inspiration from several Formula One tracks and provides great racing on the wide circuit while remaining a demanding challenge for the drivers.
Looking down the grid, Toro Rosso have drafted in Brendon Hartley to replace Pierre Gasly at Austin as the Frenchman is set to take part in the final race of Japan’s Super Formula. The appointment of the 2015 World Endurance Champion puts a smile on my face as his switch from Sportscars to Formula One is the same move I did back in 1991 and a trend that has vanished since the 90’s.
Hartley’s opportunity to make his F1 debut transpired through Carlos Sainz’s “loan move” from Toro Rosso to Renault, with Austin marking his first race with the French manufacturer. A skilful driver, who has often been overlooked in his career, has finally been given a star role in Formula One and with Jolyon Palmer’s boots to fill, I am confident the Spaniard can hit the ground running with Renault.
My predictions for the weekend only point to one outcome, another Mercedes victory with Lewis at the forefront of the team. Ferrari have a huge challenge on their hands and will be reliant on Mercedes replicating their failures in they are to get back in the title fight – a result a highly doubt with Mercedes only finishing outside of the points once out of 34 attempts this year.