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F1 Preview: The US Grand Prix

October 18, 2016

- Grant Whittington

Did Nico Rosberg make the decisive move in the title race following his saunter to victory at the Japanese Grand Prix last Sunday? The German has now opened up a 33 point at the top of the standings and Mercedes associate Lewis Hamilton is rapidly running out of time as only a mere four races remain before the best driver on the planet is crowned.

With the finishing line in tantalising reach, this will surely be Rosberg’s greatest shot at glory. Nerves will undoubtedly become a factor as the enormity of the situation continues to heighten, but the current leader must oppress his inner emotions and abide by the ageless adage and ‘take it one race at a time’.

The pendulum swings to the United States of America (USA) this weekend as drivers launch a fast flowing assault on the Austin circuit with its variety of corner types and unique wide zenith on the crest of the hill at turn one allowing a plethora of opportunity for overtaking. Hamilton needs to urgently rediscover the form he displayed earlier in the campaign when he clawed back 32 points in the four races from Monaco to Austria.

This two-car race is now a battle of impetus versus experience and a test of conviction against belief. The British driver has dominated the American circuit winning four of the last five meetings, including the last two on the purpose-built track named Circuit of the Americas. If there is going to be a twist in the tale, it has to be now.

A win for Hamilton will create a seed of scepticism in the mind of Rosberg and then anything is possible. Even though Rosberg has considerably enhanced his racecraft, he is still prone to a dreadful race – his seventh place finish in Monaco was his worst result there since 2011.

Hamilton needs to start asking questions of his rival and if the reigning world champion can take the championship to the final day, history will be firmly stacked in his favour. He has already appeared in five final-race deciders and seems to thrive when the pressure is at its most intense, as evidenced two years ago when he ousted Rosberg in Abu Dhabi to clinch the second of his Formula One (F1) world titles.

Other than Hamilton, only Sebastian Vettel has emerged triumphant in Austin since it became a permanent fixture on the F1 calendar in 2012. I expect Austin to be a straight shootout between the Mercedes pair, but Hamilton must focus solely on his own performance if he is going to secure a crucial 25 point haul and pull himself back into contention.

This means eradicating his dreadful starts, engine failures and straying away from becoming entangled in media controversy. Both Hamilton and Rosberg can be backed at 6/5 with Ladbrokes, with Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardio the next best priced at 12/1 as he looks to build on his second place finish in Sakura.

The past reminds us that F1 has an aura of unpredictability like no other and is never over until it’s over. Roll on Austin.

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