Formula 1 heads across the pond this weekend for what could be the race that decides the fate of the 2018 championship, the US Grand Prix in Austin, Texas.
After a run of six wins in the last seven, Lewis Hamilton needs to score eight points more than nearest challenger Sebastian Vettel to be crowned for a fifth time and perhaps there could be no better place than the Circuit of the Americas to achieve it.
About the race
While the US GP has a long history in F1 at a number of venues ranging from Watkins Glen to street circuits in Detroit and Las Vegas and even an eight-year stint at Indianapolis, the race at Austin is relatively new having first joined the calendar in 2012.
The first circuit purpose-built for the sport, its challenging layout – which takes inspiration from other racetracks around the world – has become a favourite both for the drivers and the fans.
The first sector sees the steep climb to a hairpin at Turn 1 which always sees action at the start and throughout, then a series of sweeping corners follow in a homage to the Maggotts and Becketts sequence at Silverstone. A long back straight sees the main overtaking area into the tight Turn 12 before the technical sector with a number of slow corners leading into the long right-hander which resembles Istanbul’s Turn 8.
Over the years, there have been some great battles for victory too, including the first race when Hamilton and Vettel went head-to-head with the Briton coming out on top in a fight that was then between a McLaren and a Red Bull. Since 2014, however, Lewis has simply dominated at COTA winning every year and even securing his third world title in 2015 in a rain-hit weekend after a late mistake by his then-Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg.
Can anyone stop him this weekend? Here’s our picks for you to consider.
Top driver picks
Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes ($31.3m)
Well, to answer that previous question, the simple answer is “no” as based on recent results Vettel and Ferrari simply don’t have the pace to stay on terms with the apparent champion in waiting. The Briton is simply in the form of his life and anyone other than Hamilton taking the checkered flag on Sunday would be a big surprise.
Daniel Ricciardo, Red Bull ($19.6m)
Maybe a strange choice based on recent results but Ricciardo is another who loves Austin and the COTA layout provides the Australian with the perfect platform to show off his overtaking skills. A strong race to fourth in Japan will have also re-installed some confidence in the Red Bull driver so don’t be surprised if he stands on the podium on Sunday.
Esteban Ocon, Force India ($9.6m)
Nowadays, Ocon is a must-have for any fantasy team as his consistency in a car which is now regularly fighting for the top midfield positions makes him great value for less than $10m.
Worst driver picks:
Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari ($28.4m)
Right now, very little seems to be going right for Vettel as his championship hopes collapse and once again small errors both by his Ferrari team and himself are costing him at key moments. While he’s not a terrible driver to have on your fantasy team, right now there are enough alternatives that it’s worth going for Hamilton and including cheaper drivers like Charles Leclerc and Romain Grosjean.
With teammate Kimi Raikkonen unwilling to help and the prospect of rain this weekend too, everything just appears to be stacking up against the German to score the win.
Nico Hulkenberg, Renault ($10.3m)
As the season enters its closing stages, Renault are struggling for results and that is highlighted by Hulkenberg only scoring a single point in the past six races. COTA is unlikely to offer any more hope for the team either due to the number of high-speed corners and straights so only the McLaren’s and Williams’ could really offer less in terms of points potential than the ‘Hulk’.
Top team pick
Though Mercedes is the team to beat right now, spending a third of your total fantasy budget on them appears a little much and that is why Ferrari continue as our team pick with their ability to challenge for podiums at every race, even if stopping Hamilton is proving much easier said than done right now.
That’s all for our picks and preview for the United States Grand Prix, now all you need to do is pick your team and play.