Whilst it’s never over until it’s over, we are in the final stages of this year’s F1 World Championship and it will be a huge surprise if Lewis Hamilton doesn’t join Juan Manuel Fangio by taking a fifth world title, just two behind the legendary Michael Schumacher.
Hamilton’s success in Japan, where he took pole and then led from the start to the chequered flag, was always going to put him closer to the title, but Vettel’s relative failings – he finished only sixth – have almost handed the title to him.
Hamilton will take the title this weekend – and he is now just a 1/500 shot to do so with Star Sports – if he wins and Sebastian Vettel is third or lower, or:
It’s no surprise that Ladbrokes offer just 11/8 on him to win the world title this weekend.
He’s generally odds-on – you can get just 10/19 with MansionBet – to take a victory in Texas this weekend, which is not a surprise given his record at the track.
There have been six grands prix held at the Circuit Of The Americas, and the Briton has won five, including four on the bounce between 2014 and 2017 – and the 2012 edition, his last win for McLaren.
Hamilton has also won the last four races, with the performance advantage that Mercedes have had for the last four seasons evident at some point in all those successes, and that has taken pressure off Mercedes’ tactical decisions, an area where Ferrari have been struggling.
Perhaps their biggest blunder of the late season run-in was the decision to send both Vettel and team-mate Kimi Raikkonen out on 'intermediate' tyres at the start of qualifying when the track was dry, after which Vettel ran wide at Spoon Curve on his one lap in dry conditions.
That put him eighth on the grid, a mountain to climb, and whilst he made a rapid start and was fourth on the first lap after team-mate Raikkonen and Max Verstappen became entangled; But on lap eight he tried to pass Verstappen on the spoon, a high-speed and limited braking corner, and the ensuing collision ended any serious chances of threatening the podium.
The 8/11 on Mercedes getting both cars on the podium (offered by Ladbrokes again) actually looks fair given their car’s performance, with Valteri Bottas having been consistently excellent in support of Hamilton, but the same firm also offers 5/4 on Force India having two cars in the top ten.
This has been a consistently recommended bet on these pages, but it has worked perfectly well on many occasions and once again they took a double point finish last weekend, with Sergio Perez seventh and Esteban Ocon ninth at Suszuka.
They were ninth and tenth in Russia and it’s impressive that Force India have 43 points given that they were stripped of their points following a mid-season purchase to save 400 jobs.
Before then, they were sixth in the Constructors' Championship standings with 59 points, just seven behind fifth-place Haas F1 Team, and more often than not they’ve been the most reliable mid table team – and one of the best performing.
5/4 on them both making the top ten looks more attractive than the myriad of short priced options relating to the championship leaders, with Hamilton now correctly priced by bookmakers who almost see him as a racing certainty.
This is a lap with a lot of contrasts; The top speed is over 200mph but there are several slow corners which will push many towards a maximum downforce setup.
One of the most demanding corners is the very first bend, as the track climbs steely uphill on the approach, but the corner itself is basically level with the rest of the country.
Lap length: 5.513km (3.426 miles)
Race laps: 56
Race distance: 308.728km (191.835 miles)
Pole position: Right-hand side of the track
Lap record*: 1’39.347 (Sebastian Vettel, 2012)
Fastest lap: 1’34.999 (Lewis Hamilton, 2016, qualifying three)
Maximum speed: 333kph (206.917 mph)
DRS zone/s (race): First and second straight
Distance from grid to turn one: 364m
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