FORM GUIDE: The favourites for pole, points and victory in the United States
Lewis Hamilton is odds-on to take his sixth drivers' title this weekend, but who is favourite to win the 2019 United States GP at Circuit of The Americas?
Who's the top tip for pole?
Austin is Mercedes country when it comes to the fight for pole – and it’s Lewis Hamilton who has reigned supreme around the Circuit of The Americas for the last three Grands Prix – with his former team mate and 2016 champion Nico Rosberg taking the two poles for Mercedes before that.
Case closed, then. Mercedes have it in the bag. Right? Right…
Cue a twist in the tale. Ferrari just locked out their record 65th front-row in the Mexican Grand Prix, thanks to Max Verstappen’s penalty, and the Scuderia thus managed to make it six pole positions in a row for the first time since 1974.
Ferrari’s commanding form on Saturdays since the summer break means that Mercedes stand a huge chance of being dethroned this year. The Prancing Horse’s last US GP pole position came in 2006 – when Michael Schumacher led a front-row lockout for the Scuderia ahead of Brazilian Felipe Massa.
The challenges of COTA should suit all three front-runners, but Ferrari will excel on the vertiginous lead-up to Turn 1 and the DRS-kissed straight from Turns 11-12. Top speed is their forte after all.
The high-downforce requirements of those sectors should suit Red Bull and Mercedes, but Ferrari have been superb in every area recently, having aced the esses of Suzuka’s first sector, for example. And if Charles Leclerc or Sebastian Vettel do lose a couple of hundredths in the slower corners, they’ll pull away on COTA’s straights like it’s nobody’s business.
A pole position is on the cards for them once again, and if Ferrari do so it’ll be their seventh in a row, equalling a record for the team that was achieved between the 2000 Italian GP and the 2001 Brazilian GP.
FAN VIEW: The most competitive F1 Play category is fastest race lap. Lewis Hamilton is the pick of 29% of gamers but Charles Leclerc, who took the accolade in Mexico, is close behind with 28% predicting another purple lap from the Ferrari man.
Who’s looking good for the win?
Last time out it was Lewis Hamilton who upset the form guide (and yours truly) by winning in Mexico for the first time since 2016. On current form and the records books, he has to be favourite, even accounting for all we said about Ferrari above.
As for the championship, Hamilton needs to finish eighth or better to clinch a sixth title. And the Briton has never finished worse than fourth in the United States… If he does seal the crown here, it'll be the eighth time a driver has done so on US soil.
Interestingly, second on the grid that is statistically a great place to start, with half the winners at COTA coming from P2. Worryingly for whoever starts on the second row or further back, nobody has managed to win in Austin from below P2.
FAN VIEW: Romain Grosjean has finished five of the last six races but F1 Play gamers still see him as the favourite to be the first race retirement in Austin. One in four entrants have selected the Haas veteran to be first out, more than any other driver.
Who’s a podium outsider?
Max Verstappen’s first podium at COTA came last year, and the Dutchman – voted Driver of the Day in Mexico – wasn’t exactly satisfied with finishing sixth in Mexico. He’ll be hoping for an immediate response and the Red Bull RB15 should lap up the low-downforce sectors.
Alex Albon remains without a podium since joining Red Bull before Belgium, but the rookie-of-the-year contender has excelled since, having finished in the top six in every race for his new team and outscoring his team mate in the last two races.
FAN VIEW: Eighth place in Austin would guarantee Lewis Hamilton a sixth world title but F1 Play gamers make him a clear favourite to win the race on Sunday. More than half have picked the champion-elect to take an 11th victory of 2019 and retain the crown in style.
Who’ll hoover up any points on offer?
Sergio Perez was fastest of the midfield in Mexico, but he’ll have tough competition from the Toro Rosso pair who took double points in Japan and nearly did so again in Mexico – until Daniil Kvyat’s clumsy last-lap move on Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg. With Renault and Toro Rosso in the hunt for fifth in the constructors’ championship, expect them to be up there in the top 10.
As for McLaren’s Carlos Sainz, who finished sixth and fifth in the two GPs before Mexico, he'll be a handful for the rest of the midfield to deal with.
FAN VIEW: F1 Play gamers are retaining faith in Carlos Sainz despite a nightmare outing in Mexico. Sainz failed to score on Sunday but is trusted by more than half of entrants to win his group which features McLaren team-mate Lando Norris, Sergio Perez, Pierre Gasly, Kimi Raikkonen and the two Renaults.