Today is Christmas for Formula 1 fans in America, as the sport continues its long association with Circuit of the Americas with today’s United States Grand Prix. The 18th round of the 21-race 2018 season also marks the 40th USGP to count towards the World Championship, as well as the 48th USGP overall (counting events prior to the establishment of F1).
Today’s race could be history in the making, as Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton looks to become the first driver to mathematically clinch the World Driver’s Championship on American soil since Niki Lauda did so at Watkins Glen in 1977. As you’re watching out for that, here’s everything you’ll want to focus on during the 56-lap race:
Is there any realistic scenario today where Lewis Hamilton doesn’t clinch the title?
We said “realistic,” not “mathematical.” (There are a bunch of those.) But with Hamilton having won five of the first six F1 races at COTA, and qualifying on the pole for this one, it’s going to take something completely unexpected to take him out of first. And don’t necessarily expect that to come from main championship rival Sebastian Vettel. He needs to finish second to keep the fight going, and was second fastest in qualifying, but starts fifth after failing to slow down enough for a red flag in practice.
How invested are you in the “other” World Drivers’ Championship?
Behind the Mercedes, Ferrari, and Red Bull drivers is one of the most compelling points battles imaginable in modern racing. Sergio Perez, Kevin Magnussen, and Nico Hulkenberg are tied at 53 points each, with Fernando Alonso just behind them at 50 and Esteban Ocon at 49. Ocon and Hulkenberg start sixth and seventh, respectively, as the best of the group, while Perez also joined them in the final round of qualifying and starts 10th. Magnussen, who races for the American-led Haas F1 Team, rolls off 12th.
If you’re not in Austin, are you regretting not buying a ticket to see Fernando Alonso?
The news finally came down this week that McLaren won’t make a full-time move into IndyCar for 2019. Alonso cited the amount of effort it would take to immediately adjust to the new series as a reason that the move was never realistic, but it has to be a letdown to fans who were hoping to see him race at COTA as IndyCar debuts there next April. While his plans for next season are up in the air, this will be American F1 fans’ final opportunity to see him compete on their home soil in the championship.