20 of the world’s best racing drivers make their annual visit to Circuit of the Americas this weekend for the Formula 1 United States Grand Prix, the 18th of 21 rounds on this year’s F1 calendar. Continuing to add to the series’ rich history in the United States, which has seen the series run everywhere from the challenging Watkins Glen International to the iconic Indianapolis Motor Speedway, this will be the 40th time that the USGP has been a points-paying round in the World Championship.
Between a championship race that might be coming to an end on American soil and an incredibly close battle between the sport’s mid-pack teams, there’s plenty to watch for this weekend. Expect these three names to dominate the storylines from the start of free practice to after the checkered flag falls:
Winner of five of the first six F1 rounds at COTA, Hamilton has the ability to lock up the 2018 World Drivers’ Championship with three races to spare this weekend. A finishing spot anywhere in the top six, plus Sebastian Vettel losing just a few more points, will clinch Hamilton’s fifth career title. If he wins another event in Austin, which would be the 72nd victory of his career, Vettel would have to finish second just to keep his title hopes alive by a single point in Mexico.
The last remaining championship eligible driver behind Hamilton, Vettel’s fight to beat Hamilton to five career F1 titles has taken a number of hits over the past few months. After losing the points lead due to a DNF in his home race in Germany, he’s faced setback after setback—most notably, wing damage in Italy after contact with Hamilton, and a nightmarish Japanese outing where poor tire strategy in qualifying left him ninth and contact with Max Verstappen dropped him to sixth at the finish.
Haas F1 Team may not have an American driver, but the only American team on the F1 grid has a chance at “best of the rest” status in the World Constructors’ Championship behind Mercedes, Ferrari, and Red Bull. That hinges mostly on Magnussen, who is part of a three-way tie for seventh in points with Sergio Perez and Nico Hulkenberg. With top-10 finishes in nine of the 17 races so far this season, including top-fives in Bahrain and Austria, he’s on pace for his best points finish since leaving McLaren.