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Will Lewis Hamilton secure his fifth world title in Austin? United States Grand Prix 2018 preview

Luke Slater
Lewis Hamilton will be looking to secure his fifth world drivers' title in Austin this weekend - Getty Images North America

The 2018 season is now in its final run of four rounds. In an action-packed and breathless year it seems fitting that we have four races in the final six weeks, although perhaps not everyone involved will agree with such a hectic schedule. Unfortunately the chances of the championship being alive for much longer are very, very slim.

Still, as we head to the United States Grand Prix the fight still alive, just. But can Lewis Hamilton add another title to his name with another win in America? Or can Vettel pull a surprise and delay Hamilton's celebrations. 

The final nail in the coffin of Vettel's title hopes?

Lewis Hamilton has been absolutely relentless since his victory at the German Grand Prix in July. It doesn't look good for Sebastian Vettel to even extend his small mathematical chances until the Mexican Grand Prix next week.  

This, of course, is a shame as only a few months ago we had a championship that looked incredibly tight and one that appeared to be going down to the wire. But here we are.

Sebastian Vettel's title chances have taken a fair few hits in recent rounds Credit: getty images

Hamilton stands on the verge of matching Fangio and the title is all but his. Not that Mercedes are counting their chickens. Since Singapore Mercedes have enjoyed a comfortable pace advantage over Ferrari and have scored 1-2s in Russia and Japan. Another Hamilton led 1-2 for the Silver Arrows here and it will all be over and Hamilton will have matched Juan Manuel Fangio's five titles. It probably looks the most likely outcome. 

Hamilton unbeatable at the Circuit of the Americas?

Another obstacle Vettel has to overcome if he wants to extend his title fight is the fact that Hamilton is the master of the Circuit of the Americas. Admittedly, Mercedes have had the quickest car since 2014 - from when Hamilton remains unbeaten here - but he still had to beat team-mates Nico Rosberg and Valtteri Bottas but he also won here for McLaren in 2012. 

In short: four wins in four and five in the last six at COTA makes beating Hamilton a daunting prospect for anyone. Vettel has shown an increasingly aggressive approach in recent weekends, knowing his title chances were slipping away.

It's not impossible that the German can win the race here - he is the only man other than Hamilton to triumph at COTA - and with rain forecast for Saturday's qualifying it could make things interesting. That said, Hamilton has been supreme in wet qualifying and races whereas Ferrari have struggled, so it could be a repeat of earlier rounds. 

Kerb your enthusiasm

Max Verstappen has taken a fair few penalties from the FIA in the last year or so Credit: getty images

Max Verstappen is clearly one of the most entertaining and exciting drivers on the grid. But he does get himself involved in a fair amount of incidents, whether on his own (see the start of the season) or with other drivers and the FIA (see the last few races).

At least year's US GP Verstappen was racing Kimi Raikkonen for the final podium position in the closing stages of the race. And he looked to have got third with a brave move down the inside of turns 16 and 17. Only the FIA didn't see it that way, as all four wheels were off the track and he in effect cut the corner to take the position. Cue embarrassment and confusion in the post-race cooldown room as Verstappen was eventually stripped of his third place. 

Anyway, this year the FIA have planned to put a stop to Max - or anyone else - trying a similar move at that part of the track, installing a potentially car-damaging "sausage kerb" on the inside of the apex. I'm sure that won't stop everyone, mind. 

Weather watch: the never-ending qualifying session all over again?

Even before the F1 circus rolled into town this week there was plenty of rain about in Austin and some access tunnels were flooded at the track. The forecast does not look too fantastic (well, I actually quite like a bit of rain...) this weekend, either. Wet weather is expected, or at least looks likely, all day on Friday (about a 60 per cent chance throughout the day) and on Saturday, where it is a little more likely but could be lighter. 

The 2015 US GP qualifying was a damp one Credit: ap

Whilst a wet practice session with little running is one of the worst things about F1, a wet qualifying is one of the best things. If the conditions are good enough for the cars to run, that is. This was not the case in 2015 when heavy rain delayed qualifying for hours and hours before it was ultimately rescheduled to Sunday morning.

The undulating nature of COTA can lead to river-like conditions in some places but let's hope we avoid that this year.  Still, with rain looking very likely on Saturday we at least might get some cars on track in practice and an exciting qualifying. 

Hartley's returns to a happy place as he fights for his future

Brendon Hartley returns to the scene of his first F1 race Credit: getty images

Brendon Hartley's first year in F1 has been a little troubled, to say the least. The likable Kiwi has struggled against his very talented team-mate Pierre Gasly but he has also endured plenty of bad luck. Still, he admits returning to the place where he made his debut last year is something to smile about.

He is under immense pressure to keep his seat at Toro Rosso, even though he is under contract for next year, but he is at least returning to a track where he has driven an F1 car before. His excellent qualifying in Japan two weeks ago should also give him some confidence here, even if the race didn't pan out the way he wanted it to.