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Hamilton to again leapfrog Verstappen in title fight? - What to expect at the USGP

Hamilton to again leapfrog Verstappen in title fight? - What to expect at the USGP

F1 News

Hamilton to again leapfrog Verstappen in title fight? - What to expect at the USGP

Hamilton to again leapfrog Verstappen in title fight? - What to expect at the USGP

F1 makes a welcome return to America for the United States Grand Prix in Austin this weekend as the F1 championship battle intensifies entering the final quarter of the season.

Max Verstappen takes a six-point lead into the event at the Circuit of the Americas knowing rival Lewis Hamilton has a strong record at the circuit with five wins since the track joined the calendar in 2012.

With the 'second drivers' at Red Bull and Mercedes finding form and the race for third in the constructors' championship also yoyoing, here is what to expect at the US GP.

Mercedes to take the advantage

Mercedes has been on the front foot pace-wise since the thrashing handed out by Red Bull and Max Verstappen at Zandvoort.

A front-row lockout at Monza was turned upside down by Hamilton's poor sprint start, while a grid penalty for Valtteri Bottas allowed McLaren to take victory. In Russia, the pace continued as Hamilton sealed his 100th F1 win.

In Turkey, there was a gulf in class between the two teams as Bottas sauntered to victory, although Red Bull limited any damage to three points courtesy of a double podium.

With both teams hoping to avoid further engine changes and grid penalties, the result of qualifying should be largely reflected on the grid and if history is anything to go by, Red Bull has its work cut out.

With Hamilton upfront with Bottas, it is hard to see any scenario in which the team allows the Finn to finish ahead of the seven-time champion. The USGP could yet see another change at the top of the championship order.

Bottas and Perez form improving at the perfect time

Both Bottas and Sergio Perez have blown hot and cold this year, with strong results often followed by races that leave you wondering if the pair share the same machinery as their championship-contending team-mates.

With the tightness of the battle between Verstappen and Hamilton up front, there is no hiding the vital role Perez and Bottas will play in deciding the destination of the constructors' title.

Bottas is currently the differentiator, sitting third in the drivers' standings, 42 points ahead of the Mexican, and whilst it is not beyond the realms of possibility that Perez can claw that back, the Mercedes driver is in his best form for well over a year.

A Bottas podium is highly likely this weekend.

McLaren to bounce back

Turkey was not a good weekend for McLaren, with the car looking devoid of pace compared to its rivals for third in the standings, Ferrari.

The gap between the two outfits was cut to just seven and a half points as Daniel Ricciardo failed to emulate Carlos Sainz's charge from the back of the field.

COTA should suit the MCL35M much better though, and with Ricciardo's affiliation to Texas and the USA, a sense of comfort should fall over the Australian with points surely to follow.

The big battle will, however, be between Lando Norris and Charles Leclerc. Norris has arguably been the driver of the season but with Leclerc finding qualifying pace to spare recently, the challenge is not over.

A clean weekend should see McLaren on top, but the battle for third is far from over and Ferrari can never be written off.

Haas homecoming to show importance of US market

The team may be stuck at the back of the grid, but Haas will have extra eyes on them this weekend.

The only American-owned team in F1 will bring an added boost to the US fans at the circuit at a time where the sport is going all-in on boosting its profile Stateside.

As team principal Guenther Steiner attested to ahead of the event, 'Haas Hill' is sold out, with a certain sense of endearment no doubt pointed at Mick Schumacher and not just because of his stellar qualifying run in Turkey last time out.

The Schumacher family owns a ranch in Texas and the German hinted he would have been spending time there in the run-up to the race.

Whilst a positive result is virtually off the cards, it is a fantastic opportunity to showcase the support the US can give to F1.

Will bumps play a part?

When MotoGP raced at COTA earlier this month, the circuit came under fire for a "dangerous" track surface laden with harsh bumps.

This is a common occurrence at the venue with the underlying soil constantly moving, causing manipulation of the surface built above.

The circuit had already been resurfaced in areas following F1's last visit in 2019, yet the MotoGP riders remained critical of the first sector of the race track.

The FIA confirmed bumps would be smoothed out ahead of the US Grand Prix although it remains to be seen if these will be completely smooth or just reduced.

What we don't want to see, of course, are suspension failures due to extreme oscillations coming from the track surface. We will see just how well improved the track is in practice on Friday.

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