Formula 1 says howdy to Austin this weekend as we enter the first potentially championship deciding race of the 2017 season. From driver merry-go-rounds to the sport being turned pink, there’s plenty going on at the U.S. Grand Prix over the next few days. The race is live on Sunday evening on both Channel 4 and Sky, so there’s no excuses for not watching!
Here’s why you should tune in!
Title Number 4 for Hamilton?
And what better track to seal the deal at than one where Lewis has impeccable form. Hamilton’s form is so good at the Circuit Of The Americas that only one other driver has ever won here, and that was Sebastian Vettel while on his dominant streak of nine consecutive race wins in 2013. Lewis has taken the title here before, in 2015 after Nico Rosberg was blown off course by a gust of wind.
Lewis will win the title this weekend if he wins and Sebastian finishes sixth or lower. He’ll also be crowned champion if he finishes second and Vettel finishes ninth or lower – providing Bottas doesn’t win the race.
Sainz in Yellow
Last time out in Japan, Renault were overtaken by Haas in the Constructors’ Championship. The French team will be doing all they can to ruin Haas’ home race party this weekend, and they have a new weapon to use against them. Step forward Carlos Sainz in yellow. The Spaniard joins Renault this weekend after almost three seasons with Toro Rosso. All eyes will be on the battle between Sainz and his new team-mate Nico Hulkenberg in Qualifying, as we see how the pair shape up in equal machinery for the first time. Expect Hulkenberg to have the edge this weekend though, as Sainz will still be getting to grips with his new machinery.
The Toro Rosso Hokey Cokey
For the first time since 1994, a team changes their entire driver line-up in between races. It’s a complete change at Toro Rosso, where Daniil Kvyat returns to F1 to take Sainz’s vacated seat and Brendon Hartley steps in to replace Pierre Gasly, who is in Japan attempting to win the Super Formula Championship.
The pressure will be on Kvyat to perform well against the New Zealander, who hasn’t turned the wheel of a Formula One car since 2012. Hartley is well qualified for the role, nevertheless. Having previously been a member of Red Bull’s junior team until 2010, Hartley has gone on to have a stellar career in the World Endurance Championship, winning the series in 2015 alongside former Red Bull recruit Mark Webber. The reigning Le Mans champion will become the first driver from New Zealand to compete in F1 since Mike Thackwell in 1984.
Are Red Bull really back?
Red Bull are a team on the move up the grid recently. Their impressive increase in pace has seen them take two double podium finishes in the last two races. Will their pace be as evident at COTA? They’ve been quick in the past here – they challenged for the lead on a soggy Sunday afternoon in 2015 – could we see Max Verstappen make it three races in a row where he is in contention for the win until the very end of the Grand Prix?
Daniel Ricciardo has said he may bring a more streamlined, Texas-special styled beard to the US Grand Prix, so be on the look out for that too!
Something a little bit different
It’s going to be a slightly different weekend in Texas. Liberty Media are keen to emphasise the entertainment side of the sport, especially with the American audience, and we’ll see the results of that this weekend. To entice track-side fans to a Justin Timberlake concert at the track on Saturday evening, there’ll be an unusual gap of four hours between Third Practice and Qualifying (which will be handy if anyone has a car-wrecking crash in FP3). Furthermore, the drivers will be heading to the grid fifteen minutes earlier than they usually do on Sunday to allow extra time for what is being billed as an ‘opening ceremony’. We’re not quite sure how extravagant it’s going to be, but legendary boxing announcer Michael Buffer will be announcing the drivers to the grid just before the National Anthem plays out, Stevie Wonder will be performing on the grid, and Usain Bolt will be signalling the start of the formation lap.
Racing for the Cure
This weekend Formula One teams up with Susan G. Komen, and will be turning the sport pink in aid of Breast Cancer Awareness Month. The ‘Driving For the Cure’ campaign will see some of the usual features of an F1 weekend coloured more brightly. The pit-lane will be painted pink, while Cyril Abiteboul says the Renaults will be ‘designed with some special, pink features’. Pirelli will also be changing the colour of their Ultra Soft tyres from purple to, you guessed it, pink. It will be great to see the racing community come together for a worthwhile cause.
Whether we crown the 2017 champion this weekend or not, the 2017 U.S. Grand Prix looks set to be one to remember! Here’s your TV times, get the full season here.