Four points is all Lewis Hamilton needs to claim his sixth Formula One driver’s title in Austin, Texas, this evening.
Following a calculated and strategic drive to victory in Mexico last weekend, which extended his points tally to 363, the reigning champion has all but staked a claim on the crown as the US round is a must-win race for his Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas, who has 289 points, if he wants to keep his title aspirations alive.
If successful, Hamilton’s sixth championship will move him up to just one behind Michael Schumacher’s record of seven.
The Briton already holds the record for the most wins in the US – six. Hamilton has won 10 races this season and is just one short of his previous record haul for one season – 11 – which he managed in 2014 and last year.
While the battle for the top two positions in the championship might well be over, the battle for third is incredibly close.
Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc (236) is ahead of team-mate and four-time champion Sebastian Vettel (230) by six points. Max Verstappen sits only 10 points further back on 220.
Set in the heart of Texas, the Circuit of the Americas has hosted seven previous grands prix and was the scene of Hamilton’s third title win in 2015. With corners emulating tracks such as Silverstone, the circuit has become a favourite among fans and drivers.
Qualifying for this race is particularly important as the previous seven races saw one of the two cars in the front row take the checkered flag.
Last year’s event belonged to Kimi Räikkönen, who took his first victory for Ferrari since 2009, with Verstappen pipping Hamilton to second place on the podium.
This year’s affair could follow a similar picture. Ferrari’s power advantage down the track’s two long straights will further their chances of taking seven pole positions in a row, Mercedes’ resolute strategy decisions will serve as their best chance to win.
It’s those exact strategy calls that won them the race in Mexico – a gamble to pit for the harder tyre paid off handsomely for the German team as they were able to usurp the Ferrari pair for the lead.
Race day is still a thorn in Ferrari’s side as the team has taken pole position at the past six races, but only converted that to victory in three of them.
It’s to that end that Vettel is remaining cautious about their chances today.
“Austin is a very different proposition to the high altitude of Mexico,” he said.
“The Circuit of the Americas is an exciting track, with a wide range of cornering speeds and lots of changes of direction. It’s quite bumpy, particularly in the big braking zones, so it’s easy to lock wheels there. The strategy choice is quite open, with both one-stop and two-stop plans looking possible.”
For Red Bull, they’ve nothing to lose and everything to gain.
“Our car should hopefully be pretty competitive here,” Verstappen said. “We had a fun race last year coming from the back through to the podium. A lot is possible on this track as there are so many good overtaking opportunities, which makes things interesting in the race.”
Find out if Hamilton will secure his sixth world title this evening at 9.10pm.