The big news going into the USA grand prix this weekend is the surprise news that Nico Hulkenburg has jumped ship from Force India to Renault. It caught the paddock by surprise, but when you actually think about it, it makes logical sense. Hulkenburg is in my view the best of the drivers available for next year and it’s a real coup for Renault to get the German. It’s a chance for him to show what he can do in a factory seat for next year and while there are some doubts on how competitive Renault will be next year, they will improve and I think Hulkenburg is the right fit.
We are in the home stretch in this year’s championship with only four more races left. Three in the Americas followed by the season closer at Abu Dhabi. Texas this weekend is a typical modern Formula One track with some interesting corners in it. The steep run up to the first corner and snake like curves of sector one spring to mind. It’s also a track that Lewis Hamilton has made is own with three wins over the last four years. The American fans love him and he is going to need every bit of support to help him over come the trials of the last couple of races to propel him to a win here in Austin.
Hamilton must win if he wants to try and win a third title on the trot. His teammate, Nico Rosberg has a 33-point lead at the moment and is driving very well. If Hamilton is unable to raise his game and not beat Rosberg at the track he usually excels at, then I think that’s it for this year’s championship for the Britain.
Even if Hamilton should win, he also needs Ferrari and Red Bull to be strong to hopefully get in between him and his teammate to take points away from Rosberg. However I think that’s unlikely. This is a track that suits Mercedes and unless Rosberg has a mechanical failure or a crash with another car, then at worse the German should finish second to Hamilton.
The good news is that with Mercedes having wrapped up the constructors title I think they will let their driver’s race with perhaps more freedom than usual.
This race produced quite a few lead changes last year and it is possible to overtake, so the racing should be good. Pirelli also bring the super soft tyre for the first time here so we should also see some variations in strategy amongst the teams. That’s always a good thing in my book as we often see a team or two take more risks that could pay off in a big way in the race.
Could perhaps Ferrari or Red Bull spring a surprise with some inspired choices? Well I think that’s the only chance they will have if they want to cause an upset as they won’t have the pace of Mercedes here. However I am looking forward to seeing how Ferrari goes. In Suzuka they were surprisingly fast and I’m keen to see if that was a flash in the pan or if they have genuinely found improvements in their car.
Austin has quickly become a classic on the calendar with an incredible atmosphere due their passionate fans. It’s great to see Texas embracing F1 and the event has become one of the best on the calendar.