US GP: Things to look out for and what we'll be talking about
Will both world titles be settled? Have Ferrari fixed their reliability? All change at Toro Rosso as Sainz makes Renault debut
By Jonathan Green
Last Updated: 20/10/17 10:04pm
Hamilton and Mercedes to wrap up titles?
Lewis Hamilton will have his first opportunity to clinch the 2017 Drivers' Championship this weekend. The Briton, holding a 59-point lead, will claim his fourth world title provided he outscores Sebastian Vettel by 16 points and team-mate Valtteri Bottas by three points.
But that means Hamilton can only be champion if he finishes in the top two on Sunday. Should he win the race, he will take the title provided Vettel finishes sixth of lower. If he finishes second, he will be champion if Vettel is ninth or lower and Bottas fails to win. Should Hamilton finish third, the title race will be extended to Mexico.
Drivers' Championship title permutations
|Result||Hamilton will be champion if...|
|Hamilton wins||Vettel sixth or lower|
|Hamilton second||Vettel ninth or lower and Bottas doesn't win|
|Hamilton third or lower||Title race goes to Mexico|
With an imperious record in Austin, Hamilton will be confident of holding up his end of the bargain. He has won four of the five Grands Prix to be held at the Circuit of the Americas, including the last three.
But Vettel was victorious in 2013 while he has finished third and fourth the past two years with Ferrari. His worst result was seventh in 2014 in his final year with Red Bull. It's a record which points towards the title race being extended by at least another week.
Constructors' Championship - the top three
But if Hamilton only has an outside chance of being crowned champion this Sunday, it is likely that Mercedes will wrap up their fourth consecutive Constructors' Championship.
The Silver Arrows hold a 145-point advantage over Ferrari and the Scuderia must outscore their rivals by 17 points to remain in mathematical contention until Mexico.
Mercedes will be certain of the title if either Hamilton or Bottas wins the race.
Or will Ferrari resolve their reliability woes?
If Mercedes are to be stopped, Ferrari will need to overcome the issues which saw their title bids implode in Asia. Four engine problems over the last two race weekends, coupled with Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen taking each other out on the opening lap in Singapore, have gifted Hamilton and Mercedes their healthy advantages.
When's the United States GP on Sky?
All the ways to watch the action from Austin as Lewis Hamilton goes for his fourth world title.
The latest issue to befall them, a faulty £52 spark plug which curtailed Vettel's race after just four laps at Suzuka, prompted Ferrari president Sergio Marchionne to take action, adding Maria Mendoza - an expert in metals and chemicals - to their quality control department.
But will it be a case of too little, too late or can Austin spark the most unlikely of comebacks for Vettel?
Will Sainz match Hulkenberg on Renault debut?
Carlos Sainz will have his first taste of the Renault after joining the team four races early as a replacement for Jolyon Palmer and the question will be whether he can do what his predecessor failed to achieve and match Nico Hulkenberg over the course of a weekend.
Palmer failed to out-qualify Hulkenberg in any session this year and only finished ahead of the German on two occasions. But Sainz is one place and 14 points ahead of his new team-mate in the Drivers' Championship.
Hulkenberg is expecting a stiff test, describing Sainz as "a bit wild but certainly quick", while the Spaniard hopes to "hit the ground running".
But, as he says, "It's going to be difficult because [Nico] has been driving a car for 16 races that I haven't driven.
"It will take time to adapt to it. I would like to do it as soon as possible but I am convinced it will take a bit of time of adaptation. My target is to be on pace as quickly as possibly, but it doesn't come for free."
All change at Toro Rosso…again
Sainz's move to Renault means Toro Rosso will field their third different driver line-up of the season.
Daniil Kvyat is returning after a two-race "rest", but with Pierre Gasly - who had initially replaced the Russian - racing the Super Formula finale in Japan, Toro Rosso have had to draft in another driver.
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Former Red Bull junior Brendon Hartley has received the call, coming in from the World Endurance Championship. The Kiwi, who won this year's Le Mans 24 Hours, tested for Red Bull in 2008 before being their and Toro Rosso's reserve driver in 2009 and the first half of 2010.
However, he has not driven an F1 car since a young driver test for Mercedes in 2012 and has no experience of a hybrid-era car.
Toro Rosso's driver line-up in 2017
|Australia - Singapore||Carlos Sainz||Daniil Kvyat|
|Malyasia GP||Carlos Sainz||Pierre Gasly|
|Japanese GP||Carlos Sainz||Pierre Gasly|
|US GP||Daniil Kvyat||Brendon Hartley|
Hartley's call-up means Toro Rosso become the first team since Lotus in 1994 to field an entirely new driver line-up in consecutive Grands Prix within a season. And their hold on sixth place in the Constructors' Championship is also in doubt with Haas and Renault just nine and 10 points behind respectively.
Sainz had accounted for 48 of Toro Rosso's 52 points this season and the pressure will be on Kvyat to deliver an improved performance. While Gasly is expected to take one of the team's 2018 seats, Hartley has also emerged as a contender to replace Kvyat full-time next season.
"Let's get ready to rumble"
This weekend's pre-race build-up will get a unique overhaul with legendary boxing announcer Michael Buffer introducing each driver to the grid.
The title fight between Hamilton and Vettel may be fizzling out but Liberty Media hope Buffer's involvement will help raise excitement levels ahead of lights out.
"I've been involved in some of the biggest sporting events around the world and have introduced most of the greatest boxers of the modern era. Now is my time to introduce the world's finest racing drivers," Buffer said.
Will Buffer stick with his "Let's get ready to rumble!" catchphrase or does he have something new up his sleeve for Formula 1?
Austin goes pink
The two Force India cars will not be the only pink on show in Austin as Formula 1 "turns pink" for Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
Formula 1 has teamed up with breast cancer organisation Susan G Komen to raise funds and awareness of the fight against the disease.
The sport's organisers have a number of pink-themed plans in place, while Sky F1's coverage will have its own pink twinge as well.
SKY SPORTS F1'S UNITED STATES GP SCHEDULE
FRIDAY OCTOBER 20
3.45pm - US GP Practice One Build-up LIVE!
4pm - US GP Practice One LIVE!
7.45pm - US Practice Two Build-up LIVE!
8pm - US GP Practice Two LIVE!
10pm - Team Principals' Press Conference LIVE!
(Zak Brown, McLaren; Bob Fernley, Force India; Gene Haas, Haas; Toto Wolff, Mercedes)
10.50pm - The F1 Show LIVE!
SATURDAY OCTOBER 21
4.45pm - US GP Practice Three Build-up LIVE!
5pm - US GP Practice Three LIVE!
9pm - US GP Qualifying Build-up LIVE!
10pm - US GP Qualifying LIVE!
SUNDAY OCTOBER 22
6.30pm - US GP Track Parade LIVE!
7pm - US GP Pit Lane LIVE!
7.30pm - US GP Race Build-up LIVE!
8pm - THE UNITED STATES GRAND PRIX LIVE!
10.30pm - US GP Paddock LIVE!
Will Lewis Hamilton clinch his fourth world championship in Austin? Watch the US GP weekend live on Sky Sports F1, the race begins at 8pm on Sunday, October 22. Want to watch but not got Sky F1? Buy a NOW TV pass from £6.99!