Austin (AFP) – World championship leader Lewis Hamilton will bid to divert attention from Formula One’s looming financial crisis by seeking his fifth consecutive race win at this weekend’s United States Grand Prix.
The 29-year-old Briton leads Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg of Germany by 17 points with three races remaining, and 100 points available, as he sets himself to claim his 10th win of the season at the Circuit of the Americas.
After a tense, close and often acrimonious struggle with Rosberg, Hamilton knows he cannot relax, notably because next month’s season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix is worth double points.
That means Rosberg will retain a mathematical title chance if he is within 50 points of the Englishman after the next two races in America and Brazil. Hamilton came away from the Russian Grand Prix on October 12 with 241 points to Rosberg’s 174.
Rosberg has no intention of giving up and any fans disgruntled at the absences of the Marussia and Caterham teams from the grid will at least be assured of a potentially ferocious scrap for glory at the front of Sunday’s race.
“It’s still all to play for in the battle for the drivers’ championship and I won’t be giving up the fight until the flag drops in Abu Dhabi,” said Rosberg.
“Hopefully, we can keep the entertainment going right to the end for the fans out there enjoying the contest.”
Hamilton knows what to expect, but will compete in supremely confident mood after successive wins in Italy, Singapore, Japan and Russia.
The same period saw Marussia’s French driver Jules Bianchi suffer severe head injuries when he crashed into a recovery vehicle in Japan and the recent withdrawal of his team and Caterham from the American contest.
That meant this weekend’s race will see only nine teams supplying the 18 cars on the smallest grid for a Formula One race since the 2005 Monaco Grand Prix.
Both Marussia and Caterham have suffered financial and other problems and paddock observers believe that other teams, notably Sauber and Lotus, could also be threatened by similar difficulties as the sport’s distribution of wealth comes under scrutiny.
Both teams are under administration and may not race again this year.
But at the other end of the paddock, there is a more optimistic mood engendered by the upbeat approach of Australian Daniel Ricciardo, winner of three races this year, who is relishing his return to the United States with Red Bull.
“Hand on heart, this is probably the date on the calendar I look forward to the most,” he said. “I’ve loved every minute of being in Austin: when they picked this place for the US Grand Prix, they absolutely nailed it.
“The city is awesome. I love listening to live music and this is a great place for that, plus Texas feels like real America, and that’s something I’ve really enjoyed just sinking into the last two seasons.
“And then, there’s the important bit. The Circuit of the Americas, in my opinion, is the best of the new breed of circuits.”
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