Questions Ahead Of United States GP


Will Hamilton uncork the title champagne in Austin, catch-22 for Ferrari, who will win the battle for the final 2016 race seats and more.

Will The Champagne Be Uncorked?
The Fat Lady is busy clearing her throat ahead of the United States GP as Lewis Hamilton is on the verge of joining Jack Brabham, Jackie Stewart, Niki Lauda, Nelson Piquet and, of course, Ayrton Senna as three-time World Champions.

The equation is pretty simple: the Mercedes driver needs to outscore Sebastian Vettel by nine points in Austin while he only needs to better Nico Rosberg by two points.

So Hamilton leading home another Merc 1-2 at the Circuit of the Americas, a track where he won in 2012 and 2014, will do the job.

Oh yes Lewis, in the unlikely event of US President Barack Obama joining you on the podium, please don't spay champagne on POTUS.

Catch-22 Situation For Ferrari?
Ferrari are in a bit of a tricky situation ahead of the United States Grand Prix in terms of their engine. They still have four in-season development tokens at their disposal and would ideally want to use it ahead of the Austin race to give Sebastian Vettel one final push in the title.

Well that's the word coming from Ferrari, but Vettel's chances of stopping Lewis Hamilton from winning a third Drivers' Championship are close to zero and the next best thing is to finish ahead of Nico Rosberg.

Vettel currently has the upper hand in the battle for second following his P2 in Russia and Rosberg's DNF, but Ferrari know they can't rely on Mercedes poor reliability to finish ahead every time.

They thus need another engine boost, but any changes would result in penalties for Vettel and team-mate Kimi Raikkonen as they are both on their fourth and final power units. Difficult situation, but they also need to start building for next year.

An Eye On 2016 For Renault?
Another manufacturer that is looking towards 2016 is Renault. Ferrari, Mercedes and Honda have all used tokens at various stages this season already.

Yet Renault has waited until four races before the end of the season to finally spend 11 of their 12 tokens. The upgrades will be available to Red Bull, but the two parties first need to discuss the issue.

This late upgrade is no doubt with a view on 2016 for the new Renault works team and, if Red Bull like what they see in Austin, then we may just have 13 teams on the grid next year.

There have also been rumours in the paddock that Renault has deliberately held back this year with the aim to cause a few surprises next year.

Battle For Fifth Over?
Sergio Perez's third place at Russia was great reward for Force India and it has put them firmly in the driving seat for fifth place in the Constructors' Championship as they now have a 26-point lead over Lotus.

Let's not forget that Force India missed the start of pre-season testing as their car was not ready and they only introduced the VJM08 B-spec at the British Grand Prix. They have picked up 61 points since their upgraded car took to the track and for a couple of unlucky incidents involving Nico Hulkenberg, they would have been closer to Red Bull in the standings.

Who Will Win The Final 2016 Race Seats?
There are only seven race seats left for the 2016 Formula 1 season (one at Lotus, one at Red Bull, two at Toro Rosso, two at Manor and one at Haas F1). Of those still available, you expect Red Bull (if they stay in F1) to either keep Daniil Kvyat or promote one of Max Verstappen and Carlos Sainz with another member of the academy stepping up to STR should they opt for the second scenario.

Mercedes look set to make the most of their new partnership with Manor by getting reserve driver Pascal Wehrlein a seat while Haas F1 are believed to be close to confirming Esteban Gutierrez.

That leaves only one seat at Lotus and one seat at Manor available for the likes of Jolyon Palmer, Roberto Merhi, Alexander Rossi and Will Stevens as well as those from the feeder series to compete for.

The battle between the Manor team-mates is getting exciting. Rossi, who will become the first American since Scott Speed in 2007 to compete at a home race this weekend, finished ahead of Stevens in his two previous races while Merhi also got the better of the Briton in Russia last time out.

It's certainly a tight battle, but the prizes may yet go to the drivers with the biggest cheques.