HAMILTON EYEING SIX-POINT, SIX-RACE TITLE

By Michael Lamonato

Lewis Hamilton is bracing for an “incredibly difficult” slog to turn his six-point deficit to Max Verstappen into championship victory with just six races remaining.

Hamilton and Verstappen have swapped the title lead five times in 2021, including three changes in the last four rounds, with the Dutchman resuming the hot seat at the previous race in Turkey.

Six points is an almost negligible margin — the difference between first and second is seven points — but with expected Red Bull Racing strongholds coming up in Mexico and Brazil, Hamilton is focusing on maximising his points haul to keep himself in contention.

“It’s important to win every race somehow or at least maximise our points,” he said. “That’s our goal over these next six races.

“It’s going to be incredibly difficult. There will be moments where we perhaps can edge them out, and then … I don’t like to assume that Mexico isn’t going to be strong, but they’re usually very strong in Mexico.

“But a lot can happen in these six races, so we will take it one race at a time and give it everything we’ve got.”

Mercedes is starting the United States Grand Prix in good form, with one pole and two wins from the previous two rounds. It’s also one of Hamilton’s favourite tracks, the Briton having won all but three races ever held here.

In contrast Red Bull Racing has not only gone winless since early September’s Dutch Grand Prix, but it struggled badly in Turkey, with Verstappen taking a distant second thanks only to Hamilton’s engine penalty.

Was it the extension of a trend? Verstappen has won only two of the last seven races — or one in six if you exclude the washed-out non-race in Belgium — to watch his season-high 33-point lead whittled down to six.

“I’m not concerned, because there is nothing we can do about it,” he said. “We just have to focus on our side.

“We learnt a lot also in Turkey. We’ll try to do better with our package, what we have, and try to find a bit more performance.”

The Circuit of the Americas, offering a similar challenge to that posed by Istanbul Park, will help to validate whether Red Bull Racing has come off the boil just as Mercedes has rediscovered its stride.

But then again, this title fight is so close that even a comfortable Hamilton victory would do only so much to swing the momentum.

MY RACE TIPS

Mercedes’s domination in Turkey should bode well for the team in Texas, but this season has been so close that it’s hard to put stock in the form guide. Hamilton loves this track, so I think it’ll be his weekend, albeit run close by Max Verstappen thanks to the warmer weather.

Pole position: Lewis Hamilton

Race podium: Lewis Hamilton, Max Verstappen, Valtteri Bottas