Formula 1: Four points stand between Hamilton and title No.6

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Lewis Hamilton can win his sixth Drivers’ Championship title at the Circuit of the Americas, or Valtteri Bottas can lose his first.

The Mercedes drivers head to Austin as the only two men left standing but only one of them, the record-setting six-time USGP winner, has a realistic shot.

How Hamilton can win and Bottas can lose

Hamilton only needs an eighth place and its four points to win the title.

Four points will put him on 367 while a win with a fastest lap point- 26 in total – for Bottas will give the Finn 315 points.

That means Hamilton wins the title as even if Bottas claims maximum points in the final two races and Hamilton doesn’t score, they’ll be tied for points with Hamilton taking the crown based on his superior number of race wins.

That’s how Hamilton can win it.

As for how Bottas can lose it: Basically if he doesn’t win on Sunday.

If he finishes second, even if he takes the fastest lap point and the maximum in the final two races, he’s tally will come up to 360 which is three less than what Hamilton has even if he doesn’t score another point this season.

But don’t expect him to take it easy

Hamilton loves the United States F1 GP; actually Hamilton loves the United States. Period.

He may be British but he has a love affair with America, and especially its grands prix.

He claimed the victory at his one and only visited to Indianapolis in 2007 and, when the USGP was revived in Austin in 2012, he was back on the top step of the podium.

He has since added a further four Austin wins to his tally, P1 from 2014 to 2017, and will be determined to regain the crown this season having lost it to Kimi Raikkonen last year.

He’s proven in the past that he takes no prisoners in America, even if said prisoner is his own Mercedes team-mate.

He tangled with Nico Rosberg in 2015, who can forget the famous cap incident, on his way to his second World title as a Mercedes driver.

This year Bottas can probably expect more than a handbag or two as Hamilton looks to seal the title at his second ‘home’ race.

Hamilton, though, insists he’s not desperate to wrap it up in Austin.

“I don’t mind [waiting for the championship],” he said. “I love racing and I take it one race at a time.”

Ferrari and Red Bull may have something to say

All eyes may be on Hamilton this weekend but don’t expect Ferrari or even Red Bull to sit back and let the title race play out without interference.

Ferrari won last year’s United States GP with Raikkonen taking the chequered flag, breaking a record-setting 113-race winless streak.

The Scuderia may be without the Finn this season but they replaced him with the sensational Charles Leclerc, and he wants to get back to winning ways.

He won in Belgium and again in Italy while last time out in Mexico Ferrari helped him throw away a pole position through a poor strategy. He didn’t even finish on the podium.

He’ll be joined in the ‘driver-seeking-revenge’ category by Max Verstappen who went from pole position to nightmare weekend in Mexico City.

The Red Bull driver was stripped off pole position for ignoring yellow flags in qualifying and then swiped Bottas in the race, puncturing his tyre.

He finished P6 but earned more criticism than praise for his weekend’s work.

F1 sporting boss Ross Brawn says the Red Bull driver needs to learn from his mistakes.

“The Dutchman showed his age or lack of it. He’s still only 22 and so there is plenty of room for improvement.

“The important thing is to learn from one’s mistakes, which applies even if you’re 50 but perhaps a little more so at 22.

“You have to win the ones you should win and the ones you shouldn’t as demonstrated by Lewis – that is how you become a World Champion.”

Cold temps, qualy mayhem and midfield tussles

Although Austin has in the past been a washout, thankfully on Fridays and Saturdays only, this year the forecast is for a cold weather but no rain.

The cold, though, is very cold with a high of 14’C for both Saturday and Sunday.

That could cause havoc with the Pirellis tyres as the drivers will struggle to get heat into the rubber… and that could cause chaos out on track.

The tyre may be under electric blankets as they rest in the garages but once out on track, they immediately begin to lose heat if the drivers aren’t putting on the gas.

This year’s championship has seen that happen all too often in qualifying as, one still ponders why, everyone insist on going out at the same time after minutes of absolutely no activity.

A queue in qualifying could result in a lottery and a mixed grid and that would lay the groundwork for an exciting race, at least for the first 10 laps.

After that it is up to Circuit of the Americas to deliver, which it has often done in the past.

However, should F1’s race leaders fail to thrill, as they did in Mexico when it was a game of strategy with very little on-track action, the cameras can focus on the midfield.

Carlos Sainz and Lando Norris will be out to rebound after a disappointing Mexican GP for McLaren while Renault will be seeking another double points-haul.

They’ll have to hold off Racing Point and Toro Rosso, both of whom have shown good pace of late.

As for the very back, Haas and Alfa Romeo need to avoid the embarrassment of dropping into Williams’ clutches.

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