AUSTIN, Texas // Lewis Hamilton will be aiming for a big win in Texas this weekend, even if the Formula One starting grid is the smallest he has known with the absence of backmarker teams Marussia and Caterham.
The British driver, 29, can become the first to win 10 races in a season and join Nigel Mansell and the late Jim Clark as the only Britons to win five races in succession.
Another triumph at the Circuit of the Americas, where he won the inaugural race in 2012, would also set him apart from his compatriots with 32 victories – one more than the record he shares with 1992 champion Mansell.
Most important of all, though, Hamilton can land another big psychological blow on his Mercedes teammate and title rival Nico Rosberg, who is 17 points adrift with 100 still to be won from the last three races.
German Rosberg has mixed feelings about the Texas circuit, whereas Hamilton loves it and arrives with Mercedes-GP on a high after wrapping up the constructors’ title at the latest grand prix in Sochi.
The intention is to turn the focus back to the track after a gloomy week for the sport dominated by talk of a financial crisis and teams going into administration, while seriously injured French driver Jules Bianchi remains in everyone’s thoughts.
“We still have three races left to decide the drivers’ championship, starting in Austin, which is one of the best weekends of the year,” Hamilton said.
“A lot of the American side of my family come to the race, plus I won the first ever Formula One Grand Prix at the circuit back in 2012, so it’s a special one for me.
“I really enjoy going there and I’m looking forward to another great race – hopefully ending up with another Stetson hat on the top step of the podium.”
Rosberg’s record is less happy, with the German’s best finish in Austin a ninth place last year when Hamilton was fourth.
“It’s still all to play for and I won’t be giving up the fight until the flag drops in Abu Dhabi,” he said. “Hopefully we can keep the entertainment going right to the end for the fans out there enjoying the contest.”
With the constructors’ title out of the way, the driver duel will move up a gear even if mathematically it is still a three-way battle.
Red Bull’s Australian Daniel Ricciardo, the only driver other than the Mercedes duo to win races this year, is 92 points adrift of Hamilton but is as good as ruled out.
So too is quadruple world champion and Red Bull teammate Sebastian Vettel, last year’s race winner, who is in danger of collecting an engine penalty that will see him starting from the pit lane in Austin.
“I think the reality is that Sebastian will take a sixth engine in Austin because it’s inevitable he’s going to have to use it,” team principal Christian Horner said after Russia. “I don’t think this engine can really go too much further.”
It could be that the German does very little mileage before the race to save the new engine, something that makes him just as unhappy as the fans will be.
“The rule is completely stupid,” he said. “So the people turn on the television and see a driver who just stands around and has nothing to do.”
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