With only four races left in the 2018 Formula 1® season, we're heading to Austin for the worldwide racing series' annual stop on American soil.
This season has been filled with twists and turns, and the United States Grand Prix promises to add even more as we reach the tail end of the calendar. With drivers and teams battling it out for the last remaining points on the board, there's still a lot at stake through the rest of the season.
Here's what we think will go down at Circuit of The Americas™ this weekend:
The Favorite: Lewis Hamilton
For the second time in four year, Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton has the chance to end it all in Austin.
With a 67-point advantage over Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel, Hamilton can mathematically clinch the world championship if he finishes eight points ahead of Vettel at Circuit of The Americas. So, for example, if Hamilton wins in Austin, Vettel must finish second to stay alive in the fight for the title. If Hamilton finishes second, Vettel must finish fourth, and it goes on from there.
Hamilton comes into this race on a hot streak that is making the title race look bleak for his opponents as we stretch through the remaining races. He has won the past four grand prix and six of his last seven, with his recent conquest in Japan looking like it was never in doubt
The Brit also has history on his side — Hamilton has won four consecutive United States Grand Prix. A fifth-straight victory in Texas would earn him his fifth career world championship.A win at Circuit of The Americas would be the second time that Hamilton has claimed the world championship at the United States Grand Prix. Back in 2015, Mercedes' golden boy beat then-rival Nico Rosberg in Austin to win his third-career title. With six USGP wins under his belt, an all-time record, Hamilton will look for number seven to add to his legacy.
The Challenger: Sebastian Vettel
To put it plainly, Sebastian Vettel has quite the hill to surmount if he hopes to catch Hamilton. But as with most things, it starts with a single step. Vettel can make noise and try to capture momentum for a comeback effort with a big performance in Austin. Basically, it's do or die for the German.
Vettel and his Ferrari team have been under fire lately for a string of errors that have cost him mightily in the title race. Of the most notorious incidents, two stick out: Vettel's collision with Hamilton in Russia and his failed move on Red Bull's Max Verstappen in Japan. Critical errors like those have put the German at the base of a hill that could be insurmountable.
His fledgling results come as a surprise due to his form during the first half of the season — Vettel was eight points ahead of Hamilton through the first 10 races of the year.
The Underdog: Daniel Ricciardo
While he sits sixth in the season points standings, Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo could be the greatest threat to Hamilton and Vettel in Austin. While a victory for the Australian might be far fetched, Ricciardo got on the map this season by winning two of the first six races of the season. Ricciardo has also consistently placed well at Circuit of The Americas — he finished third in 2016 and fourth in 2017.
While the 2018 edition of this race should be a dogfight between Hamilton and Vettel, expect Ricciardo to try and make some noise in the mix.
What to Watch Out For: Point Battle Between Teams
While Hamilton and Mercedes look to extend their points lead on the season, there is still quite the battle going on near the bottom of the leaderboard. Thirty one points separate McLaren and Sauber, with Racing Point Force India and Toro Rosso wedged in between the two. With standings supremacy still at play with four races left in the year, expect some drama and action between these four teams in Austin.