Lewis Hamilton has one hand on his fourth Formula One world championship after establishing a 59-point lead over rival Sebastian Vettel.
Hamilton, 32, will get his first shot at Sunday's United States Grand Prix.
Here, Trackdays look at the key talking points ahead of the 17th round of the season.
1. Hamilton ready to be an all-time great
Lewis Hamilton stands on the brink of history, but the Englishman has taken a typically laid-back approach to Sunday's pivotal race. Hamilton will become the first British driver to win four championships - one more than Sir Jackie Stewart - and join only Michael Schumacher (seven), Juan Manuel Fangio (five), Alain Prost and Sebastian Vettel (both four) as having more than three - if he outscores Vettel by 16 points. But the Briton appeared in a relaxed mood at a benefit concert in New York on Tuesday before heading to NASA's Space Centre in Houston the following day. There are various permutations to Hamilton winning the title, but the simplest one is this: if he is victorious in Austin, Vettel must finish at least fifth to take the title race on to next week's Mexican Grand Prix. Vettel's season has imploded following two DNFs from his last three races, and he would need another rotten weekend here for Hamilton to prevail. Hamilton, however, has excelled at the Circuit of the Americas - winning four of the five races staged here - so couple his form with Ferrari's reliability, or indeed recent lack of it, and do not be surprised if he is celebrating his third title in four years on Sunday night.
2. Brit of a bad show
Hamilton may be gunning for his fourth world championship, but for the first time in his decade-long career he will head into this weekend's grand prix as the only British driver on the grid. Jolyon Palmer's axing by Renault - to pave the way for Carlos Sainz to join the French team from Toro Rosso - leaves Hamilton as the standalone Brit in Austin. You have to go back to the 2005 Monaco Grand Prix for the last time there was a sole representative from Britain on the grid. Jenson Button was completing the second of a two-race ban after his BAR team were adjudged to have broken the rules, leaving David Coulthard as the only competing British driver.
3. Hartley set for F1 debut
The aforementioned Sainz started alongside Pierre Gasly for Toro Rosso at the last round in Japan, but neither will be racing for Red Bull's junior team this weekend. Sainz was already signed up to Renault for next year, but the French team have drafted him in with four races of this season still remaining to help them secure fifth in the constructors' championship. Gasly, meanwhile, will be competing in Japan as he bids to clinch the Super Formula title. Russian Daniil Kvyat, dropped by Toro Rosso for the last two races, has been brought back into the fold, while he will be joined by New Zealander Brendon Hartley. The 27-year-old, a Le Mans 24 winner and World Endurance Champion, will be the first New Zealander on the grid for 33 years.
4. Kubica and Di Resta given chance to shine
Robert Kubica and Paul di Resta were handed an audition by Williams this week in a bid to prove they are worthy of a 2018 seat. Kubica, whose grand prix career appeared all but over after he partially severed his right arm in a 2011 rallying crash, completed a "productive" day of testing at the Hungaroring on Tuesday. Brit Di Resta, Williams' reserve driver who deputised for Felipe Massa at the Hungarian Grand Prix, was given his chance at the same track 24 hours later. Both drivers are in the frame to replace Massa at Williams next term.
5. Buffer and Co to light up US GP
Formula One's American owners have added some razzmatazz to their first grand prix on home soil with famous boxing announcer Michael Buffer and eight-time Olympic champion Usain Bolt both part of the star-studded line-up. Buffer will introduce all of the drivers on to the grid, while Bolt will send Hamilton and Co off on the formation lap. Justin Timberlake and Stevie Wonder will also both perform here.
29 June 2018
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