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United States GP - Preview

2017-10-22 00:00:00 (This report was created at 2017-10-18 12:12:57)

This will be the 6th US G.P. at The Circuit of the Americas in Texas. It is an anti-clockwise purpose built circuit and one of Herman Tilke’s better tracks. The idea was to create a track which contained elements of the best bits of other tracks around the world and it is a good mix of fast sweeping corners, decent straights and more technical sections which pose a good all round test of man and machine.

The result is a track which does provide good racing, overtaking is possible, and it is hard to find the perfect set up as it demands a compromise set up with high downforce needed for the various corners but a lower drag set up will benefit top speed on the straights. All in all it works well and the event has turned out to be a huge success with big crowds and good races.

It is probably Lewis Hamilton’s favourite track as he has won four of the five races held here, with only Vettel’s 2013 win spoiling a perfect record. Vettel has had two pole positions compared to Hamilton’s one and the pole position driver has only won two of the five US GP’s. However all the races have been won form the front row of the grid.

Rain has featured in the past but there is little chance of any wet racing this weekend with dry conditions for all three days with sunshine increasing gradually day by day to end up with a very warm, sunny race day.

Hamilton is the 17/20 favourite and it’s easy to see why. His superb track record and his recent run of form which has seen him win four of the last five races, three of them from pole position. His team mate has gone off the boil and his championship title rival has had a horrendous run of results with just two podiums in the same period and two DNF’s. Raikkonen isn’t at the races and Red Bull are still struggling to match the qualifying pace to compete with the top two teams on Saturday. With a small power deficit even their excellent chassis they need a little good fortune to make up the difference come Sunday although they are making real progress.

Ferrari has let Vettel down with poor reliability. They have now promoted a lady from with the Fiat empire to head up their quality control department as they have been supplied with some duff parts which is completely unacceptable. Or at least that is what they are saying. I don’t buy it that Ferrari had to retire Vettel due to problems with a spark plug but it’s easier to blame a supplier than to admit say a design fault for example.

Mercedes haven’t had a trouble free recent run either, their car can struggle with the rear tyres in hot conditions and it is likely that the track surface will get quite hot on race day. Hamilton did not win from pole position on a hot track in Malaysia and he was being reeled in by Verstappen again in Japan when the weather improved markedly on race day. They may well be worried by Sunday’s weather forecast.

Red Bull now just about competing despite their qualifying handicap. Verstappen, arguably the best driver on the grid in my opinion, has had a rotten season, getting every bad break going so there was some justice that he won at Sepang and so nearly did so in Japan. This is a track on which a driver can make a difference, one of the reason’s Hamilton has had four wins is that he drives it very well, and Verstappen has the talent to make his car over perform.

There are question marks over Ferrari, a good car which is underperforming; the Mercedes does have problems with tyre performance in certain conditions which we may get again this Sunday and it could be that Verstappen can threaten the top step on the podium. His average grid position in the last four races has been 3rd and with a 1st and 2nd place in the last two races the momentum is certainly there. The team’s momentum is on the up, back back to back double podium finishes shows that. Ok, Ferrari’s inability to get two working cars onto the race track makes it easier but the fact that they now able to get at least one car onto the first or second row of the grid is concrete proof of the increase in performance.

1 point e/w Max Verstappen to win the US GP @ 14/1 generally available

Force India look to have 4th place in the bag and they have had a car in the top 6 for the last four races. Ocon has improved his qualifying pace and has made the third row twice in the last four races, an area where Force India has traditionally struggled. The latest spec Mercedes power unit has helped as they can now deploy the special Q3 power setting as Mercedes has done for all season. They are stuck in a no man’s land behind the big three but ahead of the rest of the midfield so if one of the top six cars has a problem or picks up a penalty, they are there to take advantage. Their reliability has been outstanding and not just this season.

Ocon is on a run of 25 races without a DNF, nine with Manor last season and the sixteen races this season. He has only once failed to finish in the points this season, 12th in Monaco (the car doesn’t like slow circuits) and for a virtual rookies, Ocon has been outstanding all season. If he isn’t in a top team with the next two seasons somebody is missing a trick. Force India’s biggest problem is that the two drivers are quite evenly matched and are invariably beside each other on the grid and on the race track. That makes collisions likely. It looks bad but since the team have stopped them racing each other they have avoided another crash but on the first lap accidents are harder to avoid.

Odds on bets are often poor value but in Ocon’s case a 40% return for a top 10 is actually very generous. However at this time of the season going in big ante post carries the risk that your selection could get a grid penalty for having to change a gear box or power unit etc. Force India has been reliable and can make the end of season without penalties but nobody is immune. A top six finish brings more reward and Ocon is worth a small bet to make Force India’s fifth top 6 from five races in a row.

2 points Ocon to finish in the top six @ 2/1 with Bwin (15/8 Hills, Coral, Ladbrokes)

Renault is very close to Force India in terms of one lap pace but they are way off in terms of reliability. They have finally ditched Joylon Palmer and rushed Carlos Sainz into the car as they attempt to overtake Haas and Toro Rosso for 6th place and maybe Williams can be caught for 5th. Nicking Sainz from Toro Rosso helps but with just one points finish from the last four races, they need reliability more than pace. The fact is that Vandoorne has outscored Hulkenberg over the last four races and the Honda McLaren is the most unreliable car on the grid.

It is a little ironic that just as Honda and McLaren have confirmed their divorce, they start scoring points. Vandoorne’s 7th place in Malaysia was their best result of the season. Yes Alonso had a 6th place in Hungary but that that had a lot more to do with other driver’s misfortune than his cars performance. The Hungaroring is a slow track in any case but Sepang isn’t which shows that McLaren have a strong chassis and Honda has gotten a little more power out of the PU. Vandoorne for once looks decent value for a points finish. McLaren are big enough to still be developing the car, something that Toro Rosso and Haas can’t do.

The problem with backing a McLaren is that a massive grid penalty is never far away. Vandoorne tops the penalties league table, followed by Alonso so they are best backed after qualifying but even then there is still a risk and the odds will be shorter. The risks are high but I will take a modest bet on Vandoorne now as the odds are good. Toro Rosso is weakened by the loss of Sainz, who has the problem of having to learn a new car at Renault. Brandon Hartley takes his place and he too has to learn a new car and having Kvyat back further weakens Toro Rosso. The competition for the top ten is weakened this weekend so with a clear run Vandoorne has a good chance to score more points. The team are happy that this track is less power dependant than Suzuka and even there Vandoorne qualified 11th.

2 points Stoffel Vandoorne to finish in the points @ 23/10 with Betstars

Next update will be around 30 minutes before the start of qualifying.

-JamesPunt