Alonso pushing ahead with 2014 preparations

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Ferrari driver Fernando Alonso is making his final visit of the year to team headquarters in Maranello, and some of that time has included a run in the simulator to get used to how the Scuderia’s 2014 challenger will feel.

According to the team, he came away pleased.

“We managed to get through everything on the program that we had in the pipeline,” he said of his simulator session. “It was nice to be driving again, even if only in a virtual way. We went through a lot of ideas with the engineers.

“We are only at the start of a learning process which is moving forward all the time and it’s nice to be able to contribute to it.”

Dealing with a car that was noticeably down on pace during the second half of the season, Alonso had to use every veteran trick in the book to pull off second in the 2013 drivers’ championship to Sebastian Vettel.

But with the new technical regulations coming into play next year, there’s an opportunity for Ferrari to give their two-time former World Champion a car that can help him fight Vettel all the way through the season.

At a special team lunch this weekend, Alonso urged his crew members on.

“Everyone always expects a lot from us,” he said according to Ferrari’s official web site. “Next year, we will try to do better and I know you are working very hard.

“There are new rules and extra work for all of you, but you can count on maximum effort from us in terms of our physical and mental preparation to be in 100% shape in March for the opening race. We face an important time ahead and so, Forza Ferrari!”

How Hamilton, Mercedes can clinch F1 titles at the United States GP

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Sunday’s United States Grand Prix could go down as a memorable race in Formula 1 history as both Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes bid to clinch their fourth world championships (live on NBC and NBC Sports app from 2pm ET).

Hamilton gave his chances of wrapping up the drivers’ title and re-claiming the crown he lost to Nico Rosberg in 2016 a world of good by charging to pole position on Saturday at the Circuit of The Americas.

However, with chief rival Sebastian Vettel starting second for Ferrari and a 16-point swing required, it seems likely that the title race could continue to next weekend’s Mexican Grand Prix.

Nevertheless, here are the permutations for Lewis Hamilton to win his fourth F1 world title on Sunday in Austin, Texas.

  • If Lewis Hamilton wins the race (25 points) and Sebastian Vettel finishes sixth or lower (maximum eight points), he is world champion.
  • If Hamilton finishes second (18 points), Sebastian Vettel finishes ninth or lower (maximum two points), and Valtteri Bottas does not win the race, he is world champion.

While Hamilton’s coronation seems likely to be postponed until the next race in Mexico, Mercedes looks nailed-on to wrap up its fourth consecutive constructors’ championship in Sunday’s USGP.

The German marque currently leads Ferrari by 145 points in the teams’ standings, and requires a lead of 129 after the race to clinch the crown.

As a result, a double top-four finish from Hamilton and Bottas would be enough for Mercedes to wrap up the title, regardless of how Ferrari fares.

The success would see Mercedes become just the fourth team in F1 history take four straight constructors’ titles, following Red Bull (2010 to 2013), Ferrari (1999 to 2004) and McLaren (1988 to 1991).

The United States Grand Prix is live on NBC and the NBC Sports app from 2pm ET on Sunday.