Lauda hits out at Marko over Vettel to Mercedes rumor

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The 2014 edition of Formula 1’s ‘silly season’ is proving to be one of the most intriguing and frankly silly yet. Why? Because we’re already making predictions about the grid for the 2016 season.

Much of the driver market is thought to revolve around McLaren’s seats, with Fernando Alonso and Sebastian Vettel just two of the drivers being linked to Woking. However, Vettel is also being chased by Mercedes according to Red Bull advisor Helmut Marko, even if Christian Horner says otherwise.

Niki Lauda has become the latest figure to chip in on the argument, and in his typical no-nonsense fashion, the Mercedes non-executive director has been pretty frank about the chances of Vettel joining the German marque as a replacement for Lewis Hamilton.

“We are already in touch with him [Hamilton] to renew his contract,” Lauda told Sky Sports. “All the speculation of bull*** Marko is absolute rubbish.”

Speaking to Sport Bild last month, Marko said that it was clear that Mercedes was chasing Vettel, saying: “Of course they target him, and they are not the only team. McLaren-Honda made Sebastian an outrageously high offer.”

With Hamilton closing in on a new contract with Mercedes and McLaren thought to be angling for either Fernando Alonso or Valtteri Bottas for 2016, Vettel does look set to stay with Red Bull for the time being. Although the defending world champions have struggled in 2014, team principal Christian Horner has no concerns about Vettel’s happiness.

“Well usually it’s the start of the silly season where he’s either going to Ferrari or Eric [Boullier] made him a big offer or maybe going to Mercedes,” he joked in Hungary. “So, we just wait to see which team it’s going to be.

“Sebastian is absolutely committed to the team. There’s no doubt at all that he’ll be with Red Bull next year and he’s enjoyed so much success with the team, he’s happy with the team and the team are very happy with him.”

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.