After a weekend of rain, rain and more rain, we’ve made it: United States Grand Prix race day, and the possible coronation of a three-time world champion.
Lewis Hamilton arrived in Austin knowing that victory with teammate Nico Rosberg in second place would clinch him a third world title with three races to spare, but heads into the race as blind as the rest of the field after seeing FP2 and Q3 get washed out completely.
The rain is set to subside before the race, and although the drivers will unquestionably be running on wet and intermediate tires (the latter at a push), the grand prix is going to happen.
It was Rosberg who seized the advantage in qualifying earlier today, posting the fastest time in Q2 and taking pole after Q3 was cancelled. Hamilton will start alongside him on the front row of the grid, with the Red Bull duo of Daniel Ricciardo and Daniil Kvyat looming behind.
You can watch the United States Grand Prix live on NBC and Live Extra from 2:30pm ET on Sunday. CLICK HERE to watch via live stream.
2015 United States Grand Prix – What To Watch For
THREE THE MAGIC NUMBER FOR LEWIS
Lewis Hamilton’s task today has been made simpler by the fact that closest title rival Sebastian Vettel has a grid penalty, leaving him 14th for the start. As such, beating Nico Rosberg should be enough to clinch him a third world title in Austin – and that’s hardly something he’s struggled to do this year.
A third world title would put him on par with Ayrton Senna and Jackie Stewart, and also make him the first British driver to successfully defend the championship. As I wrote earlier this week, winning it on US soil will only make things all the sweeter.
As an aside: Hamilton has never won a world title in sunshine. Interlagos 2008 was a downpour, and Abu Dhabi was won under the night sky. Number three could be another wet one if he clinches it today.
CAN NICO END HIS DROUGHT?
Using the word “drought” in Austin this weekend is irony personified. Alas, Nico Rosberg enters today’s race hoping to end a win drought that dates all the way back to the Austrian Grand Prix in June, some four months ago.
The German driver has struggled to match Hamilton in recent weeks, and although victory here would only be delaying the inevitable title success for his teammate, Rosberg will be hungry to end the rut at COTA.
RED BULL UP FOR A FIGHT
Mercedes may still be top dogs even in wet conditions, but Red Bull showed in qualifying that it could put up a fight to the Silver Arrows at the front. Both Daniel Ricciardo and Daniil Kvyat have ran well in the wet before, and from the second row of the grid, they could yet spring a surprise.
For Ricciardo, it will be important for him to pick up some big points in what has been a difficult season. Slipping behind Kvyat in the drivers’ championship will have done little to help his standing in F1, and although the smile will remain, he needs to unleash his inner Honey Badger soon.
RAIN, RAIN, GO AWAY
Although the rain is set to ease during the race, conditions will still be treacherous at the start, setting the stage for an almighty battle between the drivers out on track. Real ‘wet’ races in F1 have been quite sparse in recent years – let’s hope today’s US GP makes up for that.
Quite how the weather will have affected attendance figures remains unclear, but it’s hard to believe the three-day figure of over 250,000 will get even close to being matched this year. Austin has kept its smile regardless, though, which has been wonderful to see.
ROSSI AT HOME
After all these years, Alexander Rossi will finally race in the United States Grand Prix today. The American driver becomes the first to race at home since Scott Speed back in 2007, and will be hoping to use the weather to his advantage in his star-spangled Manor.
That said, this has been about as ‘Alexander Rossi’ a weekend as you could have imagined: lots of promise, only for something to get in the way (namely the weather). Regardless of his end result at COTA, today is arguably the biggest of his career to date.
STARTING GRID FOR THE 2015 UNITED STATES GRAND PRIX
1. Nico Rosberg Mercedes
2. Lewis Hamilton Mercedes
3. Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull
4. Daniil Kvyat Red Bull
5. Sergio Perez Force India
6. Nico Hulkenberg Force India
7. Felipe Massa Williams
8. Max Verstappen Toro Rosso
9. Fernando Alonso McLaren
10. Romain Grosjean Lotus
11. Jenson Button McLaren
12. Pastor Maldonado Lotus
13. Sebastian Vettel Ferrari*
14. Marcus Ericsson Sauber
15. Valtteri Bottas Williams*
16. Felipe Nasr Sauber
17. Alexander Rossi Manor
18. Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari*
19. Will Stevens Manor*
20. Carlos Sainz Jr. Toro Rosso**
* grid penalty
** missed 107% cut, given dispensation to race by stewards
The United States Grand Prix is live on NBC and Live Extra from 2:30pm ET on Sunday.