Hamilton looks to fight back in United States as Verstappen battle goes on
Lewis Hamilton will look to bounce back from frustration in Turkey as he returns to one of his favourite tracks at the United States Grand Prix this week.
The drivers' championship battle between Hamilton and Max Verstappen continues to be closely fought, with just six races left in the 2021 season.
Red Bull driver Verstappen moved back into the lead in Istanbul and comes to Austin with a six-point advantage over Hamilton, who is seeking a record-breaking eighth world title.
Hamilton took an engine penalty in Turkey and limited the damage to his rival, but was frustrated with his own team over a strategy call that he felt may have cost him a podium.
The trip to the USA therefore comes at a good time for the Briton, who has won this race a record six times.
Only in Hungary, Great Britain (both eight) and Canada (seven) has Hamilton won more times and he did not have the chance to add to his tally in 2020 as the event was not held due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Hamilton has eight podiums from his nine USA races, and the only time he did not make the top three he still finished fourth in 2013.
He also sealed the third and sixth of his seven world titles in Austin, his 2015 race win and second-place finish in 2019 giving him those successes.
While Verstappen leads the drivers' battle, Mercedes do still top the constructors' standings and will hope a resurgent Valtteri Bottas can help Hamilton to continue the team's strong track record at the venue.
LAST TIME OUT
Strategy was key in wet conditions at the Turkish Grand Prix, with Hamilton left frustrated by Mercedes' decision to pit late and help Verstappen, who ended up in second place, reclaim the championship lead.
Having been fastest in qualifying but handed a 10-place grid penalty due to his engine change, Hamilton saw team-mate Bottas start in first place.
It was a lead Bottas only relinquished briefly to Charles Leclerc, though the Finn regained it with a brilliant move on the inside of the Ferrari with 11 laps remaining to claim his first win of the season.
Hamilton's decision to hold off pitting in the wet conditions was what prompted debate between driver and the Mercedes pit wall.
Well in the hunt for a podium place in the 51st lap, Hamilton was finally instructed to come in which meant he was forced to settle for fifth behind Bottas, Verstappen, Sergio Perez and Leclerc.
WHAT TO EXPECT IN USA
Hamilton's fine record in the United States means it is he who goes into the race weekend as the narrow favourite to strike the next blow in a thrilling title battle on Sunday.
Verstappen has solid form at the Circuit of the Americas too, though, with past finishes of second, third and fourth.
The Dutchman is optimistic of taking the fight to Mercedes as he targets a first Austin win, as he looks to end a run of three races without a victory in 2021.
That title race will again be the main focus, with both Mercedes and Red Bull hoping their second drivers can get in on the action to help Hamilton and Verstappen respectively.
Bottas claimed his first win of the year last time out and has three podiums from his last four outings, while Perez finally ended a miserable eight-race run without a top-three finish in Turkey.
Lando Norris is one point away from matching his total from the 2019 and 2020 seasons combined and will hope McLaren can be more competitive this week.
They are locked in a close battle with Ferrari for third place in the constructors' championship, with the British team just 7.5 points ahead of their Italian rivals.
TOP FIVE OPTA FACTS
Qualifying key - The past 10 winners of the United States Grand Prix came from the first row of the grid - six from pole position and four from second place.
Fond memories – The last time F1 raced in the United States (2019), Hamilton reached his 150th career podium. He has since moved on to 176 top-three finishes, an F1 record total.
Bottas barrier – The Finn is looking to get a pole position and race win double in consecutive grands prix, a feat he has never achieved before. He did get pole and win the race at the 2019 edition of this event.
Mercedes mark – The team have six poles in their last six races in the United States and another here would see them equal Ferrari on seven poles in the country. Only Lotus (10) have recorded more than Ferrari.
Austin aces – Mercedes have had a podium finisher in each of the last six USA races, winning five of those events and finishing with a one-two in four of them, including the last one in 2019.
1. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) 262.5
2. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) 256.5
3. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) 177
4. Lando Norris (McLaren) 145
5. Sergio Perez (Red Bull) 135
1. Mercedes 433.5
2. Red Bull 397.5
3. McLaren 240
4. Ferrari 232.5
5. Alpine 104