Tony Jardine: Lewis in the USA
Tony Jardine looks ahead to this weekend's United States Grand Prix with Lewis Hamilton his pick for victory.
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This just what the two title contenders didn't want. A brand new track to contend with that looks like it will be a big challenge having recreated sections from the best in the world.
Reaching the Turn 1 square left is via a long uphill elevation of 133 foot like the Osterreichring, and then there is a perfect replication of the exacting Maggots Becketts Chapel complex at Silverstone.
The undulations and fast sweeps give way to a one kilometre straight then a twisty section just like the Hockenheim infield. If that's not enough it is followed by a multiple apex back to front Turn 8 Turkey look-alike! The track looks like it has everything; it looks like a good Red Bull track.
Yes they still have the best car and Sebastian Vettel has the edge but mechanical intervention apart McLaren have been the fly in the ointment with Fernando Alonso hanging in there hoping to take the title fight to the wire in Brazil.
Ferrari have failed to catch up with their technical updates mainly because of wind tunnel issues but they will try again at the Circuit of the Americas having developed yet more wing and diffuser solutions - none of the Abu Dhabi updates worked but they are just 10 points in arrears with fifty points on the board.
I think Alonso can achieve another podium In the USA.
But after their extra work during the young drivers test after the GP in Abu Dhabi I think McLaren and Lewis Hamilton will work on a compromise car that can hold its own on the long straights and then excel in the tight 'Hockenheim ' sections.
Meticulous mechanical preparation must surely have been sought after the fuel pressure failure in the UAE and Hamilton is determined to win one more for McLaren before he turns silver so my top three is Hamilton, Vettel and Alonso.
Red Bull want to wrap up the constructors title here with Webber vowing to help Vettel In the drivers fight but they would dearly like to secure Sebastian's third crown too as the prospect of a rain lashed incident packed Interlagos in Brazil is risky especially when you consider the precarious results of previous title fights.
Remember 2007? Raikkonen came from 17 points behind to grab the title by a solitary point in Brazil, a typical Interlagos scenario so expect Vettel to come out fighting in Austin.
To complete my top six I have Jenson Button, Kimi Raikkonen - whose winning car excelled in the tight turns of Abu Dhabi but shouldn't win here - and Mexican Sergio Perez.
The amazing little Sauber team are challenging Mercedes for fifth place in the standings, buoyed by the thousands of Mexican spectators who will cross the border to support Sergio, they should have a good high speed set up as they enjoyed in Monza when a third podium was taken, Kamui Kobayashi too excelled in Suzuka which is also replicated in parts of this Austin track.
To round out the top ten for me it's Pastor Maldonado - who is back in the points and will expect Venezuelan support at the Circuit of the Americas, Webber, then Michael Schumacher who is America's biggest fan - even running his own rodeos on his ranch in Switzerland.
He and Mercedes will make a massive effort as it represents the biggest market for the three pointed star. I see Paul Di Resta taking the final points place in the top ten given his recent return to form
If you look at Mark Webber's qualifying form this year he has been strong. He managed a good lap despite a few small mistakes in Abu Dhabi but then failed again to get off the line properly. Red Bull will be looking to lock out another front row but I think Mark can take pole.
This will be a battle of the Europeans in the Americas with the title protagonists in the thick of it, but if I am right McLaren and Hamilton could just spoil the party.