US Grand Prix Betting: Hamilton a danger to anyone from fifth

Lewis Hamilton
Lewis Hamilton has made a habit of winning races without the fastest car on the grid

Lewis Hamilton's wait to become six-time world champion will finally, we expect, be over this weekend and James Gray reckons he can do it in style...

"It was a testament to the fact that the Brit was concerned about his ability to prepare the tyres correctly for a hot lap and that he does not feel perfectly hooked up to the track - yet."

Four points. That is all Lewis Hamilton needs over the next three races to ensure he moves within one of the great Michael Schumacher on the all-time list. You feel like he could do it in his sleep. But he has not had the fastest car at points this season and probably does not this weekend, something that he will no doubt relish the challenge of.

Avoid Leclerc but Ferrari pace still good

Charles Leclerc does not look like an attractive option this weekend, despite the long straight which should give his Ferrari an advantage - because he will not have the best engine available. The Monegasque's engine sprung an oil leak during FP3 and his engineers had to cancel their lunch break in order to replace the power unit.

Instead, he will race with a 'spec 2' engine that he first used earlier in the season, unlikely to be any quicker and probably a little slower. It will also have more mileage on it, of which he was very conscious during qualifying. While others spent extra time on a track that is challenging drivers to their limit, the Ferrari driver returned to the pits as soon as possible with a clear concern about putting an extra strain on the engine.

However, his team-mate Sebastian Vettel will start on the inside of the front row, well placed for a lunge down the inside reminiscent of Kimi Raikkonen's last year; the Finn never relinquished the lead he gained with that move.

The German rued not putting more into his first qualifying lap as the track got slower during Q3, suggesting he could have bridged the gap to Bottas which ended up being just 0.012 seconds. With more pace to come, I'm backing Vettel to finish on the podium at 4/6.

Hamilton to pull another rabbit out of the hat

Hamilton is never shy either when it comes to worried radio messages but, unlike Leclerc, he was asking his engineer if he could spend more time on the track 'practising'. It was a testament to the fact that the Brit was concerned about his ability to prepare the tyres correctly for a hot lap and that he does not feel perfectly hooked up to the track - yet.

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Even if pole-sitter Valtteri Bottas converts it into a victory, Hamilton only has to finish in the top eight to take his sixth world title. It would not be the first time he has finished the job with a gritty drive to a minor place but he should never have won last week, defying all expectations to take the Mexican Grand Prix win. Bottas' pole proves the Mercedes is quick around COTA and you will almost never get better than 3/1 on Hamilton to win any race - so I can't resist backing the Brit at 7/2 to take victory from fifth on the grid.

More British joy?

Such is Hamilton's dominance, it is easy to forget there are a couple of other Brits on the grid. Williams' George Russell is rarely likely to be relevant to this column but Lando Norris certainly is.

The 19-year-old is still being outdriven by Carlos Sainz Jr but in his first season in F1, still leads the likes of Daniil Kvyat and Kimi Raikkonen. A strong result this weekend could even see him leapfrog Daniel Ricciardo and Nico Hulkenberg into the top 10 in the World Drivers' Championship.

He was the fastest car in Q1 on Saturday and McLaren have conserved tyres well to give him the best possible chance on race day. It's close but I am going to take Norris to finish in the top six at 2/1 and hope that one of the big three teams lose a car to reliability issues.

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