After the dramatic Japanese Grand Prix, which brought us a rain delay, a red flag and, finally, this season’s champion along with plenty of confusion, we return to racing after a week’s gap.
Having finally secured his inevitable second World Title, Max Verstappen now has a host of records which he can break, and his team still have to wrap up their first Constructors’ Championship since 2013.
While Red Bull might be looking at wrapping up titles and breaking records, it’s not all over for those behind them just yet. Ferrari and Mercedes are still involved in a tussle for second place in the Constructors’ Championship, while McLaren and Alpine seem to be changing spots in the battle for P4 every other race.
Multiple storylines await us as we return to the US for this season’s second race in the country after the inaugural Miami Grand Prix earlier this year. Here, we take a look at a few possibilities this weekend.
More records to break
Max Verstappen might have wrapped up his second title in Japan, but there are still plenty of records the Dutchman can break in Austin. If he wins in Texas, it will be an incredible 13th win of the season for the Dutchman, which will tie him with Michael Schumacher and Sebastian Vettel for most number of wins in one season. While Schumacher pulled this feat off in 2004 with Ferrari, Vettel did it in 2013 with Red Bull.
Given Verstappen’s current form and how strong Red Bull are performing, a 13th win of the season looks imminent. Verstappen could not only tie the record for most number of wins; he may even break it by the time the season ends.
Verstappen has been stunning throughout the season, and Austin, despite not really being a strong track for Red Bull, sees them come into the race as favourites after last year’s triumph. Mercedes had a stronghold over the circuit throughout the turbo-hybrid era, but Verstappen got the better of Lewis Hamilton last season and is most likely again going to stand on the top step of the podium.
The Drivers’ title might be secured, but don’t expect Verstappen to slow down; he’s just getting started. Along with the record for most wins in a season, Verstappen can also break the record for most points in a season (current record remains with Lewis Hamilton: 413 in the 2019 season) and the largest championship win record as well, which Sebastian Vettel holds with a margin of 155 points, in 2013.
Pole prediction: Max Verstappen / Charles Leclerc / Sergio Pérez
Win prediction: Red Bull / Ferrari
Up to pace
Verstappen should be the favourite heading into the US Grand Prix weekend, but it won’t be an easy ride for the Red Bull driver. Throughout the turbo-hybrid era, the Austin track was one which was dominated by Mercedes, and even though the Silver Arrows have had a season to forget, they’re still in the running for second place in the Constructors’ Championship. Their recent struggles, however, have seen Ferrari begin to pull away slightly, but Mercedes still have a good haul of points left to make up.
While Mercedes have had two tough races in the Asian leg of the 2022 Formula One calendar, having failed to even score a podium finish in either of the races, the Austin race should be one that the Brackley-based team will be looking forward to. The track is one that should suit them, and with one final upgrade set to be coming in, the team could very well be in the reckoning for not only a podium but also a win. While their pace deficit to Red Bull has been quite substantial, the more conventional track in Austin should suit Mercedes and could help Lewis Hamilton keep his record of scoring a victory in every single season of his career alive.
While Red Bull and Ferrari would be the outright favourites in Austin, expect Mercedes to perform well and quite possibly even surprise a few.
Dark horses for the win: Mercedes
When the 2022 season started, the biggest expectations from the new regulations was that they would bunch up the field, which would allow teams to fight more close to each other. While the top two have been miles ahead from the rest of the field, the remainder of the midfield has in fact been quite close to each other. The biggest surprise at the start of the season was the return of American Formula One team Haas to the midfield from the back of the field.
When Haas made their debut in 2016, they were a strong midfield team, having scored strong points on their debut. But after a strong debut season, they went backwards, and that movement backwards took them right to the bottom of the field.
With the new regulations kicking in and backed with a strong Ferrari engine, Haas have had a mixed 2022 season. While they started strongly, with Kevin Magnussen scoring points in the opening two races of the season and then both Magnussen and his teammate Mick Schumacher scoring back-to-back double points in the UK and Austria, the team since the Austrian Grand Prix have gone on a seven-race non-scoring streak which has affected their Constructors’ position. Aston Martin have leapfrogged them in the Constructors’ table and AlphaTauri have also caught up with them.
Haas still have a strong midfield car capable of competing for a good haul of points, and if Magnussen and Schumacher both can have a clean weekend, expect the American team to score at their home race.
Race details: When and where to watch (India)
Circuit: Circuit of the Americas
Venue: Austin, Texas
Practice Session 1 time: 00:30 (IST), 22 October
Practice Session 2 time: 03:30 (IST), 22 October
Practice Session 3 time: 00:30 (IST), 23 October
Qualifying time: 03:30 (IST), 23 October
Main race time: 00:30 (IST), 24 October
Where to watch: Star Sports Network | Disney+ Hotstar