Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari, Monza, 2017

Can Vettel pull off a shock in the title fight? Six US GP talking points

2017 United States Grand Prix

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Can Sebastian Vettel find a way back into the drivers’ title fight? Is Lewis Hamilton going to stage a pre-race protest?

Here are the talking points for this weekend’s race.

Will Vettel get a break?

Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari, Hungaroring, 2017
Vettel hasn’t beaten Hamilton since July
Sebastian Vettel’s championship hopes could be snuffed out this weekend – unless luck is on his side.

He’s lost a maximum 25 points to Lewis Hamilton in two of the last three races. Vettel now needs a similar result in his favour to have any hope of getting back in the championship fight, or at least ensuring it goes the full 20 rounds.

The odds are stacked against him. But perhaps the 2017 championship has one surprise left up its sleeve.

At this track last month Formula V8 3.5 series leader Pietro Fittipaldi suffered a rare technical retirement which allowed his rivals to slash his points lead. Vettel needs lightning to strike twice at the same place.


This is the first United States Grand Prix since Formula One’s new American owners Liberty Media took over the sport and they’re making a big effort to increase the spectacle this weekend.

The focus is on the pre-race festivities. Celebrated sports announcer Michael Buffer will introduce the drivers ahead of the race and Olympic champion Usain Bolt will signal the beginning of the formation lap.

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And the sport is getting behind Breast Cancer Awareness month in a big way. Parts of the track have been painted pink to show support for the cause and Pirelli has re-coloured its purple ultra-soft tyres pink for this weekend.

But do Liberty they have anything special planned should Hamilton clinch the title on Sunday? If so, they’re keeping quiet about it.

All eyes on Hamilton

Max Verstappen, Toro Rosso, Shanghai International Circuit, 2016
Could Hamilton skip the anthem ceremony?
Hamilton may be planning something which could overshadow the pre-race build-up. In an interview last month he said he would consider whether to take part in the ‘take a knee’ civil rights protests which have become commonplace in America’s NFL during pre-game performances of the national anthem.

The three-times world champion has made clear his views on the subject on social media. But he’s aware he could face criticism for protesting an anthem for a country other than his own, and do his cause more harm than good.

But having already admitted he would consider it, whichever course of action Hamilton now takes is going to be open to interpretation.

If he chooses not to be present during the anthem he would receive a non-racing reprimand, as Vettel did when he showed up late for the anthem last weekend.

Sainz moves

Vettel’s misfortune may have drawn the life out of the championship battle but there’s plenty of intrigue further down the pit lane. Much of it is centred on Toro Rosso, where Carlos Sainz Jnr has moved on to pastured new.

After season-long speculation, Renault has shown Jolyon Palmer the door in order to bring Sainz in for the foreseeable future. Acclimatising to a new team in the middle of the season is tricky, but Sainz is at least already familiar with the workings of the Renault power unit.

The dynamic between him and Nico Hulkenberg, who kicked the stuffing out of Palmer all year long, will be scrutinised closely. This move could be the making of one of their careers.

Hartley arrives

Earl Bamber, Timo Bernhard, Brendon Hartley, Porsche, WEC, Circuit of the Americas, 2017
Brendon Hartley has terrific form at this track
Pierre Gasly has been despatched to Suzuka on what amounts to a goodwill mission for Toro Rosso’s soon-to-be engine supplier Honda, trying to inflict their first championship defeat on arch-rivals Toyota in Japan’s Super Formula series since 2013.

Toro Rosso therefore found themselves with a driver shortage. Having recalled Daniil Kvyat, the only option left to fill the car for this weekend – and possible beyond – was to call up one of their former junior drivers.

Brendon Hartley seems to fit the bill well. He lost his place on their young driver programme seven years ago after a win-less spell. But he’s made a name for himself in the World Endurance Championship where the levels of performance and the complexity of the technology is the closest thing to Formula One. And he knows the track well, having won the last three WEC races running at the track.

This amounts to a three-way shoot-out for the two places at Toro Rosso last year between Hartley, Gasly and the long-suffering Kvyat.

Kvyat returns

Kvyat’s performances haven’t been up to much for the last two years and he’s running out of chances to hold on to his place in Formula One. He’ll be expected to show Hartley the way and put the team in the hunt for points at a track where they should be competitive.

He’s been dependably good in qualifying for much of the year but needs to convert that pace into a race result.

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Author information

Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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39 comments on “Can Vettel pull off a shock in the title fight? Six US GP talking points”

  1. Regarding Gasley and Super Formula – is he 0.5 points off the points leader or is he 0.5 points away from an unassailable total? If it’s the latter I can see why it was a no brainer.

    1. 0.5 off the leader, I just looked it up.

  2. I hope Hamilton chooses to rise above it and not do anything to inflame the situation. Personally I have no problem whatsoever with people kneeling, talking or doing something else during the national anthem but these are Americans that we are talking about here and an American doing something in protest during their own national anthem is one thing, a foreigner is quite another.

    He will very likely alienate most of America if he does anything.

    1. Agree. He doesn’t need to put a target on his back like that and I hope he doesn’t.

    2. digitalrurouni
      19th October 2017, 12:43

      Honestly I would respect him more if he does in fact do it but I would prefer he not do it in order to inflame the situation. F1 should try and remain neutral as much as possible and Hamilton being part of the F1 family should remain neutral. However he is his own person and he has his own views and I respect that. If it alienates America then good. People here are so close minded it’s shocking. People have stopped being friends with me just because I don’t support everything Trump does! Been an eye opening experience finding out who my ‘true’ friends are. Never thought political views and just wanting to have people be treated equally can cause so much people to get annoyed!

      Anyway political rant over I am looking forward to the Austin GP and hoping Hamilton pulls off a grand chelem this weekend after a very tough fight :)

      1. It sickens me that anybody can support anything Trump says or does. That you now are finding out who your true friends are just shows how divisive that bigot is. I’m glad you’re shocked. Shows you have a healthy outlook. I’m absolutely fine with the take-the-knee protest, and am appalled that Trump, in his normal fashion, diverted it to being about disrespect for the flag and the country, when that was never what it was about. So typical and predictable of him. For that reason I don’t think LH should take the knee. It is about police brutality and the unfair treatment toward black people by bad cops who get off lightly if not completely for horrific behaviour all too often. But too much of the country has now blindly followed the rhetoric that it is about disrespecting the flag and country, and LH would risk being chastised for that. If I could advise LH it would be to stand during the anthem, but no doubt he will be asked before hand what he is going to do, and he’ll be asked afterwards why he stood or kneeled, and then he can just tell the media he is against police brutality in any country, including a country he has grown to love. That way an action doesn’t have to be misinterpreted like Trump would want. LH’s words would be more clear to the Americans who would rather happily follow the rhetoric and jump on the disrespect bandwagon. If football players didn’t love their flag and country they wouldn’t have bothered trying to point out a continuing dysfunction within it.

        1. I’d suggest he does something original to show solidarity but avoiding the now ‘knee jerk’ reaction to kneeling. I don’t see anything wrong in him doing the latter – it’s irrelevant whether he’s American or not – but it would be easier to dismiss without any focus on what he might have to say. Presuming he has. Given he set off the expectation with his own comment, he’s put the pressure on himself to do something.

        2. @robbie well said

        3. It is easy to talk trash about other countries.

      2. KimiRaikkonen07
        19th October 2017, 19:42

        I think it’s equally sickening the other way around – the Left leaning refuse to speak with Right leaning in my highschool in Washington state, not even bothering to inquire whether they support Trump or not. I would argue that the political division here in America and its effect on daily life is starting to grow just as big a problem as racial discrimination – people here just seem to refuse to acknowledge that other people can have different beliefs. For this reason I think Hamilton should avoid choosing sides and further polarizing the issue

    3. Is America the land of the free or not? Taking offense at somebody exorcising their freedom to choose is retarded. I suggest that all American study the words of their national anthem with a dictionary in hand. If nobody stood up to things that are wrong we would still have slavery and racial / sexual discrimination. You need people to stick their necks out to affect change. History is the proof.

      1. Have YOU actually looked at the anthem? It really has NOTHING to do with freedom, liberty, etc. It’s a terrible poem about surviving a battle so not exactly the rousing how free America is anthem. And sorry, but court cases have hundreds of times established limitations to your free speech when representing something else, aka your employer in their uniform. It is well established case law that the team owner, not the NFL commissioner, can say I expect my employees to act in a certain way when in the uniform and in the course of work. So far none have publicly and a few have joined the teams on the field.

        Also, it is MOSTLY bs arguing by talking heads on tv keeping it a ‘story.’ Day to day conversations regarding football are mostly how bad team X is not whether they should cut player Y for not standing. And often, how bad football really is. There was a more immediate impact on the league cash flow with the arrests and wife/gf/public beatings than the ‘outrage’ at the anthem. It’s just a general downward trend of TV coverage of most anything, but that’s not the great story. And if they really wanted to show the reality, they’d show the last decade worth of players warming up during the anthems. Not exactly the reverence everyone thinks has been ‘tradition’ in the league.

      2. The issue has become that Trump has shifted the focus of Take a Knee from being a peaceful protest against police brutality and has re framed it as being somehow disrespectful to the flag (because kneeling in chrurch is disrespectful to God, or kneeling before the person you’re proposing to is disrespectful?*).

        It’s become a rallying cry for racists to claim that Black athletes are somehow terrorists or something.

        *Don’t expect logic or consistency from the modern American right. They yell “Freedom of speech” when they rally around a Nazi or Confederate flag (it’s literally a symbol of treason), but don’t want to grant others the right to speak their minds.

        It’s a dark time here.

        1. As native peoples might say, the original terrorist immigrants: the English (and French and Spanish). Having decimated the indigenous population, the logic of racism in the US was always to marginalize and criminalize the black population, based on a very self-serving ‘fear’ of a black uprising in response to slavery (hence the close ideological connections between the KKK and the NRA). As in other colonial countries, the black population was also marginalized after abolition through huge enticement of European immigration, continuation of segregationist policies and the institutionalization of discrimination. The Union Flag flew over these apartheid polices for many, many decades. It’s a symbol of innocence and freedom only for those who ignore real history.

        2. And in my opinion, if Hamilton does something that gets more people to understand what is going on in America, good on him! The only people who are offended by someone taking a knee for the anthem will already be offended that Hamilton is successful and black.

          1. The only people who are offended by someone taking a knee for the anthem will already be offended that Hamilton is successful and black.

            And that he drives a more expensive car (without wearing a chauffeur’s hat).

            But jokes asides, you’re spot on.

    4. The best thing Lewis can do is to distance himself from all this American political nonsense. It will most certainly do him more harm than good. Their issue is a fundamentally American one, not a fundamentally “black vs white” one. The American public seems to be incapable for the most part of constructive conversation these days, & turn everything into an argument with undertones & accusations of oppression, injustice, corruption, general ineptitude & racism. Stay the hell out of it is my advice…

      1. Well said on all accounts.

    5. Absolutely. Was going to say something along those lines myself.

    6. All those anthem things are quite archaïc IMO.
      Better would be to remove all that stuff from the sport.

    7. I agree, it would be wrong for Lewis to promote this issue, not because this issue isn’t important, but because the Promoters of this race have already decided they want to promote a different issue: breast cancer. If Lewis wants to promote something, then that is what he should be promoting. If he decides to promote some other issue then people will be talking about that (as we are now) and not the issue the race organisers want promoting.
      As I understand it, this year there’s expected to be roughly 40,000 deaths in America due to breast cancer, which is slightly more than deaths related to firearms (roughly 33,000 in 2013), slightly more than deaths from automobiles (37,461 last year) and far more than the number of people killed in America by their police (183 people last year).
      I am quite sure those people who are trying to promote the seriousness of this issue would be extremely frustrated to find it being hijacked by statistically a less significant problem.

  3. Black males aged 15-34 were nine times more likely than other Americans to be killed by law enforcement officers.

    1. That number has been challenged multiple times and shown to be wrong; and not by Fox News, last one I saw was on NBC news and they aren’t exactly the conservative slanted news station. It is usually misrepresenting a fact as often it is reported black men are 9 times more likely to be killed by gun violence. Actual numbers of people shot, and also killed, by police shows more whites than blacks as raw numbers not percentage. Which means by percentage that can not be the case as minorities as closing the gap but many studies use all non-whites to determine minorities and if all minorities are less than whites, and more whites are killed by police then the math can NOT be a higher likelihood.

      1. I fail to understand your logic. But you can read something about it here.

  4. Hamilton should distance himself from the national affairs of USA.
    If he feels that there are wrong doings in USA, he should speak at a forum outside of Formula 1.

    If he does take a knee, it will be to easy to shout hypocrisy at him. Formula 1 races all over the world also in Nations that has issues with basic human rights viewed from a western point of view. Why didn’t he take a stand there? Because its not in the media?

    I am all for the drives using their well deserved fame to have a voice in matters, but do it outside of the sport. We have enough politics in racing, dont attract more.

  5. I don’ think SV can pull off a shock in the WDC fight. He can win this race though. And LH can dnf it. And that would ‘shock’ some people and get their attention into thinking perhaps the title fight isn’t decided yet. But all SV can do is win the race. That won’t be shocking. Then it comes down to where LH finishes.

  6. I believe that Hamilton, as anyone else, has a right to protest. However, if he does so I hope it is because he has done his homework and knows the facts, NOT just to jump on the bandwagon becuase this has become such a media frenzy.

    1. That’s a really good point. If Hamilton believes strongly enough about this to take part then good – I have respect for him. He should expect some serious questions though and if he’s unable to answer them, he’ll be seen to be trying to benefit from other people’s struggles.

  7. Well, first he needs to survive the formation lap and parade lap. After that anything can happen, but knowing Vettel, if there’s a hint of a safety car, he might just as well park it on his own, before he crashes into somebody else and earns more penalty points.

    1. He wouldn’t get any penalty points, he would either blame someone else or claim not to have noticed it even happened and then get away scot-free.

  8. watching Hartley closely; will he jump out of the car during a pit stop ;)

  9. I wonder how much Lewis Hamilton knows about black deaths at the hands of the police? It’s not as simple as he appears to think, the clash that kills the man is often the culmination of many failures of US society when it comes to the underprivileged, blacks being heavily represented here.

    For an analysis of the underlying causes of blacks [or hispanics, or whites, or indeed policeman] dying violent deaths, without the spin, then I recommend this piece.

  10. I have no problem with Hamilton taking a knee, but if he’s going to do it in the U.S., he should do it in every country in which there are human rights abuses. If he can stand for the Chinese and Russian anthems, not to mention Azerbaijan, then kneeling in the U.S. is just a gimmick.

    1. Those countries don’t offer quite the same liberty to protest that America does. While I doubt he’d be dragged off to a prison cell if he did make a protest in another contentious country, it would likely bring far harsher ramifications for him and his team.

      Also the whataboutery of if you protest this then why not protest that is neverending. It doesn’t diminish that there may be a valid cause for protest in America just because someone doesn’t protest each and every other injustice there is in what others deem appropriate order.

      The issue in America is also a little closer to home for Hamilton than issues specific to the other countries injustices. Hamilton making a protest against an issue he is affected by is no less valid just because he doesn’t act as a champion for every other injustice in the world.

      1. I agree with the element of whataboutism in my comment, and it wouldn’t make his protest invalid, but I can’t help but think there would be an element of being hip and cool to it. However, Keith just posted a story that says he has no plan to protest, so it won’t be an issue after all.

  11. Please, dear God, do NOT politicize one of the only remaining sporting events I watch. I would recommend Hamilton just stand respectfully for the US national anthem the same way he stood respectfully for the every other anthem to include Russian, Chinese, Bahrain, and Azerbaijan anthems. You can’t really protest ours and not theirs if you want to maintain any moral honesty, as any “oppression” in this country pales in comparison. Furthermore, this is not his country, not his politics, just leave it alone and get on with the race.

  12. I’m a Hamilton fan but I hope he doesn’t take a knee. I think it will do more harm than good for himself, the sport and his team. In any case as the article states, Hamilton is not an American citizen.

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