Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes, Circuit of the Americas, 2019

Bottas doing all he can to sustain wafer-thin title chance

2019 United States Grand Prix pre-race analysis

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Realistically, Valtteri Bottas achieved the best result available in qualifying to keep his fading title hopes alive.

He came out on top in a fiercely close contest for pole position where just 67 thousandths of a second covered the top three. Meanwhile Lewis Hamilton was beaten by the only three other cars likely to do so: The Ferrari pair and Max Verstappen; Alexander Albon having never really threatened to get ahead of the Mercedes.

But whether Bottas can stop Hamilton clinching the title today is in the lap of the gods as much as it is in 56 laps of the Circuit of the Americas. He doesn’t just need to win the race, realistically he needs Hamilton not to finish it.

Job one is to see off the threat from Sebastian Vettel, who will start alongside him on the front row. As the speed trap figures below indicate, Ferrari’s superior straight-line performance may well have been blunted by the recent clarification of the technical regulations by the FIA.

Nonetheless second on the grid at COTA presents a driver with a fine chance to launch one up the inside. Bottas also has the feisty Verstappen’s third-placed Red Bull to worry about.

Mercedes showed decent pace over a race stint on Friday. However the weather has warmed up since then, and their advantage may not be as strong as it appears. Even so, Bottas is well-placed to grab his fourth victory of the season today.

The top five on the grid will all start on the medium compound tyres. Of those, only the Ferrari pair have a fresh stint of soft tyres. They could be planning to stretch out their first stint long enough to switch to softs at their pit stop, but that will leave them vulnerable to their rivals pitting early and jumping ahead of them.

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Hamilton will face a familiar dilemma concerning his approach to the race at this stage in the championship. Much as he may want to hang it all out in pursuit of victory, the title beckons today, and his safest route to it is to stay out of trouble and follow the front-runners home. He only needs one eighth place from the final three races to get the job done, and the easiest way to fail would be to get involved in a race-ending collision in pursuit of a victory he doesn’t need.

“There’s still two more after this,” said Hamilton on Sunday. “Naturally I’ll approach exactly the same. I’m not looking to pull out miracles tomorrow.”

Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari, Circuit of the Americas, 2019
Have Ferrari got an aggressive strategy in mind?
Bottas won’t be troubling himself with thoughts of what Hamilton will do, as there’s nothing he can do to prevent Hamilton getting the points he needs. However he expects his team mate will concede little in a championship-deciding race at a track where he’s already won six times before.

“I don’t know what his mindset is right now but from what I know of him, he’s going to be there, fighting hard,” said Bottas.

“For sure he also hates losing, he always wants to win like all of us. Obviously he’s leading the championship with a big margin, he doesn’t need many points.

“I’m sure he would like to win the championship in a nice way eventually when and if it happens. But obviously I will try to delay that, I try to focus on my own race, try to focus on winning the race rather than anyone else’s opinions or mindsets.”

Barring a shock, a championship battle which has seemed a forgone conclusion for several races will likely come to an end today. But with three different teams covered by a tiny margin at the front of the field, the signs are good we should have a competitive race today, and that the 2020 F1 season will be a closer fight.

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Qualifying times in full

DriverCarQ1

Q2 (vs Q1)

Q3 (vs Q2)
1Valtteri BottasMercedes1’33.7501’33.160 (-0.590)1’32.029 (-1.131)
2Sebastian VettelFerrari1’33.7661’32.782 (-0.984)1’32.041 (-0.741)
3Max VerstappenRed Bull1’33.5491’33.120 (-0.429)1’32.096 (-1.024)
4Charles LeclercFerrari1’33.9881’32.760 (-1.228)1’32.137 (-0.623)
5Lewis HamiltonMercedes1’33.4541’33.045 (-0.409)1’32.321 (-0.724)
6Alexander AlbonRed Bull1’33.9841’32.898 (-1.086)1’32.548 (-0.350)
7Carlos Sainz JnrMcLaren1’33.9161’33.422 (-0.494)1’32.847 (-0.575)
8Lando NorrisMcLaren1’33.3531’33.316 (-0.037)1’33.175 (-0.141)
9Daniel RicciardoRenault1’33.8351’33.608 (-0.227)1’33.488 (-0.120)
10Pierre GaslyToro Rosso1’33.5561’33.715 (+0.159)1’33.601 (-0.114)
11Nico HulkenbergRenault1’34.0921’33.815 (-0.277)
12Kevin MagnussenHaas1’33.8121’33.979 (+0.167)
13Daniil KvyatToro Rosso1’34.1381’33.785 (-0.353)
14Lance StrollRacing Point1’33.9211’34.100 (+0.179)
15Romain GrosjeanHaas1’34.1611’34.158 (-0.003)
16Antonio GiovinazziAlfa Romeo1’34.226
17Kimi RaikkonenAlfa Romeo1’34.369
18George RussellWilliams1’35.372
19Robert KubicaWilliams1’35.889
20Sergio PerezRacing Point1’35.808

Sector times

DriverSector 1Sector 2Sector 3
Valtteri Bottas24.719 (5)36.718 (1)30.553 (2)
Sebastian Vettel24.611 (2)36.765 (2)30.648 (5)
Max Verstappen24.646 (4)36.968 (5)30.422 (1)
Charles Leclerc24.518 (1)36.959 (4)30.574 (3)
Lewis Hamilton24.632 (3)36.866 (3)30.803 (7)
Alexander Albon24.758 (6)37.071 (6)30.609 (4)
Carlos Sainz Jnr24.974 (9)37.104 (7)30.745 (6)
Lando Norris24.945 (8)37.195 (8)30.868 (8)
Daniel Ricciardo25.111 (12)37.275 (9)30.965 (9)
Pierre Gasly25.031 (10)37.282 (10)31.074 (11)
Nico Hulkenberg25.380 (18)37.428 (14)31.007 (10)
Kevin Magnussen24.930 (7)37.392 (13)31.414 (15)
Daniil Kvyat25.155 (15)37.346 (12)31.265 (13)
Lance Stroll25.149 (14)37.457 (15)31.262 (12)
Romain Grosjean25.117 (13)37.622 (16)31.282 (14)
Antonio Giovinazzi25.264 (16)37.334 (11)31.628 (17)
Kimi Raikkonen25.103 (11)37.800 (17)31.466 (16)
George Russell25.359 (17)38.088 (19)31.811 (19)
Robert Kubica25.839 (20)38.299 (20)31.720 (18)
Sergio Perez25.659 (19)38.011 (18)32.138 (20)

Speed trap

PosDriverCarEngineSpeed (kph/mph)Gap
1Pierre GaslyToro RossoHonda328.2 (203.9)
2Antonio GiovinazziAlfa RomeoFerrari328.1 (203.9)-0.1
3Daniil KvyatToro RossoHonda327.9 (203.7)-0.3
4Carlos Sainz JnrMcLarenRenault327.5 (203.5)-0.7
5Nico HulkenbergRenaultRenault327.2 (203.3)-1.0
6Kevin MagnussenHaasFerrari327.2 (203.3)-1.0
7Lance StrollRacing PointMercedes327.1 (203.3)-1.1
8Sebastian VettelFerrariFerrari326.1 (202.6)-2.1
9Charles LeclercFerrariFerrari326.0 (202.6)-2.2
10Alexander AlbonRed BullHonda325.8 (202.4)-2.4
11Daniel RicciardoRenaultRenault325.7 (202.4)-2.5
12Lando NorrisMcLarenRenault325.7 (202.4)-2.5
13Max VerstappenRed BullHonda324.9 (201.9)-3.3
14Kimi RaikkonenAlfa RomeoFerrari324.0 (201.3)-4.2
15Valtteri BottasMercedesMercedes323.0 (200.7)-5.2
16George RussellWilliamsMercedes322.6 (200.5)-5.6
17Lewis HamiltonMercedesMercedes322.6 (200.5)-5.6
18Sergio PerezRacing PointMercedes322.3 (200.3)-5.9
19Robert KubicaWilliamsMercedes321.6 (199.8)-6.6
20Romain GrosjeanHaasFerrari320.6 (199.2)-7.6

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Drivers’ remaining tyres

DriverTeamHardMediumSoft
NewUsedNewUsedNewUsed
Lewis HamiltonMercedes101103
Valtteri BottasMercedes101103
Sebastian VettelFerrari100212
Charles LeclercFerrari100212
Max VerstappenRed Bull011103
Alexander AlbonRed Bull012003
Daniel RiccairdoRenault101004
Nico HulkenbergRenault101014
Kevin MagnussenHaas011014
Romain GrosjeanHaas011014
Carlos Sainz JnrMcLaren101004
Lando NorrisMcLaren101004
Sergio PerezRacing Point101032
Lance StrollRacing Point101014
Kimi RaikkonenAlfa Romeo101032
Antonio GiovinazziAlfa Romeo101032
Daniil KvyatToro Rosso101014
Pierre GaslyToro Rosso101004
George RussellWilliams101113
Robert KubicaWilliams101113

Over to you

Will Mercedes, Ferrari or Red Bull come out on top in Austin? And will F1 have a new six-times champion in a few hours?

Share your views on the United States Grand Prix in the comments.

Quotes: Josh Holland

2019 United States Grand Prix

Browse all 2019 United States Grand Prix articles

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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14 comments on “Bottas doing all he can to sustain wafer-thin title chance”

  1. At the start of the race weekend I speculated that Hamilton should get into Q3 and then qualify 5th or 6th as the safest way to getting the championship, avoiding first corner and first lap incidents. With Albon on soft tyres, could well be an effective ‘6th’ anyhow. Now I’m not so sure though. If Ferrari’s engine has been tamed, getting a clean start and away could be better. But should be feisty at the start anyhow.

    1. Fastest way to finish the race is by winning it. Cruising in front, minding the temperatures, staying out of trouble.

      I’ll be very disappointed if Hamilton finishes the race 6th cruising behind Albon.

    2. It is much safer to start on pole than from 5th. When you start from first the only cars around you are either behind you or next to you. In 5th you have cars battling for positions in front of you and behind you. Also when starting from first it is much harder to become a participant in someone else’s accident but when you start from 5th you can get hit by cars who have accidents in front of you or get hit from behind if you slow down too much to avoid that accident in front of you. Of course it is much worse in the mid pack but there are no positives to starting in 5h compared any places near the pole. The only which is better situation is with p1 and p2. Sometimes one is on the racing line and is grippier whereas the other one is not and long run to turn 1 can sometimes be advantage for the p2 guy if he gets a good slipstream. But even then the 2nd placed guy needs to be able to perform that move which is more difficult than getting a good start from pole.

      1. @jureo @socksolid Usually yes, however the first corner at Austin is tricky even from pole, we’ve seen it contested successfully numerous times. Hamilton tends to be cautious at race starts, Mexico being a real recent exception, but there’s not much you can do to be cautious at Austin if you’re in P1 or P2, you’re swamped very quickly by other cars trying different lines, which is the great thing about the first corner. I tend to agree though, playing safe seldom works.

    3. @david-br

      Could anyone have speculated that Lewis would only win 2 races in the last 8 of 2007 and 1 in the last 8 of 2008
      and now potentially 2 in the last 8 of this season, although he should finally wrap it up today he should have a good reboot and win for fun again.

      1. When you have won 8 of the first 13 races cruising to a WDC is a luxury you can afford but hey…according to BigJoe a season is contested over the final 8 races. Great maths Joe.
        Lest I remind you.. Lewis has won more races than the entire grid combined this year. Enjoy the race 👏

      2. 2007 was hamilton’s rookie season, by far the best rookie season ever in Formula 1, beating an established two-time world champion, losing by one point after said rookie was left out too long by his team in China (which they admitted) and then suffering a mysterious issue in the final race (again the team taking the blame). 2008 he was competing in an equal car against two drivers, the previous years world champion and the guy he was helping, including pulling over in China, and against FIA, who the boss at the time, Mosely, admitted had to ‘help’ Ferrari as it was them against the rest (the UK ‘garage’ teams).

        The real question is why you demand so much from Hamilton when other drivers – all of them – have had far less impressive rookie seasons? Why do you single out Hamilton for this skewed view? We all know the answer of course. But you just keep on pretending.

  2. I wonder if there will ever be a day where I don’t read “wafer thin” in a French accent…..?

  3. Would like to see BOT or VET win. Second row lunatics will make it interesting. Young men trying out to make a point with the season coming to a close. Think HAM sits back and tries for a place using a 1 stop strategy after all he is a fan of RIC.

  4. I find it astonishing that Bottas is potentially only a couple Hamilton dnfs from the title, given how Hamilton has dominated him on Sunday’s this year. In the olden days mechanical dnfs were a real possibility and still happen though we largely discount them now.. I remember when Hamilton had his mystery glitch in Brazil in 2007 that probably cost him the title.

    1. @dmw
      Lots of probably’s in 2007 and 2008 some even claimed Lewis bottles it.

      Not to take anything away from the Ferrari drivers in 2007 of course! with 6 + 3 wins and Massa with 6 fantastic poles.
      Lewis won 2 races in the last 8 of 2007. This years title should have been wrapped up in September.
      Same in 2008, only 1 win in the last 8. Credit due to Massa and lots of ‘probably should have won the title’ to him

      1. @bigjoe, at the start of September, you still had 9 races and nearly 45% of the calendar still to go – even by the end of September there’s still nearly 25% of the entire calendar left to go, which just underlines how many races now form part of the championship.

        In that situation, Hamilton has to outscore Bottas by 52 points, or 13 points per race, for Bottas to be out of mathematical contention for the title – which is not that easy to do. In order to achieve that, Hamilton would have to win all four races, with Bottas finishing 4th or lower – if he finished 2nd in each of those races, he’d then need Bottas to average 8th or lower, whilst 3rd would require Bottas to average 9th or lower in those races.

        Given that, in most normal circumstances, Bottas wouldn’t be finishing outside the top 6 at worst, the only way that he would get that winning total was to win four races back to back and hope that Bottas was beaten to the podium. It wasn’t necessarily impossible, but it requires Bottas to have been consistently beaten by two of the three drivers in competitive enough cars to beat him whilst, simultaneously, winning all four races – so, at the very least, still a pretty tall order to achieve that.

      2. Come on Jo! That’s a bit rich! You are the king of “Ifs and buts” when it comes to Lewis. I’m sure I heard cries of hypocrisy last week when Lewis said saving the environment was a good thing. Keep em coming my good man. Keep em coming.

  5. Jose Lopes da Silva
    3rd November 2019, 16:18

    Smells like 2015.

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