Lewis Hamilton will have the chance to win the third world title of his career during the United States Formula One Grand Prix 2015, providing the results at the Circuit of the Americas go his way.
The Mercedes man has a commanding lead in the drivers' standings but needs to outscore Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel by nine points and team-mate Nico Rosberg by two. If he doesn't, the title race will stay alive for at least one more race.
Sky Sports and NBC Sports will provide full coverage of the race weekend, which is expected to be plagued by heavy rain. Here's a look at the full TV schedule:
|Session||Day||Sky Start (BST)||NBC Start (ET)|
|Practice 1||Friday||3:45 p.m.||11 a.m. (NBCSN)|
|Practice 2||Friday||7:45 p.m.||3 p.m. (NBCSN)|
|Practice 3||Saturday||3:45 p.m.||11:00 p.m. (SLE)|
|Qualifying||Saturday||6 p.m||12:30 p.m. (NBCSN)|
|Race||Sunday||5:30 p.m. (GMT)||2:30 am (NBC)|
The drivers who will be battling it out in Austin, Texas:
|Team||Driver 1||Driver 2|
|Mercedes||Lewis Hamilton||Nico Rosberg|
|Red Bull||Daniel Ricciardo||Daniil Kvyat|
|Ferrari||Sebastian Vettel||Kimi Raikkonen|
|Lotus||Pastor Maldonado||Romain Grosjean|
|McLaren||Fernando Alonso||Jenson Button|
|Force India||Nico Hulkenberg||Sergio Perez|
|Sauber||Marcus Ericsson||Felipe Nasr|
|Toro Rosso||Max Verstappen||Carlos Sainz Jr.|
|Williams||Valtteri Bottas||Felipe Massa|
|Manor||Will Stevens||Alexander Rossi|
Friday's practice session was heavily affected by rainstorms that are currently bombarding Austin, and NBC Sports' Leigh Diffey didn't expect many of the racers to try their hand at the track in such dreadful conditions:
As reported by Weather.com, the poor conditions are expected to last throughout the weekend, although the weather should be less fierce on Sunday. It adds yet another wrinkle to what should be a fantastic race with major title implications.
Hamilton is widely expected to win his third world title after a dominant campaign in which he has already won an incredible nine races. The Mercedes man has been nearly flawless, and with team-mate Rosberg piling on the mistakes, his main contender for the title has been Vettel, whose Ferrari has looked much improved, particularly in the second half of the season.
One would assume Hamilton wants to wrap the title race up as quickly as possible, but as he told Bleacher Report's Neil James in an exclusive interview, that's not the case:
I'm close? I don't really know. People have been talking about what I've got to do in order to do it, and I'm not really taking any notice of it to be honest.
We've got four races to go, so for me what's most important is that I want to win the championship, of course, but I'm not in a hurry as such—as long as by the time I come across the line in Abu Dhabi [the final race] I've won, that's all I want.
Thinks are looking up for Hamilton's chances to grab the title this weekend, however. As reported by Reuters' Alan Baldwin, Vettel has been hit with a 10-place grid penalty, and while Rosberg won't just gift the win to Hamilton, the German hasn't been able to keep pace with his team-mate most of the season.
The Circuit of the Americas has plenty of open straights where both Mercedes cars should shine compared to their opponents, but the technical final sector seems perfectly suited for Hamilton and his aggressive cornering.
Further down the grid, the battle will also be fierce. Alexander Rossi will replace Roberto Merhi in the second Manor car, handing him a fantastic opportunity to prove himself with an eye on the 2016 season.
As shared by Pirelli Motorsport, he will give the home fans a hero to cheer on for the first time in years:
While all eyes will be on the title race and Hamilton's attempt to close the deal in Austin, the weather could greatly disrupt the practice sessions, forcing the teams to use Saturday in order to collect data for the race.
And if that happens, a handful of unfancied drivers might just find themselves near the front, where they in turn could impact the fate of the Mercedes duo. Sergio Perez rode his way to the podium of the Russia Grand Prix in that manner, for instance, and don't be shocked to see a similar final result in Austin if the rain continues on Saturday.