Alex Yoong previews the USA Grand Prix

Alex Yoong Alex Yoong

FOX Sports Asia’s Alex Yoong takes a look at what to expect at this weekend’s USA Grand Prix.

This weekend sees the first leg of an Americas double header in Texas, America, with Mexico following up the following week. Austin has become a favourite with the fans, not just for the racing on track, but also because of the legendary parties held in the city centre.

The big news story of the weekend has to be about the Renault/Toro Rosso driver shuffle. Carlos Sainz was let go by Toro Rosso early so that he could join Renault. He replaces Jolyn Palmer for the rest of the year this weekend and it really is a boost for the French team as not only is the Spaniard a proven point scorer, but it allows the team a jump start on getting to know their driver who was originally scheduled to join them next year.

This driver movement has allowed Daniil Kyvat back into the team and he will likely stay for the rest of the year. It feels like it’s last chance saloon for the Russian and he will be under pressure to score points to show that he deserves a place in the team for 2018.

Kyvat’s teammate, Pierre Gasly will also miss the race this weekend, as he will be in Japan for the last leg of Super Formula as he bids to win the title there – he is currently just half a point behind championship leader, Hiroaki Ishiura. Personally I think it’s a good move because while not as prestigious as Formula One, Super Formula is still a very highly regarded Championship and a title win would look very good on Gasly’s CV.

Just for this race in Texas, Toro Rosso will replace Gasly with Brandon Hartley who was a reserve Red Bull driver in 2010. It’s a bit of a surprising choice because the last time he drove a F1 car was in 2012 in the young driver test for Mercedes. He is however the 2017 LeMans champion with Porsche and he should be able to acquit himself well in this, his first ever Formula One race. It is however expected to be a one off for the New Zealander before Gasly returns in Mexico.

It’s usually at this point of the article that we talk about the fight for the driver’s championship, but really while not mathematically out of the question; it’s pretty much over. Lewis Hamilton has a 59-point lead over Sebastian Vettel and it’s pretty incredible how that has turned around so drastically since the Summer break by winning four times out of five.

Hamilton has also won four out of five times since F1 has been coming to the Circuit of the Americas, so It’s hard to see anyone stopping him this weekend. Austin has firmly become a Hamilton track like Canada, Britain and Italy. It’s hard on brakes and has some nice fast sweeping corners – all Lewis Hamilton territory.

Vettel has won here in 2013, so we can’t discount him and Ferrari showing up and being competitive. The big question is whether they can put aside the disappointment of doing so poorly in the last three races, especially in terms of reliability, to refocus and bring their A game. What they will really need though is not only a win for the German, but also a Hamilton retirement, it we are going to start talking about the driver’s championship again.

Enjoy the full experience of the 2017 FIA Formula One season on FOX Sports Play, where you can catch LIVE races from angles unseen before, exclusive interviews, behind the scenes, in-depth analysis and so much more. Don’t miss it!