The races are fast running out as the 2016 F1 season draws to a close with four rounds remaining. Yet there is still plenty to be decided in the Drivers Championship.
Nico Rosberg heads to Austin with a 33 point lead over his teammate, Lewis Hamilton.
It’s brilliant for Rosberg as he now has the “insurance” of more than 25 points, meaning if he were to suffer a similar engine issue to the one Hamilton experienced in Malaysia he would still lead the championship.
It does however mean that although there are four remaining races to be run, the title battle at this present moment has three races left.
It also means that if Hamilton were to win the remaining four races, Rosberg now only needs to finish second in the remaining races to clinch the title.
The Red Bull of Daniel Ricciardo still has a sizeable lead over fourth placed Kimi Raikkonen in the standings, that despite finishing behind Raikkonen in Japan.
Three way battle for Fourth
The gap between Raikkonen and Ricciardo has closed ever so slightly, by 2 points. Therefore focus remains on the now very close battle between the Finn, his teammate Sebastian Vettel, and Max Verstappen.
Both Max Verstappen and Sebastian Vettel are 5 points behind Raikkonen with Verstappen ahead of Vettel on countback.
It’s a battle that has had a lot of movement from race to race as each of the three have had a run of good races and then a run of poor races. It’s likely to change once again in Texas, but in whose favour?
Bottas and Perez
With the difficult weekend Williams had in Japan it allowed the Force India drivers to take advantage in both the Constructors and Drivers championships.
Sergio Perez certainly took advantage as he is now 1 point behind Valtteri Bottas in the driver standings having finished three places ahead of Bottas in Japan. This after it was 6 points heading into the Malaysia Grand Prix.
Sergio Perez will no doubt hope to have another good weekend in the United States in a hope to build good form and momentum ahead of his home Grand Prix of Mexico. It may be tight between the two however this weekend as both have performed well in Austin in the past, both Bottas and Perez’s highest place finish has been a fifth place (Bottas in 2014 and Perez in 2015).
Battle for Ninth
There was quite a bit of movement in Japan with the battle for ninth in the standings with Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg extending his advantage slightly. However it is now Felipe Massa who is in tenth, instead of Fernando Alonso, after Massa finished in the points in ninth.
Fernando Alonso is still in the fight for ninth as he is only 1 point behind Massa. It now means that Hulkenberg is 11 points ahead of Massa and 12 ahead of Alonso.
Scuderia Toro Rossos and the Haas of Grosjean
With the impressive qualifying of the Haas F1 team, it looked like both or either Grosjean or Gutierrez could score points in Japan. Grosjean nearly did as he finished under a second from the final points paying position. Gutierrez’s race didn’t go as well as his teammate’s.
It means that Grosjean remains 2 points behind the Toro Rosso of Carlos Sainz and 3 points ahead of the Toro Rosso of Daniil Kvyat.
Remaining point scorers and non scorers
There are a further five points scorers and following on from Jolyon Palmer claiming his first point in Malaysia, it looked like after Saturday in Japan that Esteban Gutierrez in the Haas could join the list. Unfortunately his race didn’t come together and he fell through the pack.
However the next two are home Grand Prix of sorts, the first for the Haas team (as already mentioned) and Esteban’s own home Grand Prix of Mexico follows. Two races worth keeping an eye on Esteban Gutierrez to see whether he can join the current nineteen point scorers of the 2016 season.