F1 parade rolls into Austin

Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton about to celebrate his Japanese Grand Prix win at the Suzuka circuit paddock on Oct 8. He leads by 59 points and is looking to sew up his fourth F1 title this weekend.
Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton about to celebrate his Japanese Grand Prix win at the Suzuka circuit paddock on Oct 8. He leads by 59 points and is looking to sew up his fourth F1 title this weekend.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Hamilton can clinch title by scoring 16pts more than Vettel at jazzed-up Texas race

LONDON • Usain Bolt, the "world's fastest man", will be putting Formula One title favourite Lewis Hamilton under starter's orders for what could be a decisive United States Grand Prix this weekend.

The eight-time Olympic gold-medallist sprinter, who retired after the World Championships in London in August, has been enlisted to send the field off for the pre-race formation lap at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas.

Mercedes driver Hamilton, who can clinch the championship on Sunday if he finishes first or second and other results go his way, might also be giving the Jamaican a quick passenger ride in a road car earlier in the day.

US-based Liberty Media, which took over Formula One in January and has talked of treating every race like a Super Bowl, is keen to pump up the show at the sole round in the United States.

The pre-race programme has been expanded so that Michael Buffer, renowned for introducing boxing title fights with the call, "Let's get ready to rumble", can present the 20 drivers individually to the crowd.

Soul singer Stevie Wonder will perform, with the Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders going through their routines on the starting grid.

"We continue to layer in new elements at each grand prix and this innovative driver presentation format seemingly was an appropriate addition for Austin," said Formula One's commercial manager Sean Bratches in a statement.

"The USA is, without a doubt, the country where sports events are seen as entertainment that goes above and beyond the purely sporting contest.

"We want to do something that positions Formula One as breaking the boundaries, between sport and a show."

A mechanical bucking bronco will also be installed in the paddock for anyone brave enough to give it a go.

Pink strips have meanwhile been painted along the pit lane and around the track as part of a breast-cancer awareness initiative, with tyre supplier Pirelli colour-coding pink their ultrasoft tyres.

Organisers have also secured a schedule change for qualifying, with the Saturday session starting two hours later to reduce the gap between the track action and a Justin Timberlake concert in the evening.

Hamilton is 59 points clear of Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel with four races remaining and will win the title if he scores 16 points more than the German on Sunday.

According to ESPN, Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff has praised the performances of the Briton since the summer break, when he won four out of five races - the latest of which was at the Japanese Grand Prix two weeks ago.

He said that Hamilton's success was largely due to the driver's willingness to help the team rectify and improve the car further as he goes in search of a fourth world championship title.

"Lewis has driven brilliantly this year - and since the summer break in particular, he has been on another level," the Austrian said.

"It has been impressive to watch him extracting everything from the car and working with the team to solve problems and improve even further.''

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 19, 2017, with the headline 'F1 parade rolls into Austin'. Print Edition | Subscribe