By Alan Baldwin
MEXICOCITY (Reuters) – Lewis Hamilton has a week to wait for his sixth Formula One championship and the sport’s U.S. owners could hardly have wished for a better backdrop to the celebrations.
The Mercedes driver is a racing certainty to wrap things up at the Circuit of the Americas (COTA) in Austin, Texas, next Sunday.
The U.S. market is seen as a major growth area for commercial rights holder Liberty Media, with another race in Miami in the planning stages and talk also of Las Vegas, while Hamilton is a regular visitor to what has become home from home.
“I’ve obviously done quite a few (television) shows out there and am definitely becoming more and more known in the States,” the 34-year-old Briton said after winning Sunday’s Mexican Grand Prix to all but secure the crown.
“I think my story and my family’s story is something that a lot of people in different countries can relate to,” added the grandson of Caribbean immigrants who has risen from an underprivileged background to fame and fortune.
“The (Texas) track is fantastic and it’s been a good hunting ground for me, so I’m very excited to go there and who knows whether we can get the job done.”
It does not take a lot of number crunching to figure out the chances.
Hamilton has a 74 point advantage over Finnish team mate Valtteri Bottas with three races to go, which means the Briton needs only four points — an eighth place — to put the championship to bed.
Bottas must meanwhile win all of the last three races to have any hope — starting at a circuit where he has never finished higher than fifth.
The only one of the remaining three races that the Finn has won previously is Abu Dhabi, in 2017 when Hamilton had already clinched the title and still came second.
As the late Muhammad Ali famously said of rival Joe Frazier, the only chances are slim and none. And, after Bottas finished third in Mexico to fall further behind his team mate, slim has definitely left town.
Hamilton has won five of the seven U.S. Grands Prix held in Austin since the circuit’s debut in 2012 and has yet to finish lower than fourth there.
He is also on a run of 30 successive points scoring finishes and has stood on the podium in 14 of the 18 races so far in 2019.
Sunday’s win was his 10th of the season, taking him to a career tally of 83 with Michael Schumacher’s all-time record of 91 in his sights.
Hamilton will be joining the great German, who racked up seven titles, as the only drivers to have won six since the world championship started in 1950.
Before he gets down to business, Hamilton was heading for New York and a Tuesday meeting with sponsors in midtown Manhattan, while Bottas flies to Los Angeles and a Formula One live show on Hollywood Boulevard on Wednesday.
“Naturally I like being in the States so it’s a pretty calm build-up. Shouldn’t be a problem,” said Hamilton.
(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Christian Radnedge)