Formula One: Hamilton closing in, new faces and pink tyres as US Grand Prix looms

Austin welcomes the F1 title battle this weekend and there's plenty of chat coming out of the paddock ahead of the United States GP.

Four wins in the past five races have seen Lewis Hamilton pull 59 points clear of Sebastian Vettel and the Briton could wrap up the title at the United States Grand Prix.

Hamilton has won this race on five occasions – a record he shares with Michael Schumacher – and has topped the podium in four of the five to be held in Austin.

The Mercedes driver' form has earned praise from team boss Toto Wolff ahead of this weekend's race, and rightly so.

There will be debuts further down the grid as teams begin to prepare for 2018, while a familiar face has taken another step towards a remarkable return.

As the tyres change to pink in support of breast cancer, we take a look at the talk emerging from the world of Formula One ahead of the 17th race of the season.

 

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HAMILTON HITTING THE RIGHT NOTES

Victory in Suzuka put Hamilton on the verge of a fourth world title and his form since Belgium has been "on another level" according to Mercedes boss Wolff.

If Hamilton can pull more than 75 points clear of Vettel this weekend, the title will be his.

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

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

"[But we] still [have] four races to go and 100 points to score: we can take nothing for granted. We approach every race with a healthy dose of scepticism rather than wishful thinking, and our focus must be on making sure we score every point within our reach this weekend in Austin."

 

SAINZ SWITCHES, HANDING HARTLEY DEBUT

The changes at Renault that have pushed Kubica to consider his options include Carlos Sainz's move to the team on loan, and the Spaniard will make his team debut in America.

Sainz has scored 48 points for Toro Rosso this season and will hope to add to that in the final four races before embarking on a first full campaign with Renault.

His seat will be taken by debutant Brendon Hartley this weekend, the 27-year-old replacing Pierre Gasly to allow the latter to race in the Japanese Super Formula Championship.

KUBICA COMEBACK WITH WILLIAMS?

Robert Kubica's reported F1 return has been subject to much speculation in recent months, with the Polish driver testing with former team Renault.

However, the French team's move to confirm their driver line-up for 2018 has seen Kubica switch his attention to Williams.

The 32-year-old, who suffered a rally accident in 2011 that left him with only partial movement in his right arm, completed the first of two tests with the British team after the Japanese Grand Prix.

His second outing is expected to become before the practice sessions get underway in Austin, with Paul Di Resta also thought to be in the running for Felipe Massa's seat.

KIMI'S THE BEST - VETTEL

Relationships between team-mates are often fractious, as hinted at by Jenson Button's comments about Lewis Hamilton in his upcoming autobiography.

But Sebastian Vettel says life at Ferrari is very good with current stablemate Kimi Raikkonen. 

He said: "Kimi is probably the best team-mate that I [have] had. He is pretty straightforward, but I also got along well with Daniel [Ricciardo]."

PRETTY IN PINK

In support of breast cancer awareness, this weekend's ultrasoft tyre will turn pink from their usual purple markings.

Areas of the Circuit of the Americas, including the pit lane and track, will also be painted pink as F1 shows its support during Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

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