5 storylines to watch at the US Grand Prix with Max Verstappen locked in as the F1 Champion

5 storylines to watch at the US Grand Prix with Max Verstappen locked in as the F1 Champion

Formula 1 makes its second visit to America this season with the 2022 United States Grand Prix at the Circuit of the Americas (COTA). Widely regarded as a driver favorite, the circuit hosted 400,000 visitors last year and is known for being quite the spectacle. Even with the Championship wrapped up in Suzuka two weeks ago, there is still plenty of action on and off the track to keep an eye on this weekend.

Max Verstappen could tie the record for most wins in a season (13) at COTA. That would put him level with Michael Schumacher (2004) and Sebastian Vettel (2013), although they did it with three and four fewer races in those seasons, respectively. Verstappen should ultimately take that record with four races remaining in 2022.

1. The Constructors Championship

After eight straight championships by Mercedes, Red Bull could clinch the Constructors’ title this weekend in Austin. Like Verstappen’s Driver’s Championship, it is more of a question where Red Bull will win it, rather than if they will. They have a 165-point lead, so a win at COTA would secure the prize. Don’t underestimate the importance of this Championship. Not only are there massive financial benefits, but Red Bull has long wanted to reclaim the title from Mercedes. In recent interviews, key members of the Red Bull team have discussed beating Mercedes this year, looking past any challenge from Ferrari. Red Bull had four straight titles before Mercedes, Lewis Hamilton, and Toto Wolff dominated the series for much of the last decade. Will Red Bull be celebrating a Championship in the paddock post-race for the second round in a row?

2. Open Seats

Only two spots remain on the 2023 grid. At Haas, Mick Schumacher has yet to secure a third season in F1. Despite his talent and improvement over 2021, the costs he has racked up from several crashes and his inability to consistently beat teammate Kevin Magnussen has him at a deficit. With Daniel Ricciardo ruling out a drive next season, long-time vet Nico Hulkenberg has moved into pole position for the second seat at Haas.

Meanwhile, Nicholas Latifi’s confirmed departure was initially thought to be filled by Nyck de Vries. But following his announcement at AlphaTauri, American Logan Sargent could make a jump that was not on the radar some 12 months ago. Will either team make an announcement while in Austin?

3. Cost Cap Penalties

Probably the most talked about story in the paddock this weekend will be the cost cap controversy. Last week the FIA released that Aston Martin and Williams have made procedural breaches, but it is the ‘minor’ financial breach by Red Bull that everyone is watching. The minor financial category means anywhere up to 5% over the cost cap, roughly $7 million. The penalty could range anywhere from fines to point deductions in either the Driver or Constructors Championships.

While the ruling could play a role in either the 2021 or 2022 seasons, the bigger question is how it will impact the way teams operate going forward. If Red Bull is only hit with a financial penalty teams can budget those fees on top of their annual budget going forward. Without a penalty to the team on track or in the development process, the new cost cap will have lost a lot of its planned impact.

4. The Battle from 2nd through 6th

While Max Verstappen may have cruised to his second F1 title, the battle from second down to sixth place has been far more entertaining. Heading into the US Grand Prix just 73 points separate Charles Leclerc in second back to Lewis Hamilton with 100+ points still in play this season. Can Sergio Perez, who is behind Leclerc by a single point, make it a 1-2 for Red Bull or will Ferrari be able to regain momentum at the end of the year and salvage second place? And could George Russell (207), in his debut season at Mercedes, come out ahead of Carlos Sainz (202) and his teammate Lewis Hamilton (180)?

5. Logan Sargent in FP1

Friday will mark the first time in seven years since an American has taken part in an F1 weekend. Williams Academy driver Logan Sargent will make his FP1 debut as part of the mandatory rookie testing runs this season. Sargent is currently third in Formula 2 with one round to go, having picked up back-to-back Feature Race wins at Silverstone and Red Bull Ring. More importantly, he is now considered to be the front-runner for the soon-to-be vacant seat at Williams once Nicholas Latifi makes way. Could 2023 mark the return of a full-time American driver in F1?

How To Watch (all times ET)

  • US GP Preview Show: Friday 10/21 – 2:00 pm – ESPN3/WatchESPN
  • Practice 1 – Friday 10/21 – 2:55 pm – ESPN2/ESPN Deportes/WatchESPN
  • Practice 2 – Friday 10/21 – 5:55 pm – ESPNews/ESPN Deportes/WatchESPN
  • Practice 3 – Saturday 10/22 – 2:55 pm – ESPNews/ESPN Deportes/WatchESPN
  • Qualifying – Saturday 10/22 – 5:55 pm – ESPNews/ESPN Deportes/WatchESPN
  • Grand Prix Sunday (Pre-race Show) – Sunday 10/23 – 1:30 pm – ABC/ESPN Deportes/WatchESPN
  • Grand Prix Race – Sunday 10/23 – 3:00 pm – ABC/ESPN Deportes/WatchESPN

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