R3I1363Lewis Hamilton believes the drivers' championship is still likely to "go to the wire" despite being able to secure the title in the United States Grand Prix.

A win for Hamilton with Sebastian Vettel outside the top six will see him wrap up a fourth drivers' championship, and the Briton took another step closer by claiming pole position on Saturday. With Vettel – who will start from second – having retired from two of the last three races, Hamilton still believes Ferrari is likely to prolong the battle until the final round in Abu Dhabi.

"I think It's highly unlikely that will be the case," Hamilton said when asked if he'll win the title on Sunday. "Sebastian did a great job today to bring the Ferrari back up there. Ultimately all I can do is the best I can of my abilities and we have to work as hard as we can to get maximum points.

"Sebastian is right there, so unless he makes a silly mistake, which is unlikely – he's a four-time world champion – then we're going to be seeing it continue on to other races."

Related Stories

{loadposition legends}

Later asked about the title picture, Hamilton added: "Well, I mean it's a bit like a game of chess. Obviously right now it's 'check' but there's still a long long way to go. There's still a hundred points available. Sebastian and his team are going to be working as hard as they can as are we. Who knows? It's going to go to the wire, I still think.

"In the next four races, I think they are going to give it a great shot and I'm going to do my utmost to try and defend – and not only defend but really maximize and win these races. I want to win these races, that's what I'm working towards and naturally, in winning races, points come and championships are won, so that's what I'm here to do."

While the title situation is now out of his hands, Vettel points to the pace shown by Ferrari in the past three races as evidence that it is realistic to target four consecutive victories to put the pressure back on Hamilton.

"Well, it's pretty straightforward," Vettel said. "I think we have to win and then we see what happens. Obviously we are not in the position that we would like to be but still we have a chance, so we go for that.

"We have the car – we had the car to win the last three races, didn't happen, so I don't see why the next four races we shouldn't have the package to win, so we start tomorrow."

LeDuc P4 9209 RSJFinal round of competition crowns 2017 champions in the Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series

For the 2014 and '15 seasons, Kyle LeDuc ran away with Pro 4 to claim his second and third Lucas Oil Off Road Racing championships. But for the past two years it has come down to the final race to determine who would be champ. Last year was a points title with Carl Renezeder. For 2017 it came down to LeDuc and Rob MacCachren. While LeDuc may have played it safe at the beginning of the race, in the end he was not only champion, but improbable race winner as well.

Qualifying quickest at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park in the final points-paying round of the year, LeDuc (pictured above) would have started on the front row. But before the green flag waved he moved his Monster Energy/Toyo Tires Ford to the back, doing his best to stay out of trouble. So LeDuc is running around at the back while Eric Barron leads RJ Anderson and MacCachren – in this position, the championship is MacCachren's. First Barron has an issue. Then Anderson over-rotates in Turn 3. And now MacCachren is leading, and there are five trucks in between he and LeDuc, too many for LeDuc to claim the title. It's time for him to race, and he starts moving up.

Just as he does, though, MacCachren over-rotates in Turn 3 and Carl Renezeder, running second, gets into him and both grind to a halt. MacCachren's title hopes are now effectively dashed. Not only has LeDuc sealed it, he could race for the win, although that seemed unlikely.

"We wanted to create our own destiny," explained LeDuc of his strategy. "If we start up front and potentially go for the win, we could hurt the truck going at 100 percent. Also, running up front puts you at risk if you don't go 100 percent – I'm at risk of somebody else taking me out. So if I flip the tables – and I did it last second so nobody could prepare ... it freaks everybody out. It's just a game. So lets play the game as it unfolds. Watch Barron lead, watch Rob Mac lead. I figure it's a Pro 4 race, so before the caution there might be four dudes out. But it wasn't like that. We got to single file, and I was like, 'Oh no, I might have to actually race, I might have to pass some trucks.'

"I picked the pace to stay with those guys, and crash after crash, mistake after mistake, they just gave it to me. I was in the right spot at the right time, Bradley [Morris] was leading, and I was very cautious, I was happy where I was at. He made a mistake, got a flat, whatever. So those last four laps I was at full throttle, full pace to just solidify it and feel good driving. It was just an epic race. Couldn't have planned it."

LeDuc came home the winner of both the race and the tight points battle, the satisfaction and relief clearly visible as he secured his fourth straight championship, and fifth in six years.

"We've done it in three different trucks in five years. I'm excited for my team and my family and myself for what we've done. It's a small team; we're as factory as you can get, but we try to keep it casual and have fun," he said.

Brooks PL 0096 RSJPro Lite was effectively, if not mathematically, sealed once the green flag waved, although Brock Heger did everything he could to put himself in position to win the title. He stalked leader Hailie Deegan until a restart after a caution, then got inside and pushed her wide to claim the lead in his Icon Vehicle Dynamics/Maxxis truck. But to steal the title he would need a lot help from points leader and defending champion Jerett Brooks, and he didn't get it, as Brooks (pictured above) came home in third to claim his second consecutive Pro Lite title in his Rigid Industries/General Tire Pro Lite.

"That was kind of the whole thing we wanted to do, was come out here and defend the championship," said Brooks. "Especially in Lucas, it was kind of a big deal for me to prove myself in Lucas, just because we got a TORC championship in 2014 and '15. To get a championship in the hardest series was even better and we just wanted to defend it. We had our work cut out for us."

Hardesty PB 9433 RSJDarren Hardesty Jr. (pictured above) had his second consecutive Pro Buggy title in hand once the green flag waved. But, starting out front, he sealed it with a flag-to-flag victory in his Bilstein Suspension Alumi Craft.

Like Hardesty, by halfway through the Pro 2 race, Jeremy McGrath had the Pro 2 title, adding his first short course off road championship to his seven AMA Supercross championships. Running sixth with RJ Anderson out front, he was the champion. But Anderson suddenly slowed, handing the lead and the win to Patrick Clark's Budweiser Chevrolet and moving McGrath, running a special pink livery for breast cancer awareness, up to fifth – a somewhat significant development for McGrath's 2017 stat book.

McGrath 0253 RSJ"I can't actually believe it yet," McGrath (pictured above) said. "It's been 10 years in the making. It takes a lot of time to put this puzzle together This year we had a great season, all top fives every race. We had eight podiums and four wins. So pretty much a dream season for me, Ive been working at it a long time and I think the best position I ever had was fifth or sixth in points. We showed good signs for last year led the points toward halfway, then started having some problems. This year we seemed to put it together. Got a little luck when we needed it, got some wins, and here we are with the championship. I'm really proud of my guys and grateful for all the great partners we have. Maxxis tires helps us a lot, Icon Suspension helps us a lot. There's a ton of people that go with this program, and I wouldn't be here without them."

Other drivers claiming 2017 titles include Heger in Production 1000 UTV, Trey D Gibbs in Modified Kart, Brayden Fischer in Junior 1 Kart and Megan Mitchell in Junior 2 Kart.

Round 13 winners:

Pro 4: Kyle LeDuc

Pro 2: Patrick Clark

Pro Lite: Brock Heger

Pro Buggy: Darren Hardesty Jr.

Production 1000 UTV: Brandon Arthur

Mod Kart: Trey D Gibbs

Junior 1 Kart: Broedy Graham

Junior 2 Kart: Connor Barry

 56I8836Carlos Sainz believes his career has taken a step up after joining Renault and impressing in his first qualifying session for the team at the United States Grand Prix.

The Spaniard was released by Toro Rosso to join Renault for the final four races of this season before racing for the team full-time in 2018. Having been on the pace throughout his first weekend with Renault, Sainz delivered an impressive performance to qualify eighth, which will become seventh on the grid due to a penalty for Max Verstappen.

"I'm driving for a manufacturer team and I felt that when I went to Enstone last week," Sainz said. "I am very happy with what I've seen so far and what I felt so far. It's the step in my career that I was looking to do. They've given me this chance, trusted in me and I feel like I've made a step up in my career.

"I feel a lot of support, to be honest. From the Renault management, from Alain [Prost], from Cyril [Abiteboul], they've all been very optimistic, very proactive, very happy with this change and very motivated. This helps.

"When you join a team and you see they want you – they really want you here and really want you to do well – it's a great feeling. This support is exactly what I was looking for and I'm extremely happy."

Related Stories

{loadposition legends}

Sainz also highlighted the support he has received as being a crucial element in allowing him to deliver a strong performance on his qualifying debut.

"The conclusion is that we can all be very happy, very pleased with what we have achieved in such a short period of time. I think everything has gone smoothly the whole weekend really. My side of the garage has been working hard to help me adapt to this new challenge and together with a quick adaptation from my side I think we can be very happy.

"I was really happy with what I saw in Enstone last week and how everyone reacted to my arrival. This already put us in a very strong position to arrive here and try to have a strong weekend but you never really know until you drive the car how strong you're going to be. Honestly after FP1 I felt a lot of differences compared to what I'm used to in the driving style and everything but I managed to adapt.

"I was in a positive mood, always proactive to learn and adapt myself to this new challenge and it has been working really smoothly. As I said, my side of the garage has been helping with that and it has been a very positive entry."

 W6I2485Lance Stroll and Kevin Magnussen have both been penalized following the end of qualifying for the United States Grand Prix.

Both drivers were involved in separate incidents in Q1 at Circuit of The Americas, with Stroll blocking Romain Grosjean in the final sector. The Williams driver was on a warm-up lap and had slowed before the final corner but was not informed of Grosjean approaching until very late. With Daniil Kvyat passing Stroll on the inside, the Canadian moved to the outside to try and get out of the way but Grosjean was forced onto the grass to avoid contact.

The stewards decided to hand out a three-place grid penalty and gave Stroll his first penalty point of the year for the incident, but placed the majority of the blame on his team.


Related Stories

{loadposition legends}

"The Stewards believe STR did what he could in the circumstances but nevertheless this was potentially a very dangerous situation as the speed differential between the two cars was in excess of 100 km/h at the apex of Turn 19," the decision read. "The Stewards believe the team should have given STR more advance warning that GRO was approaching rapidly."

Grosjean told RACER he felt sorry for Stroll as he was not informed and had very little chance to react, but added the dangerous nature of the situation needed punishing in his opinion.

While one Haas was on the receiving end of a block, the other also got a three-place grid penalty for impeding. Magnussen cut in front of Sergio Perez at Turn 12, and both he and Haas admitted fault as the team had told Magnussen that Perez was on an out-lap rather than a timed effort.

Magnussen was also handed a penalty point for the incident, which takes his total up to eight penalty points for the year. If a driver reaches 12 penalty points in a 12-month period they will receive an automatic one-race ban.

While Magnussen qualified 20th and last on the grid, the penalty is still valid due to power unit penalties for Max Verstappen (15 places), Nico Hulkenberg (20 places), Stoffel Vandoorne (five places) and Brendon Hartley (25 places).

 31I3864Lewis Hamilton beat Sebastian Vettel for the second qualifying session in a row to take pole position for the United States Grand Prix.

The all-time pole record holder posted a 1m33.108s on his first flying lap in Q3 to set a new lap record and take his 11th pole position of the season and 72nd of his career. Having been comfortably off the pace on the first run, Vettel hit back with an impressive final attempt to end up just over 0.2s off Hamilton but crucially split the two Mercedes drivers to secure a spot on the front row.

Valtteri Bottas will start from third after dropping behind Vettel on the final run, but finishing at the head of a group of four cars separated by less than 0.1s. Bottas was just 0.009s clear of Daniel Ricciardo, with the Red Bull driver finishing with an identical lap time to Kimi Raikkonen – 1:33.577s – but being classified ahead by virtue of setting the time first.

Max Verstappen was sixth quickest and just 0.09s slower than Bottas after a mistake at the penultimate corner, but a 15-place grid penalty for a power unit change means he will start from further back on Sunday. That penalty will promote Esteban Ocon to sixth on the grid and Carlos Sainz (below) to a highly impressive seventh on his Renault debut, while Fernando Alonso and Sergio Perez are the other two Q3 drivers who will benefit.

 ONY0161A tight Q2 saw only 14 drivers taking part, with Nico Hulkenberg sitting out the session to save tires due to a 20-place grid penalty hanging over him for a power unit change. The closest battle was for the final spot in the top 10, with Ocon pipping Felipe Massa by just 0.042s.

Related Stories

{loadposition legends}

Daniil Kvyat was 0.4s further back in 12th place ahead of Stoffel Vandoorne, with the Belgian facing a five-place penalty for taking a new ICE this weekend. Romain Grosjean was eliminated in 14th place but will also gain two spots due to the penalties for drivers ahead of him.

Sauber was much more competitive than in recent races and in contention for a spot in Q2, but missed out with Marcus Ericsson ending up 16th, 0.007s adrift of Grosjean. The Frenchman just slipped through after having to take avoiding action on his first run when a misunderstanding in the final sector saw Lance Stroll move to the outside of the track and Grosjean have to swerve wide to miss the Williams.

Stroll was put under investigation for the incident and his session ended shortly after, with the teenager complaining of a power unit problem as he was eliminated in 17th place, one position ahead of debutant Brendon Hartley. While grid penalties will mean Hartley will start from the back of the grid, the New Zealander impressed and was just 0.054s off a spot in Q2.

Pascal Wehrlein dropped out in 19th place after a mistake at the penultimate corner saw him run wide, while Kevin Magnussen was slowest of the 20 runners and found himself under investigation for blocking Perez. The Force India driver was livid at Magnussen's move, taking to team radio to say: "What is Magnussen doing? What the f*** is he doing, man? Argh, he's always the same!"

usgp qual

LAT Grady DGPPrac 0616 122Verizon IndyCar Series CEO Mark Miles met with a group of reporters at Circuit of The Americas on Saturday during the United States Grand Prix and was asked where the championship stands on introducing the custom aeroscreen it has in development.

"We think greater head protection is important," he said. "We're working on it. It won't be a Halo, it will be some form of windscreen that I guess we haven't put out for you to see yet but we're making good progress on something that I think won't really alter the look of our car. Drivers will be able to see through it, over it, so I think it's different approaches to try and address the same important issues."

Where Formula 1 has made a hard commitment to outfitting all of its entries with halo devices starting in 2018, IndyCar has gone from making hard statements regarding the implementation of its aeroscreen to softer, less committal language. Based on his answers at COTA, it would appear aeroscreens will indeed be coming to the spec Dallara DW12 chassis used by the entire IndyCar field.

"As soon as it's ready – it could be next year," he said of its introduction. "It isn't going to be in March, but it could be during the season. We've been working on it for a long time."

 J6I7105Max Verstappen will take a 15-place grid penalty at the United States Grand Prix for a power unit change on Saturday morning.

With Renault bringing an updated power unit to Austin – designed to improve performance in qualifying – Red Bull opted to switch Verstappen's engine ahead of FP3. The change sees the 20-year-old take a new internal combustion engine (ICE) and MGU-H, both of which are the sixth of each component, resulting in a drop of 15 places.

The Dutchman has been in fine form of late, winning the Malaysia Grand Prix and then finishing a close second behind Lewis Hamilton in Suzuka two weeks ago, but he will now start from far down the order at Circuit of the Americas.

Verstappen is not alone in taking power unit penalties this weekend, with new Renault engines also going in Nico Hulkenberg's car and the Toro Rosso being driven by Brendon Hartley. Hulkenberg's total is 20 places, while debutant Hartley will take a drop of 25 places on the grid.

Stoffel Vandoorne also has a five-place grid penalty as a result of a new ICE being introduced by Honda, being described as spec 3.8 compared to the 3.7 version being used by Fernando Alonso.

FFF Heat2 JonathanKotyk 0412 640x360Constantly variable weather conditions provided an additional challenge for Team USA Scholarship drivers Jonathan Kotyk and Aaron Jeansonne during today's qualifying Heat races for the Formula Ford Festival at Brands Hatch.

The high-quality field of 76 cars was split into three groups, each of which was granted a 20-minute qualifying session during the morning and a 15-lap race later in the day to determine the starting positions for a pair of Semi-Final races set for Sunday morning.

Kotyk, from Atlantic Beach, Fla., encountered a dry track during qualifying for the second of three Heat races and lined up 10th on the starting grid. He made up a couple of positions during the early stages, hunting for grip on a damp and gradually drying circuit, then lost one of those places before regaining it again on the final lap after Michael Eastwell spun out of the leading group.

"It was definitely pretty challenging, especially with the weather," said Kotyk. "There was sunshine in the morning and then, as soon as qualifying came, a little rain. When we went out for qualifying we had the wet setup on the car and we were planning on coming in and putting a dry setup on but unfortunately when I did come in, it rained, so I missed getting a (good) lap in. That cost us a little bit so for the race I just wanted to make sure we brought the car home and tried to push and get used to the tires, that was the biggest thing for me today."

FFF Heat3 AaronJeansonne 0497 640x427Conditions were almost diametrically opposed for Jeansonne. The track was wet for the entirety of his qualifying session for Heat Three, and his task was made all the more difficult by a pair of red-flag interruptions. Undaunted, Jeansonne, 19, from Sulphur, La., stepped up during the final couple of minutes, despite the onset of more rain, posting the fourth-fastest time among the 25 competitors and ensuring himself a position on row two ahead of many vastly more experienced campaigners.

Jeansonne lost a couple of positions at the standing start before settling into an entertaining scrap with Joshua Smith, who recently won both final rounds of the BRSCC Avon Tires British Formula Ford 1600 Championship, and regular Scottish FF1600 front-runner Sebastian Melrose. He was forced to cede a place to Melrose after five laps but seemed set for at least a sixth-place finish until being forced off the road at Graham Hill Bend while passing a lapped car. He recovered to finish 11th.

"I'd say it was a pretty up and down day," summarized Jeansonne. "The qualifying went really well and I like the wet a lot but unfortunately it dried out for the race and I figured I'd take as much of the track as I could get each lap. Then I had an unfortunate incident with a lapped car that threw me back a few positions and I just held onto the highest spot that I could and finished there.

"It was about as competitive as I pictured it," he continued. "It was very tough, definitely, and there are a lot of guys who have been running here for a long time but it's nice to see all the competition and try to stack up against them. Qualifying was a lot of fun. That's the thing about qualifying. You're forced to come up clutch sometimes and you just have to do it. I felt really happy about it; it was really pleasing."

Kotyk and Jeansonne are slated to line up 12th and 16th, respectively, for Semi Final 1 at 11:30 a.m. tomorrow morning local time. The Formula Ford Festival Final will start at 5:00 p.m., although the schedule is subject to change.

Results, including live timing, can be found at http://tsl-timing.com/event/174233.

Subscribe to Racer


Video: The 2017 Formula 1 Issue

The 2017 Formula 1 Issue of RACER is on sale now. Click here for more information.


RACER Magazine 25th Anniversary Video

33 years of SportsCar magazine history.

See more than 50 On Board videos.

Honda Racing / HPD Videos

The NSX GT3 is based on the Acura NSX, which was designed from the beginning as an exceptional racing platform.

Race Car For Sale

IndyCar 1988 Budweiser Rahal Lola T8800