Lewis Hamilton has Sebastian Vettel at ‘check’ in title chess match

Lewis Hamilton believes he has Sebastian Vettel at “check” point in F1’s title race – but is not expecting to turn that into checkmate in Sunday’s US GP.

For the fifth time in the last six races, Hamilton will start at the head of the grid in Austin after securing his 11th pole of the season, although Vettel qualified alongside him for the seventh time in 2017 after crucially picking up two places on his final Q3 run and knocking Valtteri Bottas off the front row.

Hamilton can clinch his fourth title if he wins on Sunday and Vettel finishes lower than fifth but, with their starting positions making that prospect look unlikely, Hamilton believes Ferrari and his great rival cannot be counted out yet.

“It’s a bit like a game of chess,” said Hamilton.

“Right now it’s check but there is still a long, long way to go. There are still 100 points available.

“Sebastian and his team have been working as hard as they can, as are we. Who knows? It’s going to go to the wire.”

Hamilton added: “I hope tomorrow I can get a good start and really put the nail in the coffin.”

Drivers’ Championship title permutations Result Hamilton will be champion if… Hamilton wins Vettel sixth or lower Hamilton second Vettel ninth or lower and Bottas doesn’t win Hamilton third or lower Title race goes to Mexico

Hamilton storms to pole ahead of Vettel
Vettel opens up on 2017 season to Sky F1

‘Ricciardo would be number two at Merc or Ferrari’

With a 59-point title lead over Vettel, Hamilton does not need to win Sunday’s race to still have a chance of clinching the title at next week’s Mexico GP. Even if Vettel wins in Austin and Hamilton was second, the Englishman would wrap up the title in a week’s time by finishing ahead of the German driver in Mexico.

However, Hamilton says he isn’t focused on anything except taking as many race wins as possible over the rest of the season.

“My outlook is to not only defend but really maximise and win these races,” he said.

“I want to win these races: that’s what I’m working for. In winning races, championships are won, and that’s what I’m here to do.”

Vettel, meanwhile, is refusing to give up on his dream of winning a world title at Ferrari this year and, for different reasons, is similarly focused on the same race-winning goal.

“It’s pretty straightforward: we have to win and then see what happens,” said the German.

“We are not in the position we would like to be, but still we have a chance and we will go. We had the car in the last three races so I don’t see why we shouldn’t have the package in the next four races.”