Hamilton in driver's seat for fourth world title

Mercedes driver will seal crown if he wins US race and Vettel finishes out of top five

Lewis Hamilton will seek a fifth win in six visits to Texas this weekend and hope for further Ferrari misfortune as he bids to clinch his fourth world title at the United States Grand Prix.

The Briton leads nearest rival Sebastian Vettel by 59 points with four races left and will take this year's crown if he can outscore him by 16 points.

In short, that means if Hamilton wins, Vettel must finish in the top five to keep his own challenge alive - a seemingly straightforward prospect if he and Ferrari can avoid the mishaps that have afflicted them in the last four races.

Since their home Italian Grand Prix at Monza, Ferrari have succumbed to a series of mechanical setbacks and mistakes that culminated, at the Japanese Grand Prix on Oct 8, in Vettel being forced to retire due to the failure of a US$60 (S$81) spark plug.

That embarrassing exit followed a crash with his Ferrari teammate Kimi Raikkonen in Singapore and an engine problem in Malaysia. Hamilton, meanwhile, capitalised on those incidents by winning three out of four races.

Hamilton has 306 points and Vettel, the only other man to have won at the Austin circuit, has 247.

A hotly contested race is in prospect on Monday morning (Singapore time), when the ceremonial preliminaries may see Hamilton "take a knee" during the playing of the anthem in support of the protest, initiated by National Football League (NFL) players, against racial injustice and police brutality.

Mercedes boss Toto Wolff made clear that he would not stop him. "The more you try to limit him - put him in a box - the more detrimental it will be for his performance," he said.

With temperatures forecast to be at about 30 deg C, it may be that conditions favour Ferrari's faster, but less reliable car at a track that Hamilton, chasing a sixth overall United States GP win, relishes.

Hamilton's other threats come from Red Bull's Max Verstappen, who won in Malaysia last month, and Daniel Ricciardo, who also feels at home in America. - AFP

Celtics' Hayward vows he'll be all right after leg break 

Boston Celtics forward Gordon Hayward vowed he "will be all right" in a video message yesterday morning (Singapore time), after a gruesome left leg injury from which he is expected to recover fully.

Hayward appeared in a video message from his hospital bed before the Celtics' 100-108 loss to Milwaukee, a day after suffering the injury in a 102-99 defeat at Cleveland.

Hayward said in a video shown on the arena scoreboard: "It's hurting me that I can't be there for the home opener... but I'll be supporting you guys from here and wishing you the best of luck."

Meanwhile, the San Antonio Spurs beat Minnesota Timberwolves 107-99 in their season opener. - AFP

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