AUSTIN -- Despite being on the cusp of victory in his chess match with Sebastian Vettel, Lewis Hamilton insists he will battle for the race win as normal after beating the Ferrari driver to pole for the U.S. Grand Prix.
Hamilton has topped every practice and qualifying session this weekend and finished Q3 0.2s up on Vettel's quickest time. The Englishman has an outside shot at securing the championship this week if results go the right way, with the easiest permutation being a race victory and Vettel finishing lower than sixth.
Though a 59-point lead might encourage some drivers to adopt a conservative approach, Hamilton says nothing has changed in his mindset.
"It is a bit like a game of chess, right now it is at check but there is still a long way to go," Hamilton said. "There are still 100 points available and Sebastian and his team have been working as hard as they can, as are we, so who knows. It is still going to go to the wire in the next four races.
"I will try my best to defend and maximise all these races, I want to win these races and winning races is what makes championships which is what I am here to do."
Mercedes came to Austin as strong favourites and Hamilton's dominance has gone largely unchallenged throughout the weekend. Hamilton thinks the car has the pace to convert into a win on Sunday, though he is expecting a tough challenge from Vettel and Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas.
We often are good through practice and qualifying but in races it is always a tricky one for us in terms of balance. We are not terrible but you'd think we'd be stronger. We've got a good set of tyres to start on and will have a plan for tomorrow so we are looking forward to a good race with Sebastian and Valtteri. This is a track where you can follow a lot closer.
"Sebastian and I had a close race here in 2012 which was great but I don't plan on it being that close, but we shall see but I think we'll be okay."