Championship leader sits on pole but says unless rival Vettel makes a 'silly mistake' at the Circuit of the Americas his wait for a fourth world crown will continue
United States Grand Prix: Lewis Hamilton not expecting to be crowned F1 world champion in Austin
Lewis Hamilton is not expecting to win his fourth world championship in Austin on Sunday despite beating title rival Sebastian Vettel to pole position following another scintillating performance.
Hamilton has been in imperious form this weekend, topping every practice session before storming to the top of the timings in qualifying, too, with the fastest lap ever seen at the Circuit of the Americas.
The 32-year-old Englishman will be crowned champion if he takes the chequered flag in Sunday's race, and Vettel - 59 points behind with 100 to play for - fails to finish in the top five.
But after Vettel joined Hamilton on the front row after improving from fourth to second with his final lap in the closing moments of qualifying, it is more likely Hamilton will seal his fourth title in Mexico next week.
''Sebastian is right there so unless he makes a silly mistake, which is unlikely as he's a four-time world champion, the championship is going to continue to the other races," Hamilton said.
''He did a great job to bring the Ferrari up there. Ultimately all I can do is the best I can with my abilities, and we will work as hard as we can to get maximum points.
"It is going to be a tough race tomorrow, but I am the best prepared that I can be.''
Hamilton has won four of the five grands prix staged in Austin, and he is on course to better his tally after claiming the 72nd pole of his incredible career, the result of which never appeared in doubt.
Qualifying here was pushed back by two hours after Formula One's American owners took the unprecedented step of adapting the schedule in order to accommodate a Justin Timberlake pop concert.
And despite the four-hour wait between final practice on Saturday morning and qualifying, Hamilton, cheered on by his mother Carmen and brother Nicolas, did not disappoint.
His fastest lap of one minute, 33.108 seconds saw him finish a quarter of a second clear of Vettel. It also marked the 117th time Hamilton has qualified in the top two - a new record.
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Hamilton must outscore the Ferrari driver by 16 points on Sunday to surpass Jackie Stewart and become the first Briton to win more than three championships. But despite the odds being stacked firmly in his favour, Hamilton insisted it is not a given that he will win a fourth crown.
"It is bit like a game of chess and you can see right now that it is check, but there is still a long, long way to go," Hamilton said.
"At the next four races they are going to give it a real shot and I will give it my utmost, not only to defend, but maximise and win these remaining four races, too."
Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo will start fourth ahead of Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen. Ricciardo's teammate Max Verstappen posted the sixth best time, but the Dutchman will be thrown to the back of the grid after he was hit with a 15-place penalty following an engine change.