DUELLING TO THE END: Drivers Lewis Hamilton (left) and Nico Rosberg celebrate with the team after a 1-2 in the 2014 US F1 GP. Will they still be smiling after the Abu Dhabi race? Image: AFP / Mark Thompson
AUSTIN, Texas - Lewis Hamilton's 2014 US Formula 1 Grand Prix victory means the Briton can now secure his second title without another win - but there could still be a sting in the tail.
The spectre of double points, a novelty introduced for 2014 season's final race at Yas Marina in Abu Dhabi, hangs over the championship and is causing trepidation at Mercedes.
Whatever happens in Brazil next weekend, Sunday's result means the championship cannot now be decided until the Abu Dhabi on November 23.
MERC SURE OF BOTH TITLES
Mercedes motorsport head Toto Wolff said after Hamilton scored his 10th win of the season and fifth in succession: "I don't have a fear, but I think the last race with the double points has the potential to overshadow the season."
Mercedes is sure of both titles now with Hamilton and team mate Nico Rosberg the only drivers still in championship contention with two races remaining but a controversial finish could take the gloss off the team's achievements.
It would be a travesty if Hamilton did not prevail; Rosberg has won only four of the 17 races so far, Hamilton 10, but the two are only 24 points apart. So, Hamilton could win in penultimate Brazil yet and still lose out, even if Rosberg draws a blank there, if Hamilton retires in Abu Dhabi and the German wins.
On a more positive note for the Briton, two second places would be ample to secure the title even with double points.
HEADING FOR THE WIRE
"We know why the double points came, and it made sense in the world to make it spectacular for the audience, the fans and the viewers," Wolff said, "but now we are in a situation where it could change the outcome."
The rule change, championed by commercial supremo Bernie Ecclestone, was designed primarily to ensure after four years of domination by Red Bull and Sebastian Vettel the title battle went to the wire.
In that it has succeeded, even if there is now the risk of leaving fans - many of whom dislike what they see as a gimmick - facing an unprecedented situation and feeling cheated of a deserving winner.
Only two other drivers, multiple champions Michael Schumacher and Sebastian Vettel, have ever won 10 races in a season and never before has the winner of even nine not won the championship.
'I'LL JUST CONTINUE...'
Under the old format, Hamilton would be on the brink of glory with a race to spare but he said nothing would change in his approach from now to the end. "I think during the year you have to be balanced in the risks you take. So far I've not been taking too many risks," he said.
"I've done what I've needed to do to get by in the safest way, in the cleanest way, which has worked all year, so I should just continue to do the same."
There are also records to set, with Mercedes equalling on Sunday McLaren's 1988 achievement of 10 1-2 finishes in a season.
Wolff said that feat, in a season that has already had people harking back to the great years of Alain Prost's rivalry with Ayrton Senna, made him particularly proud of what Mercedes has achieved.
'MANY GOOD DECISIONS'
"As a kid I remember this dominant season of McLaren. I remember seeing those cars scoring 1-2's all the time up to a point that it was almost boring. It was just pure dominance.
"For us to equal that record, and to be able to do one or two more, is proof the team has done many things right and we have taken many good decisions."Normally I don't care about statistics but that one is something which reminds me of many years ago."