Belfast Telegraph

Delighted Hamilton closes in on a fourth World crown

 

By Philip Duncan

Lewis Hamilton edged ever closer to winning a fourth World title after a crushing victory over Sebastian Vettel at the United States Grand Prix.

Hamilton lost out to his fast-starting rival on the uphill dash to the first corner, but reclaimed the lead six laps later.

The Briton survived a nervy opening pit stop, in which he rejoined just in front of Vettel, but this win - his ninth of an impressive season and fifth in the six grands prix since the summer break - rarely looked in doubt.

Hamilton now needs to finish only fifth in Mexico, the second race of this back-to-back instalment on Sunday, to clinch his fourth crown.

"I think this track is now my favourite," a jubilant Hamilton, who has won five of the six grands prix staged in Austin, said. "A big congratulations to the team who have worked so hard back at the factory. They truly deserve it.

"It is a dream job, and I know many of you would love to drive a Formula One car and I can tell you that it is the greatest experience and feeling in the world.

"I would not be here without my family. My brother is down here and my mum is up there, so I am sending you guys love.

"It has been an incredible year so far. There are still three races to go, so three more to win."

Vettel, now 66 points behind Hamilton with only 75 remaining, added: "At the start it was looking good. We got past Lewis, but then we realised we could not match his pace.

"Towards the end we decided to pit again so the last laps were especially exciting, but overall it was not the result we wanted."

Hamilton crossed the line 10.1 seconds ahead of Vettel with Max Verstappen, who started in 16th, producing another sterling performance with a sensational last-lap move on Kimi Raikkonen.

The Dutchman, however, was stripped of third place after he was handed a five-second time penalty for leaving the track when he made his move on Raikkonen to demote him to fourth place.

Vettel was fasted out of the blocks at a sun-blazed Circuit of the Americas and Hamilton attempted to block off the charge, but the German was too quick.

However, there was no sense of panic from Hamilton, who kept tabs on Vettel before slowly drawing him back in. By the start of the sixth lap, Vettel was just half a second ahead and on the approach to Turn 12, Hamilton made his move.

Vettel was admittedly slow to react, but it was a brilliantly executed overtake as he lunged underneath the four-time champion.

Hamilton was not in the mood to hang around, and within three laps of making his move he had opened up a two-second gap, and by the time Vettel stopped for his first change of tyres, Hamilton was 4.4 seconds up the road.

Hamilton then pitted three laps later, but Vettel - on fresh rubber - had been on a charge, and when Hamilton rejoined the track his lead had all but evaporated.

It was, however, the only moment of drama for the Briton on yet another masterful afternoon in Texas.

In contrast, Vettel had to work hard for his runner-up spot after he stopped for a second time on lap 39.

He was the only one of the front-runners to attempt a two-stop strategy but he hunted down Valtteri Bottas before making his move with a swoop around the outside with five laps remaining. Raikkonen then moved aside for his team-mate on the following lap.

Verstappen appeared to have completed a remarkable drive by finishing on the podium, only to be denied by the stewards.

How they finished

1. Lewis Hamilton (Britain) Mercedes 1:33:50.993 2. Sebastian Vettel (Germany) Ferrari +00:10.143 3. Kimi Raikkonen (Finland) Ferrari 00:15.779 4. Max Verstappen (Netherlands) Red Bull - TAG Heuer 00:16.768 5. Valtteri Bottas (Finland) Mercedes 00:34.967 6. Esteban Ocon (France) Force India - Mercedes 01:30.980 7. Carlos Sainz Jr (Spain) Renault 01:32.944 8. Sergio Perez (Mexico) Force India - Mercedes 1 lap 9. Felipe Massa (Brazil) Williams-Mercedes 1 lap 10. Daniil Kvyat (Russia) Toro Rosso - Renault 1 lap 11. Lance Stroll (Canada) Williams-Mercedes 1 lap 12. Stoffel Vandoorne (Belgium) McLaren 1 lap 13. Brendon Hartley (New Zealand) Toro Rosso - Renault 1 lap 14. Romain Grosjean (France) Haas - Ferrari 1 lap 15. Marcus Ericsson (Sweden) Sauber - Ferrari 1 lap 16. Kevin Magnussen (Denmark) Haas - Ferrari 1 lap r. Fernando Alonso (Spain) McLaren 32 laps r. Daniel Ricciardo (Australia) Red Bull - TAG Heuer 42 laps r. Pascal Wehrlein (Germany) Sauber - Ferrari 51 laps r. Nico Hulkenberg (Germany) Renault 53 laps (rank: r = retired, nc = not classified)

Fastest Lap: Sebastian Vettel,1:37.766, lap 51.

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