US Grand Prix: Hamilton victory makes it a shoot-out in Brazil for Vettel and Alonso

Briton’s triumph means that Vettel leads Alonso by just 13 points with one race left

Circuit of the Americas

The last time Formula One cars raced in the US, Lewis Hamilton beat Fernando Alonso after a tense intra-McLaren shootout. As the series made a spectacular return to Uncle Sam’s shores, Hamilton again served up a brilliant triumph after a relentless pursuit and conquest of Sebastian Vettel which, with Alonso bringing his Ferrari home third, ensures that the world championship fight between the German and the Spaniard will go down to the wire in Brazil next weekend.

“That was wicked!” Hamilton told his team, and he was right. It was one of his best.

Before the start much was made about the state of the track on the left-hand even-numbered side of the grid, particularly by Hamilton who qualified second. Ferrari were so concerned, with Alonso due to start eighth, that they deliberately broke a seal on Felipe Massa’s gearbox so that he would get a five-grid place penalty that would move Alonso to seventh, on the clean side.

The ploy worked to perfection. As Hamilton was overtaken by Mark Webber as they crested the rise to Turn One in Vettel’s wake, the Spaniard shot up to snatch fourth from Michael Schumacher, thus immediately placing himself in the lowest position he needed, assuming Vettel went on to win, to keep the title battle open until next week’s season-ender.

Vettel quickly opened a lead in his trademark style, but after one attempt to pass Webber proved fruitless as Hamilton ran wide, the McLaren driver overtook the Red Bull on the third lap. He and Vettel then started trading fastest laps, as Hamilton sliced a 2.7s lead to 2.1s. By lap 10 he was homing in on the German like a heat-seeking missile, but when he was informed of how he could use his DRS rear wing to best effect he snapped back over the radio, Raikkonen style: “Don’t talk to me when I’m in the DRS zone.”

They circulated nose to tail within a second of one another until the 17th lap when the gap opened again to 1.4s, but that was the lap when fortune  favoured Alonso as Webber rolled to a halt with KERS failure on his Red Bull, promoting the Ferrari third.

Hamilton steadily lost ground as his medium-compound Pirelli tyres lost their edge before his pit stop, and Kimi Raikkonen began to move into the picture. The Finn, who won in Abu Dhabi a fortnight ago, had lost ground on the opening lap but fought back to catch and pass Nico Hulkenberg’s Force India for fifth place.

As Hamilton and Alonso pitted on the 20th lap they dropped behind the Lotus. Vettel stopped for his tyre change a lap later, but retained a narrow lead over Raikkonen until Hamilton forced his way back into second place by the 24th lap. Felipe Massa was also on the move in the second Ferrari, but when he made his tyre stop on the 26th lap he fell behind his team-mate, saving the team the trouble of making him move over.

With the race approaching the midpoint Vettel still led, but Hamilton was on the warpath again, cutting the Red Bull’s advantage to 1.5s. Button, who had started on the harder tyre and still had to make a stop, was third ahead of Alonso, with Daniel Ricciardo up to fifth for Toro Rosso with his stop yet to come. Raikkonen, like Alonso, had a relatively slow stop with a problematic wheel, but was recovering fast and passed Massa for sixth.

Traffic cost Hamilton a second on the 28th lap, but gradually he began to lower the deficit again. As Vettel had to lap Timo Glock’s Marussia on the 31st lap, it was his turn to lose time.

A flurry of fastest laps brought Hamilton right on to Vettel’s tail by the 34th lap as they crossed the finish line only six-tenths of a second apart, but Vettel hit back with a fastest lap of his own in the 35th to eke out a tiny increment. Hamilton was advised to save some KERS for the next lap, to renew his challenge.

Far from being the walkover for Vettel that many had feared after his speed all the way through practice, the first US GP since 2007 was proving to be a humdinger, a mano-a-mano fight just like that contest back at Indianapolis five years ago between Hamilton and his then McLaren team-mate Alonso. But Vettel’s advantage in the final sector of the lap continued to prove crucial.

Thirty seconds further back, Alonso was having an easy time in third, and it became easier still on the 39th lap as Massa forced his way by Raikkonen to ride shotgun. Button, having finally stopped on the 35th lap and taken on the medium-compound tyres, was flying. Having despatched Grosjean’s Lotus on the 39th lap, he too was moving up to threaten Raikkonen.

Hamilton’s relentless pressure  finally paid off in dramatic fashion on the 42nd lap when he drafted Vettel down the back straight and finally squeezed ahead. But as he pulled away Vettel complained over the radio to his pit about the manner in which he had been overtaken. Perhaps it had something to do with the fact that now the situation between him and Alonso in the title fight was down to 273 points to 260, rather than 280 to 260… For a guy who himself benefited from DRS and a large dose of luck in Abu Dhabi, that was disappointing.

Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
The male menopause and intimations of mortality

Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

Bettany Hughes interview

The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

Art of the state

Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

Vegetarian food gets a makeover

Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks
The haunting of Shirley Jackson: Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?

The haunting of Shirley Jackson

Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?
Bill Granger recipes: Heading off on holiday? Try out our chef's seaside-inspired dishes...

Bill Granger's seaside-inspired recipes

These dishes are so easy to make, our chef is almost embarrassed to call them recipes
Ashes 2015: Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

A woefully out-of-form Michael Clarke embodies his team's fragile Ashes campaign, says Michael Calvin
Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza

Andrew Grice: Inside Westminster

Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza
HMS Victory: The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

Exclusive: David Keys reveals the research that finally explains why HMS Victory went down with the loss of 1,100 lives
Survivors of the Nagasaki atomic bomb attack: Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism

'I saw people so injured you couldn't tell if they were dead or alive'

Nagasaki survivors on why Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism
Jon Stewart: The voice of Democrats who felt Obama had failed to deliver on his 'Yes We Can' slogan, and the voter he tried hardest to keep onside

The voter Obama tried hardest to keep onside

Outgoing The Daily Show host, Jon Stewart, became the voice of Democrats who felt the President had failed to deliver on his ‘Yes We Can’ slogan. Tim Walker charts the ups and downs of their 10-year relationship on screen