Lewis Hamilton missed out on wrapping up his fifth world championship in Austin as Kimi Raikkonen powered to a popular victory in what was his first win in more than five years, but the Mercedes driver remains the heavy favourite to wrap up this year’s title.
Despite finishing third behind race winner Raikkonen and the Red Bull of Max Verstappen, Hamilton actually extended his championship lead over Vettel as the German suffered yet another difficult afternoon.
Having incurred a three-place grid penalty due to failing to slow down for a red flag in Friday practice, Vettel started from fifth position and, within half a lap, was facing the wrong way after colliding with Daniel Ricciardo. Vettel was able to fight back to take fourth place, but with a gap of 70 points to championship leader Hamilton, his hopes of winning a fifth title of his own looks bleaker than ever.
It could have been much worse for Vettel, as Hamilton had a chance to pass Verstappen two laps from home. The reigning champion moved to the outside of the young Dutchman as they ran through the sweeping turns 16, 17 and 18, but while he was able to edge his nose in front, he found himself on the dirty part of the track that sent him sliding off and allowing Verstappen back past.
Vettel was also able to pass Valtteri Bottas on the penultimate lap to ensure that the fight goes on.
Vettel must now win all three of the remaining races this season to stand any chance of beating Hamilton.
However, Hamilton can wrap up the title in Mexico if he finishes seventh of higher, regardless of where Vettel finishes as only wins will do for the German.
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