USGP: Hamilton wins, Vettel keeps championship alive in P2

 

DMxRqTEX4AAI5xN.jpg-large

Lewis Hamilton has taken victory in the United States Grand Prix after overcoming an early challenge from the Ferrari of Sebastian Vettel who has kept the championship fight alive finishing second.

If Hamilton won the race, Vettel needed to finish fifth or higher to keep the title fight in play, but a second place in the USGP sees Vettel 66-points adrift of Hamilton with three rounds remaining and only 75-points up for grabs.

Vettel got the better jump off the front row and challenged Hamilton up the hill and into the first corner.

Pole-sitter Hamilton squeezed Vettel to the inside of the circuit, but the Ferrari driver completed the move and took the lead of the Grand Prix as the field bottle-necked behind.

Daniel Ricciardo attempted a pass on Valterri Bottas at the start of Lap 2, diving up the inside at Turn 1, though Bottas fought back at Turn 2 running side by side with the Australian and forcing him to yield at Turn 3, where Bottas re-took the position.

At the beginning of Lap 4, Ricciardo tried another move on the Mercedes driver, braking extremely late for Turn 1 and placing his Red Bull on the apex of the corner, but again Bottas came back at Ricciardo and held onto second place.

Out front, Vettel started to come under pressure from Hamilton until the latter put a move on the German at Turn 12, taking the lead with ease on Lap 6 and quickly opening up a gap.

Red Bull were the first of the front runners to flinch, bringing Ricciardo into the pits at the end of Lap 12 out of fourth position to put the Soft compound on.

The Australians charge came to an abrupt end when his car ground to a halt on the exit of Turn 12, pulling off to the side of the road while reporting on the radio, “engine gone”.

Vettel pitted on Lap 17 for the Soft tyre, with Bottas coming in 2-laps later and Hamilton another lap after that.

Hamilton appereaed from the pits only a few seconds ahead of Vettel who was steamrolling down the main straight, with the latter challenging the Mercedes into Turn 1 courtesy of up to temperature tyres, but wasn’t able to make a move.

Hamilton then had the task of getting by Max Verstappen, who was running long on the Soft compound after starting outside the top ten in 16th and leading the race, yet to make a stop.

After pitting on Lap 24, Verstappen was showing strong pace in fifth place, closing the gap to Kimi Raikkonen.

Esteban Ocon and Force India team mate Sergio Perez began to squabble in the middle stages of the race when Ocon got caught up behind Felipe Massa who was yet to stop.

As Ocon tried to find a way by the Williams, Perez was having his say, stressing to the team that he wanted to get by his Mexican team mate because he was quicker.

Eventually Massa peeled off into the pits, but Ocon still held sixth as Carlos Sainz in the Renault rapidly closed up on Perez, passing the latter on Lap 34 for seventh.

At the front of the field, Red Bull played the strategy game when they pitted Verstappen from fifth place on Lap 37 for SuperSoft tyres, threatening the top 4 with the undercut.

Ferrari covered that move off, bringing Vettel in the following lap as Bottas and Raikkonen battled for second place up the road.

Raikkonen passed Bottas on Lap 42 to move up to second position at Turn 13 after a lengthy squabble between the pair of Finns.

Further back in the field, Haas driver Kevin Magnussen and Marcus Ericsson in the Sauber came together while getting lapped by Vettel at Turn 12, spinning Magnussen around.

Vettel closed up on Bottas, making a move around the outside at Turn 1 on lap 51, passing his team mate Raikkonen a lap later at the same spot for second place.

A charging Verstappen then made his move on Bottas for fourth place with a pass at Turn 13, while the Mercedes driver pitted after conceding the position for a set of fresh tyres, with a a big enough gap to fifth to make the trip down pit lane.

Hamilton crossed the line with an 11-second gap to Vettel in second, while Verstappen made a move at Turn 17 on the last lap to steal the final podium place from Raikkonen, but received a 5-second time penalty for passing off the circuit, handing third back to Raikkonen.

Bottas claimed fifth, followed by Ocon, Sainz, Perez and Massa, who was passed by Perez on the penultimate lap, while Daniil Kvyat rounded out the top ten.

Lance Stroll finished 11th for Williams, while Stoffel Vandoorne claimed a silent 12th ahead of Brendon Hartley in 13th on his Formula One debut with Torro Rosso.

Romain Grosjean, Ericsson and Magnussen were the last of the finishers, with the later coming across the line in 16th.

Fernando Alonso was the latest retirement in the 56-lap race when his engine clunked out on Lap 25, becoming the Spainard’s 11th retirement this season.

Ricciardo was the next DNF in 18th, while the field was rounded out by Pascal Werhrlein, who retired with damage sustained from contact on the opening lap, while Nico Hulkenberg exited the race on Lap 4.