Lewis Hamilton has one hand on the 2017 Formula 1 World Championship after he powered to a comfortable victory at the United States Grand Prix, with title rival Sebastian Vettel finishing ten seconds behind in second place.
The result saw Mercedes clinching their fourth constructors’ championship title in four years, while Hamilton (with three rounds remaining) needs only nine points or fifth place at the next race – the Mexican Grand Prix in a week – to wrap-up his fourth F1 world title.
Starting from pole Hamilton was beaten in the drag up the hill into and out of Turn 1 by Vettel who took the lead and pulled away in the early laps, but soon Hamilton was hunting the Ferrari down and on lap five he pounced to take the command of proceedings.
He only lost the lead briefly during the first pitstop window, but thereafter he remained untouchable until the chequered flag waved, a one stop strategy working for him on the day.
It was another flawless performance by the team and their star driver, his ninth victory of the season and his fifth triumph at Circuit of the Americas in six years.
Apart from getting by Vettel with clinical ease, after his pitstop he cheekily muscled his way past Max Verstappen while the Red Bull driver led, having yet to stop, thus reclaiming the lead and making an obvious point at the same time.
Hamilton told, the podium MC, sprint legend Usain Bolt, “I feel amazing. I love this track, I think it’s now my favourite track. A big congratulations to the team, they’ve worked so hard, the guys back in the factory. They’ve been the best team this year. It’s a really humbling experience.”
“It’s been an incredible year so far. I was not expecting to have the pace on Sebastian we had today but the car felt fantastic. Still three to go and three more to win. Let’s go guys,” added the Mercedes driver.
Vettel was feisty early on and seemed to have the pace to make a fight of it, but once Hamilton got by the German simply ran out of firepower to challenge for victory. Instead he had to fight hard for second place.
Opting for a two stop strategy, the Ferrari driver dropped down to fifth at one stage but mounted a strong fight back to claim second, albeit assisted by an easy overtake on teammate Kimi Raikkonen who settled for third place.
Vettel summed up his aftrnoon, “At the start it was looking good, we got past Lewis, but we had to realise we couldn’t go at his pace. We were then in no-man’s land and were not quite sure (what to do). We decided to pit again, with a fresh set of tyres and it was a bit more exciting but overall it was not the result we needed. They were quicker than us and we have to admit that.”
Raikkonen said on the podium, “I was pretty disappointed when I thought I finished fourth but there was some issue with Max. My car was really good all the way but I had to fuel save a bit at the end.”
Driver of the Day was deservedly Max Verstappen, the Red Bull driver powering into podium contention after starting 16th on the grid. The Dutchman was in his trademark attack mode, battling his way up to third place when the chequered flag waved to end the race.
Indeed he even reported to the pre-podium room only to be led out again after he was handed a five seconds penalty by the FIA race stewards for exceeding track limits during his battle for third with Raikkonen. A storming drive of the highest order by the 20 year old.
It was a harsh call by the officials considering that track limits were abused by just about everyone throughout the race. Nevertheless the penalty demoted him to fourth and denied fans a pumped up Verstappen celebrating, instead it was a typically glum faced Raikkonen on the third step clearly pained by the chore of being on the podium.
Verstappen was not happy with the decision, “Everybody is running wide, including myself, everywhere. At Turn 9 and Turn 19 you can go wide an nobody will say anything. It was the same with Bottas, I went for a move and he continued outside the track and came back so I really had to pass him and nothing has been done against that when he has gained an advantage. It’s not good for the sport and they have to be really clear on the rules that it’s not allowed anywhere.” He said more here>>>
It was even worse for his teammate Daniel Ricciardo who was in fourth during the early stages. His jaw-dropping battle with Valtteri Bottas was one of the highlights of the race. The Australian was one of the first to pit, but shortly after he rejoined he slowed to a halt with an engine issue and race over.
Bottas, on the other hand, tried to make a one stop strategy work and at one stage was running in second place. But late on in the race he ran out of rubber, dropping down to fifth with a few of laps to go. There he stayed despite a precautionary pitstop for new tyres on the penultimate lap. But in the end it was another race in which the Finn was totally outclassed by his Mercedes teammate.
Esteban Ocon continued his extraordinary run of grand prix finishes, this time taking sixth place at the end of an action packed race for the Frenchman. He made a good start, making his way to fourth early on in the race and then fended off Felipe Massa’s Williams, later on his own Force India teammate Sergio Perez and right at the end managed to keep Renault’s Carlos Sainz at bay.
The Spaniard had a dream debut with his new team, finishing seventh after a weekend in which he did not put a foot wrong and outshone the team’s regular driver Nico Hulkenberg. The German retired on lap three.
Perez tried to get his Force India team to order Ocon to move aside when the pair were nose-to-tail during their scuffle with Massa, but in the end the Mexican simply did not have the pace of his teammate to challenge him or prevent Sainz from getting past.
Massa was ninth, ahead of Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kvyat who claimed the final point in tenth. The Russian staying out of trouble during the race in which he made his return to the team after a two race lay-off.
Hard-charging Vettel took the lead into Turn 1 at the start, but when Hamilton grabbed first place with a good overtake of the German on lap six and quickly opened a two-second gap there was little doubt that, barring mechanical issues, the Mercedes driver would cross the line in first place to open a 66-point lead over Vettel with a maximum of 75 points on the table from the remaining three rounds.
There was more drama at the end of the race as Verstappen was denied a podium finish. The Dutchman was handed a five-second penalty for leaving the track and gaining and advantage when passing Räikkönen for P3 in the last sector of the last lap. Verstappen was demoted to fourth and the Ferrari man took the podium alongside Hamilton and Vettel.
At the start, Vettel made the best getaway and despite Hamilton moving across to the inside to try to take first place, the Ferrari driver snuck past on the entry into Turn 1 to take the lead. By the end of the first lap, third-placed Bottas was coming under heavy pressure from Ricciardo, though the Finn managed to hang on to third place.
Ricciardo’s team-mate Verstappen was having more success in gaining places and by lap six the Dutchman had claimed the scalps of Stroll, Ericsson, Grosjean, Kvyat, Perez and the second Massa to sit in ninth place.
Ahead, Vettel’s lead didn’t last long. On lap six, Hamilton attacked and under DRS on the back straight he slipped past the German on the inside to re-take the lead. By lap nine he’d built a 1.8s lead over the Ferrari driver.
Verstappen’s march continued and with the dismissal of Ocon to take sixth place, the Dutchman had taken 10 places in 10 laps.
Meanwhile, team-mate Ricciardo’s pursuit of Bottas was beginning to hurt. The Australian was struggling with worn starting ultrasoft tyres and by lap 11 he was being harried by Räikkönen. The solution was for the Red Bull man to pit, and on the next tour he made his first stop, for supersoft tyres.
It would all end for the Australian on lap 16, however. Towards the end of the lap he slowed and then went off track at Turn 15 where he eventually pulled over, telling his engineer “engine’s gone, I think the engine’s gone”.
At the front, Vettel, now 5.4s in arrears to Hamilton pitted on lap 17 and took on soft tyres. Mercedes then pitted Bottas and a lap later Hamilton, with both drivers taking on the same compound. Hamilton rejoined in third place behind leader Räikkönen and second-placed Verstappen, both of whom had yet to pit.
Räikkönen’s lead was short-lived and at the end of lap 20 he dived toward the Ferrari pit box and bolted on a set of soft tyres. Verstappen was now the race leader, but again it was a brief stint, as on lap 23, Hamilton, armed with fresh tyres, muscled past the Red Bull driver.
The order then began to settle and on lap 28 Hamilton led Vettel by four seconds. Bottas was still third, but with just 2.9s in hand over Räikkönen. Verstappen was now fifth, ahead of Massa, Ocon and Pérez. Carlos Sainz was ninth for Renault ahead of Kvyat.
Sainz, though, was charging forward and when the now traditional battle between Perez and Ocon began to result in Perez asking to pass his team-mate and being denied, Sainz saw an opportunity. He closed hard on the Mexican and over the course of four corners in the final sector he built a move that he eventually made stick as the pair headed for the start/finish straight.
Towards the front, Vettel, struggling for pace on his soft tyres, was asking Ferrari to consider strategic options as behind Bottas closed in and Raikkonen, much happier on the softs, closed on his fellow Finn.
Behind them Verstappen began to close on the battle between Räikkönen and Bottas but with 50-seconds in hand over Ocon, Red Bull chose instead to pit the Dutchman, bolting on a set of supersofts for the final 19 laps.
And that was the strategic option Vettel and Ferrari then also took, chiefly to cover the Red Bull. The German pitted at the end of lap 39 and he emerged just in front of Verstappen.
Räikkönen, meanwhile, finally got some reward for his efforts. He dived down the inside of countryman Bottas at the end of the back straight, got past and then made his car wide through the next sequence of corners to secure second place.
Vettel, meanwhile, was narrowing the gap to Bottas and on lap 51 he powered past the Mercedes driver to claim third place. It wasn’t long before he found Räikkönen and sensibly the Finn moved across to allow his title-hunting team-mate back to P2.
Hamilton, though, was 14 seconds further up the road and there was no hope of Vettel using his better pace to close so large a gap and after 56 laps the Briton crossed the line to take his sixth career US GP win with 10 seconds in hand over the German.
Behind the top two there was plenty of drama in the final laps. Soon after Vettel passed Bottas, Verstappen closed in on the second Mercedes and he quickly got past the Mercedes man who was visibly struggling on worn tyres.
Verstappen then hunted down Räikkönen and as the last lap began he was told by his race engineer that he would likely have one chance to pass. Verstappen chose the long right-hander at the end of the lap. He elbowed his way past the Finn and seconds later was punching the air in celebration of a podium finish from 16th place on the grid.
Within seconds though the Red Bull driver’s move was placed under investigation by the race stewards and he was quickly handed a five-second time penalty for leaving the track and gaining an advantage. “Car 33 did leave the track, with all four wheels clearly off the track by at least half a metre,” the stewards’ report said.
Räikkönen, then, held his third place and took the podium with Hamilton and Vettel. Verstappen, who had four seconds in hand over Räkkönen at the end, managed to keep fourth place ahead of Bottas.
Ocon was sixth ahead of Sainz, who put in an excellent performance in his first race for Renault. Pérez was eighth ahead of Massa and Kvyat, on his racing return, took the final point.
2017 Formula 1 World Championship – Drivers
|4||AUS||RED BULL RACING TAG HEUER||192|
|6||NED||RED BULL RACING TAG HEUER||123|
|7||MEX||FORCE INDIA MERCEDES||86|
|8||FRA||FORCE INDIA MERCEDES||73|
2017 Formula World Championship – Constructors
|3||RED BULL RACING TAG HEUER||315|
|4||FORCE INDIA MERCEDES||159|