Hamilton fights back
> Defending champion keeps title bid alive with US win
DEFENDING CHAMPION Lewis Hamilton kept alive his bid for a fourth world title yesterday when he claimed his first victory in six races at the United States Grand Prix in Austin.
The Briton produced a flawless drive from pole position to finish almost five seconds ahead of his Mercedes teammate and championship leader Nico Rosberg to seal the 50th win of his glittering Formula One career.
Australian Daniel Ricciardo finished third for Red Bull and four-time champion Sebastian Vettel came home fourth for Ferrari after teammate Kimi Raikkonen had been forced into a bizarre retirement when he left the pits with a loose rear wheel.
But it was again all about the Mercedes rivals and Hamilton trimmed Rosberg’s championship lead from 33 points to 26 with three races remaining, but he knows that even if he wins them all the German can take his crown by finishing second in each one.
“A perfect drive Lewis, really well managed,” said his team’s technical boss Paddy Lowe as Hamilton surged over the line.
It was Hamilton’s seventh win this season, but his first since the German Grand Prix back in July, since when Rosberg has grabbed the momentum.
Ricciardo’s feisty Red Bull teammate, the Dutch teenager Max Verstappen, also retired after a mechanical failure, leaving the way open for Fernando Alonso to seize fifth for McLaren after a late attack on fellow Spaniard Carlos Sainz.
Hamilton had revealed concerns before the race about his engine – fitted overnight Friday with a new fuel injection system – but on a near-perfect warm autumn afternoon in Texas he made a clean getaway when the lights went out.
He led off the grid from the 58th pole of his career as Ricciardo, from third, accelerated up the hill behind him into Turn One, where he found a way past Rosberg to take second.
Behind the leaders there was contact between Nico Hulkenberg’s Force India and Valtteri Bottas’s Williams, the former losing his front wing and, after limping to the pits, retiring at the end of the first lap.
Roared on by a big crowd at the Circuit of the Americas, where Taylor Swift had entertained 100,000 fans on Saturday night, Hamilton took early control of the race and enjoyed a 1.4-second lead by lap three.
Ricciardo, the only one of the leading drivers to start on “super-soft” tyres, pitted after eight laps from second, Rosberg taking his place, before he too went into the pits, followed soon after by Hamilton.
Hamilton regained control after 15 laps, when Vettel pitted for softs, the German rejoining in sixth.
Almost immediately, the Briton eased open a gap at the front while Rosberg resisted attacks from Verstappen.
Reminded by his team to be cautious and finish, the young Dutchman responded: “I’m not here to finish fourth!”
His audacity was not matched by substance and when he followed Ricciardo into the pits for his second stop, his pit crew was not ready. Verstappen apologised for his own error, took a relatively slow 9.2-second stop and within three laps was forced to 1. Lewis Hamilton (GBR/Merce-AMG) 308,405 km in 1h38:12.618, 2. Nico Rosberg (Ger/Merc-AMG) 4.520, 3. Daniel Ricciardo (Aus/Red Bull) 19.692, 4. Sebastian Vettel (Ger/Ferrari) 43.134, 5. Fernando Alonso (ESP/McLaren-Honda) 1:33.953, 6. Carlos Sainz Jr (ESP/Toro Rosso) 1:36.124, 7. Felipe Massa (Bra/Williams) 1 lap, 8. Sergio Perez (Mex/ Force India) 1 lap, 9. Jenson Button (GBR/McLarenHonda) 1 lap, 10. Romain Grosjean (Fra/Haas) 1 lap.
Overall standings Drivers 1. Nico Rosberg (Ger) 331pts, 2. Lewis Hamilton (GBR) 305, 3. Daniel Ricciardo (Aus) 227, 4. Sebas- retire with engine failure.
His exit prompted the deployment of a Virtual Safety Car period during which both Hamilton and Rosberg pitted again. When they rejoined, Rosberg almost went past Pascal Wehrlein’s Manor before remembering overtaking was not permitted.
For Raikkonen, in his Ferrari, it was race over when after a pit stop he stopped and rolled back down the hill to the pits.
Ferrari were under investigation for an unsafe release of his car with a suspected loose wheel. Raikkonen said a wheel-gun was still attached to his car when he left the pits. – AFP
tian Vettel (Ger) 177, 5. Kimi Raikkonen (FIin 170, 6. Max Verstappen (Ned) 165, 7. Sergio Pérez (Mex) 84, 8. Valtteri Bottas (Fin 81, 9. Nico Hülkenberg (Ger) 54, 10. Fernando Alonso (ESP) 52, 11. Felipe Massa (Bra) 49, 12. Carlos Sainz Jr (ESP) 38, 13. Romain Grosjean (Fra) 29, 14. Daniil Kvyat (Rus) 25, 15. Jenson Button (GBR) 21, 16. Kevin Magnussen (Den) 7, 17. Jolyon Palmer (GBR) 1, 18. Pascal Wehrlein (Ger) 1, 19. Stoffel Vandoorne (Bel) 1 Constructors 1. Mercedes-AMG 636 pts (champions), 2. Red Bull 400, 3. Ferrari 347, 4. Force India 138, 5. Williams 130, 6. McLaren-Honda 74, 7. Toro Rosso 55, 8. Haas 29, 9. Renault 8, 10. Manor 1.
Tennis star Venus Williams (right) and US F1 Grand Prix winner Lewis Hamilton are sprayed with champagne by Mercedes team crew members.