Hamil­ton fights back

> De­fend­ing cham­pion keeps ti­tle bid alive with US win

The Sun (Malaysia) - - SPORTS -

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.

– REUTERSPIX

Ten­nis star Venus Wil­liams (right) and US F1 Grand Prix win­ner Lewis Hamil­ton are sprayed with cham­pagne by Mercedes team crew mem­bers.

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