Hamilton back to winning ways with US GP victory
Lewis Hamilton has taken a small chunk out of Nico Rosberg’s points’ lead in the Formula 1 World Championship standings following a dominant United States Grand Prix win.
A timely lights-to-flag success for the title contender, Hamilton successfully converted his pole position into a lead from the opening corner and was never troubled thereafter as he secured his first victory since July’s German Grand Prix.
A must-win race for the defending champion having lost ground to Rosberg in each of the last five events, the emphasis may have been on Hamilton at the start after terrible getaways in Japan and Italy, but he would make no mistake on this occasion.
By contrast, Rosberg found himself under pressure into the tricky uphill first turn left-hander from Ricciardo, the Australian successfully hanging out around the outside of the fast turn two, to squeeze his Red Bull between the two Mercedes’. Kimi Raikkonen and Max Verstappen followed in fourth and fifth.
With Ricciardo’s super-soft shod car between himself and his main rival, Hamilton proceeded to control the pace back to the lead group, a tactic he could maintain from start-to-finish as the attention shifted to whether Rosberg could leapfrog Ricciardo.
With Mercedes rolling the dice by putting Rosberg on the medium tyre for his second stint – unlike his rivals on the soft rubber -, it would take the unwitting influence of Verstappen to unintentionally hamper his team-mate’s efforts in keeping second place.
An eventful afternoon for the Dutchman, Verstappen struggled initially, but was showing fine form during his second stint to clear Raikkonen and close onto Rosberg.
However, disaster would strike first when he entered the pit-lane without his team expecting him – the youngster apologising after revealing he thought he had been asked to box – before a gearbox problem forced him to park up just three laps later.
Stopping in a tricky position, his retirement would prompt a brief Virtual Safety Car period, which would give Mercedes an unhindered pit-stop, allowing Rosberg to re-emerge ahead of Ricciardo who had made his stop before the VSC.
Regardless, Hamilton would control a sizeable margin back to the battle behind, completing his faultless afternoon to win by a clear 4.5s
Despite losing out to Hamilton, second place for Rosberg limits the damage to his comfortable championship lead, the pair heading to the Mexican Grand Prix with 26 points between them.
Ricciardo reeled off his seventh rostrum of the year in third after a typically frisky drive, though he may have come under more pressure for the podium had Kimi Raikkonen not suffered a bizarre exit after his third pit-stop.
The Finn had shown impressive pace at various points in the race as he worked through an alternative tyre strategy, only for a problem attaching the right-rear wheel on his Ferrari to force him to stop at the end of the pit-lane, concluding his day.
Instead, an unusually lacklustre Sebastian Vettel took advantage of Verstappen and Raikkonen’s exit to finish a lonely fourth.
Making the most of the higherthan-usual attrition rate at the front of the field, the fight for fifth proved thrilling as Carlos Sainz – one of the big beneficiaries from the VSC period – came under pressure from Felipe Massa and Fernando Alonso in the closing stages.
With Alonso firstly working his way past Massa for sixth with a robust pass – one that would leave the Williams driver with a puncture after contact at the front -, the two-time world champion would ultimately relieve his countryman of fifth place but not before some magnificent defending from Sainz in his squirming Toro Rosso.
A fine result for both Spaniards – and the first points for Sainz since the Hungarian Grand Prix -, despite having to pit Massa still reeled off a seventh place finish for Williams to claw back some ground on Force India in the fight for fourth overall.
A busy race for Force India, Nico Hulkenberg retired on the opening lap after clipping Valtteri Bottas’ Williams – which in turn ruined the Finn’s race as he slipped down the order -, while Sergio Perez was spun around on lap one by Daniil Kvyat. Nonetheless, the Mexican put in a superb fight-back to finish eighth.
Up from 19th on the grid, Jenson Button made up plenty of ground in a messy first corner to secure a welcome double points’ finish for McLaren in ninth, with Romain Grosjean also making up impressive ground to secure a popular point for Haas at its first-ever home F1 race.
Hamilton crosses the finish line in front of Mercedes mechanics to take victory at the United States Grand Prix in Austin, Texas, yesterday Photo: AP
Lewis Hamilton with his trophy on the podium after winning the United States GP yesterday