Hamil­ton back to win­ning ways with US GP vic­tory

Malta Independent - - SPORT -

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

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