Austin: Lewis Hamilton increased his lead in the drivers world championship to 24 points on Sunday when he swept to his fifth consecutive victory and 10th of the season by winning the United States Grand Prix.
Mercedes AMG Petronas driver Lewis Hamilton of Britain (R) celebrates beside teammate Nico Rosberg of Germany on the podium after winning the United States Formula One Grand Prix at the Circuit of The Americas in Austin. Pic/AFP
The 29-year-old Briton, who started second behind his pole sitting Mercedes team-mate and nearest rival Nico Rosberg, took the lead with a bold move after 24 laps on his way to a perfectly-measured triumph ahead of the German by 4.314 seconds.
It was the 32nd win of Hamilton's career, a landmark statistic that lifted him one victory clear of Nigel Mansell as the British driver with most career successes in Formula One. Hamilton now has 316 points to Rosberg's 292 following the Englishman's dominant success earned by clever tyre preservation tactics with two races remaining, including the final race in Abu Dhabi where double points are scored.
After thanking his team on the radio, Hamilton was equally generous and effusive from the victors' podium. "I have an incredible team and an incredible car and I had a great opponent today," he said. "It is such a privilege to represent my country and to be top of the drivers' standings. The car was great today."
The result left the two Mercedes men as the only drivers now capable of winning the title contest which will go down to the wire in Abu Dhabi on November 23, no matter the result in Brazil next weekend. Sunday's triumph was also the Mercedes team's 10th one-two triumph of the year. "It kind of sucks for me today," said Rosberg. "It took too long for me to find my rhythm.
Once Hamilton got by I found my rhythm, but it was too late." Australian Daniel Ricciardo finished third to deliver his eighth podium for Red Bull this year ahead of the two Williams of fourth-placed Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas. "We are doing what we can," said Ricciardo. "I'm really happy with third place. You can overtake here. I got Magnussen and then Alonso on the restart so it wasn't too boring out there for me."
Two time champion Fernando Alonso of Ferrari was sixth for Ferrari after a series of battles to finish ahead of four-time champion Sebastian Vettel of Red Bull, Kevin Magnussen of McLaren and Jean-Eric Vergne of Toro Rosso. Pastor Maldonado came home 10th for Lotus to score his first points of the season. - Pass under braking - On another clear day of blue skies and an air temperature of 24 degrees Celsius, with a track temperature of 33 degrees, Rosberg's start was as flawless as the weather.
As the lights went out, he pulled clear with Hamilton behind him while a slow start from Bottas allowed Massa through to third. The first lap was interrupted, however, when Sergio Perez crashed his Force India into the Sauber of luckless Adrian Sutil and a Safety Car was deployed. "So disappointing and so unnecessary," said Sutil, who had qualified in the top ten for the first time this year.
To compound his team's misery, Nico Hulkenberg retired with an engine failure after 18 laps. After a rash of early pit-stops, racing resumed on lap four with Hamilton sticking close to Rosberg's car as they pulled away from the pack, but never close enough to consider an attacking move. Rosberg was the first to pit after 15 laps, switching to the harder medium compound tyres.
Rosberg, however, was less dominant on his second set of tyres and was unable to open a clear gap ahead of Hamilton who closed steadily before seizing his chance to pass him on lap 24. Hamilton had sized him up for several laps before moving into Rosberg's slipstream on the back straight and, with the aid of DRS, drew alongside before passing on the inside under braking at turn 12.
Rosberg glanced askance and considered defending, but was too late to stop the move as he was eased slightly off line, and circuit, by Hamilton's act of decision. Within a lap, the Briton led by 1.3 seconds. Behind the leaders, there was a notable battle between Alonso and Button before, in response to Ricciardo's rapid Red Bull, he made a second pit stop.
That gave Rosberg the lead for a lap again, before they resumed with Hamilton ahead again after 35 laps. Rosberg cut the advantage to 2.6 seconds with a fastest lap on lap 36, setting up a 20-lap dash for glory that saw Hamilton respond with his own fastest lap as he kept his lead at 2.3sec or better to the delight of the Texan crowd.