Hamilton edges toward title with victory in Austin

Podium for the 2017 United States Grand Prix
© XPB 

Lewis Hamilton took victory in the United States Grand Prix on Sunday, his fifth victory in six visits to the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas.

Sebastian Vettel followed an alternate tyre strategy to take second ahead of Kimi Raikkonen. It keeps Vettel's driver title hopes mathematically alive, but he's now 66 points behind Hamilton.

Hamilton's victory means Mercedes clinches the constructors championship with three races remaining.

United States Grand Prix - Race results

Pos Driver Team Gap Stops
1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 56 laps - 1:33:50.993s 1
2 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari + 10.143s 2
3 Kimi Räikkönen Ferrari + 15.779s 1
4 Max Verstappen Red Bull + 16.768s 2
5 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes + 34.967s 2
6 Esteban Ocon Force India + 1:30.980s 1
7 Carlos Sainz Renault + 1:32.944s 1
8 Sergio Pérez Force India + 1 lap 1
9 Felipe Massa Williams + 1 lap 1
10 Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso + 1 lap 1
11 Lance Stroll Williams + 1 lap 2
12 Stoffel Vandoorne McLaren + 1 lap 1
13 Brendon Hartley Toro Rosso + 1 lap 2
14 Romain Grosjean Haas + 1 lap 1
15 Marcus Ericsson Sauber + 1 lap 1
16 Kevin Magnussen Haas + 1 lap 2
17 Fernando Alonso McLaren DNF 2
18 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull DNF 1
19 Pascal Wehrlein Sauber DNF 2
20 Nico Hülkenberg Renault DNF 1

After all the pre-race showbiz razzamataz and a slow formation lap, the drivers were well and truly ready to rumble by the time the lights went out to get the race underway.

Despite starting from pole position, Lewis Hamilton was unable to ward off Sebastian Vettel in the steep run up the hill to turn 1. The Ferrari took control of the corner after slight contact. Once in the lead, Vettel then pulled away from the Mercedes and out of DRS range.

Behind them, Hamilton's team mate Valtteri Bottas was battling hard to hold on to third from Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo. Esteban Ocon had managed to get the better of Kimi Raikkonen for fifth, but the Finn then recovered the position from the Force India driver on lap 3 with a dive down the inside of turn 16.

McLaren's Fernando Alonso had got the better of Carlos Sainz for seventh place. Sainz' team mate Nico Hulkenberg became the first retirement of the race on lap 4 when he pulled into the Renault garage with a loss of oil pressure. Sauber's Pascal Wehrlein joined him on the sidelines moments later after being battered by heavy contact from Kevin Magnussen's Haas.

At the front, Vettel's advantage over Hamilton had suddenly evaporated. The Briton then made a simple job of using DRS to take the lead into turn 1 on lap 6 and pull out a two second lead. Bottas had also now dealt with the threat from Ricciardo, whose mirrors were overflowing with Raikkonen's Ferrari.

Max Verstappen had quickly hustled his back into the top ten, despite grid penalties that had forced him to start the race from 16th. Having already dispatched Sainz and Alonso, he methodically made his way past Ocon in turn 12 on lap 11 to pick up sixth place.

Ricciardo became the first of the leaders to pit on lap 12, switching tyres from ultras to supersofts. He came back out in ninth between Sainz and Felipe Massa. However, moments later the Red Bull abruptly pulled off and parked at turn 15 with engine failure.

Vettel reacted to the resulting local waved yellows by pitting at the end of lap 16 for soft compound tyres. The Ferrari driver had been complaining of blistering on his left front tyre, while Hamilton was still happy to keep going for a few laps more.

Three laps later, a fastest lap time from the Ferrari sounded the alarms at Mercedes. The team called Hamilton in for his stop, and it proved to be only just in time. Hamilton came out of the pit lane on a new set of softs, but he only inches ahead. He then narrowly managed to ward off the pressing threat from Vettel, despite being on colder tyres.

"That was a little bit close guys," a startled Hamilton said over the team radio. "Why did you let him get so close?" Meanwhile Vettel was ruing the missed opportunity, telling his team it had been "Too far. Sorry. Too far."

Crisis averted, Hamilton now had to deal with Verstappen. The Dutch driver had taken the lead as a result of not having made his pit stop. Worn tyres meant the Red Bull could only put up token resistance before yielding the position to Hamilton, who then jumped away into clear air. Vettel was spared having to circumnavigate Verstappen when the youngster made his overdue stop for new soft tyres.

Fernando Alonso was also in the pits, but his visit was of a more terminal nature. Honda engine problems had yet again put the two-time world champion out of the race. "I can't believe it!" he lamented over the team radio, adding: "Another six, eight points..."

With Ocon bottled up behind a yet-to-stop Massa in sixth, there was renewed tension with his Force India team mate. Sergio Perez was grumbling that he was clearly faster and should be allowed to pass. The situation was defused when Massa pitted on lap 29, releasing Ocon. Moments later, a flying Carlos Sainz pulled off a brilliant move on Perez at turn 19 on lap 34, putting a car between the Force Indias for the rest of the race.

Verstappen made a surprise return to the pit lane on lap 38 for a new set of supersofts. The gaps were such that it didn't cost him position when he came back out still in fifth place. "You know what we're up to," confirmed the Red Bull pit wall. "We need a big lap!"

Verstappen was some 26 seconds behind Hamilton, but his pace was 1.8s a lap faster. The top four drivers - Hamilton, Vettel, Bottas and Raikkonen - were in a quandary over whether to follow suit, or gamble on having enough of a gap to justify staying out on old tyres for the rest of the race.

Ferrari immediately reacted by pitting Vettel on the next lap. He came out in fourth, just ahead of Verstappen, having likewise taken supersofts. However the rest of the leaders decided to double down and stick with their one-stop game plan, for better or for worse.

While that played out, Raikkonen pounced on an opportunity to pass his fellow Finn for second place. Despite locking up, Raikkonen pulled off a neat move on Bottas down the backstraight and then fended off the Mercedes' counterattack through the next few corners.

Vettel's charge soon brought him up hard on the heels of Bottas, and he successfully picked his way past with six laps to go. Raikkonen put up little opposition when Vettel passed him two laps later for second place. However, Hamilton remained 15s down the road which was too far for Vettel to do anything about before the chequered flag confirmed victory for Hamilton.

Vettel duly sealed second. Behind him, Verstappen had picked off a waning Bottas for fourth place, and then made a successful pass on a similarly ailing Raikkonen on the final lap to take third. However Verstappoen received a controversial five second penalty for gaining an advantage by leaving the track during the move, which handed third place back to Raikkonen.

Bottas finished in fifth place despite a late pit stop, Ocon holding off Sainz for sixth. The rest of the top ten consisted of Perez, Massa and Toro Rosso returnee Daniil Kvyat.

Lance Stroll just missed out on points in 11th. The Williams was followed across the line by McLaren's Stoffel Vandoorne, Toro Rosso rookie Brendon Hartley, and Haas' Romain Grosjean.

Sauber's Marcus Ericsson was 15th. He had been handed a five second penalty by race stewards after tipping Kevin Magnussen into a spin. The Haas had slowed to allow Vettel through and Ericsson had been a little too enthusiastic trying to take advantage of the opportunity. Magnussen was classified as the last of the 16 drivers to finish the race, with four retirements.

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