Hamilton takes title after dramatic USGP victory

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Lewis Hamilton became the first British driver to defend the drivers' championship with a dramatic win at the United States Grand Prix.

In an action-packed race which saw two Safety Car periods, two Virtual Safety Cars and eight retirements, Hamilton inherited the lead when team-mate Nico Rosberg ran wide with eight laps remaining and led home Rosberg and Sebastian Vettel to become a three-time world champion.

Hamilton's title victory was in doubt until the final corner as Vettel put the pressure on Rosberg on the final lap but couldn't make a move, giving Hamilton an unassailable lead with three races remaining.

The world champion was emotional in the cockpit after the race, failing to respond to the news over team radio at first before replying: "This is the greatest moment of my life. Thank you so much guys for everything you do."

Winning the championship had looked unlikely at many points in the afternoon, such was the drama on offer in Austin. Rosberg had secured pole position in a rain-hit qualifying session on Sunday morning, but was beaten in to Turn 1 by Hamilton as both ran wide on a wet track, with slight contact ensuing.

The two Red Bulls of Daniil Kvyat and Daniel Ricciardo followed Hamilton through to demote Rosberg to fourth place and then proceeded to put pressure on the race leader as the Red Bull worked much better on the intermediate tyre.

Kvyat managed to pass Hamilton in to Turn 1 on the fourth lap but lost the place on exit, and soon the Virtual Safety Car [VSC] was deployed to clear up debris after the two Saubers collided at Turn 1. Hamilton was slow under the VSC and the top four bunched up, allowing Rosberg to jump Ricciardo for third place. Rosberg then passed Kvyat in to Turn 12 to take second place, but both drivers ran wide within a few corners of each other to allow Ricciardo through.

Ricciardo reeled in Hamilton and managed to pass up the inside of the high-speed Turn 18 before opening up a comfortable lead. Hamilton was slipping backwards as the track dried out and Rosberg passed him at Turn 13 before the championship leader opted to pit for slick tyres on lap 18. A number of drivers followed suit, but when the top three of Ricciardo, Rosberg and Kvyat all came in on the next lap, Hamilton remained behind the trio.

Both Ferraris had made good progress from lowly starting positions but Kimi Raikkonen slid off track on slick tyres on Lap 20, hitting the barrier and damaging his front wing. Having managed to return to the track, he eventually was forced to retire with high brake temperatures.

Vettel had pit at the same time as Hamilton for soft tyres - the first time the slicks had been used all weekend - and was quickly reeling in the leading quartet as the Red Bulls started to struggle. With the Mercedes pair easing past, Vettel also overtook Kvyat for fourth place before the Safety Car was deployed at the halfway point to recover Marcus Ericsson's stricken Sauber.

Vettel was the only one of the leaders to take the opportunity to pit, putting on medium tyres in an attempt to run until the end. Max Verstappen was enjoying a competitive race and also stopped for softs, emerging in fifth place.

On the restart, Vettel made quick progress to pass both Kvyat and Ricciardo, with Verstappen following soon after as the Red Bulls fell back. On lap 36, Nico Hulkenberg attempted to pass Ricciardo in to Turn 12 but ran in to the side of the Red Bull and retired, bringing out another VSC.

Rosberg, Kvyat and Ricciardo all took the opportunity to pit under the VSC but Hamilton stayed out and had to try and open up a big lead over second-placed Vettel to be able to pit and stay ahead. With 14 laps to go, Rosberg passed Vettel using DRS and looked set to catch Hamilton when Kvyat lost control and crashed exiting the penultimate corner.

The Safety Car was again deployed to clear away the Red Bull, allowing Hamilton to pit and rejoin in second place with Vettel also deciding to switch back to soft tyres from his mediums, dropping to fourth behind Verstappen. Rosberg pulled out a small advantage on the restart with victory enough to keep his title hopes alive, but then suffered a lot of wheelspin exiting Turn 16 and ran off track, allowing Hamilton through in to a lead he would never relinquish.

Behind the title drama, Verstappen had kept out of trouble to take a hugely impressive fourth place ahead of Sergio Perez in fifth. The two McLarens were due to score but Fernando Alonso faded from sixth late in the race due to a reliability issue, with Jenson Button taking over the position as Alonso dropped to 11th behind Carlos Sainz, Pastor Maldonado, Felipe Nasr and Ricciardo.

AS IT HAPPENED: United States Grand Prix

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