Formula title race goes to the wire as Hamilton wins
AUSTIN, Texas - Agence France-Presse
Lewis Hamilton celebrates after winning the inaugural Formula One race at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas. EPA photoLewis Hamilton gate-crashed Sebastian Vettel’s title party on Nov. 18 when he produced a dazzling drive for McLaren to win a thrilling United States Grand Prix.
The 27-year-old Briton, who started second on the grid alongside the defending champion, made the most of his superior outright speed to pass Vettel on lap 42 and claim the 21st victory of his career.
For Vettel, it was a personal disappointment, but not enough to prevent his Red Bull team from winning the constructors title for the third successive season.
Fernando Alonso of Ferrari finished third after starting seventh on the grid -- thanks to his team’s pragmatic decision to break the gearbox seal on Felipe Massa’s car -- and his podium finish ensured that the title battle will go down to the wire at this weekend’s Brazilian Grand Prix in Sao Paulo.
Vettel goes to Interlagos with a lead of 13 points, on 273 points compared to Alonso on 260.
Hamilton, who leaves McLaren for Mercedes next year, was intent on delivering another win for the team before his departure and did so with elan as he seized his fourth win this year.
Amazingly, it was the first time F1’s best three drivers of the current crop had shared a podium and, to mark the Texan location, all three wore Stetson cowboy hats as they celebrated.
Interviewed by the 1978 world champion, American driver Mario Andretti, Hamilton said: “First-time winner! I’m so happy. The fans were amazing, thank you. It was such a warm welcome and one of the best, if not the best, race of the year - especially for me and the team.
“It’s been a long time since we had a win. I’m so proud of the team and grateful for the support we’ve had.”
Vettel said: “He had one chance and he took it. It was a tough race, but it was a great race.”
In front of a sellout crowd of 135,000 at the new Circuit of the Americas and under a solid blue sky, Vettel made a near-perfect start to pull clear from his 36th pole position and into the lead with Red Bull teammate Webber advancing to second behind him.
Alonso, starting seventh thanks to Ferrari’s strategic decision to break the seal on Massa’s gearbox and take a five-place penalty for the Brazilian, had a clean start and went round the outside of turn one and into fourth, passing Kimi Raikkonen.
By lap 34, after a series of pit stops for tyre changes, Hamilton had closed to within two car lengths of Vettel.
This created a sequence of dramatic laps during which Hamilton tantalized Vettel and the crowd by setting up a passing move, using his power advantage and Drag Reduction System (DRS) on the back straight, but without executing it until lap 42 when, after being held up by a back marker, Vettel could not resist him and Hamilton dummied one way and then passed him on the outside.