Lewis Hamilton: The King of COTA

Date published: October 16 2017

In Formula 1, timing is everything. And, with Lewis Hamilton in hot pursuit of an historic sixth US Grand Prix victory, there is simply no better time for British fans to make the trip across the pond and create the ultimate ‘I was there’ moment.

With four of his U.S. victories coming in the last five races to be held in Austin, Texas, here is how the three-time World Champion became the lone star of the American Southwest.

2012

There was simply no better way to mark the return of the United States Grand Prix than with an epic duel in the desert between Sebastian Vettel and Hamilton, in a season widely-regarded as one of the best in Formula 1 history.  Both drivers at the time competed for Red Bull and McLaren respectively.

Vettel arrived in Austin with a slender 10-point lead in the World Championship standings over Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso, but he made a big early statement after being fastest in all three practice sessions and then landing the 36th pole position of his career.

Yet Hamilton, who was just one tenth away from clinching top spot on the grid himself, was hell-bent on preventing a complete clean-sweep from the German.

It did not go to plan at the start, though, as Vettel’s Red Bull team-mate Mark Webber passed Hamilton around the outside of the incredible Turn 1 once the lights went out.

However, Hamilton kept his cool in the Austin heat and, armed with a DRS boost, took the position back from the Aussie down the long straight in between Turn 11 and 12 on the fourth lap.

Webber’s race would only last another 13 laps as a KERS shutdown and an alternator failure lead to his second consecutive retirement, giving Hamilton the peace of mind to purely focus on catching Vettel ahead.

Vettel was squeezing every last drop out of his RB8 but, by the time of their one and only pit stop, Hamilton was just three seconds behind and stalking his prey.

With 14 laps to go and the gap continuing to close, Hamilton was able to make his move. Vettel, who was held up significantly by the HRT backmarker Narain Karthikeyan, became very vulnerable and Hamilton was able to squeeze around the outside of Red Bull and lead the race for the first time.

Vettel, though, simply refused to back down and a battle that was reminiscent of their old Formula 3 days continued to play out right up until the chequered flag was waved. The margin of victory for Hamilton was a mere 0.6 seconds.

Vettel would get his revenge the following year but, from then on, Hamilton would really start to cement his legacy at Circuit of The Americas.

2014

Unlike 2012, Hamilton had his eyes firmly fixed on the World Championship crown when the Formula 1 roadshow made its annual stop in Texas.

The Brit was 17 points clear of team-mate Nico Rosberg heading into the 2014 race, but found himself in second spot on the starting grid.

Yet that would soon become a distant memory for Hamilton, who calmly ducked in behind Rosberg from the start and patiently waited to execute his winning move.

After the two Mercedes drivers pitted for medium tyres, it was Hamilton who was able to get them to respond best.

On the 21st lap, Hamilton’s chipping away brought the gap down to just 1.4 seconds. Two laps later that deficit was halved, and then came the race-winning overtake, one that provoked memories of the move on Vettel in 2012.

Under pressure and without the right engine mode to be able to defend properly, Rosberg ran wide at Turn 12 and in swooped a dominant Hamilton who forced his team-mate into the run-off area after the two almost collided.

A heart-stopping moment for the Mercedes garage, but Hamilton would go on to cruise to a 3.6 second victory and extend his World Championship lead to 24 points.

Hamilton seems to love making history in the US and 2014 was no different. His 32nd career win saw him pull clear of Nigel Mansell as the most successful British driver in Formula 1 of all-time.

Not content with that, Hamilton’s fifth consecutive race win of the season saw him equal the same feat Mansell achieved all the way back in 1992.

2015

The history books also needed to be amended after an incredible, action-packed race in 2015 which was made even more dramatic by torrential rain throughout the weekend.

Once again, Hamilton was second on the grid behind team-mate Rosberg. But the Brit got off the line much better in wet conditions and was able to wrestle the lead away at the very first corner.

Hamilton needed to outscore nearest championship rival Vettel by nine points to ensure a third world title would be added to his trophy cabinet – but it was far from plain-sailing in a chaotic crash frenzy in Austin.

Hamilton lost the lead to Ricciardo by the 15th lap and, just four laps later, Rosberg grabbed top spot back after the pit stops.

But then came the sense of deja vu. After two Virtual Safety Cars and two actual Safety Car appearances, Rosberg was clinging on to victory.

When the race restarted again and with just eight laps to go, Rosberg made a crucial mistake at Turn 12 to allow Hamilton to move ahead of him and make the dream of matching his hero Ayrton Senna come true.

“That’s the greatest moment of my life,” Hamilton said as he took the chequered flag, joining the legendary Senna with three World Championships to his name.

Hamilton also became only the second Brit after Sir Jackie Stewart to win three world titles. He certainly has a habit of giving his travelling fans good value for money in America.

2016

After a run of five races without a win, Hamilton returned to the happy hunting ground he had created for himself – for one last crack at the World Championship. Trailing his teammate, Nico Rosberg, in the overall driver standings, Hamilton knew he had to win in Austin to keep his very slim title hopes alive.

Hamilton took the bull by horns and never let go all weekend at Circuit of The Americas. A brilliant pole position was followed up with a great start off the line and up the famous climb to Turn 1. From there, there was no looking back.

After three wins in Texas, it came as no surprise to see Hamilton make it look so easy this time around. Yet inside the cockpit it was a different story, as Hamilton admitted he was filled with fear throughout the dominant victory that his car would break down – a regular theme of his 2016 campaign.

While Rosberg’s second-place finish saw him take a step closer to his first World Championship title, Hamilton would continue to brush shoulders with the all-time greats in Formula 1.

His 2016 success was the 50th victory of his prestigious career, putting him just one behind Alain Prost and a little step closer to the mighty Michael Schumacher.

This year, a fourth consecutive victory in Texas and a sixth United States Grand Prix win in total would see Hamilton move clear of Schumacher on the all-time winners’ list Stateside.

And, who knows? Maybe it will see Hamilton clinch a fourth World Championship title…

Worth finding out!

Ticket information

For more information on Circuit of The Americas and how to purchase tickets for the 2017 Formula 1 United States Grand Prix, please visit www.thecircuit.com.

First-time visitors might be surprised to find themselves being entertained with live music as they walk through the terminal at Austin’s airport, but they shouldn’t be. Live music, and music in many other forms, is everywhere in Austin. Musicians play throughout the city, from the Red River District which includes the famous 6th Street, to Rainy Street, South Congress and beyond.

The state capital is also home to Austin City Limits Live at The Moody Theater (ACL Live) – a state-of-the-art, 2,750 person capacity live music venue that hosts approximately 100 concerts a year.

Austin lives and breathes its title, Live Music Capital of the World®, with many festivals, showcasing local and international talent throughout the year, including Austin City Limits which takes place the first 2 weekends of October every year at Zilker Park and Sound on Sound festival in November at the Lost Pines Forest – but there’s so much more to the city, from the food truck scene to gourmet restaurants, outdoor adventures on Lady Bird Lake, to vintage shopping, sports, amazing art and one hell of a nightlife scene including our famous Austin bats!

For more inspiration: visitaustin.org

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