Lewis Hamilton took another step towards a fourth World title as he survived a brief challenge from Sebastian Vettel to win the United States GP.
Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel briefly gave Formula 1 fans the battle they’ve been wanting as the Ferrari driver got the jump on the pole-sitter on the opening lap when he made an epic start and challenged Hamilton into the first corner. A bit of tyre rub and the Ferrari driver led the United States GP. But, happy with his “pretty good” pace, Hamilton was right there with him.
Behind them Valtteri Bottas and Daniel Ricciardo raced wheel-to-wheel in the fight for third place as they produce the excitement. Ricciardo made two notable moves on the Mercedes driver only to have the door slammed shut, forcing him to back off.
Hamilton came back at Vettel on lap six, diving down the inside of the Ferrari driver at Turn 12 to lead the grand prix. Vettel tried to fight back but Hamilton pulled away, a second down the road within half a lap.
Max Verstappen, though, was the man on the move in the opening stint as he started P16 but was up to seventh by lap seven. He caught and made short work of Esteban Ocon to run sixth after ten laps with just Kimi Raikkonen standing between the Dutchman and his Red Bull team-mate in fourth.
While Vettel complained of “blistering on the front left”, Hamilton showed great pace to build up an advantage of over three seconds with Bottas a further three behind. Ricciardo, another complaining about tyres, was the first of the frontrunners to pit, swapping his ultras for supersofts on lap 12. The Aussie’s race ended four laps later when he parked his RB13 on the grass reporting “engine’s gone.”
Vettel pitted from second on lap 16, ultras for softs. Hamilton, meanwhile, reported that his “tyres are good, I can extend.” He came in three laps later, also taking on the softs, and came out right in front of Vettel. Despite the Brit being on colder tyres, Vettel was not able to attack.
As the stops played out Hamilton was leading by 3.6s over Vettel, who was 5 ahead of Bottas with Raikkonen, Verstappen and Ocon completing the top six ahead of Sergio Perez, Carlos Sainz, Daniil Kvyat and Romain Grosjean. Everyone inside the top ten running the soft tyres.
With the top ten stagnant, Verstappen and Red Bull shook it up as the Dutchman pitted for a second time resulting in Vettel opting to also pit, both swapping to supersoft tyres. Hamilton, Bottas and Raikkonen – make that Hamilton, Raikkonen and Bottas – decided against stopping leaving it to Vettel and Verstappen to close them down on their fresher tyres.
Hamilton claimed the victory, his fifth at the Circuit of the Americas, while Vettel recovered to second, passing first Bottas and then Raikkonen. Verstappen followed him through, snatching the final podium position off Raikkonen with a final lap pass.
However, minutes later he lost it through a five-second penalty for passing Raikkonen off the track. The Finn was elevated onto the podium.
Bottas, who pitted with three laps to go to swap to new ultras, was fourth. Ocon, Sainz on his Renault debut, Perez, Felipe Massa and Daniil Kvyat completed the top ten.
Marcus Ericsson was handed a five-second penalty for clipping Kevin Magnussen and pitching the Haas into a spin. They were P15 and 16 on the day, last of the finishers.
There were several retirements including Fernando Alonso, who pulled into the McLaren garage on lap 26 to retire his MCL32 with yet another engine issue. Ricciardo, Pascal Wehrlein and Nico Hulkenberg added their names to the list.
1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:33.50.993
2 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 10.143
3 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 15.779
4 Max Verstappen Red Bull 16.768
5 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 34.967
6 Esteban Ocon Force India 90.980
7 Carlos Sainz Renault Sport 92.944
8 Sergio Perez Force India 1 LAP
9 Felipe Massa Williams 1 LAP
10 Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso 1 LAP
11 Lance Stroll Williams 1 LAP
12 Stoffel Vandoorne McLaren 1 LAP
13 Brendon Hartley Toro Rosso 1 LAP
14 Romain Grosjean Haas 1 LAP
15 Marcus Ericsson Sauber 1 LAP
16 Kevin Magnussen Haas 1 LAP
Did not finish
Alonso McLaren engine
Ricciardo Red Bull engine
Wehrlein Sauber crash damage