Austin, Texas – Lewis Hamilton moved a step closer to his fourth world championship on Sunday when he won the United States Grand Prix, coming home ahead of his nearest title rival Sebastian Vettel.
The 32-year-old Briton, who started from a record 72nd pole position, recovered after losing his advantage at the start to regain the lead and steer his Mercedes to his ninth win this year, his fifth in Texas and the 62nd of his career.
Four-times champion Vettel came home second for Ferrari, and with three races remaining, trails Hamilton by 66 points in the Drivers’ title standings. If Hamilton wins, or finishes anywhere in the top five, in Mexico City next weekend, he will be champion.
Hamilton’s victory, with Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas finishing fifth, confirmed the team as Constructors' champions for 2017, and for the fourth consecutive season.
“What a beautiful day,” said Hamilton, interviewed on the podium by multiple Olympic sprint champion Usain Bolt. “I love this track and I think it is now my favourite.”
Vettel said: “It was looking good at the start, but we had to realise we couldn’t go at that pace - we were in no-man’s land and there was no secret to it. It’s not strategy. They were quicker than us - so congratulations to Lewis.”
Max Verstappen crossed the line in third place after a controversial final-corner passing move that saw his Red Bull run off track as he swept beyond Kimi Raikkonen in the second Ferrari.
The move was investigated immediately by the stewards, who gave Verstappen - who had already gone to the podium ceremony waiting room - a five-second penalty that cost him third and lifted Raikkonen back to third for Ferrari.
All this meant that Verstappen finished fourth ahead of Bottas, Esteban Ocon of Force India and Carlos Sainz, who finished seventh on his debut with Renault following his move from Toro Rosso. Felipe Massa finished ninth for Williams and Daniil Kvyat 10th in the second Toro Rosso.
After a savage overnight rainstorm, the race began in dry and warm conditions with an air temperature of 24 degrees and the track at 33, near-perfect for a big crowd that included former American president Bill Clinton.
When the lights went out, it was Vettel who had the best getaway and he held off Hamilton, who had been on pole, as he tried to respond into Turn 1. The Ferrari soon pulled clear to lead by 0.8s and increased it to a second by the end of lap two, with Bottas scrapping hard to resist a determined Daniel Ricciardo to retain third.
After a few laps reassessing his position, Hamilton picked up his pace and clocked fastest laps before regaining the lead on lap six with a move that appeared to catch Vettel by surprise. He surged into position and then with the aid of his Drag Reduction System, outpaced Vettel at the end of the back straight.
Further back in the field, Verstappen – who started 16th – rose to eighth and was carving through the traffic, and soon reached sixth place by lap 10; Red Bull team-mate Ricciardo suffered an engine failure which ended his race after 16 laps.
1 Lewis Hamilton (Britain) Mercedes - 1:33:50.991
2 Sebastian Vettel (Germany) Ferrari +00:10.143
3 Kimi Raikkonen (Finland) Ferrari +00:15.779
4 Max Verstappen (Netherlands) Red Bull +00:16.768
5 Valtteri Bottas (Finland) Mercedes +00:34.967
6 Esteban Ocon (France) Force India +01:30.980
7 Carlos Sainz Jr (Spain) Renault +01:32.944
8 Sergio Perez (Mexico) Force India +1 lap
9 Felipe Massa (Brazil) Williams +1 lap
10 Daniil Kvyat (Russia) Toro Rosso +1 lap
11 Lance Stroll (Canada) Williams +1 lap
12 Stoffel Vandoorne (Belgium) McLaren +1 lap
13 Brendon Hartley (New Zealand) Toro Rosso +1 lap
14 Romain Grosjean (France) Haas +1 lap
15 Marcus Ericsson (Sweden) Sauber +1 lap
16 Kevin Magnussen (Denmark) Haas +1 lap
r. Fernando Alonso (Spain) McLaren +32 laps
r. Daniel Ricciardo (Australia) Red Bull +42 laps
r. Pascal Wehrlein (Germany) Sauber +51 laps
r. Nico Hulkenberg (Germany) Renault +53 laps
Fastest Lap: Sebastian Vettel (Germany) Ferrari - 1:37.766, lap 51.
Points - Drivers
1 Lewis Hamilton (Britain) Mercedes - 331
2 Sebastian Vettel (Germany) Ferrari - 265
3 Valtteri Bottas (Finland) Mercedes - 244
4 Daniel Ricciardo (Australia) Red Bull - 192
5 Kimi Raikkonen (Finland) Ferrari - 163
6 Max Verstappen (Netherlands) Red Bull - 123
7 Sergio Perez (Mexico) Force India - 86
8 Esteban Ocon (France) Force India - 73
9 Carlos Sainz Jr (Spain) Renault - 54
10 Felipe Massa (Brazil) Williams - 36
11 Nico Hulkenberg (Germany) Renault - 34
12 Lance Stroll (Canada) Williams - 32
13 Romain Grosjean (France) Haas - 28
14 Kevin Magnussen (Denmark) Haas - 15
15 Stoffel Vandoorne (Belgium) McLaren - 13
16 Fernando Alonso (Spain) McLaren - 10
17 Jolyon Palmer (Britain) Renault - 8
18 Pascal Wehrlein (Germany) Sauber - 5
19 Daniil Kvyat (Russia) Toro Rosso - 5
1 Mercedes - 575
2 Ferrari - 428
3 Red Bull - 315
4 Force India - 159
5 Williams - 68
6 Toro Rosso - 53
7 Renault - 48
8 Haas - 43
9 McLaren - 23
10 Sauber - 5