Lewis Hamilton has won the United States Grand Prix to guarantee his Mercedes team’s fourth consecutive constructors championship.
The race was a relatively straightforward affair for Hamilton despite losing the lead to title rival Sebastian Vettel at the first turn. The Briton’s silver machine, fittingly the fastest car on the day it would deliver the team championship, was able to propel him back past the Ferrari on lap six, after which he was never challenged.
There was a brief moment of doubt for the Mercedes team deep in the race when Vettel made a last-ditch second pit stop for a fresh set of faster tyres, but with only 17 laps remaining in the race and with Valtteri Bottas’s Mercedes to pass on the way, it was too little, too late for Vettel.
Hamilton scored the maximum 25 points, seven more than Vettel’s 18 for second place, earning him a 66-point championship lead with three rounds remaining.
Hamilton can win the title by finishing as low as fifth at next weekend’s Mexican Grand Prix regardless of where Vettel finishes.
“It’s been an incredible year so far,” Hamilton said. “I was not expecting to have the pace we had on Sebastian today.
“I feel great. It’s a really, really humbling experience. It’s a dream job.”
Hamilton also paid tribute to his Mercedes team, only the fourth Formula One constructor to win four back-to-back championships after Ferrari, McLaren and Red Bull Racing.
“We had a beautiful day today,” he said. “A big congratulations to the team.
“They’ve worked so hard, they really truly deserve to be the best team this year.”
Vettel was downbeat to have lost further points to Hamilton in his unlikely battle to reclaim ground in the championship fight, but he put his loss down to lacking a car to challenge Mercedes.
“I think at the start it was looking good, but then fairly quickly we realised we couldn’t go at his pace today,” he said.
“There was no real secret other than they were quicker than us. I think we have to admit that.
“Towards the end when we started to pit again with a fresh set of tyres it was a bit more exciting, but overall not the result we wanted.”
Vettel had been on the back foot all weekend, however, after losing half his Friday practice time to mechanical troubles that prevented him from finding a good set-up for his car. Subsequently the German struggled with his tyres during the race more than Hamilton and his Ferrari teammate Kimi Räikkönen.
Räikkönen took the final place on the podium having let Vettel past late in the race, but the Finn finished fourth on the road behind Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen.
Ferrari opted not to pit Räikkönen for new tyres late in the race, meaning Vettel and Verstappen were both quicker than him in their final stints, but it took until the final lap of the race for Max to exercise his advantage.
Verstappen sliced down the inside of turn 17, but in doing so he took all four wheels of his car beyond the edge of the circuit. The race stewards almost immediately put the move under investigation and shortly afterwards demoted the driver back down to fourth place.
“I’m feeling good personally — of course a big shame that you miss out on the podium afterwards,” Verstappen told TV crews.
“Everybody’s running wide everywhere, there are no track limits and the crowd is loving it — and [then] you do something like that in front of world TV.
“It’s not good for the crowd. I really hope next year nobody is coming because, like this, the sport makes no sense.”
It was an anticlimactic end to Verstappen’s strong recovery drive from 16th on the grid. Räikkönen, however, was happy to assume the Dutchman’s place on the podium.
“Obviously I was pretty disappointed just after the race when I thought I was fourth,” he said. “My car was very good all the way, I just had to fuel-save a bit in the end so I had to back off.”
Valtteri Bottas finished fifth, but the second Mercedes driver’s result was compromised by making his second stop far too late in the race to stay close to his teammate.
Bottas was involved in an early scrap with Red Bull Racing’s Daniel Ricciardo for the podium, but the Australian’s Renault engine failed on lap 16, eliminating him from contention.
Formula One continues this weekend with the Mexican Grand Prix in Mexico City.