Lewis Hamilton won a crucial US Grand Prix as teammate and championship leader Nico Rosberg followed him home in second.
The start was always going to be crucial and so it proved, with Hamilton retaining the lead from pole position. Ricciardo jumped Rosberg into second while Raikkonen passed Verstappen for 4th off the line. The first corner would not be without incident, however, as Hulkenburg and Bottas collided, ruining both drivers’ races as the Force India driver was forced to retire. Down the order, Button made a great start and leapt from 19th on the grid to 11th early on in the race.
Starting on the super soft tyres, Ricciardo was inevitably going to pit first. He did so on lap 8, switching onto the soft tyre. This prompted Verstappen to come into the pits the very next lap, interestingly swapping one set of softs for another set of the yellow marked tyres. Rosberg was next to pit and he came in for the more durable but slower medium tyres and fell in the gap between Raikkonen and Ricciardo.
Race leader Hamilton boxed shortly after for a new set of the soft tyres, Mercedes deciding to split their drivers’ strategies. He remained in the lead after everyone had made their pit stops and the order out front was Hamilton, Ricciardo, Rosberg and Raikkonen. However, Verstappen, in P5, made quick work of Raikkonen for P4 and set about catching the championship leader who was on the slower tyres. Kvyat was given a 10 second penalty for his collision with Perez earlier on.
Gutierrez was the next to retire, his Haas having a brake failure around the 18 lap mark.
Raikkonen, strangely, came into the pits on lap 24 for a set of the super soft tyres, confining him to a 3 stop strategy. Ricciardo came and went from the box for a set of the medium tyres. However, the race started to hot up on lap 26 as Verstappen came into the pits but his team were not ready for him! This caused a disastrous pit stop and he dropped down to P7. He later took responsibility.
The order was Hamilton, Rosberg, Vettel, Ricciardo however the 3 in front of the Red Bull had not yet completed their 2nd stop.
The race then took a significant turn on lap 29. Looking to make amends for his mistake, Verstappen was pushing. Unfortunately, he suffered a terminal gearbox failure which put him out of the race. The virtual safety car came out as a result. Rosberg was able to take a free pit stop and gained around 15 seconds on Ricciardo. He therefore jumped the Red Bull man and moved into P2. Carlos Sainz, meanwhile, was doing a superb job for Toro Rosso and was in P6.
Raikkonen came in for a set of the soft tyres on lap 38 however he would go no further. Exiting the pits, a loose wheel caused him to have to roll down into pit lane and retire.
Manor will have been sweating at one stage when Ericsson was in 11th. 1 point for Sauber will have moved them above Manor in the constructors championship. This has an estimated worth of £30m. However, their worries were calmed late on when Kvyat passed the Sauber driver.
The closest battle on track was the battle for P5. Sainz, Massa and Alonso were battling it out. With 5 laps to go, Massa squeezed Alonso however the Spaniard passed his former teammate following contact. This incident would be investigated after the race. He would repeat the act on the final lap, passing Sainz for P5.
Vettel decided to take a free pit stop with a few laps to go. This allowed him to set the fastest lap and win the DHL Fastest Lap award.
Out in front, Hamilton took the chequered flag to secure a dominant US Grand Prix. This was his 50th win of his illustrious career. Gleefully, his teammate followed him home in 2nd place to limit the damage to just 7 points. This leaves Hamilton 26 points behind Rosberg with 3 races to go.
A frustrated Ricciardo came home to round out the podium in front of Vettel. Alonso, Sainz, Massa, Perez, Button and Grosjean rounded out the top 10. After pitting on lap 1, Bottas could only manage 16th while Ocon had a torrid time, finishing 18th and last, some 40 seconds behind teammate Wehrlein who was 17th. Magnuessen was given a 5 second penalty after the race for an illegal overtake on Kvyat. This dropped the Renault to P12, below Kvyat.
In 7 days we travel to Mexico, where Rosberg can mathematically secure his first world title.
- Raikkonen (DNF)
- Verstappen (DNF)
- Gutierrez (DNF)
- Hulkenburg (DNF)
Featured image from: http://edition.cnn.com/2016/10/20/motorsport/f1-us-gp-epstein-austin-texas-cota/