US GP: Hamilton wins from Vettel and Alonso, title battle goes to wire
|By Matt Beer||Sunday, November 18th 2012, 20:42 GMT|
Lewis Hamilton beat Sebastian Vettel to victory in an absorbing United States Grand Prix, as Fernando Alonso's third place kept the Formula 1 championship battle alive.
Despite his defeat at Austin, Vettel remains title favourite, as he takes a 13-point lead over Alonso into next weekend's finale at Interlagos. The constructors' championship is settled though, with Red Bull beating it beyond its rivals' reach.
Hamilton's relentless pursuit of Vettel kept tension building throughout the race. The McLaren lost second to Vettel's Red Bull team-mate Mark Webber at the start, but soon re-passed the Australian. Webber retired with alternator failure soon afterwards, no doubt prompting nerves in the Red Bull garage.
Vettel's car was still running smoothly, but it did not have the pace to escape from Hamilton.
The champion pulled out a little breathing space just before the first pitstops, only for Hamilton to come back with a vengeance once they were both on fresh hard tyres.
Hamilton spent most of the middle of the race tantalisingly close to Vettel, but was frustrated time and time again by the Red Bull's superior traction. The McLaren would close in through the fast first sector, then struggle to get near enough on the DRS zone straight.
Finally on lap 42 out of 57 Hamilton managed to pull the move off after Vettel lost time in traffic before the DRS area. Vettel moved to the inside, but the McLaren's straightline pace advantage was so great that McLaren was comfortably ahead before the next corner - prompting angry radio messages from Vettel about backmarker Narain Karthikeyan's HRT.
The race was far from over, as Hamilton never quite escaped from Vettel. The Red Bull did not manage to get within striking range and Hamilton was able to win in America for the second time in his career, crossing the line a mere six tenths ahead of Vettel, who at least wrapped up another teams' title for his employer.
Alonso's progress to third was mostly achieved via a superb start from his controversial grid slot. He then swept around the outside at the first corner to secure fourth, which became third after Webber's exit.
His Ferrari team-mate Felipe Massa recovered from his generously-accepted 11th place on the grid to fourth, showing great race pace throughout.
Massa came under slight threat from Jenson Button late on. The McLaren had fallen right back to 16th on lap one, before flying through the field as its tyres came to life. Button ran to lap 35 before pitting, and then battled past the two Lotuses to secure fifth.
Kimi Raikkonen looked like he might challenge Alonso at one stage. Both lost a few seconds at their pitstops, with Raikkonen falling back into traffic and then being overtaken by Massa and Button in the second stint.
Raikkonen finished just ahead of team-mate Romain Grosjean, who recovered well from spinning on lap five then requiring a lap-nine pitstop. He fell right back to 22nd, but flew thereafter.
Nico Hulkenberg claimed eighth for Force India by fending off battling Williams duo Pastor Maldonado and Bruno Senna. The pair banged wheels at Turn 1 in the closing laps as Maldonado passed his team-mate.
Daniel Ricciardo starred in the first stint, rising from 18th on the grid to fifth by staying out until lap 30. But that tactic did not pay off for Toro Rosso as Ricciardo was only 12th in the end.
Mercedes had a terrible race. Michael Schumacher was overtaken by rival after rival in the opening stint, falling from fifth on the grid to 14th before his first pitstop. He would require more tyres later on too, leaving him 16th, three places behind team-mate Nico Rosberg.
PROVISIONAL RACE RESULTS The USA Grand Prix Circuit of the Americas, USA; 56 laps; 308.896km; Weather: Sunny. Classified: Pos Driver Team Time 1. Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 1h35:55.269
2. Vettel Red Bull-Renault + 0.675
3. Alonso Ferrari + 39.229
4. Massa Ferrari + 46.013
5. Button McLaren-Mercedes + 56.432
6. Raikkonen Lotus-Renault + 1:04.425
7. Grosjean Lotus-Renault + 1:10.313
8. Hulkenberg Force India-Mercedes + 1:13.792
9. Maldonado Williams-Renault + 1:14.525
10. Senna Williams-Renault + 1:15.133
11. Perez Sauber-Ferrari + 1:24.341
12. Ricciardo Toro Rosso-Ferrari + 1:24.871
13. Rosberg Mercedes + 1:25.510
14. Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari + 1 lap 15. Di Resta Force India-Mercedes + 1 lap 16. Schumacher Mercedes + 1 lap 17. Petrov Caterham-Renault + 1 lap 18. Kovalainen Caterham-Renault + 1 lap 19. Glock Marussia-Cosworth + 1 lap 20. Pic Marussia-Cosworth + 2 laps 21. De la Rosa HRT-Cosworth + 2 laps 22. Karthikeyan HRT-Cosworth + 2 laps Fastest lap: Vettel, 1:39.347 Not classified/retirements: Driver Team On lap Webber Red Bull-Renault 17 Vergne Toro Rosso-Ferrari 15 World Championship standings, round 19: Drivers: Constructors: 1. Vettel 273 1. Red Bull-Renault 440 2. Alonso 260 2. Ferrari 367 3. Raikkonen 206 3. McLaren-Mercedes 353 4. Hamilton 190 4. Lotus-Renault 302 5. Webber 167 5. Mercedes 136 6. Button 163 6. Sauber-Ferrari 124 7. Massa 107 7. Force India-Mercedes 99 8. Grosjean 96 8. Williams-Renault 76 9. Rosberg 93 9. Toro Rosso-Ferrari 22 10. Perez 66 11. Kobayashi 58 12. Hulkenberg 53 13. Di Resta 46 14. Maldonado 45 15. Schumacher 43 16. Senna 31 17. Vergne 12 18. Ricciardo 10 All timing unofficial