United States Grand Prix victory for Lewis Hamilton.
In the land of the free and the home of the brave, Hamilton claimed his third-straight victory at the Circuit of the Americas. Converting his first COTA pole to his fifth Stateside victory, and reduce Rosberg’s championship lead by seven points.
Hamilton went into today’s United States Grand Prix sitting on pole position for the first time at the Circuit of the Americas. A circuit he has won at on three previous occasions, to add to his victory at Indianapolis back in 2007.
On his Stateside debut in 2007, Hamilton converted pole to victory that year as Formula One bid farewell to the circuit. A feat he was aiming to do today at COTA, where his pole marked his ninth of the season.
A strong start by Hamilton went a long way to ensure he retained the lead of the Grand Prix by the first corner. Something he was unable to do last time out in Japan, as Lewis fell down the order and Rosberg adopted the lead.
Today, though, Rosberg had a different view ahead of him by the second corner. As Daniel Ricciardo took his chance to split the Silver Arrows early on.
Ricciardo’s chance presented itself as Rosberg aimed his car to the outside of the track when sitting on the grid. But with Hamilton ahead into the first corner, Rosberg was slower on exit than he would have liked and Daniel was able to pull alongside him. Then as Nico got onto the kerb into turn two, Ricciardo hung it out and took the position from the championship leader as he was forced to lift.
Rosberg was not alone in losing places into the first corner. With Verstappen unable to match his team-mate’s start and lost out to Raikkonen. While Jenson Button made one of the best starts of all, moving himself up from 19th on the grid to the cusp of the points.
For Button to move himself miles up the order, the retirement of Hulkenberg and Bottas coming into the pits certainly played their parts. As turn one contact when Hulkenberg hit the rear of Bottas left the Williams with a puncture and the Force India with a broken steering arm.
Fellow Force India man, Sergio Perez, also found his race facing a different direction by the end of the opening lap. As the Mexican was sent into a spin at turn 11, when Daniil Kvyat looked to lunge his way ahead.
Sergio had placed his car across the corner before Daniil dove anywhere near the Force India. But with the Russian staying committed, contact was made and Kvyat was handed a 10-second time penalty.
After taking second place from Rosberg, and having started as the only man in the top four on the supersoft tyres, Daniel Ricciardo became the first leader to come into the pits.
Daniel had fallen to over two seconds off Hamilton’s lead when the team made the decision to box the car. With Ferrari following in with Raikkonen, who returned to racing speeds behind his former Scuderia stable-mate.
Unfortunately for Raikkonen, the time taken to dispense with Alonso cost the Finn any hopes of undercutting Rosberg. As the German soon pitted himself, and only returned to racing speeds a second down the road.
For Mercedes, the opening pit stop window signalled a split strategy for the Silver Arrows. For race leading Hamilton was not the first Mercedes to pit, with Nico instead coming in first for the medium compound tyres.
When Hamilton then made his stop on the following lap, he rejoined the action behind Sebastian Vettel. With his net lead still intact, but with his comfortable margin over Ricciardo now doubled having bettered the Red Bull’s pace despite running on older tyres.
Verstappen, on the other hand, was using the life of his new tyres to attack Raikkonen and close in on Rosberg. Taking the Ferrari down the inside at turn 12 with a beautiful piece of car control as he left it late to break.
When Max then set about reeling in Rosberg, he took large chunks out of the German’s lead. But the team began to worry about the life being taken out of his tyres and whether or not he would be able to complete the stint. Verstappen, though, wanted to race. Stating “I’m not here to finish fourth”.
Verstappen, however, gave in to the team’s concerns and began to fall back from Rosberg after locking a tyre. Falling out of DRS range and later coming in for another pit stop.
Before Verstappen could stop again, Raikkonen was making the pit lane his home as Vettel reeled him in like nothing. But when Max did come in, the team were not ready and he sat in the pit lane. Waiting. Waiting.
Max believed he had heard a call from the team to box for his final change of tyres. But the call had not been made, and Verstappen took full responsibility for coming in for what would be a lengthy stop that sent him down the order.
But once back out on track, Verstappen’s race was over. Accelerating out of T11 but to no avail, as he was hit with a gearbox issue and the sound of grinding gears.
“Something is hitting hard inside the engine. The faster I drive the more it hits,” explained Verstappen.
Verstappen then tried to crawl his way back to the pit lane. Moving off the racing line at every opportunity and rolling by endless escape points.
But as the team cleared a space in the garage, he was forced to park to the side of the track. And with the car then becoming stuck in gear, a Virtual Safety Car was needed to retrieve the Red Bull – to which Hamilton and Rosberg pitted under.
Carlos Sainz was already set to pit before the VSC was called. But the reduction in time lost by the slowing of cars on track allowed for the Toro Rosso to gain position over Massa. As did Rosberg on Ricciardo, who described the lost position as “that’s so s***!”
After an early race battle for fourth with Verstappen, Raikkonen was following the Dutchman out of the race as Kimi became the next driver to retire.
Kimi had been put onto a three-stop strategy early in the race and as a result needed to stop once more before the chequered flag. But when he exited the pits for the final time, a wheel gun was still attached and as a result, the right rear tyre was not attached. Forcing Raikkonen to stop, and promoting Sainz to fifth place.
While Sainz now found himself in fifth place, Felipe Massa was right behind him and Alonso was on a charge. Bashing his way past the Brazilian at turn 16, as the two former Ferrari drivers clashed wheels – leaving Massa with a slow puncture and Alonso with a postponed investigation.
But before the chequered flag fell and the investigation could begin, the Spaniard had the Toro Rosso in his sights – with fellow Spaniard Sainz, a man who idolises Alonso, at the wheel.
The fight for fifth would go on to the final lap. With Fernando lining up Carlos at every opportunity. Taking Sainz initially at turn 12 but running deep meant Carlos could cut back to retain the position.
Then again out of turn 14, Alonso had the run on Sainz and held track position into 15. But once more, Fernando ran deep and off the track. But this time, completing the move by holding on to the inside for turns 16, 17 and 18.
Meanwhile Hamilton, nearly a whole lap ahead, was set to take his first victory since before the summer break. Crossing the line moments after Alonso overtook Sainz, and beating Rosberg by four seconds.
Victory today is Lewis’ 50th in Formula One and means he reduces Rosberg’s championship lead from 33 to 26 points. But still requires his team-mate to finish lower than second while he wins at least once to stand a better chance of retaining his title.
Today may have been one of those races for Hamilton, had Rosberg not taken second from Ricciardo under the Virtual Safety Car. Although Daniel’s race concluded 15 seconds after Rosberg crossed the line.
For Haas, their first home Grand Prix saw Gutierrez’s day end on lap 17. With Esteban reporting a brake issue before a big lock up that sent him smoking off the track. As for Grosjean, the Frenchman was able to come home in the points – crossing the line 16 seconds down the road from Kevin Magnussen.
|3||Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull||TAG||19.692||15|
|6||Carlos Sainz Jr.||Toro Rosso||Ferrari||1’36.124||8|
|7||Felipe Massa||Williams||Mercedes||1 lap||6|
|8||Sergio Perez||Force India||Mercedes||1 lap||4|
|9||Jenson Button||McLaren||Honda||1 lap||2|
|10||Romain Grosjean||Haas||Ferrari||1 lap||1|
|11||Kevin Magnussen||Renault||Renault||1 lap|
|12||Daniil Kvyat||Toro Rosso||Ferrari||1 lap|
|13||Jolyon Palmer||Renault||Renault||1 lap|
|14||Marcus Ericsson||Sauber||Ferrari||1 lap|
|15||Felipe Nasr||Sauber||Ferrari||1 lap|
|16||Valtteri Bottas||Williams||Mercedes||1 lap|
|17||Pascal Wehrlein||Manor||Mercedes||1 lap|
|18||Esteban Ocon||Manor||Mercedes||2 laps|
|19||Kimi Raikkonen||Ferrari||Ferrari||DNF – pit|
|20||Max Verstappen||Red Bull||TAG||DNF – gearbox|
|21||Esteban Gutierrez||Haas||Ferrari||DNF – Brakes|
|22||Nico Hulkenberg||Force India||Mercedes||DNF – contact|