Hamilton Keeps Title Hopes Alive with US Grand Prix Win
Lewis Hamilton led the US Grand Prix from start to finish to take victory and keep alive his chances of claiming the championship.
Hamilton’s 50th career win now puts him 26 points behind team-mate Nico Rosberg who finished in second by 0.452 seconds.
In third was Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo who was challenging for a higher podium finish until Max Verstappen’s early exit and the arrival of a virtual safety car hindered his chances.
Ferrari again disappointed with Vettel only managing fourth spot while a tight tussle in the closing laps saw McLaren’s Fernando Alonso in fifth, Torro Rosso’s Carlos Sainz in sixth and Williams’ Felipe Massa in seventh.
Important Win for Hamilton
Hamilton entered the weekend knowing that only a win would be enough to give him any hope of snatching the title this year. And the Englishman did what he had to by comfortably leading the race throughout and avoiding the mechanical failures that has persistently hampered his campaign.
His start from pole was backed up by a great getaway to take him into the important Turn 1 ahead of Daniel Ricciardo and Nico Rosberg.
From there, Hamilton was never seriously pressured and easily closed out the race.
“All I can do is do my best and continue to drive as I have this weekend.,” said Hamilton.
“Nico’s been driving fantastically well all year. So the battle will continue…”
Verstappen Has Race to Forget
Ricciardo spent the opening part of the race sandwiched between the two Mercedes cars on a contrary tyre strategy. His early pit stop on lap eight triggered a reaction with Rosberg stopping soon after to fit mediums for the “long game” while Hamilton took another set of softs.
It positioned Ricciardo nicely to challenge for the win or, at the least, second place. But a series of incidents with his team-mate hurt his prospects.
In bizarre scenes, Verstappen arrived for a pit stop unannounced leaving his mechanics scrambling to find tyres to fit onto the Red Bull.
But all of that didn’t matter much when soon after a loud knocking sound started to came from his engine. Verstappen continued half way around the lap at low speed – passing several exit spots – before deciding to stop in an awkward location forcing a virtual safety car.
The arrival of the virtual safety car effectively gave both Mercedes drivers a ‘free’ pit stop and relegated Ricciardo to his eventual third place finish.
Ferrari Have Dismal Race
If Verstappen had a forgettable race, then Ferrari would also be trying to find ways to move on quickly.
Kimi Raikkonen made a strong start to run in fourth throughout most of the race but his engineers decided to part way through to move him onto an unconventional thee stop strategy. The third stop would have put Raikkonen well behind team-mate Sebastian Vettel in fifth but a blunder saw him leave without his back right wheel attached. Raikkonen made it out of the pit lane and up the steep incline to Turn 1 before slowly – and somewhat dangerously – rolling backwards into the pits where his race stopped.
Vettel, meanwhile, ended in fourth but was barely within sight of the front runners for most of the race.
Further back, McLaren had an exceptional weekend with Alonso finishing in fifth and Jenson Button in ninth to grab some handy constructor’s points. Also in the points was Romain Grosjean in tenth for American team Haas.