Another Grand Prix, another race where Lewis Hamilton was imperious compared to his opposition. His sixth win in eight races is part of a run that stretches back to the British Grand Prix in July, and whilst many argue that Vettel and Ferrari have lost this championship, Hamilton has done everything (and more) not only to win, but dominate.
Hamilton also adds yet another victory in the United States to his CV, with only Vettel taking the victory back in 2013 preventing a Hamilton clean sweep since he came into the sport back in 2007.
Vettel’s race started as he had hoped – leading into the first corner and thus a clear track to start a series of races where it is all to play for and, for his sake, be the driver ending the season with a winning streak. But it wasn’t to go his way, as immediately Hamilton appeared more composed on his ultra-soft tyres and went by with ease on lap six of 56. Hamilton was initially surprised when Vettel didn’t put up more of a fight, but explained later that the German driver was noticeably more aggressive and hence damaged his tyres.
“I didn’t get away to a great start, Seb got a great start but I was chilled about it as I know you can overtake here,” Hamilton explained, and now goes into Mexico next weekend needing just fifth place or higher to clinch a fourth world title.
“It was great having that battle, trying to keep up, stay close, get within DRS. It was very reminiscent of 2012 here, seeing Seb up ahead and wanting to have that real battle. That is what I looked for and that is what I enjoyed the most.
“I was a bit surprised Seb didn’t defend more, but it was still fair.”
Vettel proceeded to struggle to manage his tyres from overheating – an overt sign that Ferrari had no answer for Mercedes’ (or at least Hamilton’s) race pace. That fact is what perhaps will hurt Ferrari the most. Even with all its problems that have take it outside of championship reach, Hamilton still demonstrated how regardless of those flaws he still deserves the title on merit.
Then Ferrari ostensibly overcomplicated Vettel’s race by pitting him for a second time. It appeared to put Vettel under unnecessary pressure, having to pass Bottas and Raikkonen (albeit the latter didn’t put up a fight) to reclaim second place.
Under the circumstances of the championship, Ferrari could afford to gamble a safety car and consequently gain on Hamilton’s vulnerability with old tyres at the end, and it added an extra spice to the proceedings.
Furthermore, the uncertainty of how quick Verstappen was going to be made Ferrari feel uncomfortable to leave Vettel out, after all he managed to pass Raikkonen on the final lap, despite having that particular move revoked later in the Stewards’ office.
Valtteri Bottas struggled to make any meaningful gains during his first two of three stints. The Finn ended up ahead of Kimi Raikkonen, but was forced to concede position during the closing stages and was frankly left to look second hand by Vettel overtaking him around the outside of turn one. Ultimately he dived into the pits with seven laps remaining to ensure he got to the end, thus crowning Mercedes as four-time world champions in as many years.
Carlos Sainz will be delighted by the way his first outing went with Renault. Having the luxury of no internal pressure to perform appeared to help his transition into the car and was right on the pace through Friday Practice.
“Right from the beginning, every lap I was feeling more confident with the car, so I was able to push harder,” Sainz said after the race. “I was able to attack the Force Indias, which have been out of reach for the team for the past few races, so to overtake one and attack another was a great result.”
His seventh place means he scored six points – just two shy of Jolyon Palmer’s total for the season.