Lewis Hamilton achieved his 21st career victory at the Circuit of the Americans, denying the world championship leader Sebastian Vettel on scoring valuable points.
With Vettel finishing in second and his title rival Fernando Alonso taking third, this season’s Formula One world championship will go down to the wire in Sao Paulo, Brazil.
Despite not sealing the title in Austin, Sebastian Vettel’s second position means Red Bull Racing has won the constructors’ championship for the third successive year. An impressive record for the Milton Keynes-based team.
As for Hamilton, this was a great result for the McLaren driver. Won the last United States Grand Prix at Indianapolis in 2007 and five years later, he takes the chequered flag in back-to-back American style at Austin.
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 speed to escape from Hamilton.
The champion pulled out a little gap just before the first pitstops, only for Hamilton to come back with a vengeance once they were both on fresh hard compound 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 Hamilton managed to pull the move off. Vettel moved to the inside, but the McLaren’s straight-line speed advantage was so great that McLaren was comfortable ahead before the next corner – prompting angry radio messages from Vettel regarding the DRS effect and Narain Karthikeyan holding him up while being lapped.
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 finishing line a mere six tenths ahead of Vettel, who at least wrapped up another teams’ title.
Alonso’s progress to third was mostly achieved thanks to a superb start from his controversial grid slot. He then swept around the outside at the uphill first corner to secure fourth, which became third after Webber’s exit.
His Ferrari team-mate Felipe Massa recovered from his generously-accepted P11 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 P16 on the opening lap, before flying through the field as its tyres came to life. Button ran to lap 35 before pitting, and then battled past the two Lotus cars to secure fifth.
Kimi Raikkonen looked like he might challenge Alonso at one point. 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 pitstop on lap nine. He fell right back to P22, 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 P18 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 P12 in the end.
Mercedes had a terrible race in Austin. Michael Schumacher was overtaken by rival after rival in the opening stint, falling from fifth on the grid to P14 before his first pitstop. He would require more tyres later on too, leaving him P16, three places behind team-mate Nico Rosberg.
Just 13 points separate Vettel and Alonso with the former as the title favourite heading into next weekend’s finale at Interlagos. Whatever happens, both drivers had done a brilliant job this season. Best of luck to the champions in Brazil.
United States Grand Prix race results after 56 laps:
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
Webber Red Bull-Renault 17 laps
Vergne Toro Rosso-Ferrari 15 laps
World Championship standings, round 19:
1. Vettel 273
2. Alonso 260
3. Raikkonen 206
4. Hamilton 190
5. Webber 167
6. Button 163
7. Massa 107
8. Grosjean 96
9. Rosberg 93
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
1. Red Bull-Renault 440
2. Ferrari 367
3. McLaren-Mercedes 353
4. Lotus-Renault 302
5. Mercedes 136
6. Sauber-Ferrari 124
7. Force India-Mercedes 99
8. Williams-Renault 76
9. Toro Rosso-Ferrari 22
Next race: Brazilian Grand Prix, Interlagos. November 23-25.