Hamilton wins US GP, Red Bull champions, Brazil to decide Vettel vs Alonso
19 November, 2012
Nov.18 (GP247) In 2007 – the last time the United States held a Formula One Grand Prix, it was Lewis Hamilton who took top honours; fast forward five years and it was again Hamilton who stood on the top step of the podium, this time at the spanking new, purpose built for F1, Circuit of the Americas.
Up next were title contenders Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso, second and third respectively, meaning that the season finale in Brazil will decide the fate of the 2012 world drivers’ championship, but surely, the biggest winner in Texas is arguably Alonso who started seventh on the grid yet managed to keep his title hopes alive with another remarkable drive.
Driving his penultimate race for McLaren, Hamilton gave one of his most mature performances despite a sluggish start from the ‘dirty’ side of the track. By the end of the first lap he was third and tucked behind the Mark Webber, as the Red Bull’s led 1-2.
The McLaren driver piled on the pressure, attacking Webber until he managed to get by at the end of the long straight on lap four and begin his pursuit of Vettel. Prior to the first and only stop, Hamilton closed to within DRS range, but for some reason did not have the extra bit to take the lead.
The turning point came in the second stint, with the harder tyres bolted on. Amid traffic and backmarkers, on lap 42 Hamilton made the race winning move – a ballsy manouevre or ‘classic Hamilton’ if you are fan. With DRS activated the McLaren tucked under the Red Bull on the long straight, forcing Vettel to drift to the inside on the defensive, upon which Hamilton braked ‘later than late’ and swooped around the outside and into the lead.
The race was won there and then, but credit to Vettel who did not throw in the towel and was ready to pounce if Hamilton made even the slightest mistake on his way to the chequered flag, but the Briton never did.
Sporting a black stetson and speaking to MC Mario Andretti on the podium, Hamilton said, “First-time winner! I’m so happy. The fans were amazing, thank you. It was such a warm welcome and one of the best, if not the best, race of the year – especially for me and the team. It’s been a long time since we had a win. I’m so proud of the team and grateful for the support we’ve had.”
Hamilton, who was robbed of victory in Singapore and Abu Dhabi, explained how his luck turned in Austin, “I rubbed the car and said ‘Come on baby, we can make it’. To finish on a high is really special. Hopefully we can go to Brazil with the same pace. To have a battle with Vettel was really special.”
For Vettel, with Alonso third, even victory today would have not have clinched him his third title. What emerged is that in qualifying trim the Adrian Newey penned Red Bull RB8 is the class act, but in race mode both McLaren and Ferrari have cars to match energy drinks team.
A worry for Red Bull, as they head for the season finale in Brazil, will be the mechanical failure which resulted in Webber having to retire from third place. Nevertheless before the focus turns to next weekend in Sao Paulo, the Milton Keynes squad will be celebrating their third consecutive constructors championship. In doing so they join an exclusive club of triple back-to-back winning teams, the membership of which is limited to themselves, Ferrari, Williams and McLaren.
Vettel, who heads to Brazil with a 13 point lead in the title race, summed up his afternoon, “It was incredible. I did my first race, five years ago, in the United States. It’s nice to come back for my 100th GP. It’s amazing the number of people we have had here all weekend. I’m happy for the team, we won the constructors’ championship, so thanks to all of you. Now we have another step to make in Brazil. In terms of the championship, it’s looking a bit better after today. It was a tough race. [Hamilton] had one chance and he took it. It was a great race.”
On the overtaking move which decided the race Hamilton reflected, “It was actually quite tricky. When I finally got close to him, I seemed to be catching him in the first sector, the backmarkers came into play, finally. How many times has it happened to me when I got caught out? [by backmarkers]. It worked out and I knew that was going to be the lap. I turned the engine up to maximise the revs, went for the inside, but he defended. I went to the outside and he closed the door a bit so I was very lucky.”
Vettel gave his version, “I wasn’t too happy to send a nice big invitation to Lewis when I had to go [past] [Narain] Karthikeyan. He was right behind me in the DRS zone. He took that opportunity, fair enough, down the straight and he passed me. I tried to defend but I knew he would have so much more speed. I was obviously not too happy. Lewis had one chance and he took it. After that I tried to stay with him but there wasn’t much between us.”
Sporting a huge grin as he mounted the podium, Alonso knew that he had done enough to give himself another crack at stealing the title from Vettel. The decisive moment in his race came when he made the decision off the line to stick to the outside line around Turn 1. A risky move, leaving himself vulnerable, but in the end the split-second decision was the correct one, as from seventh on the grid, he emerged in fourth place exiting the first bend.
From then on he was never really able to worry the top two, but benefited from Webber’s demise which promoted the Spaniard to third and thereafter he was able to manage the gap to those behind him. In the end he was 39 seconds down on the leaders as they crossed the line, but was seven seconds up on Ferrari teammate Felipe Massa who finished fourth.
The Brazilian enjoyed one of his better afternoons after accepting a five place grid penalty for a would-be ‘gearbox change’, a move by Ferrari solely to promote Alonso to seventh on the grid and allowing him to start on the clean side of the grid.
From 11th Massa drove in the manner which reminded us that he was so very nearly world champion not all that long ago. His tussle with Kimi Raikkonen will be long remembered, particularly the overtake on the outside of Turn 2.
Massa said, “For me, it was like a victory. For sure I was not happy this morning but we know how important it was. We know it’s not easy to find another driver who would do that.”
Fifth place went to Jenson Button, who was forced to work hard for the points as he was involved in several wheel-to-wheel skirmishes throughout the afternoon.
Abu Dhabi winner Raikkonen was also in the wars, the Lotus strong on the softer Pirelli tyres, but not quite as effective with the harder tyres bolted on. Nevertheless, sixth place was his reward, with team mate Romain Grosjean following him home in seventh also having endured a frantic afternoon in the cockpit…
The Frenchman was again his own worst enemy when he spun shortly after overtaking Raikkonen and Michael Schumacher, at the same time, in one stunning move, only to spin a few laps later thanks to a self inflicted mistake. Nevertheless, credit to him for not giving up, despite enduring the ignominy of another spin, later in the race.
Nico Hulkenberg gave another sensational qualifying performance, but struggled in the race with the Force India. The impressive German had some intriguing battles, with the likes of Raikkonen and Schumacher, on his way to eighth place.
Next up were the Williams pair of Pastor Maldonado and Bruno Senna, ninth and tenth respectively, who spent the entire afternoon nipping at each others heels, while battling with Saubers, Toro Rossos and Force Indias. That the two South American teammates did not take each other out will have been a relief to the team who witnessed them rubbing wheels on various occasions, throughout the afternoon.
The F1 circus heads to Brazil for the season finale, Round 2o of a long and grueling season, with the small matter of the FIA World Formula One Drivers’ Championship to be decided.
According to the BBC these are the permutations: If Fernando Alonso wins the Brazilian Grand Prix and Sebastian Vettel finishes 5th or lower, Alonso will be champion. If Vettel finishes fourth, and Alonso wins, they will be on equal points, but Vettel will be champion as he would have won more races.
Underdog Alonso was philosophical about his chances come Brazil, “With a normal race in dry conditions, I think Red Bull will be 1-2 and us sixth and seventh, but in a wet race, anything can happen. We saw today [that] Webber retired. Sometimes it’s the alternator, KERS, brakes or water. It always happens on that car. Maybe in Brazil those problems will change [to the other car].”
Subbed by AJN.
United States Grand Prix Race Result, Circuit of the Americas – Sunday, 18 November 2012
|2||1||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull Racing-Renault||56||+0.6 secs||1||18|
|3||5||Fernando Alonso||Ferrari||56||+39.2 secs||7||15|
|4||6||Felipe Massa||Ferrari||56||+46.0 secs||11||12|
|5||3||Jenson Button||McLaren-Mercedes||56||+56.4 secs||12||10|
|6||9||Kimi Räikkönen||Lotus-Renault||56||+64.4 secs||4||8|
|7||10||Romain Grosjean||Lotus-Renault||56||+70.3 secs||8||6|
|8||12||Nico Hulkenberg||Force India-Mercedes||56||+73.7 secs||6||4|
|9||18||Pastor Maldonado||Williams-Renault||56||+74.5 secs||9||2|
|10||19||Bruno Senna||Williams-Renault||56||+75.1 secs||10||1|
|11||15||Sergio Perez||Sauber-Ferrari||56||+84.3 secs||15|
|12||16||Daniel Ricciardo||STR-Ferrari||56||+84.8 secs||18|
|13||8||Nico Rosberg||Mercedes||56||+85.5 secs||17|
|14||14||Kamui Kobayashi||Sauber-Ferrari||55||+1 Lap||16|
|15||11||Paul di Resta||Force India-Mercedes||55||+1 Lap||13|
|16||7||Michael Schumacher||Mercedes||55||+1 Lap||5|
|17||21||Vitaly Petrov||Caterham-Renault||55||+1 Lap||21|
|18||20||Heikki Kovalainen||Caterham-Renault||55||+1 Lap||22|
|19||24||Timo Glock||Marussia-Cosworth||55||+1 Lap||19|
|20||25||Charles Pic||Marussia-Cosworth||54||+2 Laps||20|
|21||22||Pedro de la Rosa||HRT-Cosworth||54||+2 Laps||23|
|22||23||Narain Karthikeyan||HRT-Cosworth||54||+2 Laps||24|
|Ret||2||Mark Webber||Red Bull Racing-Renault||16||+40 Laps||3|
|Ret||17||Jean-Eric Vergne||STR-Ferrari||14||+42 Laps||14|
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