Lewis Hamilton delivered a typically swashbuckling performance in this Texas hoedown, overhauling Nico Rosberg to take his third win in the United States and an enormous leap towards a second drivers’ championship. No wonder he is thinking about making this place home.
Hamilton assumed the role of the all-American hero here, hurrying and hassling Rosberg until he made a decisive move just before half-distance. From then on in the Lone Star State, Hamilton was out on his own.
With a 24-point lead over Rosberg after five wins in a row, it seems that only double points in Abu Dhabi or a bout of unreliability can stop him now. This triumph, the 32nd of his career, took him beyond Nigel Mansell to become the most successful British driver — in terms of race victories — of all time. Hamilton also has a perfect 10 of wins in 2014 with a much-coveted second title in sight.
The 29-year-old had spoken earlier in the week of eventually settling here with Nicole Scherzinger, his pop star girlfriend, and raising a family of his own. Austin, a venue where he was won twice in three years, would be more than happy to have the Hamiltons.
On a day in which Force India did not confirm until 90 minutes before the race they would postpone a spectacular boycott, Hamilton cruised to the chequered flag in front of Rosberg and Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo.
It was not surprising to see Sauber and Lotus also decided against a walkout. Adrian Sutil lined up ninth while Pastor Maldonado joined him on the fifth row; the highest both have started all season.
After giving the rebellious teams sufficient assurances to avoid a disastrous walkout, Bernie Ecclestone joined Keanu Reeves and Pamela Anderson to make an unlikely threesome on the grid, before a thundering rendition of the Star-Spangled Banner rang out.
The stage was set for Hamilton to add another chapter to his American dream. For Rosberg, the pole sitter, it was a case of proving himself in wheel-to-wheel racing with his fierce rival, something he has failed to do all season.
Rosberg had the better getaway, while Hamilton tried a small nibble down the inside. Discretion prevailed, but not so for Sergio Perez. Of all cars for the Force India to take out, given the political shenanigans of the weekend, it was a Sauber. The Mexican made an ill-advised lunge at turn 15, hitting Kimi Raikkonen’s Ferrari before t-boning Sutil. It was not exactly a show of unity. In front of around 10,000 Mexican fans, Perez brought out the safety car.
At the end of the fourth lap, Rosberg meticulously backed the pack up before making his getaway. In the early exchanges, Rosberg seemed to have the upper hand. Niki Lauda, the three-time champion and Mercedes F1 chairman, stressed the importance for Rosberg of holding his team-mate off.
But it was not long before Hamilton was breathing down his neck.
The sort of ding-dong duel we have seen on countless occasions this season was in full flow. Rosberg would eke out a few precious metres before Hamilton reeled him back in.
On lap 13, Rosberg showed the first signs of trouble. His tyres were already past their sell-by date. Two laps later, the German was in for his stop. It took three seconds, the same gap he had once Hamilton had been for his stop a lap later.
While Hamilton set about clawing himself back into contention, Force India’s race was done by lap 18, as Nico Hulkenberg pulled over. They may as well have boycotted the race after all. Sebastian Vettel, starting from the pit lane after an engine change, was also struggling, making only stunted progress through the field.
The Hamilton-Rosberg contest was not the only tussle here. Jenson Button has looked like a man who has resigned himself to losing his seat at the end of the year, but the 34-year-old was still battling for every place.
Running seventh, he was especially unwilling to allow Fernando Alonso, the driver widely expected to take his place at McLaren, through without a fight. On lap 24, Alonso made his move. The Spaniard was not the only one.
After a succession of searingly fast laps, all of a sudden Hamilton was within striking distance of Rosberg. With the rear-wing flap on his Mercedes wide open, Hamilton was gaining all the way down the long back straight. Seemingly from nowhere, the Briton made an enormous lunge heading into the hairpin. It caught Rosberg unawares, forcing the German wide and into second place.
This was yet another brave move from Hamilton, the sort we have become accustomed to this year. Rosberg, meanwhile, had to suffer the misery of being beaten in close combat once again. Lauda said it was crucial for Rosberg to win this fight, and so it may prove.
Hamilton stopped for the final time on lap 33, Rosberg following him in the next time around, but from then on the rest was a formality. It was not hard to imagine a few “yeehas” as Hamilton crossed the line.
–The Daily Telegraph