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Lewis Hamilton drove one of the best races of his Formula One career as the British ace halted the rampaging Red Bull of Sebastian Vettel to take a dazzling victory at the United States Grand Prix in Austin, Texas. Sebastian Vettel finished the race in 2nd place, with the German still in the driver's seat to be crowned the Youngest ever Triple Champion in Formula One history as he heads into the season ending finale in Brazil with a 13 point advantage over title rival Fernando Alonso.
Alonso was cool as a cucumber under immense pressure of starting from a lowly 7th place on the grid, but the Spaniard hustled his Ferrari to finish in 3rd place on the final step on the podium. The Spanish Matador lives to fight another day as his titanic battle with Vettel for the driver's title would come to an epic conclusion in Brazil. Felipe Massa having started from 11th place on the grid finished the race in an excellent 4th place to make it a Ferrari 3-4. Jenson Button, in one of the drives of the day, brought home valuable points to the McLaren team in 5th place.
Lotus had a modest race weekend as Kimi Raikkonen finished in 6th place ahead of teammate Romain Grosjean, while the Force India of Nico Hulkenberg secured 8th place ahead of the charging Williams duo of Pastor Maldonado and Bruno Senna.
Vettel's second place was enough to confirm Red Bull being crowned Constructors' Champions for the third consecutive season.
Ferrari took a tactical decision to deliberately break the official FIA seal on Felipe Massa's gearbox to incur a five-place penalty for the Brazilian, dropping him down to 11th place, but crucially the Maranello based outfit's actions meant Alonso could start on the cleaner side of the track providing him the best chance to attack right from the onset. As a result, Alonso moved up to 7th place on the grid, and took full toll of the opportunity to climb up to 4th place heading into Turn 1.
At the head of the field, pole sitter Sebastian Vettel got away neatly into Turn 1, while his teammate Mark Webber took 2nd place from Lewis Hamilton, the Aussie benefitting from being on the cleaner side of the track.
A little further back, Kimi Raikkonen and Nico Hulkenberg came into contact with each other, with the Finn running wide but emerged unscathed to run in 8th place.
On Lap 3, Vettel pulled away at the front leading his teammate Mark Webber by 1.5 seconds, with Lewis Hamilton running in 3rd place with the rapidly charging Ferrari of Alonso in 4th place. On the following lap, Hamilton made a move stick past Webber for 2nd place into Turn 12 after the DRS zone by driving around the inside of the Red Bull driver. Hulkenberg was running in an excellent 5th place in his Force India with a queue of cars lining up behind to force a move past the German ace.
The biggest gainer at the start of the race was Paul Di Resta who was running in 7th place having started the race from a lowly 13th!
Grosjean's good start to proceedings was all lost in a moment of misjudgement as the French driver spun hard into Turn 19 having lost the rear end of his E20, with Massa and Schumacher flying past the Lotus ace. The handling of his Lotus was not the same thereafter as he lost further ground with both Sergio Perez and Bruno Senna driving past him, forcing the team's hand to bring Grosjean into the pits to swap to the hard tyres.
At the front, Hamilton matched Vettel's surreal pace as the British ace was within 1.5 seconds of the race-leader, whilst Alonso was beginning to launch an assault on Webber for 3rd place. Massa, having started from 11th place, blasted past the Force India of Di Resta into turn 12 to move into 7th.
On Lap 13, Raikkonen's race burst into life as the Lotus ace forced a move past Hulkenberg through the esses section for 5th place in a typically dazzling move from the Finnish ace.
On Lap 15, Hamilton switched to attack mode as he got his McLaren within the DRS zone to race leader Vettel, whilst Red Bull suffered a shot in the arm as Webber endured an alternator failure, with the team confirming beforehand that his KERS unit had also failed. This promoted Alonso to 3rd place, whilst the drive of the day so far was coming from Massa who was running in 6th place and closing in rapidly on Raikkonen for 5th place.
Round of Pit-Stops:
On lap 20, Hamilton and Alonso shadowed each other's pit strategies, but the Ferrari team botched up the pit stop for Alonso with a problem on his right rear tyre leading to a slow stop. The very next lap, Red Bull performed a run of the mill stop on Vettel who re-joined with his lead intact with all drivers swapping to the hard tyres.
It was so near yet so far for Raikkonen as his Lotus team performed a tardy pit-stop and Alonso drove past the "Iceman" into turn 1. The Ferrari team got their act together for Massa's pit stop enabling the Brazilian to get the jump on Raikkonen for 6th place.
However, Massa on relatively cold tyres was a sitting duck as Raikkonen eased past his former teammate into the elevated climb into turn 1 to take over 6th place.
At the head of the order Vettel was 2.5 seconds clear of Hamilton, but the Briton was throwing caution to the wind stringing together a series of swift laps, with the McLaren ace out to rain on Vettel's parade.
Meanwhile on Lap 36, Button, who had started on the hard tyres, pitted from 3rd place to swap to the medium tyres, rejoining in 7th place. Vettel responded to Hamilton's lap times as the German set the track on fire recording the fastest lap of the race but was still unable to open up the gap to over 1 second to crucially steer clear of the DRS zone.
Button instantly found pace on his new set of rubber as he muscled past Grosjean for 6th place in a superb overtaking move, whilst it was Ferrari 3-4 as Massa pounced on Raikkonen who was struggling for traction out of Turn 1 enabling the Ferrari ace to drive past for 4th place.
Schumacher was not having a race to remember as the legendary German pitted for a 2nd time and was running in a lowly 16th place in his penultimate race.
On Lap 42, Hamilton's perseverance finally bore fruit as the British ace used his DRS and KERS to supreme effect with the McLaren ace driving past Vettel into turn 12 to lead in Austin.
It was vintage wheel to wheel action on display as Raikkonen and Button raced fair and square giving enough room to manoeuvre, as Button drove around the outside of the Iceman in a millimetre inch perfect move for 5th place.
Alonso's race came alive with 10 laps remaining as the Spanish Matador set the fastest lap of the race, but was a whopping 32 seconds behind 2nd placed Vettel.
Vettel set the lap record on the Austin track but it was not enough to stop Hamilton who took a brilliant victory, with Alonso finishing in 3rd place to take the title showdown to the intimidating settings of Brazil. Massa and Button, both candidates for driver of the day, finished in 4th and 5th places respectively, ahead of the Lotus duo of Raikkonen and Grosjean.
There was action all the way till the chequered flag as Hulkenberg held on to 8th place by the skin of his teeth ahead of the charging Williams duo of Maldonado and Senna who wrapped up the final points scoring positions for the Williams team.
File Photograph Copyright: McLaren Mercedes
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