By Alan Davies, Formula One correspondent
Sunday, November 18, 2012
FORMULA 1 superstar Lewis Hamilton claimed his second victory in America by taking the chequered flag in the 2012 United States Grand Prix in Austin, Texas.
The 27-year-old Vodafone McLaren Mercedes driver from Hertfordshire beat Sebastian Vettel by 0.675s in round 19 of the FIA F1 World Drivers’ Championship at the purpose-built Circuit Of The Americas.
As he celebrated his 21st victory, Hamilton said over the radio: “That was amazing, guys! That was wicked – woo-hoo! We definitely deserved that one. Great job all weekend!”
After seeing a potential Hamilton victory snatched from his grasp when leading in Abu Dhabi, the McLaren pitwall replied: “That was absolutely fantastic, Lewis. Awesome. We were owed that one.
“You were awesome in qualifying yesterday and to overtake Vettel on-track to win the race was absolutely brilliant. Well done!”
It was Hamilton’s second win in the USA, having also taken the chequered flag in 2007 when America last held a grand prix.
Vettel crossed the finish line second as Red Bull clinched the constructors’ title, with Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso taking the third and final step on the podium.
It was the first time all three world champions had shared a podium together.
An ecstatic Hamilton collected his trophy wearing a cowboy’s stetson.
1) Lewis Hamilton (McLaren)
2) Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull)
3) Fernando Alonso (Ferrari)
4) Felipe Massa (Ferrari)
5) Jenson Button (McLaren)
6) Kimi Raikkonen (Lotus)
7) Romain Grosjean (Lotus)
8) Nico Hulkenberg (Force India)
9) Pastor Maldonado (Williams)
10) Bruno Senna (Sauber)
The result in Austin also means the F1 world drivers’ title will be decided in Brazil next Sunday with Vettel 13 points clear of Alonso.
Felipe Massa finished fourth for Ferrari in America, with Hamilton’s McLaren teammate Jenson Button fifth.
Kimi Raikkonen was sixth ahead of Lotus teammate Romain Grosjean.
Watched by Hollywood stars Michael Fassbender, Ron Howard, Matt Le Blanc and Patrick Dempsey, as well as celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay, Hamilton started second on the dirty side of the Texas grid alongside pole-sitter Sebastian Vettel.
However, he lost a place off the line to Vettel’s Red Bull colleague Mark Webber, relegating the McLaren man down to third place.
Ferrari’s decision to deliberately make a gearbox change to Felipe Massa’s car – demoting him five places down to grid to allow Fernando Alonso to start on the cleaner side of the track – worked and the Spaniard climbed to fourth on the opening lap.
As the tyres warmed up and DRS was enabled, Hamilton diced with Webber for second place but went off the track on lap three and had to concede position.
However, a charging 2008 F1 world champion passed Webber a lap later at the end of the straight and was soon carving into Vettel’s lead at the front.
The McLaren pitwall told Lewis: “Fantastic job, Lewis. Gap to Vettel is 2.5s, we can catch him!”
“You are the fastest car on-track. You gained 0.1s on Vettel on the last lap.”
He then banged in the fastest lap of the race so far. The McLaren message to Hamilton was: “You were 0.2s faster than Vettel on the last lap.”
“This is excellent. That was the fastest lap of the race so far.”
A flying Hamilton further slashed Vettel’s lead to under two seconds, causing a few anxious faces in the Red Bull garage.
Hamilton was told over the radio: “Purple every sector. You were 0.6s faster than Vettel on that lap. You are just 0.4s away from Vettel’s DRS.”
Hamilton closed to within a second of the Red Bull after Vettel locked up but was unable to overtake the German.
Red Bull’s troubles, however, got worse when Mark Webber’s KERS went and he retired after 18 laps, lifting Alonso into the podium places.
With Hamilton then losing time to Vettel in every sector, he stopped for the harder compound tyres.
When Vettel came in on lap 21, Hamilton was told: “Vettel is in the pits. You could be racing him on the exit. Use KERS down the start-finish straight.”
On fresh rubber, a flying Hamilton passed Kimi Raikkonen’s Lotus into Turn 12 to re-take P2 behind Vettel, with Jenson Button also challenging for a podium at that point after starting 12th.
The McLaren team said over the radio: “Great job, Lewis. You were 0.2s faster than Vettel on the last lap. We can get him!”
Hamilton later replied: “Tell me when I get in his DRS.”
He reeled off a series of fastest laps to close the gap on Vettel and was soon on the cusp of the DRS zone.
Red Bull’s reigning F1 world champion held off Hamilton’s attacks until lap 42, when he was finally overtaken by the McLaren man, after getting caught up behind a backmarker.
That prompted huge cheers in the McLaren pit garage – and probably the Ferrari one too!
The pitwall told Hamilton: “Fantastic job, Lewis. Great pass on Vettel.”
Although Vettel clocked the fastest lap of the race right at the end, Hamilton took the chequered flag for his second victory in America.
The 2012 F1 season now heads to Brazil next weekend.