Hamilton Has Fun On Way to Victory in Austin

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Lewis Hamilton extended his World Championship lead over Sebastian Vettel with his win in Austin. The win was his sixth, eclipsing Michael Schumacher for most United States Grand Prix victories. (Clive Rose/Getty Images North America photo)

AUSTIN, Tex. — Lewis Hamilton opened up his World Championship lead to 67 points over Sebastian Vettel by winning the United States Grand Prix at Circuit of the Americas on Sunday. Hamilton drove a clean race, protecting his tires in the final stage of the race as Vettel pitted for a new set of tires.

“First of all, I want to say a big congratulations to everyone in the team, all the partners, everyone back at the factory and everyone here,” Hamilton said. “There has been an incredible push for this kind of performance this year. We’ve really pulled together more than I’ve experience or seen over the last five years this year to really pull together and create something quite special.”

“We’ve really pulled together more than I’ve experience or seen over the last five years this year to really pull together and create something quite special. So, really proud for everyone, especially in going from one era of car to another, which has not been done before, just shows strength and depth and I’m really proud to be part of it.”

Hamilton and Vettel got off to a brilliant start, with the Ferrari taking the inside advantage at Turn one. Vettel had a car-length lead on Hamilton by Turn 12 and had a 1.3-second lead over his rival.

Valtteri Bottas and Daniel Ricciardo scrapped through the first turn on the second lap. Bottas grabbed third back, but Ricciardo was not afraid to dive down the inside of him, but couldn’t make the move stick. It allowed Kimi Raikkonen to close up,

Max Verstappen was up to 11th after being knocked back down the grid due to penalties. By lap four he was up to ninth. By lap 10, he was up to sixth and pushing hard.

Hamilton closed in on Vettel into the DRS detection zone on lap six, and got by him for the lead of the race. Hamilton opened it up to nearly a second at the end of the lap.

Ricciardo was the first of the top five to pit, coming in on lap 13. The Australian dropped to ninth, but began to work his way back up the field until his Red Bull’s Renault engine failed on lap 16. Concerns were now focused on Verstappen’s “experimental” Renault engine, which Nico Hulkenberg had in his car when he retired on lap two.

Vettel pitted at the end of lap 16 while Hamilton stayed out, saying the “tires were good, I can extend it.” Vettel, however, began to go faster, setting purple times in the second and third sectors one lap after his pit stop. Vettel began to close in on Hamilton’s lead, despite being down in fourth.

Hamilton pitted at the end of lap 19, but got out in front of a charging Vettel. Both drivers were behind Raikkonen and Verstappen, but pushed each other hard. Raikkonen pitted on lap 20, handing the lead to Verstappen.

Hamilton got by Verstappen on lap 23 after the Englishman sized up the Dutchman. This allowed Hamilton to gap Vettel slightly as Verstappen pitted on lap 24.

Fernando Alonso had an engine problem in his McLaren and retired on lap 25.

By the halfway point, Hamilton had a 4.73-second lead over Vettel, and was driving a relaxed race.

Force India was infighting again, as Sergio Perez was complaining about Esteban Ocon’s speed, but the team said Ocon was doing well, however, and would not make the Frenchman move over. Perez was under attack from Carlos Sainz, making his Renault debut. Sainz got by Perez at Turn 19, then the Mexican fell into the clutches of Daniil Kvyat’s Toro Rosso.

Despite catching Raikkonen for fourth, Verstappen pitted at the end of lap 37 for super soft tires, staying in fifth. Bottas had his hands full with Raikkonen, but all eyes were on Verstappen as the first one to take a second stop.

Vettel pitted on lap 38, coming out just ahead of Verstappen.

Raikkonen got by Bottas for second on lap 42. Hamilton still had around a 10-second lead over Raikkonen. Bottas dropped back slightly, just out of DRS range.

Hamilton stayed out on his tires, and held an 11-second advantage on Raikkonen. Kevin Magnussen and Marcus Ericsson tangled after giving way to a leading car. Magnussen fell down the order, while Ericsson was given a five-second time penalty for the incident.

Vettel hunted down Bottas, and with six laps left, he was by Bottas as the Finn ran wide at Turn one. Verstappen went after Bottas, fighting hard and going wheel-to-wheel, getting by him on lap 52 as Bottas pitted with four to go and came out in fifth. Raikkonen was next, and Ferrari asked him to give way, which he duly did on lap 52.

Verstappen tried to catch Raikkonen, and got him with just a few corners left on the final lap for third, but would have a five-second penalty for the pass, handing third back to Raikkonen. Hamilton claimed his ninth win of the year, and extended his World Championship lead.

“I am feeling good after the race but of course it is never nice to be about to step out onto the podium and then have it taken away,” Verstappen said. “They should at least let us talk it through in the stewards’ room first and voice our opinions. I had a great race and I am happy with fourth but it’s the way I got there that hurts.”

“I got a five second penalty and one penalty point for what? I ran wide on a track with no limits that everyone is running wide on all weekend, why do I get punished? The rule is we cannot protest so all we can do is move on to Mexico, weird rule. We have an amazing race with loads of overtakes and action and then due to 5cm or 10cm of kerb the result is changed, people don’t like to watch that.”

Hamilton was pleased with his win, his sixth in the United States, breaking the record held by Michael Schumacher.

Hamilton said he enjoyed the race.

“The race was great,” he said. “I have to say probably one of the most fun races that I’ve had for a while. I mean there’s been quite a few fun ones this year.”

1. Lewis Hamilton
2. Sebastian Vettel
3. Kimi Raikkonen
4. Max Verstappen
5. Valtteri Bottas
6. Esteban Ocon
7. Carlos Sainz
8. Sergio Perez
9. Felipe Massa
10. Daniil Kvyat
11. Lance Stroll
12. Stoffel Vandoorne
13. Brendon Hartley
14. Romain Grosjean
15. Marcus Ericsson
16. Kevin Magnussen
17. Fernando Alonso
18. Daniel Ricciardo
19. Pascal Wehrlein
20. Nico Hulkenberg

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