Lewis Hamilton said he wanted the US GP win and thanks to the timely intervention of Narain Karthikeyan, that’s what he got…
Starting from pole position Sebastian Vettel led into Turn 1, as none of the front seven rows of drivers starting on the dirty side of the grid made up a place. Hamilton lost out to Webber but was soon past him and hounding Vettel.
Ultimately he couldn’t find a way through and looked to finish in a frustrated second place until Vettel came across an HRT just where he didn’t want to.
Fernando Alonso fiished a distant third, followed home by a euphoric Felipe Massa, who’d been demoted five places down the grid to allow Alonso a start from the clean side,
As we suggested immediately after qualifying yesterday, Ferrari took the option of changing the gearbox on Felipe Massa’s F2012, thus demoting him five places down the grid and promoting Alonso to 7th and the cleaner side of the grid. The Ferrari team confirmed this on Sunday to minimise the political fall-out and stop Red Bull from doing the same with Mark Webber. Romain Grosjean was already carrying a penalty from FP3, so both demotions created a new grid:
Seven rows of grid: 1. Vettel, 2.Hamilton, 3.Webber, 4.Raikkonen, 5.Schumacher, 6.Hulkenberg, 7.Alonso, 8.Grosjean, 9.Maldonado, 10.Senna, 11.Massa, 12.Button, 13.Paul di Resta, 14.Jean-Eric vergne
As the cars lined up for the start under the bright Texan sun and in front of an almost sell-out 125,000 audience we had an ambient temperature of 24C and the track at 31C. Jenson Button and Nico Rosberg had chosen hard tyres, the rest of the field were on mediums.
There had been carnage predicted for the first 50mph turn, but as the cars roared up the hill into Turn 1 there was nothing serious to report. Vettel got away smoothly, Hamilton less so and Mark Webber overtook him round the outside. Lewis Hamilton wasn’t going to rest easy in P3 and harried Webber where he could for the rest of the lap. Away from the line, a massive gap appeared in front of Championship contender Fernando Alonso which he gratefully drove into, straight up into P4.
Raikkonen and Hulkenberg tussled on the opening lap, Kimi being pushed wide by the Force India driver, while there was an intra-team battle between the two Williams drivers. Sergio Perez got a great start and was up to P11, while Jenson Button (starting from the dirty side) lost places.
Positions on Lap 1: 1.Vettel, 2.Webber, 3.Hamilton, 4.Alonso, 5.Schumacher, 6.Hulkenberg, 7.Raikkonen, 8.Grosjean, 9.DiResta, 10.Massa, 11.Perez, 12.Senna, 13.Maldonado, 14.Rosberg, 15.Button
No driver on the dirty side of the grid in the front seven rows made up a place, two (Hulkenberg and Grosjean) hung onto theirs. Everyone else went backwards.
On Lap 2 Michael Schumacher started his steady move back through the field getting overtaken by Nico Hulkenberg at the start of the lap, then Kimi Raikkonen later on. Schumi fought back and as he and Raikkonen battled it out, they were both passed by Grosjean.
On Lap 3 Lewis Hamilton got a pass made on Mark Webber into Turn 12, but overran the exit and went onto the dusty tarmac and handed the place back to the Red Bull. He got it right a lap later.
Button, after a dreadful start, where he chose to follow a Williams through Turn 1 and then got passed by cars either side as the Williams crawled through, was making inroads and passed Maldonado on Lap 6. Nico Hulkenberg was resisting a charge from Romain Grosjean who spun his car off the track at Turn 19 and flat-spotted his tyres - he dropped places and would have to come in for tyres early.
Massa was past Schumacher on Lap 7 as his tyres began to fade quite badly. The positons on Lap 8 were: 1.Vettel, 2.Hamilton, 3.Webber, 4.Alonso, 5.Hulkenberg, 6.Raikkonen, 7.DiResta, 8.Massa, 9.Perez, 10.Senna, 11.Schumacher, 12.Button
Although Vettel was setting a lot of fastest laps he wasn’t able to shake off Hamilton who set his own on Lap 9 to reduce the gap to 1.6 seconds.
On Lap 10 Michael Schumacher indulged in a typical piece of beligerence when he pushed Jenson button all the way over to the left, past the pitlane exit line in a vain bid to stop him going up the inside into Turn 1. Button got the pass made with a slight nudge of contact between the two drivers at the apex.
On Lap 13, Kimi Raikkonen came up behind 5th place Hulkenberg and tried to attack round the outside of Turn 1. The Lotus ran wide before cutting back on the inside to run side by side with Hulkenberg through Turn 2, before the Force India driver had to cede the place in Turn 3. Classic stuff.
Hamilton closed right up on Vettel and on Lap 15 was inside the DRS zone for the first time, but couldn’t get close enough to pass. Meanwhile Jean-Eric Vergne was having fun with Nico Rosberg and Michael Schumacher (who’d dropped back to P14) and his suspension failed just after he’d supposedly hit a kerb too hard. He was the first retirement of the race.
Felipe Massa was having a stellar race and looked faster than Alonso. On Lap 15 he was past Hulkenberg and up into P6. Vettel’s lead over Hamilton was just 0.9. But just as it had closed up, so it began to go out again - 0.9 became 1.0, became 1.4, became 2.5 on lap 18 and then 3.2 on Lap 19.
That was the good news for Red Bull. The bad news was that Mark Webber suddenly put in a 1:46 lap on Lap 16 (compared to the following Fernando Alonso’s 1:44) and after that reported that his KERS had failed. He then toured to a stop and exited the race, as the second retirement, with alternator failure.
Hamilton was under no threat from anyone behind so came in for his one and only pit-stop at the end of Lap 20 and was stationary just 2.4 seconds, Alonso come in at the same time and had a right rear wheel which was slow to come off. That might have left the door open to the pursuing Raikkonen who was lapping faster on old tyres than Alonso could manage on his new hard tyres which were slow to warm up.
That wasn’t the case for the yet-to-stop Jenson Button who had his tyres right up to temperature and who almost dived through past Alonso on Lap 23, and swept past him using the DRS on Lap 24.
Hamilton came up behind the yet-to-stop Kimi Raikkonen and when the Brit passed him on Lap 24, Raikkonen dived into the pitlane for more tyres. He would have exited the pitlane in front of Alonso, but a delay in the pitbox (for no immediately apparent reason) sent him out side by side with Alonso into Turn 1 and the Ferrari easily got through. Raikkonen was then taken by the yet-to-stop Daniel Ricciardo.
At the front, Hamilton was closing on Vettel who had pitted on Lap 22. On Lap 25 the gap was 2.0; on Lap 26, 1.8; on Lap 27, 1.5 seconds.
Positions on Lap 28:1.Vettel, 2.Hamilton, 3.Button (not stopped) , 4.Alonso, 5.Ricciardo (not stopped) 6.Raikkonen, 7.Massa, 8.Rosberg (not stopped), 9.Grosjean, 10.Hulkenberg, 11.Senna, 12.DiResta
From Lap 28 Vettel put the hammer down and the gap to Hamilton went out to 2.5 again. But on Lap 31 the tide turned yet again as Hamilton put in more fastest laps with the gap coming down to 2.1, then 1.6, then 1.2, then 0.6 on Lap 34.
Button pitted for his one stop on Lap 35 and exited just behind Romain Grosjean in P7. Within four laps he had made the most artful of passing moves inside the Frenchman at Turn 16, something few other drivers could manage.
All eyes were on the battle at the front as Vettel worked out how best to use his KERS and fuel mixes to keep ahead of Hamilton. The gap was 1.1 on Lap 36, 1.0 on Lap 37, 0.9 on Lap 38. Vettel looked to have the measure of the McLaren driver until on Lap 42 when he encountered Narain Karthikeyan’s HRT in the fast complex of corners from Turn 3.
Because of Vettel’s delay, Hamilton was much closer through that section than he had been before and Lewis was able to use the DRS to maximum effect on the next straight into Turn 12. Vettel would go on to keep the McLaren inside 1.5 seconds all the way to the flag and set the Fastest Lap on the final lap. As ever.
Massa had got past Raikkonen for P4 on Lap 40 with a move similar to Raikkonen’s on Hulkenberg coming through Turn 2, but Massa’s pass this time was assisted by Raikkonen running wide at the exit. Jenson Button struggled to get the same speed under DRS as Hamilton did on the back straight, but made a great pass on Raikkonen round the outside of Turn 12 on Lap 45. It was the perfect demonstration of fair overtaking between two great drivers.
Positions on Lap 48:1.Hamilton 2.Vettel, 3.Alonso, 4.Massa, 5.Button, 6.Raikkonen, 7.Grosjean, 8.Hulkenberg, 9.Senna, 10. Maldonado, 11.Perez, 12.Ricciardo.
In the closing laps Vettel could do nothing about the McLaren’s pace in front. Alonso was well over half a minute back in P3 and Massa wasn’t going to challenge him in P4. Button looked as though he might have the legs of Massa in P5 but he wasn’t able to deploy full KERS and his charge halted.
Bruno Senna tried very hard to find a way past Nico Hulkenberg’s Force India for P8 and Pastor Maldonado - who was sat behind Senna - got impatient with his team-mate’s lack of progress and came past with a wheel-barging move into Turn 1 to demote his team-mate to P10. He couldn’t get past Hulkenberg either.
Lewis Hamilton crossed the line for his second successive USGP win, his first being at Indy in 2007, the last time the race was run. Vettel was close over the line and applauded his rival’s drive. The Ferraris finished in third and fourth with Button in fifth wishing his throttle hadn’t gone missing in Q2 on Saturday. Raikkonen headed home Grosjean who’d made his tyres last from Lap 9 to lap 56.
It had been an epic inaugural race from the Circuit of the Americas and one that reversed any good fortune Vettel might have had in Abu Dhabi. Alonso was a long way off his rival at the finish line in a race where Massa was clearly the fastest Ferrari driver. With Alonso still 13 points adrift, the Ferrari team will now be hoping for rain at Interlagos and the long-range weather forecast for Sao Paulo next weekend has thunderstorms on both Saturday and Sunday…
01. Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 1h35:55.269
02. Vettel Red Bull-Renault + 0.600
03. Alonso Ferrari + 39.200
04. Massa Ferrari + 46.000
05. Button McLaren-Mercedes + 56.400
06. Raikkonen Lotus-Renault + 1:04.400
07. Grosjean Lotus-Renault + 1:10.300
08. Hulkenberg Force India-Mercedes + 1:13.700
09. Maldonado Williams-Renault + 1:14.500
10. Senna Williams-Renault + 1:15.100
11. Perez Sauber-Ferrari + 1:24.300
12. Ricciardo Toro Rosso-Ferrari + 1:24.800
13. Rosberg Mercedes + 1:25.500
14. Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari + 1 lap
15. Di Resta Force India-Mercedes + 1 lap
16. Schumacher Mercedes + 1 lap
17. Petrov Caterham-Renault + 1 lap
18. Kovalainen Caterham-Renault + 1 lap
19. Glock Marussia-Cosworth + 1 lap
20. Pic Marussia-Cosworth + 2 laps
21. De la Rosa HRT-Cosworth + 2 laps
22. Karthikeyan HRT-Cosworth + 2 laps
Did Not Finish
Webber Red Bull-Renault 17
Vergne Toro Rosso-Ferrari 15