Title fight will go to Brazil – Hamilton pips Vettel in thrilling American GP

Lewis Hamilton has continued his streak of winning every single United States Grand Prix he has competed in, with an excellent drive today at the Circuit of the Americas.

The McLaren driver hunted down Sebastian Vettel for the majority of the race, then had to hold him off in a tense final few laps. Fernando Alonso did all he could to minimize his championship losses, but was half a minute behind in 3rd place.

At the start, all the even-numbered starters slided down the field, with Lewis Hamilton and Kimi Raikkonen losing out in particular. Alonso leaped up to 4th place, while Jenson Button couldn’t get his hard tyres up to temperature, falling to 16th.

As is the case these days, Michael Schumacher began to slip away, causing a large train of cars to form from 8th all the way down to 15th. Hamilton quickly recovered from his disappointing start, dispatching of Mark Webber for 2nd place.

As Michael slipped down the order, Button began his recovery drive, his prime tyres proving to be particularly effective once they were up to temperature. Up front, Hamilton began to close on Vettel, but was unable to get close enough to make a move just yet. Red Bull’s reliability fears were proved, as teammate Webber pulled over with an alternator failure on Lap 17.

This elevated Alonso to 3rd, which he immediately lost after a slow pit stop. Kimi Raikkonen opted to stay out while the frontrunners pitted, and spent several laps just behind Sebastian before stopping. However, a similar mistake with the right rear tyre resulted in the Lotus falling behind the Ferrari.

Felipe Massa’s gearbox penalty seriously disadvantaged the Brazilian, but he shrugged it off, and pulled off an impressive performance to pull himself back into contention. By the end of the pit stops, he was able to reel in and put a move on Raikkonen, who was not as fast initially on a new set of rubber.

On a completely different strategy to everyone else, Jenson Button stayed out until Lap 36, pulling out a string of impressive – and fastest – laps to rejoin the race behind the Raikkonen/Massa fight.

Nico Hulkenberg – who was the subject of an epic pass by Raikkonen earlier – had made it as high as 5th in the opening stages, but the Force India proved to be uncompetitive in race trim, and lost another place to the other Lotus of Romain Grosjean.

After a brief lull in activity at the front after the stops, Hamilton again got up close behind Vettel. Lap after lap he tried to get close using DRS, but the gap to the Red Bull was just too big. However, an opportunity arose when Narain Karthikeyan’s HRT held up Vettel in the first sector, and Hamilton wasted no time in punishing Sebastian’s misfortune. Once he got past, he did his best to pull out a gap.

Further back, the two Williams drivers began to tussle, with both drivers’ contracts on the line for 2013. Bruno Senna had got up as far as 9th, but an ambitious pass by Pastor Maldonado relegated him to the final points-scoring position.

Although Lewis had done his best to pull away from Sebastian, the Red Bull’s pace proved to be undeniable. Vettel was able to reduce the gap to around a second in the final few laps, and chased Hamilton all the way to the flag in an extremely tense finish.

Alonso was over half a minute off the battling duo, but later stated that his podium finish felt as good as a win. Felipe Massa was able to find his way past Raikkonen and Button to take an excellent 4th position. After a decent grid position, race day was a disaster for Michael Schumacher, falling all the way to 16th.

The most important piece of news from this race is that the title fight will go on to Brazil. Vettel now has a 13-point lead over Alonso, while at the same time Red Bull have clinched the constructor’s championship with one race to spare.

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