Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton have made it a perfect party for Mercedes AMG F1 by finishing 1-2 at Circuit Of The Americas near Austin. As Verstappen completes the podium, Hamilton is now certain of a 6th World Championship.
The USA Grand Prix kicked off with a bang. While Bottas made a perfect start, and quickly opted to go left to get the inside of Turn 1, Vettel found himself attacked by Verstappen, and also rapidly passed by the Red Bull driver.
Hamilton, starting from 5th, moved up past Leclerc at the start, and then passed Vettel round the outside at Turn 5. Vettel was soon also passed by Leclerc and Norris, triggering him to tell his engineer "I must have damage, I don't know where from, but I have terrible understeer".
With no obvious damage, Ricciardo also managed to make his way past Vettel at the end of lap 2.
Meanwhile, Sainz fell behind to 9th after a tough battle with Albon. The Spaniard was pushed outward on the exit of Turn 1, but in such a way that they bumped wheels, momentarily launching Albon a few cms off the ground. Albon made a stop on the back of that incident and changed to medium tyres, only to return at the back of the pack.
The drivers that started on hard tyres, Hulkenberg and Kvyat, didn't make a lot of progress in the early part of the race. Hulkenberg however easily kept up with Raikkonen on softs, but it seemed impossible to make an overtake in the early stages.
For Vettel, things went from bad to worse. After somewhat finding his rhythm behind Ricciardo, he suddenly had his left front up in the air after running wide - but not more than otherwise - on the exit of Turn 8. Some bumps were seemingly too much for the Ferrari rear suspension, triggering an immediate DNF. Teammate Leclerc was soon asked to avoid the kerbs on that corner as well.
Three corners later, Daniel Ricciardo made a straightforward pass on Norris for 5th. The Australian had been trailing the McLaren since lap 1, and finally managed to pass him, coincidentally at the same time as Vettel who trailed him, had disappeared.
Meanwhile at the front, Verstappen lost contact with leader Bottas, while Hamilton closed in closely, but steadily. On lap 12, when Hamilton was positioning himself to make a pass, Verstappen dove into the pits to change to hards. He returned to the track in 4th, 7s behind Leclerc, and 2s ahead of Renault's Ricciardo.
Bottas pitted the next lap but fitted a new set of hard tyres, contrary to Verstappen getting a used set. When the Finn came back out, he was just over a second ahead, thanks to a really competitive outlap from Verstappen, and a subsequent fastest lap, which at the time was a full second better than what Hamilton managed on his 15-lap old medium compound tyres.
The duo had no problem at all to pass Leclerc, with Ferrari seemingly settling for 4th already. Bottas went on to rapidly close the gap to Hamilton, frequently setting purple times while also leaving Verstappen behind, at times by nearly a second a lap.
On lap 21, Leclerc endured another set back by being standstill for 7.7 seconds as the Ferrari crew had trouble fitting the left rear tyre. Leclerc rejoined the track in 5th, in between Hulkenberg and Perez, both drivers who were yet to stop.
Two laps later, Bottas passed Hamilton for the lead, after which the latter pitted. Hamilton got a new set of hard tyres fitted as well, and rejoined in third place, 17s down on Verstappen, and almost 24s ahead of Leclerc. The fastest lap that followed was immediately 2s faster than Verstappen's time in the same lap 26, reducing the gap to 13.533 seconds.
Hamilton quickly reduced his pace after that, when his engineer noted it was vital for him to make the tyres last to the end. He continued on a pace that was about 1s a lap faster than Verstappen.
On lap 34, with just 3.5s remaining on Hamilton, Verstappen pitted and switched to a new set of mediums. Bottas did the same a lap later, doing the same tyre switch.
This put Hamilton in the lead, 10s ahead of Bottas, and another 4.5s more on Verstappen, with 21 laps remaining. The next laps, Hamilton sort of kept a very consistent pace, keeping the cars behind at bay, while still wondering if these tyres are going to last at all.
With around 15 laps left, several pitstops mixed up the situation, including tyre changes for Norris, Albon and Leclerc. Leclerc fitted a brand new set of softs without losing a position. The next lap predictably saw Leclerc set a new lap record, bettering Bottas's previous fastest lap by 0.8s.
By lap 49, Bottas ended up in DRS range of Hamilton and asked for no more talking. Verstappen at the time was still at 4.7s of Bottas, so approximately going at the same pace as Bottas during their final stints.
The next pass on the back straight, Bottas attempted a pass, but Hamilton defended the inside to keep the lead. This saw Verstappen close in by 1.5s in that sector, urging Bottas to make his pass work. The Finn did so the next lap. This obviously dropped Hamilton into second, with less than three second remaining to Verstappen.
Verstappen did come close, but even though there was a yellow flag at the back straight due to a brake failure from Magnussen, it didn't look like the Dutchman came close enough to get past Hamilton anyway. It sealed another brilliant Mercedes 1-2 as Hamilton secured the unavoidable 6th World Champions title.
|1||77||Valtteri Bottas||Mercedes AMG||56||1:33:55.653||25|
|2||44||Lewis Hamilton||Mercedes AMG||56||+4.148s||18|
|3||33||Max Verstappen||Red Bull Racing Honda||56||+5.002s||15|
|5||23||Alexander Albon||Red Bull Racing Honda||56||+78.038s||10|
|7||4||Lando Norris||McLaren Renault||56||+90.764s||6|
|8||55||Carlos Sainz||McLaren Renault||55||+1 lap||4|
|9||27||Nico Hulkenberg||Renault||55||+1 lap||2|
|10||11||Sergio Perez||Racing Point BWT Mercedes||55||+1 lap||1|
|11||7||Kimi Räikkönen||Alfa Romeo Racing Ferrari||55||+1 lap||0|
|12||26||Daniil Kvyat||Scuderia Toro Rosso Honda||55||+1 lap||0|
|13||18||Lance Stroll||Racing Point BWT Mercedes||55||+1 lap||0|
|14||99||Antonio Giovinazzi||Alfa Romeo Racing Ferrari||55||+1 lap||0|
|15||8||Romain Grosjean||Haas Ferrari||55||+1 lap||0|
|16||10||Pierre Gasly||Scuderia Toro Rosso Honda||54||DNF||0|
|17||63||George Russell||Williams Mercedes||54||+2 laps||0|
|18||20||Kevin Magnussen||Haas Ferrari||52||DNF||0|
|NC||88||Robert Kubica||Williams Mercedes||31||DNF||0|
Kvyat given a 5s time penalty for causing a last-lap collision, dropping him from 10th to 12th