Lewis Hamilton pulled off another victory at the Circuit of the Americas, while Sebastian Vettel in his Ferrari managed to pull off a strategic second spot to prolong the driver’s championship battle into the race at Mexico on the following Sunday. However, his win and Valtteri Bottas bringing up the fifth spot were enough to guarantee Mercedes the constructor’s championship.
The race began with Hamilton on the familiar pole position, although he had a resurgent Vettel beside him with team mate Bottas and Redbull’s Daniel Ricciardo on the second row. The second Red Bull of Max Verstappen had been relegated to 16th spot from his potential 8th place on the grid due to penalties. The race was to be almost as much about Verstappen’s battle up through the ranks as it was about the ongoing battle between Hamilton and Vettel.
Vettel managed a brilliant start and managed to get the inside line into the first corner, effectively shutting out Hamilton, while Ricciardo managed to pull a similar move over Bottas. But Vettel’s lead was to remain only for the first five laps as Hamilton pulled off a quick overtake in lap 6, a lead he was to maintain till the end.
In the meantime, tyre strategy dictated the move of various teams with Hamilton managing on one stop while Vettel had to pit twice. He almost managed to catch up with Hamilton on the sole stop on the 20th lap. Vettel’s second stop in the 39th lap effectively dropped him back to fourth behind Raikkonen and Bottas, with Verstappen coming up behind him.
Vettel got ahead of Bottas on the 51st lap in a move that almost seemed like the Finn had left a path open for him, only to catch up and overtake Raikkonen without much effort (of course, team orders). But Verstappen was to climax his race with a quick move past Bottas and then making his controversial move overtaking Raikkonen on the last corner before the finish. He went into the ready room believing that he was third, only to have the stewards rule his overtake with all four wheels off the track illegal, handing him a five second penalty and Raikkonen the final podium spot.
Lewis Hamilton said, “The race was great, it was probably one of the most fun races that I have had for a while – and there were quite a few fun ones this year. I didn’t get away to a great start, but I was kind of chilled about it, knowing from the past that I can overtake here. I had a lot of fun trying to get closer and overtaking. Today the wind changed 180 degrees and it made the track so special to drive; the car felt amazing going through the Esses. We have three more races left this season – and that’s three I want to win.”
On the other hand Verstappen was more lucid about his penalty, ““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. 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. At the end of the day I had a lot of fun and a great race.”