Lewis Hamilton dominated the 2016 US Grand Prix to take the victory ahead of his Mercedes Formula 1 teammate Nico Rosberg and cut the German’s championship lead to 26 points.
The Mercedes duo were joined on the podium by Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo, who had spent the first half of the race in front of Rosberg but lost out when the German pitted under the Virtual Safety Car that had been triggered by the retirement of Max Verstappen.
At the start, Rosberg appeared to get a slightly better getaway than polesitter Hamilton, but unlike in previous races other cars were not able to jump ahead of either of the Mercedes drivers off the line and the Briton was able to hold onto the lead.
But Ricciardo, who was starting on the supersoft Pirelli tyres as opposed to the softs on Hamilton, Rosberg and Verstappen in fourth, dived to the inside of Rosberg at Turn 1, stayed alongside the German driver and then swept into second place on the entry to Turn 2.
In the pack behind, Nico Hulkenberg hit Sebastian Vettel’s left rear wheel and then clattered into the right hand side of Valtteri Bottas’ Williams, which gave the Finn a right rear puncture and the Force India driver had to retire as a result of the damage he had sustained.
Further around the first lap, Daniil Kvyat drove into the back of Sergio Perez’s Force India, spinning the Mexican driver around and earning the Toro Rosso racer a ten-second penalty.
Hamilton shot clear into a lead he would never lose apart from during the pitstop phases, as Ricciardo held Rosberg at bay and Verstappen closed in on the world championship leader.
Ricciardo and Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen triggered the first round of pitstops early, coming in on lap eight to switch to the soft compound tyres.
Mercedes waited two laps to bring in Rosberg and put him onto the medium tyres but he did not lose out to Raikkonen, who had used the undercut to pass Verstappen for a net fourth place.
Hamilton stopped on lap 11 and re-joined comfortably in front of the Ricciardo and Rosberg scrap, and Verstappen made it a three-way battle for second when he passed Raikkonen at Turn 12 on lap 13.
As the Dutch driver closed up to the back of Rosberg, Red Bull warned him about finishing his current stint, to which he swiftly replied: “I’m not here to finish fourth”.
But he did begin to drop back from Rosberg and was over two seconds behind the podium places when Raikkonen, in fifth, stopped for soft tyres on lap 24 – confirming he would be three-stopping – just as Vettel zoomed up to the back of his Ferrari teammate.
Ricciardo pitted for medium tyres on lap 24, which allowed Rosberg into second, albeit nearly ten seconds behind Hamilton.
A lap later, Verstappen suddenly appeared in the pitlane to the complete surprise of his Red Bull team and the 19-year-old lost 9.2s as his mechanics scrambled to fit him with the medium tyres. When asked what had happened by his race engineer, Verstappen replied: “I thought you boxed me, sorry.”
Hamilton continued to extend his lead over Rosberg in second, which was up to 10.1s on lap 30 when the pair pitted under the VSC.
This has been activated by Verstappen slowing along the Circuit of the Americas’ main straight after he suffered a mechanical failure and he then pulled off the track on the exit of Turn 18 to climb from his stricken car.
It took two laps to recover the Red Bull to a safe place and that delay meant Mercedes’ pitstops were effectively “free” as Ricciardo bitterly reflected to his engineer when he realised he would not be able to move back into second place.
The top three ran to the flag without further issue and Hamilton took his seventh win of the season and his third successive win (fourth overall) at the Austin track. It also brings the reigning world champion level with Michael Schumacher on five US Grand Prix victories.
Vettel finished all by himself in fourth after Raikkonen retired moments after leaving his pitbox following his third stop on lap 39. The Ferrari driver was forced to stop at the pit exit after he was told a wheel had not been securely fitted and he allowed the car to roll back down into the pitlane where he switched off the engine and climbed out.
Carlos Sainz was another driver who had benefitted from pitting under the VSC as it allowed him to leapfrog Felipe Massa and move up to fifth place with Raikkonen’s retirement.
The Spaniard was resisting sustained pressure from the Brazilian driver before McLaren’s Fernando Alonso opportunistically dived up the inside of Massa at Turn 17 and hit the Williams, forcing it off the track.
Alonso went by and then closed in and passed Sainz after a thrilling battle at the end of the race to steal fifth place from his compatriot, but the stewards have decided to investigate the collision with Massa after the race.
The Williams driver came home seventh after a late stop due to a puncture sustained in the clash, but he had enough time in hand to stay in front of Perez, who had recovered strongly from the first lap collision to finish eighth.
Jenson Button had made a great start to leap up the order from 19th on the grid and he came home ninth ahead of Romain Grosjean. The Frenchman scored the final point for Haas F1 at the American team’s first appearance at its home race.
Kevin Magnussen finished 11th for Renault after a late race pass on Kvyat, but the Dane completed the move off the track on the exit of Turn 12 and that will also be investigated after the race.
Jolyon Palmer ended up 13th after spending much of the race complaining about being held up by his Renault teammate Magnussen, as Marcus Ericsson and Felipe Nasr finished 14th and 15th for Sauber.
Bottas was 16th after a long day following his first lap collision with Hulkenberg, and Pascal Wehrlein and Esteban Ocon brought up the rear of the field for Manor.
The only other retirement was Esteban Gutierrez, who retired on lap 17 shortly after he went off the track at Turn 11 with what looked like a brake issue.
US Grand Prix result:
1 Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes 1h38m12.618s
2 Nico Rosberg, Mercedes +4.520s
3 Daniel Ricciardo, Red Bull +19.692s
4 Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari +43.134s
5 Fernando Alonso, McLaren +1m33.953s
6 Carlos Sainz, Toro Rosso +1m36.124s
7 Felipe Massa, Williams +1 Lap
8 Sergio Perez, Force India +1 Lap
9 Jenson Button, McLaren +1 Lap
10 Romain Grosjean, Haas +1 Lap
11 Kevin Magnussen, Renault +1 Lap
12 Daniil Kvyat, Toro Rosso +1 Lap
13 Jolyon Palmer, Renault +1 Lap
14 Marcus Ericsson, Sauber +1 Lap
15 Felipe Nasr, Sauber +1 Lap
16 Valtteri Bottas, Williams +1 Lap
17 Pascal Wehrlein, Manor +1 Lap
18 Esteban Ocon, Manor +2 Laps
DNF Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari
DNF Max Verstappen, Red Bull
DNF Esteban Gutierrez, Haas
DNF Nico Hulkenberg, Force India
1 Nico Rosberg 331
2 Lewis Hamilton 305
3 Daniel Ricciardo 227
4 Sebastian Vettel 177
5 Kimi Raikkonen 170
6 Max Verstappen 165
7 Sergio Perez 84
8 Valtteri Bottas 81
9 Nico Hulkenberg 54
10 Fernando Alonso 52
11 Felipe Massa 49
12 Carlos Sainz 38
13 Romain Grosjean 29
14 Daniil Kvyat 25
15 Jenson Button 21
16 Kevin Magnussen 7
17 Jolyon Palmer 1
18 Pascal Wehrlein 1
19 Stoffel Vandoorne 1
20 Esteban Gutierrez 0
21 Marcus Ericsson 0
22 Felipe Nasr 0
23 Rio Haryanto 0
24 Esteban Ocon 0
1 Mercedes 636
2 Red Bull 400
3 Ferrari 347
4 Force India 138
5 Williams 130
6 McLaren 74
7 Toro Rosso 55
8 Haas 29
9 Renault 8
10 Manor 1
11 Sauber 0
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