Hamilton slashes gap to Rosberg with landmark win in US GP

© F1 Pulse, 23 October 2016
© Mercedes

Lewis Hamilton became only the third driver after Michael Schumacher and Alain Prost to reach the landmark of 50 wins in Formula One after he cruised to victory in the United States Grand Prix on Saturday.

The defending champion ensured that he made a clean start while teammate Nico Rosberg got swamped by the Red Bull of Daniel Ricciardo at Turn 1 to pull away early in the race. Eventually a Virtual Safety Car period handed Rosberg a free stop and earned him an easy second from the Australian driver.

"I knew that the start was going to go well so that's the first time in the whole year that I've known that that's going to go well," Hamilton remarked.

"I was just the whole race concerned the car was not going to make it," he added. "I was just in fear of the same thing, the same feeling, the sound that I heard in Malaysia, so I was grateful that the car made it across the line."

With three races remaining in the season, Hamilton now trails Rosberg by 26 points after what was his fourth win and the third straight in Austin in five races.

"(Hamilton) did a better job this weekend and deserved the win," accepted Rosberg, who can seal the title by finishing second behind his teammate in the remaining three Grands Prix.

Mercedes described its day as a "drama-free afternoon" helped by what team boss Toto Wolff reckons was a conservative Rosberg.

"He's in a tricky situation right now because he knows he cannot afford to have a DNF. Probably that was part of why he lost position in Turn 1," Wolff surmised.

Sebastian Vettel finished fourth ahead of the McLaren of Fernando Alonso, who squabbled in the closing stages of the race to snatch fifth from Carlos Sainz Jr shortly after he banged wheels Williams' Felipe Massa, an incident that caught the attention of the stewards. Alonso matched his best result for the McLaren-Honda alliance.

"Yiiihhaaahhhh!" Alonso yodelled over the radio after he passed his compatriot on the final lap.

Force India's Sergio Perez came home in eighth followed by Jenson Button. Romain Grosjean, in his 100th F1 start, scored a point for Haas on its home turf.

The Frenchman capitalised on several potential scorers retiring. Nico Hulkenberg was bunted off on the opening lap forcing him to call it a day early, Max Verstappen was halted by a troubling gearbox and Kimi Raikkonen ended it after his team sent him out with the right-rear wheel cross-threaded and attached unsuitably for him to continue.

Hulkenberg's damage was assessed in the pits, Verstappen limped around the track before parking it resulting in the VSC that melted Ricciardo's challenge, while Raikkonen reversed into the pit lane and parked it.

Verstappen's exit that triggered the Virtual Safety Car dropped Ricciardo out of contention from the battle for at least a second place.

"When I saw Max out there I thought 'ah, hell. My boy's done it again!'" quipped Ricciardo in a Texan accent.

 

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