Lewis Hamilton has made it five victories in a row after beating team-mate Nico Rosberg to the chequered flag. The result gave Hamilton another decisive step towards the 2014 world championship which he now leads by 22 points.
Rosberg lined up in pole for the US GP, held in Austin Texas, having set the fastest lap time by over four tenths of a second. He maintained the lead in the early stages of the race before losing out to Hamilton before the second round of pit-stops. In the closing stages of the race, Rosberg started to claw back the 2.5 second advantage that Hamilton had but ran out of laps before being able to get close enough. He also encountered lapped traffic in the closing laps, being hampered in particular by one of the Lotus cars. While the the first half of the race was relatively quiet – apart from the occasional overtake – the second half was where it came alive.
Two of the stars of the race were undoubtedly Daniel Ricciardo and Sebastian Vettel. Ricciardo got bogged down at the start of the race and lost a number of positions, but some impressive overtakes – including on Fernando Alonso at Turn 1 – saw him get a podium position, although just a couple of seconds clear of Williams’ Felipe Massa. Vettel on the other hand started from the pit-lane, having taken his 6th power unit of the season, and had a disappointing start to the race. He complained over team-radio of struggling to complete laps of even 1:46s but he soon found a rhythm after a late stop. He overtook a number of cars on his way to finishing seventh place. He finished just five tenths of a second off Alonso.
Alonso himself was involved in a number of battles through the race, including a rather symbolic one with Jenson Button. Alonso is expected to join McLaren for 2015 and if he does, it is thought that Button would be the driver to give way. Alonso tried for a number of laps to pass Button and, while he did get ahead a couple of times, he was unable to make it stick and Button valiantly fought for position. Alonso eventually got past and Button slipped down the order and finished outside of the points. Button was investigated during the race – along with Esteban Gutierrez, Jean-Eric Vergne and Pastor Maldonado – for speeding behind the safety car. He was not penalised but the other three drivers were given a five second stop/go penalty.
The safety car was deployed at the end of the first lap to allow marshals to recover Adrian Sutil’s stricken Sauber. Sutil had started the race a season best ninth but Sergio Perez misjudged an overtake which resulted in them both exiting the race. Kimi Raikkonen was also caught up in the incident but was able to continue. Perez was given a seven place grid drop for his “reckless” move, which he will serve in Brazil. Raikkonen went on to have a fairly incognito race, lapping not far behind his team-mate in the opening laps before dropping down the order to finish 13th.
Elsewhere, Kevin Magnussen salvaged three points for McLaren to put them even further clear of Force India in the constructors championship. Force India had a disappointing race after Perez’s retirement was closely followed by a race ending problem for Nico Hulkenberg. While Force India endured disappointment, there was a positive outcome for Lotus as they finally finished back inside the points. Maldonado finished in ninth place – before being demoted to tenth and promoted back to ninth – giving him his first points of the year and adding to team-mate Romain Grosjean’s tally of eight. Both had looked fast all weekend and Grosjean was unfortunate in the closing stages to be hit by Vergne who is driving for his seat. Vergne put in a couple of impressive overtakes before he hit Grosjean. The incident was not enough to end either driver’s race, but it did give Grosjean some steering problems which he demonstrated by running off track at nearly every corner. Vergne’s move was deemed to be too harsh by the stewards and he had five seconds added to his post-race time dropping him to tenth. This in turn negated Maldonado’s five second penalty – his second of the race – for speeding in the pit-lane.
There were 15 classified finishers, with the field having been reduced to 18 runners following the financial difficulties of Caterham and Marussia. The action continues in Brazil this weekend with just 18 cars.