Lewis Hamilton claimed his third Formula One World Championship title with victory in an incident-packed United States Grand Prix that saw the Briton’s Mercedes’ team-mate Nico Rosberg take second place ahead of Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel.
The win, Hamilton’s 10th of the season, puts him on 327 points in the championship, 76 points ahead of nearest challenger Sebastian Vettel. With a maximum 75 points on offer from the final three rounds, Hamilton cannot be overtaken in the standings.
Hamilton joins a list of three-time champions that includes Jack Brabham, Sir Jackie Stewart, Niki Lauda, Nelson Piquet and Aytron Senna.
At the start Hamilton made a better getaway than Rosberg ands the pair went into Turn One side by side. Hamilton held hard to his line and the pair banged wheels. The collision sent Rosberg wide and that allowed Kvyat to leap through past Ricciardo and Rosberg into second place. Ricciardo also stole through to demote Rosberg further.
Further back there was incident involving seventh on the grid Felipe Massa and Fernando Alonso, who started ninth. The chaos saw several drivers profit, with Sebastian Vettel climbing to seventh by the end of lap one from 13th on the grid, Raikkonen rising to 10th from 18th and Carlos Sainz jumping to 11th after starting in last place. Elsewhere, the two Saubers clashed, with Nasr losing his front wing and scattering debris across the track at Turn One.
At the front Hamilton was being pressured by Kvyat but the Russian overcooked a move into Turn One and went wide, which gave the Mercedes man some breathing space.
It was Kvyat’s last attempt. With debris still on track the Virtual Safety Car was deployed on lap five. The order at this point was Hamilton, followed by Kvyat, Ricciardo, Rosberg, Force India’s Perez, Vettel, Toro Rosso’s Max Verstappen, Raikkonen, Sainz and Nico Hulkenberg in the second Force India.
When the VSC was removed Rosberg was the most alert. Hamilton held his lead from Kvyat but Rosberg caught Ricciardo napping and powered past the Australian through the ‘Esses’ to take third. He was soon all over the back of Kvyat and used his Mercedes’ greater power to breeze past the Russian to resume the grid order.
On seasonal form that should have been that, but in the conditions the Mercedes were unable to pull away from the Red Bulls and Kvyat again attacked Rosberg at the end of lap 112. He again ran wide though and that allowed Ricciardo to sneak past. And with the aid of DRS the Australian then passed Rosberg through Turn One on lap 13.
Further back there were equally big battles developing. Perez and Vettel were stable in fourth and fifth but the battle for sixth was intense with Verstappen holding off Raikkonen and Sainz. Raikkonen eventually got past Sainz on lap 15 and began to pressure Verstappen.
At the front the order was changing again and when Hamilton couldn’t hold a tight line through long right hander towards the end of the lap, Ricciardo held his nerve and exercised impressive car control to take the inside line and the lead.
The Australian then began to build a lead and by lap 18 he was 3.9s ahead of the championship leader.
Hamilton’s times were flagging on his degrading tyres and he was running 1.3s slower than Ricciardo and the Briton was passed on lap 18 by Rosberg and as Kvyat clambered all over the back of his car, Mercedes opted to pit the title leader for soft tyres.
Ricciardo, Rosberg and third-placed Kvyat reacted and pitted on lap 19 for soft tyres, with Ricciardo resuming in the lead ahead of the German and the Russian. Hamilton was now fourth.
The rest of the field had also pitted by this point for slicks but the track was still proving difficult and Raikkonen went off at the left-hander at the bottom of the esses, He hit the barriers but managed to drive his way out from the tyre wall and rejoined in 15th.
At the front the positions were changing again and this time it was the Red Bulls being passed, with Rosberg stealing the lead from Ricciardo and Hamilton stealing third from Kvyat.
Rosberg was told to build a lead and armed with soft tyres on a drying track, the German obliged. By lap 24 Rosberg was 3.6s ahead of Ricciardo. Hamilton, meanwhile, was now three seconds adrift of the Australian. Kvyat though had dropped to fifth, the Russian running out of grip in turn one and allowing the hard-charging Vettel to brush past on the inside.
Mercedes’ pace in this phase of the race was simply too great for the Red Bulls and on lap 27 Hamilton breezed past Ricciardo to take second place. He was now 10.5s behind his team-mate.
Raikkonen, meanwhile, was forced to retire, his engineer informing him that brush with the wall had damaged the front right of his car and his brake temperatures on that side were “through the roof”.
Marcus Ericsson was also in trouble and later in lap 27 the Swede pulled over at the edge of the track with a loss of power.
The position of the Sauber led to the Safety Car being deployed. The top three, Rosberg, Hamilton and Ricciardo, stayed out, but fourth placed Vettel pitted for medium tyres, promoting Kvyat back up the order. Hulkenberg, Sainz, Perez and Button also pitted. The McLaren driver opted to stay on softs, while the others switched to medium tyres.
The order under the safety car was Rosberg ahead of Hamilton, with Ricciardo third ahead of Kvyat, who had all stopped once. Then came Vettel, Verstappen, Hulkenberg, Perez, Button and Sainz, all of whom had stopped twice.
The Safety Car left the track at the end of lap 32 with Rosberg having back the field right up. The German then strode away from Hamilton to keep his lead.
Vettel was the big profiteer on the restart. He forced Kvyat into an error and slipped past the Russian with ease and then a lap later mugged Ricciardo.
The Red Bulls, on older tyres, were now fair game and Verstappen and Hulkenberg forced his way past Kvyat, who dropped to seventh. Verstappen then passed Ricciardo for fourth place on lap 35.
Hulkenberg was now pressuring Ricciardo but it ended badly for the German. The Force India driver tried to pass the Australian on the inside at Turn 12 but he lost control and collided with the Red Bull. It ended Hulkenberg’s race but Ricciardo carried on, though with damage enough that Kvyat was able to pass him.
Hulkenberg’s car had come to rest at the edge of the track and the VSC was again briefly deployed. Rosberg took the opportunity to pit on lap 38, as did Kvyat and Ricciardo.
Hamilton, who had stopped just once, now led from Vettel and Verstappen, with Rosberg now fourth on soft tyres ahead of Button, Perez, Alonso, Sainz, Maldonado, Kvyat and Ricciardo.
Rosberg was soon up to third, passing Verstappen on lap 40, and he was soon in second, comfortably making his way past Vettel on lap 42. Hamilton was now just six seconds up the road.
The real Safety Car was soon in action again. Kvyat crashed out at the end of lap 43 at Turn 20 and that afforded Hamilton and Vettel a free pit stop, with both drivers taking on soft tyres. The order under the safety car was Rosberg, Hamilton, Verstappen, Vettel, Alonso, Perez, Ricciardo, Button, Maldonado and Sainz.
Rosaberg held his lead on the restart. The German’s tyres were five laps older than Hamilton. Behind them Vettel passed Vertsappen to take third place.
Hamilton began to close on his team-mate but on lap 48 Rosberg did the work for his team-mate. The German went off line on the exit of Turn 12 and Hamilton was through into a lead he would not let go of and eight laps later the Briton crossed the 2.8s ahead of his team-mate to claim the race win and his third world championship title, described by Hamilton over team radio as “the greatest moment of my life”.
Rosberg was second ahead of Vettel, with Verstappen fourth. Perez took fifth place ahead of Button and Sainz, with Maldonado eighth ahead of Nasr and Ricciardo.
2015 United States Grand Prix – Race
1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:50:52.703
2 Nico Rosberg Mercedes +2.850
3 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari +3.381
4 Max Verstappen Toro Rosso +22.359
5 Sergio Perez Force India +24.413
6 Carlos Sainz Jr. Toro Rosso +25.619
7 Jenson Button McLaren +28.058
8 Pastor Maldonado Team Lotus +32.273
9 Felipe Nasr Sauber +40.257
10 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull Racing +53.371
11 Fernando Alonso McLaren +54.816
12 Alexander Rossi Manor +1:15.277
R Daniil Kvyat Red Bull Racing
R Nico Hulkenberg Force India
R Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari
R Marcus Ericsson Sauber
R Felipe Massa Williams
R Romain Grosjean Team Lotus
R Valtteri Bottas Williams
R Will Stevens Manor