LEWIS HAMILTON will have to wait to celebrate his fourth world title – despite his victory in the in the US GP.
Sebastian Vettel’s second-place here means the Brit now needs to finish in the top five in Mexico City next weekend to clinch the crown, which now looks a formality.
Hamilton’s win — his fifth here in six years – means he now has a 66 point lead over Vettel with just 75 points on offer in the final three races.
The 32-year-old’s victory might not have been enough to secure his own title but it did win the constructors’ title for Mercedes as the Brackley-based team were crowned world champs for the fourth consecutive year.
The fastest man on four wheels warmed up for this race by treating the quickest man on two legs to a hot lap of the track.
Hamilton climbed behind the wheel of a £150,000 Mercedes AMG GT R with eight-time Olympic gold medallist Usain Bolt in the passenger’s seat.
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Hamilton treated the Jamaican sprinter to a pulsating ride that left Bolt dizzy and needing five minutes to regain his composure.
Hamilton was clearly enjoying himself and has been in relaxed all mood all week, despite knowing that he could win his fourth world crown if results went his way.
There was no kneeling during the rendition of the Star-Spangled Banner, as he kept his word that he would not use the National Anthem to continue the protests by American athletes.
But there was a thick dollop of US razzamatazz, as boxing’s Michael Buffer introduced the drivers on the grid in his typical over-the-top style.
It was great to watch, as each driver walked along the red carpet and flanked by cheerleaders, with pole-sitter Hamilton being last out.
Vettel had already taken his position alongside the F1 world championship trophy and had his eyes fixed on the Brit as he took his place facing the German.
The tension was palpable and it was evident that Vettel was up for this fight, despite his huge points deficit.
And he showed it at the start, as he made a blistering getaway and powered up the inside towards Turn One.
Pole-sitter Hamilton was on the defensive and did what he could to cover off the Ferrari but he was not quick enough and as the two narrowly escaped a first-corner smash, it was Vettel who went into the lead.
But the German’s lead was soon cut-short as rather like this season, Hamilton stated to reel in his advantage before capitalising on the benefit of DRS to retake the lead on lap six.
With Hamilton back in front, it looked to be a case of routine management from Mercedes to ensure he remained in front.
But after a frantic discussion on the Mercedes pitwall they almost blew it as Hamilton’s pitstop at the end of the 19th lap saw him resumed racing with Vettel right on his gearbox.
Hamilton was notably upset and quizzed his team over the radio “guys, why did you let Vettel get so close?”
He need not have worried for with 20 laps to go, Vettel was on his radio asking his team for a plan B in a last ditch attempt to get ahead of the Brit.
A second pitstop was the call, which dropped Vettel to fourth place before he eventually got past Hamilton’s team-mate Valtteri Bottas with five laps to go.
He was then promoted to second place, as Kimi Raikkonen moved aside to allow Vettel though and have a late shot at Hamilton.
But had too much to do as Hamilton crossed the line a full 10 seconds ahead of the German, although there was drama at the death.
Max Verstappen looked to have taken third place with a bold overtake on Raikkonen, although the stewards deemed that the Dutchman went off the track in doing so and hit him with a five second penalty.
That bumped the Red Bull ace off the podium for Raikkonen while there was also misery for his team-mate Daniel Ricciardo who retired on lap 16 with an engine failure.
McLaren’s Fernando Alonso also suffered his ninth DNF of the season, as due to an engine failure; ironic given his Indy 500 race was also cut short due to an unreliable Honda engine.
Driver of the Day: Max Verstappen made a fantastic start and finished fourth after starting 14th
Move of the Race: Hamilton squeezed past Verstappen on lap 23 through turns 12, 13 and 14.
Mistake of the Race: Sauber’s Marcus Ericsson clattered into Kevin Magnussen late on.
Milkfloat: Ericsson was not only guilty of causing a collision, but he was also slow.
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