Vettel’s pain is Hamilton’s gain – US Grand Prix

November 19, 2012 4:26 pm

The field sweeps into turn one

Lewis Hamilton won yesterday’s American Grand Prix after Red Bull driver Sebastian Vettel complained of being compromised by backmarker Narain Karthikeyan during his battle with Hamilton for victory.

The reigning World Champion started from pole position and led for much of the race but lost out when Karthikeyan held him up and allowed Hamilton to make a move for the lead of the Grand Prix. The two men were evenly matched with neither of them able to take the advantage in a race that christened the brand new Circuit of the Americas.

It was the first time F1 had raced in the US since the 2007 Grand Prix at Indianapolis, and despite worrying predictions and naysayers, the crowd flocked to the circuit in droves for Sunday’s race; 117,000 people were ready to witness the start of the re-birth of F1 in America. Vettel led off from pole, but Hamilton was quickly overpowered by the other Red Bull of Mark Webber, while Fernando Alonso made a blistering start to jump from 7th on the grid to 4th by the first corner. Further back, significant contact was incredibly avoided at the tight and steep turn one, although Jenson Button lost out when he was blocked in behind the Williams of Bruno Senna and dropped to 16th.

Hamilton was clearly quicker than the Red Bull duo and soon dispatched Webber for 2nd. He raced up behind Vettel but never got close enough to make a move, darting to the left and the right of Vettel’s car. The German wasn’t to be distracted though, and apart from a few minor brake lock-ups he doggedly held his ground. Behind the leading pack, Alonso was falling behind in 4th while a titanic struggle was underway over 7th-8th-9th-10th and 11th places, with Sergio Perez, Bruno Senna, Pastor Maldonado and Felipe Massa squabbling hard. Ahead of them Romain Grosjean botched an attempt to overtake Nico Hulkenberg and span off the circuit, yet another unforced error painting the Frenchman in a bad light. Kimi Raikkonen battled with Nico Hulkenberg for 5th place, with the Abu Dhabi winner eventually prevailing.

Fernando Alonso could still be the 2012 World Champion

Button was recovering from his poor start and despite being on the harder, theoretically slower Pirelli tyre compound he was pulling off overtakes left right and centre; the Mclaren driver was soon up to 10th. Things didn’t improve for Mark Webber though and the Australian pulled off the circuit after an alternator failure ended his day. This elevated Alonso to 3rd and gained him the all-important points needed to take the championship fight to Brazil.The race proved to be a one-stop affair in terms of pitstops, except for Michael Schumacher who struggled to make his tyres last the distance and was force to pit a second time, dropping him well down the order. Hamilton and Vettel rejoined in the same order as before, but Hamilton appeared to be closing the gap to the race leader by a fraction of a margin every lap. Felipe Massa employed a clever strategy to move from his compromised grid position up to 4th once Button had eventually pitted from 3rd.

On lap 42 Vettel lost time lapping backmarker Karthikeyan and Hamilton got close enough to activate his DRS (Drag Reduction System) on the long back straight, breezing past the Red Bull into the lead. Although he wasn’t quick enough to pull away, Hamilton was able to nurse his advantage to the finish and crossed the line just half a second ahead of Vettel.  Alonso was a long way behind in 3rd but did enough to keep the title alive until Brazil, while team mate Massa drove a solid race for 4th place. Button pulled off ten competitive overtaking manoeuvres to claim 5th, ruing the mechanical gremlins that cost him the chance of fighting for a win, while Kimi Raikkonen struggled into 6th place. Grosjean eventually battled through to 7th, while Nico Hulkenberg again upstaged teammate Paul Di Resta by finishing well ahead of the Scot in 8th. Pastor Maldonado and Bruno Senna rounded out the top ten in 9th and 10th, while Mercedes failed to score yet again after another disastrous day.

Red Bull may have claimed the 2012 Constructor’s World Championship, but no Driver’s World Champion was elected in Texas. The 2012 fight really is going to go down to the wire…

Anthony French

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