Lewis Hamilton donned the Stetson of victory, rounding up the full points haul in Austin. The Brit outdid Nico Rosberg and kept the German at 40 paces to win and take a 24-point lead in the championship and a fifth win in a row – becoming the most successful British driver of all time in terms of race wins in the process.
Daniel Ricciardo fended off the two Merc-powered “Willies” to take an impressive third, doing the best to compensate for Renault’s peashooter of a power unit in the back of his Red Bull.
Prior to the green flag, the threat of a boycott was abound with Force India, Sauber and Lotus all threatening to storm off and leave the “have’s” without the “have not’s”.
The grid did take shape though and when Pamela Anderson and Keanu Reeves flanked Bernie, representing the very best of the USA while the Star Spangled Banner echoed round the circuit, the stage was most definitely set.
There was no turn one move from Hamilton as there was from Rosberg in Russia. Sergio Perez lacked that composure at his “home” race, clouting Raikkonen on the way to sideswiping Sutil. A safety car followed and that was that for the Mexican and his travelling support.
Following the restart, Rosberg and Hamilton traded fastest laps until the German’s Pirelli’s fell off the cliff on lap 13. Rosberg played for time with first dibs on pitting and pulled out three seconds knowing Hamilton was also struggling, before eventually boxing two laps later. The gap remained as the first round of stops shook out.
Danny Ricciardo made hay at the restart, pulling off another move out of the top drawer on Alonso at T1 – dummying outside and sticking it up the inside as he did to Vettel at Monza. Red Bull’s engineers told him to “get after the Willies” up the road. A couple of laps later he made light work of Bottas at the same turn as he exited the pits. Massa was dispatched with an undercut at the final round of stops.
On lap 18 Force India eventually did follow through on their pre-race threats with a late effort at boycotting as Hulkenburg stopped out on track with a suspected engine issue.
Much more marginal rubber here meant the pack was far racier than last time out at Sochi. Even as his season and possibly his F1 career peters out, Jenson Button fought tooth and nail with Fernando Alonso, perhaps the man taking his McLaren seat. A small error allowed Alonso in, only for the Spaniard to make a bigger mistake and give Button a lifeline.
Eventually though, Fernando made it stick. Jenson eventually slid out of the points to a lowly 12th as he clutched at straws over the radio, thinking he’d damaged the car – telemetry reported no issues.
Hamilton put in a searing lap 23 to close right up to the back of his team-mate, the gap under a second and in DRS range. Lewis took the dive up the inside at the hairpin, Rosberg jinked to avoid contact and was forced wide onto the AstroTurf. Fine margins – Hamilton could have been reliving Spa.
Jean Eric Vergne again showed his racing credentials with a balls-out NASCAR-style shove on Grosjean. JEV arrived at the hairpin pretty late and all locked up before slapping Grosjean aside. Not the prettiest but not dangerous – proper racing, although maybe lacking F1 finesse. The stewards later giving JEV a penalty dropping him to tenth.
Niki Lauda and Martin Brundle both mentioned the importance of the race to Rosberg and his title chances. He had grid position, track position and so the initiative this time in the duel with his team-mate.
Hamilton, his experience and his raw pace again came out on top. His composure on lap one perhaps undersold, too. By the final round of stops on lap 33 it was evident Hamilton had everything under control with Rosberg held at arm’s length up to the end.
Reliability issues aside, the ultimate artificiality of a double-points finale looms as Hamilton’s only real obstacle between him and the title.