McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton after winning the 2012 Formula One United States Grand PrixEnlarge Photo
McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton took out top honors at the USGP’s first race at the newly created Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas. He managed to overcome the dominance of pole-sitter Sebastian Vettel of Red Bull Racing, thanks to hard effort and some very clever strategy.
However, the big news was that Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso, who started at seventh on the grid, still managed to finish third, ensuring the title fight is still very much alive.
The Spaniard was originally set to start at eighth on the grid but was promoted to seventh when Ferrari made the tactical decision to break an FIA seal on the gearbox on team-mate Felipe Massa’s car prior to the race. This is deemed to be the same as changing a gearbox and carries a five place penalty.
The perfectly legal move meant that Massa had generously “taken one for the team” as the saying goes, allowing Alonso to start one place higher up and from the clean side of the grid, which was bound to be a big advantage on this new and very slippery track surface (throughout the weekend teams found that the left-hand side of the grid had poor levels of grip).
Vettel, in his 100th GP, sill finished in second, which meant his lead in the Drivers’ Championship stretched a little further. The second place finish also meant that his Red Bull Racing team was awarded the title for the 2012 Constructors’ Championship.
The tussle between Hamilton and Vettel was just as thrilling as Alonso's climb. After starting the race from pole position, Vettel controlled proceedings deep into his second stint but when he hit traffic on lap 42 he was passed by Hamilton and was forced to settle for second place. Behind the leaders, Red Bull Racing's other driver, Mark Webber, was in trouble, an alternator problem ending his race after 16 laps.
More highlights came from Massa, however, who managed to claw his way up to fourth place, despite his initial penalty, and plenty of entertainment came from the duel for fifth as McLaren’s Jenson Button was doing all he could to pass Lotus’ Kimi Räikkönen, running wheel to wheel and nose to tail for lap after lap, until 45, when the Brit finally managed to pass the Finn.
Rounding out the top ten were Lotus’ Romain Grosjean in seventh, Force-India’s Nico Hulkenberg in eighth, Williams’ Pastor Maldonado in ninth, and Williams’ Bruno Senna the last of the points earners.
Going into next weekend’s Brazilian Grand Prix at Sao Paulo, Sebastian Vettel leads the Drivers’ Championship with 273 points, followed by Fernando Alonso on 260 points and Kimi Räikkönen on 206 points.
In the Constructors’ Championship, Red Bull Racing has 440 points and the 2012 title in its hands, while Ferrari sits on 367 points, which is just ahead of McLaren’s 353.