United States Grand Prix – Mercedes AMG’s Lewis Hamilton took a comfortable win at the Circuit of the Americas to finish some 4.5 seconds ahead of his teammate Nico Rosberg. Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo finished in third place with Sebastian Vettel finishing fourth for Ferrari.
As the lights went out, Hamilton retained the lead, while Ricciardo managed to jump Rosberg at the start as the German driver was squeezed at the kerb. It was a relatively clean start with only Williams’ Valterri Bottas and Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg clattering together at Turn 1. Hulkenberg had to retire from the race due to trackrod damage.
In what was a nightmare start to the race for Force India, Sergio Perez was shunted by Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kvyat during the first lap; both managed to keep going – Kvyat received a 10-second penalty for the accident.
On Lap 8, Ricciardo and Raikkonen pitted to remove their SuperSoft tyres and fit the Softs in an attempt to benefit from the undercut to challenge the Mercedes drivers.
Max Verstappen pitted on Lap 10, despite his Soft tyres supposedly granting longevity over the SuperSofts, while Mercedes responded to the early pitstops as Rosberg pitted on Lap 11. The German chose a set of the Medium tyres playing “the long game”.
Leader Hamilton came in on Lap 12 from a comfortable lead where he was lapping in the 1.44’s. He rejoined in the lead just ahead of Daniel Ricciardo, who had stayed ahead of Rosberg through the pitstop phase. Ferrari’s Vettel managed to keep his SuperSoft tyres on the longest and pitted on Lap 15.
Verstappen was a man on the move, passing Raikkonen shortly after pitting to move up to P4 and demoting the Finn. He was able to close down the leaders quickly, catching up Rosberg in P3 getting into DRS range.
McLaren’s Jenson Button managed to pass Daniil Kvyat on Lap 21 in a hard fought battle to get into the final points paying positions. Kvyat pitted a lap later to serve his penalty and fitted the Medium tyres.
At the mid-race point, Hamilton lead Ricciardo by seven seconds with Rosberg hanging on, just 3 seconds further behind. Verstappen was threatening behind with the two Ferraris fighting each other over fourth and fifth.
Raikkonen pitted on Lap 25, releasing Vettel. It was the SuperSoft option for the Finn, unusually. This would mean a guaranteed third pitstop with half of the race remaining, and Raikkonen came back out just ahead of Felipe Massa in P6.
Ricciardo pitted on L26 fitting the Medium tyres, and it looked like the Asutralian would get to the end on the more robust compound. Moments later, there was consternation at Red Bull as Verstappen pitted on Lap 27, to the total surprise of the team. They scrambled to get his Medium tyres ready but he rejoined the race way down in P7 and had it all to do. He admitted over the radio that he thought the team had called him in.
On Lap 30, Vettel pitted from P3 whilst Verstappen was circulating slowly on track complaining of something “hitting the engine”. He stopped out on track, bringing out the Virtual Safety Car due to his car failing to engage neutral and holding up the recovery of his car.
The VSC was the perfect opportunity for Hamilton to pit from the lead, some 16 seconds ahead of his teammate in second. Rosberg pitted for a fresh set of Medium tyres after Hamilton, which played perfectly into the hands of Mercedes. However, this negated the brewing strategy battle between the pair, with Rosberg forced to run the Medium tyre to make the end, rather than the more likely Soft tyre strategy.
When the VSC period was cancelled, Ricciardo was just under 3 seconds behind Rosberg’s Mercedes and was being urged to push from his engineer.
Riccardo couldn’t hold onto Rosberg, as Raikkonen in P4 started to make gains on the final podium position, using his SuperSoft tyres. Raikkonen pitted again on Lap 39, taking on Soft tyres on Lap 39 but stopped at the end of the pitlane with a wheelgun was still attached to his car. The Finn started to roll back towards the pitlane again but he retired from the race, climbing out of his car in what was a bizarre retirement. He and Ferrari was placed under investigation for an unsafe release.
In the closing stages, a major squabble emerged between Toro Rosso’s Carlos Sainz, Williams’ Felipe Massa & Mclaren’s Fernando Alonso who were P5, P6 & P7 respectively. On Lap 52, Alonso managed to barge his way past Massa’s Williams making contact briefly – an incident that will be investigated after the race. Alonso was on a charge to try to overtake Sainz whilst Massa had a puncture from the incident with the McLaren. Alonso managed to pass the Toro Rosso on the final lap – diving down the inside of Sainz before locking up and going off-road. He managed to hold onto the position and finished P5.
Lewis Hamilton came home to win ahead of Rosberg, closing the points gap down to 26 points with three races remaining. Ricciardo completed the podium, ahead of Sebastian Vettel. Ferrari opted to pit Vettel with just three laps to go, having enough of a gap over the cars behind to be able to stop without losing position.
Sainz finished P6, while Massa finished P7 despite his late race puncture. Sergio Perez finished P8, having recovered well from being spun around on the opening lap. Jenson Button finished P9, jumping up from his lowly starting position to give Mclaren a double points finish.
Haas, racing as the first American team on home soil since 1986, claimed a point with Romain Grosjean coming home P10.