Hamilton denies Vettel dream American finish
They like their stars in this part of the world and they don't come much bigger than Lewis Hamilton. Formula One's return to the promised land of the United States after an absence of five years was won by F1's great entertainer.
If anyone is going to crack this elusive market, it is the 27-year-old lover of Los Angeles with the chalet in Colorado, the Pussycat Doll girlfriend and million-dollar smile.
In a thrilling race-long battle with Red Bull's championship leader Sebastian Vettel, Hamilton prevailed by just 0.6 seconds in the final reckoning. Even Gordon Ramsey, watching on from the pits at the £250m Circuit of the Americas, would have struggled to cook up a better script.
Hamilton's victory not only proved hugely popular here in Texas, it will also delight F1's paymasters. Vettel's second place and Fernando Alonso's third, thanks partly to Ferrari's controversial decision to hand their second driver Felipe Massa a five-place grid penalty pre-race, ensured that the duel for the drivers' title goes on to the final race of the season in Brazil this weekend. The Spaniard lies just 13 points behind Vettel heading to the infamously inclement Interlagos.
Red Bull did wrap up their third straight constructors' crown here – a wonderful achievement – but it was hard to ignore the sense of disappointment in Vettel's voice as he crossed the line and told his team: "We did everything we could and we can be very happy."
How he would have loved to have wrapped up the title here rather than risk Sao Paulo's caprices. The rest of us have a treat in store, The day had begun with a classic bit of eleventh hour F1 chicanery.
Ferrari's decision to break the seal on Felipe Massa's gearbox, thereby inducing a five-place grid penalty which lifted his team-mate Alonso up to seventh and onto the clean side of the grid – a huge advantage at a new circuit which has not yet been 'rubbered in' – divided opinion between those who saw it as a reasonable exploitation of the rules, and those who saw it as against the spirit of the regulations.
After a star-spangled pre-race featuring a full-on marching band and Hollywood stars, Alonso got off to a flier and was up to that all-important fourth spot within a couple of corners. His day got even better when Mark Webber retired from third place on lap 18 with an alternator failure.
However, it was Hamilton who posed Vettel the greatest threat; the pair engaging in a thrilling race-long game of cat and mouse. Every time Hamilton closed to within a second or so of Vettel, the German would respond. From lap 35 onwards, Hamilton was within range and with a sellout crowd of 120,000 lapping up the drama, stuck limpet-like to the back of the Red Bull for lap after lap.
Hamilton's persistence was finally rewarded on lap 42 when he managed to pass Vettel down the back straight. Thereafter, their roles were reversed with Vettel the hunter and Hamilton the hunted, fending off the German, who was never able to get within DRS range. (© Daily Telegraph, London)