Hamilton poised for coronation after Texan masterclass
Lewis Hamilton took one look at Sebastian Vettel and decided, in the finest Texan tradition, that this town was not big enough for the both of them. No wonder he wore a stetson as he leapt atop the podium.
Ever since the United States Grand Prix moved to Austin in 2012, he has been the fastest draw in the West, winning five of six races, but few were so cathartic or precious as this. Surging 66 points clear of Vettel with 75 left to play for, Hamilton is now close enough to a fourth world title to taste it.
The formal investiture will take place, in all likelihood, in Mexico City next Sunday, after Hamilton delivered another foot-to-the-floor masterclass to remove any vestige of doubt about where this championship is heading.
Vettel was cussed as always, overtaking Hamilton on the opening lap, but the balance of power was restored moments later as the man of the hour pulled off a sumptuous pass as Ferrari's bungled two-stop strategy meant Vettel fell to fourth.
As Hamilton dominated, a flustered Vettel did all he could to repair the damage, sweeping past Valtteri Bottas, while Kimi Raikkonen moved out of the way like a dutiful No 2 driver.
Team orders never make for an edifying spectacle, but in this case it was all Ferrari could do to keep the title duel alive. Had Vettel lost just another couple of places, the points deficit would have become irretrievable. As it is, Hamilton's coronation is not if, but when.
Hamilton's mother, Carmen, and his brother, Nicolas, were both trackside in Austin to savour this latest demolition act. They would be well-advised to book their hotels for Mexico, where the party can begin in earnest.
Only a Hamilton retirement - and he has not exited a race prematurely since Malaysia 2016 - can delay the glory now. "I feel amazing," he said. "This was a beautiful day. I think this is now my favourite track. It's a dream job, the best feeling in the world."
One battle was resolved, at any rate, as Mercedes secured the constructors' title for a fourth consecutive year.
For now Hamilton can breathe in the rarefied air of one who will soon have won four World titles. Only Juan Manuel Fangio, Michael Schumacher, Alain Prost, and Vettel, who stood resignedly beside him on the podium, have ever accomplished such a distinction. Few could doubt that Hamilton has earned it.
He has been irresistible since F1's mid-season break, reeling off five wins in six to ensure a 91-point swing of the pendulum from Vettel, who had led by 25.
Yes, he has the best car, but so does Bottas, who trailed in fifth last night. Hamilton is, indisputably, F1's alpha male. In Mexico, he can be centre stage at his own carnival. (© The Daily Telegraph, London)