Lewis Hamilton has been crowned the 2015 Formula 1 World Champion after winning todays US Grand Prix. Nico Rosberg finished second, and Sebastien Vettel third.
The now three-time World Champion took the honours in what was an action packed race from lights to flag. Initially it was all about the Intermediate tyres; Red Bull seemed to be working more heat into them than Mercedes which allowed Ricciardo and Kvyat to challenge for the lead early on.
The two teams diced for position, with Kvyat challenging for the lead of the race at one point after a Virtual Safety Car for debris on the circuit from opening lap incidents put him in a good place to overtake Rosberg and onto the back of Hamilton.
Too hot into the final corner however made him run wide and off the circuit, which demoted him to fourth as Rosberg and Ricciardo made their way back through. Next up Ricciardo, who saved his Intermediate tyres challenged the Mercedes for second, then found himself within DRS range of Hamilton for the lead of the race. The Red Bull driver made swift work of the Silver Arrow, although it wasn’t without some defensive moves from Hamilton heading into the final sector.
Before long it looked like the Intermediate tyre was starting to become second hand, but with drivers further down the field switching to the dry tyres and finding they were 10 seconds slower per sector, it looked like it was still the favoured race tyre. Pitting for a new set however would mean a loss of track position, and so a fascinating situation emerged where those who saved their tyres in the opening laps were able to extract more lap time and match the times being set by the Slick runners when it eventually reached the crossover point.
Hamilton was first to blink of the leaders after being passed by Rosberg, with the rest staying out for an extra lap. This turned out to be the right call, as Kvyat emerged ahead of the Englishman on fresher rubber. With slightly more experience Hamilton was able to pull a move on Kvyat within the next couple of laps using DRS, just as his teammate Rosberg overtook Ricciardo again for the lead.
As this went on it was all kicking off in the midfield. After pitting with Sainz and co. in the bottom end of the top ten, Kimi Raikkonen brought out the double yellows at turn 6 after losing his SF15-T on a damp patch and taking a trip across the gravel, before finding the barrier. The Fin’s front wing only appeared to be damage though and was caught in the advertising banner, which prompted a rally car style attempt to fight his way out, before rejoining to pit for a new nose. A couple of laps later Ferrari told him to “box to retire the car” after he damaged his front brake duct during his excursion, which led to an increase in front brake temperature.
Also having to retire with brake duct problems was Felipe Massa, who made contact with Fernando Alonso at the start as did Romain Grosjean who was also caught up in that melee of cars.
At this stage the Safety Car came out for the stricken Sauber of Marcus Ericsson, who stopped at the exit of turn 11. This prompted a number of drivers to pit for new Slicks, including Sebastien Vettel who went for the Medium tyre in an attempt to go to the end. Ricciardo and Hulkenberg also pitted, which put them near each other at the restart.
The pair diced for position in the next couple of laps, before Hulk made his DRS assisted move into the heavy braking zone of turn 12. A damaged front wing and slippery conditions however meant he shoved his Force India right into the side of Ricciardo’s Red Bull, taking out the left front suspension and causing another Virtual Safety Car period as the marshals recovered his stricken car.
Red Bull doubled stacked their drivers at this point, as Mercedes pitted Rosberg to cover off Vettel. Hamilton however stayed out, and found himself on second-hand tyres as the Virtual Safety Car ended. The concerned tone over the team radio prompted us to believe Hamilton had to stop again if he wanted to win the race, but a five second gap to Rosberg and Vettel meant he would lose track position if he pitted now, falling back to as low as eighth place – right in the middle of a scrap between the two Toro Rosso’s and McLaren drivers.
Before we could even see this play out though, another Safety Car appeared after Daniil Kvyat lost his RB11 on the exit of the penultimate corner, and slammed straight into the barriers. It was a hard hit, but the Russian emerged unscaved, and crucially gave Mercedes the break they needed as Ferrari also pitted Vettel for Soft tyres.
This meant it was Rosberg from Hamilton, Verstappen, and Vettel at the restart. The Ferrari driver made swift work of the Toro Rosso, but up front Rosberg appeared slow out of the final couple of corners, which allowed Hamilton through into the lead and into championship winning contention.
The replays show Rosberg appeared to have wheel-spinned on the exit of turn 16, which half spun his car to the inside of the circuit and put him off track, losing momentum and gifting Hamilton the lead. From then on it looked like was a case of cruising to victory for Hamilton, but in the final two laps Vettel mounted a challenge onto Rosberg which had us on the edge until the chequered flag, as crucially it meant the title would continue onto the next round.
But Rosberg held off the scarlet red car, and with it allowed Lewis Hamilton to take victory – not just in Austin but as champion of the world for the second consecutive year!
Further back Verstappen finished a credible fourth place, ahead of Sergio Perez who was passed by Carlos Sainz on the penultimate lap. Jenson Button managed a top ten finish for McHonda, which could have been a double top ten had Alonso not started to lose power in his car during the final few laps.
Felipe Nasr finished a credible eighth place, whilst Pastor Maldonado stayed out of trouble during the midfield dramas to finish seventh. Daniel Ricciardo rounded out the top ten, whilst homeboy Alexander Rossi finished in 11th place.