Lewis Hamilton Locks Down Sixth F1 Title as Valtteri Bottas Wins United States Grand Prix
Both Mercedes-AMG drivers dodged first-lap troubles to achieve another historic one-two finish in Texas.
Mercedes-AMG Formula 1 driver Valtteri Bottas trounced his teammate Lewis Hamilton in Austin, Texas to take the seventh Grand Prix win of his career. However, it was Hamilton who collected yet another Drivers’ Championship, marking the sixth of the Brit’s career.
Bottas stormed from the starting grid better than rival Sebastian Vettel, and escaped a crowded turn one that saw Charles Leclerc push Carlos Sainz and Alexander Albon wide over the bumps at the corner's exit.
As Albon limped back to the pits with minor damage, Hamilton picked his way through the frontrunners, including Leclerc and Vettel, the latter of whom fell to fifth after struggling to find front grip, then sixth after a sharp overtake by Daniel Ricciardo on lap two. Vettel's suffering, however was short-lived; his rear suspension broke of its own accord on lap eight at the esses' exit, and he parked the car to the side of the back straight. Yellow flags waved, but no Safety Car—Virtual or otherwise—came into play.
Within another few laps, Hamilton closed on Max Verstappen, whom he chased as Leclerc was instructed to avoid the curb that had seemingly ruined Vettel's Ferrari. This pursuit came to an end on lap 13 when Verstappen stopped for hard tires, freeing up Hamilton and forcing Mercedes to copy Red Bull's move a lap later by pitting race leader Bottas. The Finn returned to the track a fraction of a second ahead of Verstappen, and quickly built a gap to his Dutch challenger.
Hamilton snubbed a call to box on lap 23 to stay out, potentially to back up his teammate, though DRS along the back straight guaranteed Bottas' pass. Hamilton gave up on the chase and boxed for hard tires, giving Verstappen the provisional second place for another 10 laps until the Red Bull man made his second of two stops. Again, Bottas mimicked his Honda-powered pursuer and slipped in for new medium tires a lap later, though this time he emerged with a comfortable buffer between himself and Verstappen...but traffic between him and Hamilton.
Bottas closed on Hamilton with only a few laps to go, and after Hamilton had a small lockup going into the second hairpin on lap 51, an overtake looked to be on the table. The Finn used DRS to get alongside Hamilton on the back straight, but was pushed off in the next corner by the hard-defending No. 44. Bottas got a second chance at the move the following lap and slipped past Hamilton on the back straight using DRS to take a lead he wouldn't relinquish.
Verstappen too drew close to Hamilton, but when Kevin Magnussen beached his Haas after a brake failure on the back straight, yellow flags ruled out an overtake.
Bottas' win at Circuit of the Americas was his first at the venue, and the seventh of his career. Hamilton's second place secured him a sixth career Drivers' Championship victory, his third consecutive, to which he wept in the car on the cool-down lap. Albon, who stormed back to fifth after falling to last after his first-lap incident, was voted Driver of the Day. Leclerc recorded the race's fastest lap.
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