Lewis Hamilton took the 50th win of his career and equaled Michael Schumacher’s record of five US Grand Prix victories with a controlled drive to the flag at the Circuit of the Americas. The Briton finished 4.5s ahead of Mercedes team-mate and title rival Nico Rosberg, while Daniel Ricciardo took third place for Red Bull Racing.
At the start, Hamilton made a solid getaway to take the race lead. Rosberg went wide on the right to put pressure on his team-mate and that allowed the fast-starting Ricciardo to pull alongside the German on the inside of Turn One. Ricciardo’s line gave him the advantage through the next corners and he moved into second ahead of Rosberg.
Behind them, Raikkonen passed Max Verstappen at the start with the Dutchman slipping to fifth ahead of the second Ferrari of Sebastian Vettel.
Nico Hulkenberg though was going backwards. The Force India driver started in seventh position but in Turn One he was involved in a collision with the Williams of Valtteri Bottas. The German was sent into a spin and dropped to the rear of the field. He limped back to the pits and was forced to retire from the race. Bottas sustained a puncture. He too pitted and rejoined at the back of the order.
The first stint saw Hamilton begin to build a gap to Ricciardo and by the time the leaders had for the time first cycled through the pits for new tyres, the defending champion had carved out a five-second advantage to the Red Bull man.
While the bulk of the top 10 shed starting supersofts for soft compound tyres in the opening stops, Rosberg, in third, chose a different strategy. The German took on medium tyres and settled in to play a longer game.
Verstappen, meanwhile, was on a march. The Dutchman passed Raikkonen in the first round of stops and then set some blisteringly quick laps to close the gap to Rosberg. The Dutchman was warned to keep an eye on tyre life, however, and after initially insisting “I’m not here to finish fourth”, he settled back into a steady rhythm two seconds behind the championship leader.
Verstappen came unstuck in his second stop, however. The Dutchman headed for the pits on lap 27 in the belief that the team wanted him to box. There had been no such call, however, and the Red Bull crew had to react rapidly as Verstappen approached. They managed the pit stop in nine seconds but the delay dropped the Red Bull driver to P9. Moments later he slowed drastically and reported that something was “hitting in the engine”. He tried to limp the car back to the pit lane but he was forced to pull over and retire.
That brought out the Virtual Safety Car, under which both Mercedes drivers made a pit stop. Hamilton and Rosberg took on medium tyres and rejoined in P1 and P2 respectively, with Ricciardo now third ahead of Raikkonen, Vettel, Toro Rosso’s Carlos Sainz and Williams’ Felipe Massa. Fernando Alonso was eighth for McLaren ahead of Force India’s Sergio Perez and the second McLaren of Jenson Button.
Raikkonen was the next to fall foul of a bungled stop. When the Finn made his third stop, from fourth place, the Ferrari crew failed to attach the rear left correctly and Raikkonen had to pull over at the pit exit. He then reversed down the pit lane, stopped the car and retired from the race.
The race then settled into a steady groove and with five laps remaining Hamilton led Rosberg by 6.6s with Ricciardo a further seven seconds behind. Vettel was fourth ahead of Sainz, who was managing a gap to Williams’ Felipe Massa and Fernando Alonso. Sergio Perez was eighth for Force India and the final points positions were occupied by Jenson Button in the second McLaren and Haas’ Romain Grosjean.
Alonso wasn’t willing to settle though and on lap 52 he attempted a bold move on Massa. The pair banged wheels and went off track but the Spaniard rejoined in front of the Williams. The move, though, would be investigated after the race. Alonso then chased down Sainz and on the final lap of the race the McLaren driver muscled past his countryman to take fifth place.
And that was how the race ended, with Hamilton taking the 50th win of his career, 4.5s ahead of Rosberg. Ricciardo took third ahead of Vettel and the excellent Alonso. Sainz finished with his best result since Spain earlier this year. Massa, who also suffered a puncture in the clash with Alonso, clung on to seventh place ahead of Perez, Button and Grosjean.