Hamilton snatches victory from Vettel in the USA

2012 United States Grand Prix review

Lewis Hamilton, McLaren, Circuit of the Americas, 2012Lewis Hamilton won the United States Grand Prix for the second time in his career after passing Sebastian Vettel to take victory.

The driver who won the last United States Grand Prix in 2007 overtook both Red Bull drivers during the course of the race to repeat his victory.

Vettel finished a close second, almost 40 seconds ahead of his third-placed championship rival Fernando Alonso.

Ferrari tactics pay off at start

Much discussion before the race concerned the tactics of Ferrari, who sacrificed Felipe Massa’s qualifying position of sixth to aid Alonso. By breaking the seal on his gearbox, which did not need changing, they automatically incurred a five-place penalty.

That dropped Massa to eleventh on the grid and moved Alonso up to seventh but, more significantly, switched him onto the cleaner side of the track.

When the race got started the worst predictions of how gripless the left-hand side of the track would be proved wide of the mark. But even so those in the even-numbered spots had a hard time accelerating away.

Second-placed Hamilton suffered from it, dropping behind Mark Webber. From fourth Kimi Raikkonen fell back into the pack while Alonso sprinted through to take his place from seventh.

But Alonso had to watch Hamilton pull away in the opening laps. The McLaren was soon replaced in his vision by the Red Bull of Webber. Hamilton got past on lap three initially but ran wide, then came back on the next lap to make the move stick.

Schumacher slips back

The battle in the midfield was frantic on the slippery surface at the recently-completed Circuit of the Americas. Having qualified fifth, Schumacher reversed quickly out of the points, his situation not helped by his team being unable to accurately detect the temperature of his front tyres.

Nico Hulkenberg was first to pass the Mercedes, followed shortly by Romain Grosjean. The Lotus driver had strong pace and was soon on Hulkenberg’s tail, only to spin off at turn 19. His tyres now coated in dust, Grosjean lost more places when he returned to the track and eventually opted to make an early pit stop to make up places.

Schumacher’s descent continued as he was picked off by Raikkonen and Paul di Resta. Massa was next to pass him, followed by Jenson Button.

Button had slipped back further from his starting position of 12th and took several laps to come out on top of a spirited battle with Pastor Maldonado. He caught Schumacher on the run to turn one and dived to the inside as the Mercedes driver squeezed him hard.

Webber drops out

Grosjean’s climb back through the field eventually prompted Force India to bring Hulkenberg in. He had already been passed by Raikkonen and his pit stop elevated Massa as well. At this point Alonso was losing time to his team mate and the Lotus, who were cutting up to a second per lap out of his advantage.

The situation turned to Alonso’s advantage when Webber’s car came to a stop on lap 17. It was the dreaded alternator once again – and that gave cause for concern for Vettel’s car as well.

That moved Alonso up to third but only briefly as he was soon into the pits. A slow right-rear tyre change put him at risk of falling behind Raikkonen, who continued to produce rapid times as Alonso struggled to get his tyres up to temperature after his stop.

But Lotus’s tyre change for Raikkonen wasn’t quick either, and he left the pits close behind Alonso. Ferrari took advantage of that, with a clean stop for Massa bringing him out in front of the Lotus.

This battle was now tangled up with otherdrivers who were yet to stop. Daniel Ricciardo passed Raikkonen and Massa, and then Raikkonen took the Ferrari as well. After Ricciardo pitted Massa closed on Raikkonen again and took fourth of the Lotus driver, who was not as quick in his second stint.

Button stayed out on his hard tyres until lap 36 before yielding third to Alonso. He recovered quickly after his pit stop, springing an opportunitistic move on Grosjean and then tackling Raikkonen for fifth on the outside of turn 12. But his hopes of going after the Ferraris were scuppered by a KERS problem.

Hamilton versus Vettel

At the front of the field there was only one car left for the other McLaren to pass. Hamilton closed on Vettel during the front stint and was poised to strike in the DRS zone, but dropped back as his tyres faded.

He came on strong again in the second stint but struggled to stay close enough to Vettel in the flowing turns three to ten to make a move stick.

That changed on lap 42 when Vettel caught the lapped HRT of Narain Karthikeyan. Hamilton came out of turn nine right on Vettel’s tail and the change of position in the DRS zone looked inevitable before they got there.

Vettel made him work for it, moving left then ducking right at the last minute, giving Hamilton little margin for error even with the championship on the line. A furious Vettel came on the radio to complain about Karthikeyan as Hamilton edged away.

By the chequered flag Alonso was 38 seconds behind the leading pair. The other Ferrari of Massa was well clear of Button, followed by the Lotuses and Hulkenberg.

The Williams drivers completed the points, Maldonado passing Bruno Senna in the dying stages. Sergio Perez came in 11th followed by Ricciardo and Nico Rosberg.

The other Mercedes of Michael Schumacher slumped to 16th behind Kamui Kobayashi and Di Resta.

Having started behind the Marussias the Caterham drivers came home ahead, Vitaly Petrov followed by Heikki Kovalainen, with Timo Glock and Charles Pic behind them. The stewards investigated an incident between Kovalainen and Glock but ruled that neither driver had transgressed. Despite their trials in practice both HRT drivers finished in 21st and 22nd.

Drivers’ title goes down to the final round

Red Bull’s fears that Vettel’s alternator would also fail proved unfounded and nor did Hamilton suffer a repeat of his Abu Dhabi retirement. He delivered a victory for McLaren in his penultimate race for them which moves him back up to fourth in the championship.

Vettel was plainly disappointed at only adding three points to his lead over Alonso. “Good job boys. Great stop, great race. We did everything we could. The only mistake we made was not in our hands.” Told the team had won the constructors’ championship, Vettel added his congratulations and urged them to “be happy” despite an otherwise disappointing race.

But there remains one championship to be decided and that will come down to the final race. Vettel heads Alonso by 13 points heading into the final round and both of them believe they can win it.

2012 United States Grand Prix

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Image ?? McLaren/Hoch Zwei

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143 comments on Hamilton snatches victory from Vettel in the USA

  1. JohnBt (@johnbt) said on 19th November 2012, 6:57

    With or without Karthikeyan, Lewis would have overtaken Vettel if you have followed live timing, it was so obvious. And Hamilton drove a very good race. Alonso gave Lewis a tap on his arm before the podium ceremony like, “Hey thanks for that mate, I appreciate it”.

    • Cosmas (@cosmas) said on 19th November 2012, 8:22

      Numbers show the opposite. If you see the history chart of the race you will notice that when they crossed the line completing the 40th lap the gap was smaller yet Lewis couldn’t make the move , in the next lap although the gap grow but due to karthikeyan he managed the move. So according to this, i don’t thing that this pass was inevitability or to be taken for granted.
      Another indication showing this was not an easy task is looking at the sector times . Vettel’s middle sector (where the drs zone is) was 0.3 s faster , that’s a huge gap.
      As for the tap….. is nice to have somebody else doing the job for you, isn’t it?

    • Jason (@jason12) said on 19th November 2012, 12:18

      Karthikeyan was responsible for Lewis closing the gap in the first place :D

  2. Neel Jani (@neelv27) said on 19th November 2012, 7:50

    At the end of the day, we really cannot blame Vettel at venting out his anger at the back marker. When you are in the midst of a tight battle, a back marker can really ruin your day although no fault of the back marker as well, after all the back marker is driving his own race.

    Even the best “mature” driver have done that. How many times have we seen Alonso gesticulating at back markers and saying on the radio. Even the great Senna puched Irvine. It’s natural and we must not cook a story out of it to make a meal of Vettel.

    • TMF (@tmf42) said on 19th November 2012, 21:49

      Agree, but I think Karthikeyan should use this as constructive criticism too – he interfered at least 6 times this year and his accident with Rosberg shows that he hasn’t the overview during a race.
      The other guys obviously handled it much better and even DiResta sacrificed 5 seconds just to let Lewis and Seb pass.

  3. Martin (@aardvark) said on 19th November 2012, 8:01

    How was Hamilton’s pit stop? 2.4 sec. The slickest thing I’ve ever seen. Blink and you miss it.

    If they ever award a POTY (Pitstop Of The Year), that’s my nomination.

    • gwenouille (@gwenouille) said on 19th November 2012, 10:38

      Yes, that was incredible. If i remember correctly, they did a 2.3 sec earlier this season, i think it was Button that time but i can’t remember where…
      ALO’s pitstop was extremely poor by comparison.

    • bosyber (@bosyber) said on 19th November 2012, 14:10

      The pitstop – was it in India? – where they also switched HAM’s steering wheel over was pretty amazing too. McLaren definitely win the “most improved pitstops of the year” award, for whatever that’s worth (I guess it validates Sam Michael joining, his detractors not withstanding).

  4. mole (@mole) said on 19th November 2012, 8:18

    Anyone know who arranged the filming for this race? I thought the shot selection was really brilliant (refreshing to see a good one, as we seem to have average or poor ones really). They focussed on pretty much every car, and seemed like the was an overtake in every shot for the first half of the race at least – I know that’s down to the bad warm up on the tyres, but still credit to the Director for catching them all.

    Canada ’10 was the inspiration for the wearing Pirellis, Austin ’12 could be the inspiration for slow-warming tyres a few years down the line?

    • JP (@jp1987) said on 19th November 2012, 10:41

      I agree, the helicopter shots were amazing. Probably the best shot together with that of Silverstone that follows the cars on the back straight I think. I think the show was diminished due to Pirelli’s bad choice of tyres, but this track has promise. I hope it stays in the calendar for a while.

  5. gilles (@gilles) said on 19th November 2012, 10:57

    Bernie Ecclestone presents.
    Austin GP pictures production.
    Sebastian Vettel
    Narain Karthikeyen
    Lewis Hamilton
    and
    guest starring Fernando Alonso
    in
    “Revenge of the Cucumber”
    directed by Charlie Whiting

  6. Estesark (@estesark) said on 19th November 2012, 11:00

    I think everyone feels that this race was a success. I certainly got that impression when watching. The track’s not perfect, but I can’t think of a better addition to the calendar in recent years.

    Here is one statistic that I thought was important when trying to consider the success (or otherwise) of the race objectively. Sunday’s race drew a crowd of over 117,000 people. At almost the same time, the NASCAR final in Miami was attended by just 76,000. I know that the track in Austin is a lot bigger and can therefore fit in more people, but still, I think that shows just how fertile American soil is for F1.

  7. William Brierty said on 19th November 2012, 11:19

    I am sensing a mood. I think people are saying without Karthikeyan in sector 1, Lewis wouldn’t have won, which is true due to the relatively equal performance of the cars and Lewis’ short 7th gear. However, you can’t detract anything from Hamilton’s performance, and the win was not luck, as the 3rd for Vettel in Abu Dhabi. Hamilton was presented with one opportunity that race, and he decisively took it. That’s not luck, that’s skill.

    • Cosmas (@cosmas) said on 19th November 2012, 12:15

      You are absolutely right, well deserved victory for the reasons you wright… and the same applies for Vettel success in Abu shabi.
      Vettel, in his credit, was the first to acknowledge that, applauding him at the finish line despite his bitterness loosing 7 extra points to Alonso.
      Speculating if this or that had happened don’t prove anything and don’t lead to any conclusion.

    • Jason (@jason12) said on 19th November 2012, 12:24

      Karthikeyan had nothing to do with Lewis closing the 2.6s gap.

      • Cosmas (@cosmas) said on 19th November 2012, 12:42

        the same gap closed earlier too but then it opened again…so the first time the outcome was different.

        • Jason (@jason12) said on 19th November 2012, 12:59

          @cosmas
          If Seb purposefully allowed Lewis to close in on him (a risky strategy to say the least), knowing there’ll be traffic ahead, then we can hardly blame Karthikeyan.

          • Cosmas (@cosmas) said on 19th November 2012, 13:53

            @jason12
            I didn’t say he deliberately did that.Its another thing closing a gap and another thing being able to overtake. Previous laps and timing support this view. Maybe he would did it anyway , maybe if Karthikeyan weren’t there Vettel outbraked a few laps later and loose the lead because of a mistake . A lot of maybe’s.
            The only fact is the timing data , and that data show’s that Vettel was 3/10 faster in Sector 2 , meaning that it was difficult for Hamilton to make the pass in normal conditions even with his >6km top speed advantage. Contrary Ham was faster in S1 , that’s why neither of them could open a safe gap over the other. Each was faster in different sectors but altogether evenly matched over a lap.

  8. Great win for the Hamster! Helped by Narain no doubt but if you watched the interview sky did with him after, he said he could see Karthikeyan was up front and he’d have a chance that lap so he turned the engine up and made sure he was close through sector 1 ready for the DRS. Plus through most of the race in the first sector Lewis was gaining chunks of time through the Esses on Vettel.

    I thought it was brilliant win, all weekend Vettel looked to ahve it in the abg but Hamilton got past Webber and Vettel to win. Great stuff. And I will reiterate what someone said earlier on this article, that’s the kind of win I don’t think Button can produce. I bet Ross Brawn enjoyed it!

    Interesting interview with Ron Dennis from sky too, he said he wasn’t bitter about Lewis leaving…looked like he’d just bitten into a lemon if you ask me though!

    Let’s all prey for rain in Brazil, what a showdown that would be!

  9. TMF (@tmf42) said on 19th November 2012, 13:02

    Awesome race. Hamilton and Vettel went 54 quali laps chasing each other. Alonso made the most of Massa’s sacrifice. Massa, Button came flying from the back and the rest pulled some great moves. too bad for Webber though.

    Anyway, that was pure racing and didn’t need crashes, saftey cars or many pit stops to make it interesting.

  10. Alonso THE Great said on 19th November 2012, 13:40

    Classic drive lewis. Fantastic effort

    Vettel showed his sulky face again, karthikeyan did nothing wrong

  11. MNM101 (@mnm101) said on 19th November 2012, 15:55

    i think we saw the battle of the season between Seb and Lewis, and IMO they are the two fastest drivers in F1, with nothing to choose between them. Seb kept Lewis at bay when he was ahead, and Lewis did the same afterwards. and to see 2 drivers put in a race length of qualifying laps in equally matched cars was amazing. true World Champions and true Greats.
    and please everyone stop judging drivers by radio messages, in the heat of battle you need to vent, and no one can blame you, so move on…
    Seb deserves this WDC as he fought season long for it and earned it.

  12. Great race, I absolutely loved it. Great to see a true battle between Hamilton and Vettel, both are amazing drivers. A bit unfortunate to have Karthikeyan as a factor in Hamilton`s overtake, would have been better if the two had settled the matter without Karthikeyan. But that`s motor racing for you, sometimes you get lucky, sometimes you don`t.

    That McLaren really is fastnd has been so for most of the season), it almost looked like it was on rails for much of the lap. The Red Bull had to use a lot more track than the McLaren but seemed to have a little bit more grip out of turns. There was really not much between the two cars or drivers. Absolute World Class..

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