Valtteri Bottas held off his teammate Lewis Hamilton to take victory in the United States Grand Prix, but it wasn’t enough to stop his Mercedes teammate from claiming his sixth world title.
Bottas made a brilliant start of the line getting alongside Verstappen, from third on the grid to get alongside P2 starter Vettel and then claim his second place. Bottas’ slowish formation lap round to the start, in fact, seemed to have hit the Scuderia runners hard, with both Vettel and Leclerc making poor getaways.
Hamilton neatly avoided any touching at Turn 1 to slot into fourth behind Vettel, while behind Albon found himself squeezed into the path of Sainz, the two making contact that forced Albon’s Red Bull up into the air.
Hamilton only needed eighth place to claim his sixth title, launching himself into the top two from fifth with a very long opening stint. But, the world champion refused to play it safe by using a different strategy to try and retain his title with a victory.
“Still we rise, still we rise,” said a jubilant Hamilton over team radio. Hamilton’s title is his third in a row and his fifth since 2014. The champion jumped the Ferrari’s at the start, before being the only one of the top five to run a one-stop strategy.
He then maintained his lead from the first lap after charging through the field to second in the first sector, sweeping around the outside of Turn Eight to get the inside line into tighter left-hander of Turn 9.
Once in third, Hamilton slowly started to build pressure on Verstappen, who had picked up minor front wing damage at the first corner. He knew that the victory wasn’t his but still fought the Dutchman as hard as ever and knew he could have yielded position and still won the title, too easy for him.
As he crossed the line, he told his team, “What an incredible weekend. Thank you so much guys for today, and to everyone who came out. I can’t believe it. I really can’t believe it.” His next task, equalling Michela Schumacher on seven, a day when history was made.
Verstappen passed Sebastian Vettel around the outside of Turn 1 at the start and though he backed off as race leader Bottas moved wide on the exit, there was a tiny amount of contact.
Verstappen finished the race third using the same strategy as Bottas, that gave him the upper hand as Hamilton stayed on the one-stop. The tyre management proved key as he was able to run a single-stop race, but that arguably cost him the win.
Verstappen added, “Very impressive. what else to say? He is doing phenomenally. He has a great team behind him. I just hope we can challenge them next year.”
The Dutchman fought just as hard against Hamilton, but the six time champion refused to play it safe. Meanwhile, the expected threat from Ferrari never materialised Vettel was forced to retire early on as he dropped from second to seventh in eight laps, after a left-rear suspension failure early on.
Charles Leclerc also struggled he did take the fastest lap, but never appeared to have the pace to challenge the Mercedes and Verstappen. The Monacan finishing fifty-two seconds behind Bottas, his race also hindered by a slow pit stop.
Alex Albon recovered from damage on the opening lap with Carlos Sainz, the Red Bull was squeezed between Leclerc and the McLaren. The British Thai driver was forced to recover from the back, charged back through with two strong stints.
Daniel Ricciardo finished sixth for Renault after overhauling the two McLarens. Lando Norris had a later second stop that allowed him to pick off his midfield rivals and clinch seventh. That put him ahead of his teammate Carlos Sainz.
Nico Hulkenberg was ninth ahead of Daniil Kvyat. The Toro Rosso passed Sergio Perez for the final point on the last lap. However, Kvyat has been dropped to twelfth for a collision with the Mexican, five-second time penalty as the race finished for the second race in a row.
Kvyat made contact with Perez while they fought for tenth position in the closing stages. Both the Haas’s failed to finish the teams home race in the points, Romain Grosjean fifteenth while a brake failure saw Kevin Magnussen retire with a brake failure.