The Union Jack again flew high above Circuit of The Americas late Sunday afternoon, a fitting backdrop to Lewis Hamilton’s third Formula One World Driving Championship.
Hamilton’s second consecutive U.S. Grand Prix victory for Mercedes AMG Petronas clinched his second consecutive title following an unpredictable run in wet-to-dry conditions featuring teammate Nico Rosberg and four-time World Champion Sebastian Vettel of Scuderia Ferrari.
I remember my first British championship where my dad and I drove home singing
Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton
Those three shared the post-race stage with British rock legend Sir Elton John, who conducted interviews before a crowd of 101,667 that braved rain-soaked conditions for a third consecutive day. COTA officials announced a three-day attendance of 224,011, despite 28-plus consecutive hours of storms that dumped approximately 8 inches of rain on Travis County and threatened to turn the race into a regatta.
Needing to exit Texas with a nine-point lead over Vettel and a two-point advantage over Rosberg to clinch, Hamilton delivered on Lap 48 of the scheduled 56 with a pass for the lead around Rosberg that sealed his 10th win in 16 races this season.
“It’s the greatest moment of my life,” said Hamilton, 30, who has won three of four USGPs staged on COTA’s 3.427-mile/20-turn circuit. “I remember my first British championship where my dad and I drove home singing We Are the Champions — at the time of Great Britain — and you know it’s just crazy to think I’m now a three-time Formula One World Champion.”
Meanwhile, Californian Alexander Rossi finished a career-best, lead-lap 12th in his third start with Manor Marussia F1. Rossi, 24, is the first American to compete in F1 since the 2007 season.
Hamilton’s 43rd career victory broke a statistical tie with archrival Vettel in that category. Emotionally, the win allowed Hamilton to join Sir Jackie Stewart of Scotland (1969, ’71 and ’73) as only the second Brit to win three F1 titles. Hamilton also matched his boyhood hero, the late Ayrton Senna of Brazil, as triple World Champion (1988, ’90-91).
3 Formula One titles won by Lewis Hamilton, tying him with Scotland’s Jackie Stewart for most by a Great Britain driver and with Ayrton Senna, Hamilton’s boyhood hero in a six-way tie for fourth. Michael Schumacher has the most all time with seven.
“It was always to get the three that Ayrton had,” said Hamilton, who won his first F1 title with McLaren-Mercedes in 2008. “He inspired me as a youngster. Now I’m like ... I don’t know where it’s going next. There is no one else I look to, that I want to equal or emulate now.”
Hamilton, who started second to pole-sitter Rosberg, made his intentions clear at the start up the hill to COTA’s signature Turn 1 left-hander. Hamilton pulled alongside Rosberg and drove him wide-right at the apex, a move that gave Lewis the lead and dropped the German to fourth. Hamilton went on to lead 28 of 56 laps en route to a margin of victory of 2.850-seconds.
Rosberg, 30, rallied to lead 21 laps but a pair of safety car periods and two virtual safety car episodes allowed Hamilton to pit for a second set of tires five laps later and eventually reclaim the lead from his frustrated teammate.
It’s a great feeling. .. But you have to be generous buying everybody drinks.
Four-time FI champion Sebastian Vettel on Hamilton’s new status.
Vettel overcame a 14th-place start (due to a 10 grid-spot penalty for an updated engine) to run as high as second before settling for third.
“I can only underline this is Lewis’ day, and obviously I’ve been in his seat before,” said Vettel, a 28-year-old German who won his four titles (2010-13) with Infiniti Red Bull Racing. “It’s a great feeling. Especially the nights after you win the championship. They’re quite good. But you have to be generous buying everybody drinks.”
Hamilton smiled and assured, “No problem, man! No problem.”
John Sturbin is a Senior Writer at RacinToday.com. He can be contacted at email@example.com.