Formula 1: Title down to the wire as Hamilton wins in Texas – Red Bull secures constructors title
Austin, November 18, 2012 – McLaren driver Lewis Hamilton – the winner of the last United States Grand Prix in 2008 – has won the first race at the Circuit of the Americas. Second place for Sebastian Vettel has put the Red Bull driver on the verge of a third consecutive title at the championship decider in Brazil next weekend.
Lewis Hamilton, Winner – “I’m massively proud and extremely happy. I nearly lost my voice because I was screaming so much on the in-lap – not cool at all! To overtake both Red Bulls in the race was the coolest thing for me. The backmarkers really came into play today – and, finally, they worked in my favour. I’ve often been caught out when I’ve been trying to get through traffic, but things finally went my way today. When Seb [Vettel] was delayed by a backmarker, I knew I had to grab my chance, so I turned the engine up to maximum revs and pushed like crazy. Along the back-straight I went to the to the outside, but Seb closed the door, so I moved to the inside, and he came back towards me. I was very lucky. It was very close. What made the difference today between Seb and me? I wanted it more, that’s what! I won the last United States Grand Prix, in 2007, so, to come back and win it again – in front of such a great crowd – feels very special indeed. There are a couple of grands prix that are somehow out on their own: there’s Monaco, Silverstone, Montreal, Spa and Monza. Now you can this circuit to that list – it’s already one of the best racetracks in the world, maybe even right up there in the top three. It’s a brilliant feeling to be finishing the season on a high. Hopefully, we’ll go to Brazil next week with the same level of performance – I’d love to win my final two races for Vodafone McLaren Mercedes.”
Crucially, third place in America for Ferrari driver Fernando Alonso – the German’s only championship rival – has also kept his title hopes alive, meaning that for the first time in its history Pirelli will come to the final race of the season as sole tyre supplier with two drivers fighting it out for the championship crown on the last round.
Hamilton claimed the lead from Vettel – who had been quickest in every session – in the closing stages of the race, with both the drivers having fought each other hard from start to finish. Hamilton and Vettel used the same strategy, stopping just once to change from the medium tyres to the hard tyres (the two compounds nominated for the United States Grand Prix) on laps 20 and 21 respectively. Alonso opted for an identical strategy to keep his title hopes alive, having started from sixth on the grid to move up to third.
All of the top 10 qualified on the medium compound, which was around half a second per lap faster than the hard tyre, on one of the fastest-evolving tracks seen all season because of its freshly-laid asphalt. The possibility of rain that had been predicted earlier did not materialise, with ambient temperatures in the region of 24 degrees centigrade, setting up a flat-out race to the chequered flag on the brand new track.
Sebastian Vettel, 2nd “I’m very, very happy for the team to win a third Constructors’. It’s been a tough year so far and they have been pushing incredibly hard; they deserve to win, as we have been the best team. Obviously Mark and I were pushing throughout the year. It was a shame for Mark not to finish today. It was a very good race and we did everything we could, but unfortunately we ran into traffic at the wrong time and lost the gap to Lewis. He used his chance well, I tried to cover the inside but he had more speed down the straight. I respect the positions; Lewis beat us fair and square. We showed we had the pace today and now it’s full steam ahead to the next race.”
The highest-placed competitor to start on the hard tyre was McLaren’s Jenson Button, who eventually finished fifth thanks to a one-stop strategy. Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg was the only other driver to begin the race on the P Zero Silver.
Fernando Alonso, Third – : “It was an unexpected podium which came at the end of a particularly difficult weekend. We did not have the pace to match Red Bull and McLaren, so to only lose three points to Vettel is in fact a nice present. It could have been much worse, but now we will arrive in Sao Paolo in Brazil in with a chance right to the last. Maybe on paper that chance is not so big, maybe 25%, but deep down, I feel it’s much more than that. Anything can happen at Interlagos and we saw again how important reliability can be, didn’t we? Then, there’s the chance of rain and a race in the wet can be very risky and we definitely have nothing to lose. Clearly, if it’s dry and we have a normal race, one can expect Red Bull to be in front of everyone and us on the third or fourth row, so the more unknown factors there are, the better it is for us. The decision regarding Felipe’s gearbox? It was a team decision of which I am proud, especially as it proved to be the right one: I don’t think everyone in this environment can say the same thing… The start was very good as was the first corner: in this second part of the season, we have made up a lot of places actually in the first few hundred metres. Then I had a good enough pace to get on the podium but not to fight with the two in front. The pit stop wasn’t perfect, maybe for the first time this season: which means we’ll be looking for perfection in the pit stops next Sunday, and in fact for the whole race! Felipe was fantastic all weekend, quicker than me in all three qualifying sessions: we need him to be on this good form in Interlagos too, because we will be up against very strong opposition. We need to be a united team if we want to win!”