Drivers’ title battle between Vettel and Alonso will go down to the wire; Red Bull takes constructors’ crown
The Formula One title battle between Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel and Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso will go down to the wire in Brazil after McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton won the U.S. Grand Prix on Sunday.
Championship leader Vettel finished second after starting his 100th career F1 race on pole position while Alonso remained in contention with third place and is now 13 points adrift of the German with one race left.
While Vettel was denied a third straight title, Red Bull was able to celebrate the constructors’ title — becoming only the fourth team in the 62-year history of the sport to take the championship three years in a row.
“It’s incredible, something that everyone throughout the team has worked incredibly hard for and to have achieved it is something...I’m speechless really,” said team principal Christian Horner.
Vettel needs to finish only fourth in the Sao Paulo finale to take the title but the weather at Interlagos can be fickle and the wily and consistent Alonso cannot be ruled out for what would also be his third title.
“The race unfortunately hinged on one backmarker who didn’t use his mirrors, that was the difference,” said Horner after Hamilton passed Vettel for the lead on lap 42 after the German had lost time behind Indian Narain Karthikeyan’s HRT.
Hamilton, winner of the last U.S. Grand Prix staged in the United States five years ago, had been second at the start with Alonso lining up seventh.
The Spaniard would have started eighth but Brazilian Felipe Massa took a five-place penalty to move his Ferrari teammate to the clean side of the grid.
“A first-time winner. I’m so happy,” beamed Hamilton, interviewed by U.S. Formula One great Mario Andretti on the podium, of picking up where he left at Indianapolis in 2007 by winning the first race at the new Circuit of the Americas.
While Vettel and Red Bull teammate Mark Webber got away quickly, Alonso made his move and was fourth after the first corner.
The Spaniard was gifted another spot on lap 17 when Webber retired with an alternator problem in a worrying development for Red Bull.
Needing to finish fourth or better to keep Vettel from clinching the title if the German won the race, Alonso kept his Ferrari near the top of the leaderboard for the entire race while Massa finished fourth.
Hamilton’s teammate Jenson Button was fifth after an outstanding drive while Kimi Raikkonen, winner in Abu Dhabi two weeks earlier, was sixth for Lotus.
Nico finishes 8th
Outgoing driver Nico Hulkenburg continued his consistent run with Sahara Force India Formula One team, picking up four points for the outfit with an eighth-place finish.
The result means the team has scored points in the last eight races. Force India’s other driver, Paul di Resta, came home in the 15th spot.
The results: 1. Lewis Hamilton (McLaren) 1hr 35min 55.269sec, 2. Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull) at 0.675s, 3. Fernando Alonso (Ferrari) 39.229, 4. Felipe Massa (Ferrari) 46.013, 5. Jenson Button (McLaren) 56.432, 6. Kimi Raikkonen (Lotus) 1:04.425, 7. Romain Grosjean (Lotus) 1:10.313, 8. Nico Hulkenberg (Force India) 1:13.792, 9. Pastor Maldonado (Williams) 1:14.525, 10. Bruno Senna (Williams) 1:15.133, 11. Sergio Perez (Sauber) 1:24.341, 12. Daniel Ricciardo (Toro Rosso) 1:24.871, 13. Nico Rosberg (Mercedes) 1:25.510, 14. Kamui Kobayashi (Sauber) 1 lap, 15. Paul di Resta (Force India) 1 lap, 16. Michael Schumacher (Mercedes) 1 lap, 17. Vitaly Petrov (Caterham) 1 lap, 18. Timo Glock (Marussia) 1 lap, 19. Heikki Kovalainen (Caterham) 1 lap, 20. Charles Pic (Marussia) 2 laps, 21. Pedro de la Rosa (HRT) 2 laps, 22. Narain Karthikeyan (HRT) 2 laps.
Retirements: Jean-Eric Vergne (Toro Rosso): 15th lap, Mark Webber (Red Bull): 17th lap.
Overall standings: Drivers: 1. Vettel, 273 pts., 2. Alonso 260, 3. Raikkonen 206, 4. Hamilton 190, 5. Webber 167, 6. Button 163, 7. Massa 107, 8. Grosjean 96, Rosberg 93, 10. Sergio Perez 66, 11. Kobayashi 58, 12. Hulkenberg 53, 13. di Resta 46, 14. Pastor Maldonado 45, 15. Schumacher 43, 16. Bruno Senna 31, 17. Jean-Eric Vergne 12, 18. Daniel Ricciardo 10.
Constructors: 1. Red Bull 440 pts. (champion), 2. Ferrari 367, 3. McLaren 353, 4. Lotus 302, 5. Mercedes 136, 6. Sauber 124, 7. Force India 99, 8. Williams 76, 9. Toro Rosso 22.