Valtteri Bottas took an impressive victory from pole position at the US Grand Prix, as Lewis Hamilton claimed his sixth World Championship after the Brit finished second from fifth on the grid, with Max Verstappen rounding off the podium.
Coming into race day Bottas was on a high after ending Ferrari’s run of six consecutive pole positions, with the Finn knowing that he must win and Hamilton must finish lower than eighth and not claim the fastest lap in order to bring the title fight to Brazil.
At the start of the race, Bottas got the jump with Verstappen slotting in to second in the run-up to turn 1, further back Alexander Albon and Carlos Sainz Jr. hit each other on the exit of turn 1 with Albon being forced back to the pits for repairs.
Vettel’s miserable start continued with Hamilton going around the outside into turn nine to move up to third, with Leclerc following suit into turn eleven. Vettel lost further positions to Norris and Ricciardo as he reported his Ferrari was understeering.
The German’s day ended with broken right rear suspension on lap 8 after the Ferrari went over the bumps on turn nine, giving the German his second retirement of the season.
In the chaos of Vettel’s retirement, Ricciardo finally got passed Norris into turn 12 to move himself up to fifth spot.
In the midfield, Kvyat and Magnussen duelled for eleventh position with the Russian getting by into turn one and holding that position despite Magnussen’s spirted attempts to repass him.
Verstappen was the first of the top five to pit, with the Dutchman pitting for hard tyres on lap fourteen, rejoining in front of Ricciardo in fourth place.
Bottas pitted from the race lead on lap fifteen, changing on to the hard compound tyre where he rejoined in third place ahead of Verstappen.
A lap later the Finn used his fresh rubber to go around the outside of Charles Leclerc into turn 1 to move back up to second, with Verstappen next to get by the Monegasque down the main straight into third.
Leclerc lost more time when he was delayed badly during his pitstop courtesy of his left front and left rear failing to attach properly, dropping him down the order as he returned to track just ahead of Pierre Gasly.
Sergio Pérez had a good run in the top 10 after starting from the pitlane on medium compound tyres, but after losing positions to both Ricciardo and Norris, Racing Point finally pitted him for fresh mediums.
Hamilton lost the race lead after delaying his pitstop on lap 24 with Bottas using the fresher tyres down the straight to retake the lead, Hamilton finally pitted a lap later costing the Brit time as he rejoined behind Verstappen in third.
Robert Kubica’s debut Grand Prix in America ended twenty-three laps short of the flag, with the Pole retiring from last with a hydraulics failure.
Verstappen stopped for a second time on lap 35 for a new set of medium tyres, where he came out in third behind Bottas and Hamilton.
One lap later it was Bottas’s turn to pit for fresh mediums where the Finn came out in front of Verstappen setting up a nail-biting grandstand finish.
Despite being last at the end of lap one and having to pit twice for tyres, Albon was storming through the field and was up to fifth place after hounding down Ricciardo on the main straight, although he pitted for a third time for a set of used softs on lap 41 which dropped him to tenth.
It would now be a question of what would give out first Hamilton’s tyres or would Bottas crack, with the Finn closing the gap to 1.5 seconds as they approached backmarkers.
Bottas got the help of DRS down the back straight to retake the lead, but the Finn locked up in turn 12 giving Hamilton another chance to fight back.
The fightback didn’t last long as Bottas finally got through down the straight to finally lead on lap 52 to take the lead and pull away from Hamilton, who would now have to fend off the hard-charging Verstappen who was 1.571 seconds faster than Hamilton on the previous lap.
Magnussen’s day ended a lap early courtesy of a brake failure which scuppered Verstappen’s hopes of passing Hamilton for second as the Dutchman lost all momentum.
Bottas took the chequered flag in first as well as the bonus points for fastest lap, but the title went to Hamilton who hung on to second ahead of Verstappen with Leclerc getting fourth, Albon fifth and Ricciardo best of the rest in sixth.
Ferrari’s Leclerc would also pick up an additional point for taking the fastest lap with a time of 1:36.169.
[table id=4167 /]