Lewis Hamilton extended his lead in the Formula One world championship to 24 points by beating main rival Nico Rosberg to victory at the US Grand Prix.
Hamilton claimed his fifth win on the bounce thanks to an opportunistic move down the inside of his Mercedes team-mate at Turn 12, after cutting Rosberg’s lead.
Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo overcame a poor start to beat both Williams drivers and clinch the final spot on the podium.
Following Caterham and Marussia’s ongoing financial struggles both teams were omitted from the race weekend, leaving only 18 cars on the grid – the smallest field entered since the 2005 Monaco Grand Prix.
Despite starting from pole following a brilliant performance in qualifying and maintaining position at the start, Rosberg was unable to pull a significant gap to Hamilton come the first round of pit stops on lap 15.
With less than a second separating the pair, Rosberg’s track position gave him the advantage of stopping before Hamilton, who pitted a lap later.
The Englishman rejoined 2.8 seconds behind and proceeded to erase the deposit, taking just five laps to catch Rosberg and pull off the decisive move.
This was no doubt helped by a decision to make front wing adjustments whilst in the pits to change the balance of his car, having reported significant understeer in the early stages.
On the run down the long straight into Turn 12 Hamilton, with the aid of DRS, was able to close up to the back of Rosberg before a late brave lunge into the braking zone at the hairpin caught the German unawares.
Rosberg initially moved to defend, before realising that doing so would breach the rule that states that changing line in the braking zone is forbidden.
Hamilton assumed authority of the position as he ran his team-mate out to kerbs, ensuring that he kept the lead.
The gap between the Mercedes duo remained stable at 1.4 seconds for a few laps before Hamilton gave himself some breathing space by extending the margin by over a second on laps 30 to 31.
From this point forward, Rosberg was powerless to prevent Hamilton recording his 10th grand prix victory of the season – the 32nd of his career, making him the most successful British driver in the history of the sport.
Following his second win at the Circuit of Americas, Hamilton said: “I’m really grateful to be up front. It is such a privilege to be representing my country and to be at the top of the driver wins is quite special. The car was great today.
“I have to say, though, it’s all thanks to the team and the car we have this year that I’ve been able to reach that landmark so quickly. This team has done an incredible job. It’s the car I have dreamed of and I finally have it.”
The 29-year-old continued: “It’s been the best year of my life, and it’s been the best season in my whole career. The performances I’ve been putting in, the consistency I’ve had, I’ve been working hard at it.”
With the top two positions sealed by the dominant Mercedes for a 10th one-two finish of 2014, the fight for the final podium place was contested by Williams and Ricciardo’s Red Bull – who eventually came out on top.
The Australian’s slow getaway from fifth cost him an initial four places before he climbed back up to sixth by the end of the opening lap, when the safety car was deployed after Sergio Perez’ Force India ricocheted off Kimi Raikkonen’s Ferrari and into the Sauber of Adrian Sutil.
This forced both Perez and Sutil into retirement with substantial damage to their cars.
Ricciardo dived past Fernando Alonso’s Ferrari to claim fifth at the restart, before jumping both Williams in the pits to take third and his eighth podium of a stunning year in which he has outshone team-mate and four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel.
Williams were left to fight it out for fourth and fifth, as Brazilian Felipe Massa took the honours to beat his team-mate Valtteri Bottas and finish ahead by four seconds.
The aforementioned reigning world champion gambled on a pit lane start and low downforce settings, having exceeded the allocated five-engines-per-season limit in Texas.
Vettel found progression difficult in the early stages of the race, but ran as high as sixth before being passed by Alonso, who was on a much fresher and softer set of tyres in the closing stages.
A late stop for fresh tyres saw the German fall back to 14th, before he recovered to seventh as the cars ahead battled to the end on much older rubber.
Kevin Magnussen came home in eighth, whilst McLaren team-mate Jenson Button dropped from eighth to 12th in the latter stages as he struggled on worn tyres.
Lotus’ Pastor Maldonado finished 10th to record the Enstone outfit’s first points since May’s Monaco GP – but was later promoted to ninth when a post-race penalty was handed to Toro Rosso’s Jean-Eric Vergne for hitting Romain Grosjean as they tussled over the tail end of the points in the closing laps.
Both Maldonado and Vergne had received earlier five-second penalties for speeding behind the safety car and were eventually classified ninth and 10th respectively, whilst Grosjean just missed out in 11th.
Kimi Raikkonen endured another difficult afternoon in 13th, following a late first pit stop which cost the 2007 world champion a lot of ground, from which he never recovered.
Sauber’s Esteban Gutierrez and the second Toro Rosso of Daniil Kvyat completed the last of the runners as Nico Hulkenberg’s power unit failure compounded a miserable day for Force India who suffered a double DNF.
With the championship battle destined to go down to the wire with double points at Abu Dhabi, Nico Rosberg will need to fight back at the Brazilian Grand Prix on November 9th in an attempt to halt Lewis Hamilton’s title momentum.