The Formula One world championship will be decided at the season-ending race in Brazil after Lewis Hamilton won the U.S. Grand Prix ahead of series leader Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso.
Hamilton of McLaren passed Red Bull’s Vettel with 14 laps remaining yesterday at the new $450 million Circuit of the Americas track in Austin, Texas, as the world’s most popular motor sport returned to the U.S. for the first time since 2007. Alonso finished third to keep alive his title chances.
Vettel increased his lead atop the standings going into the Nov. 25 finale in Sao Paulo. The German driver has 273 points, 13 more than Alonso of Ferrari, as he seeks a third straight world title.
“We’ve been very quick in Brazil the last couple of years, so there’s plenty to look forward to,” Vettel, 25, said in a news conference. “On top of that, we increased our lead in the championship, so we are in the best possible position.”
Twenty-five points are awarded for a race victory. Should Alonso win in Brazil, the Spaniard would need Vettel to finish below fourth place to take his third drivers’ title.
“We go to Brazil with the possibility to fight for the world championship,” said Alonso, who started yesterday’s race from seventh position on the grid. “It is something we have been fighting for during the whole year. Only Sebastian is in a better position than us.”
Vettel’s second-place finish secured Red Bull the constructors’ championship for the third season in a row. The Milton Keynes, England-based team is bankrolled by Austrian energy drink maker Red Bull GmbH, which bought it from Ford Motor Co.’s Jaguar Racing in 2004.
Vettel, who secured four straight victories during the circuit’s second Asian swing in September and October, started from the pole position and led until being overtaken by Hamilton on the 42nd lap of the 56-lap race.
“When Seb was delayed by a backmarker, I knew I had to grab my chance,” Hamilton, 27, said. “I turned the engine up to maximum revs and pushed like crazy. I was very lucky. It was very close.”
Hamilton, the 2008 world champion from Britain, also was the winner when F-1 last visited the U.S. five years ago.
The sport has failed to gain traction previously in the country. Since the 1970s, it held races in Long Beach, California, as well as Las Vegas, Detroit, Dallas, Phoenix and, most recently, Indianapolis.
Hamilton, who joined Ayrton Senna as the only drivers to win the U.S. Grand Prix in two different locations, was among those to praise the Circuit of the Americas track.
“There are a couple of Grands Prix that are somehow out on their own: there’s Monaco, Silverstone, Montreal, Spa and Monza,” Hamilton said. “Now you can add 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.”