BRITAIN’S Lewis Hamilton did his old nemesis Fernando Alonso a huge favour in last night’s American Grand Prix, by pipping the Ferrari driver’s championship rival Sebastian Vettel to the chequered flag.
Hamilton’s superb win in Texas has set up a thrilling finale to the Formula One season as Alonso and Vettel will go head to head in Brazil this weekend to decide who wins the drivers’ championship.
“I am not fighting for the championship [myself] so it is more exciting for these guys – but I can have fun,” Hamilton said after winning in one hour, 35 minutes and 55 seconds – just 0.6 seconds ahead of Vettel.
“To be able to beat Red Bull and Sebastian is definitely a tough challenge but we managed to do it.”
With Alonso coming third, the result marked the first time that the three racing giants have shared a podium. Vettel now leads Alonso by 13 points with only one race to go. Had Hamilton not overtaken Vettel on lap 42 and won the race, Vettel would instead be taking a 20 point lead into the final race.
“It was not possible to keep the pace with these two guys. This podium is like a victory for us,” Alonso said.
The Spaniard’s relationship with Hamilton has been far from smooth over the years, dating back to when the pair clashed while both were at McLaren. Reportedly not on speaking terms with Hamilton, Alonso left McLaren at the end of 2007.
But Hamilton, who leaves McLaren to join Mercedes at the end of the season, has boosted Alonso’s hopes of claiming a third championship title.
Alonso began the race in controversial fashion as his team attracted a five-place penalty for team-mate Felipe Massa so that their top driver could start in seventh – crucially on the cleaner side of the track.
Alonso took immediate advantage, moving up to fourth place during the first section of the opening lap.
Hamilton – starting in second, on the dirty side of the track – slipped behind Red Bull’s Mark Webber, yet regained second place by lap four.
From there he chased the leader and on lap 42 benefited from traffic that delayed Vettel’s progress. Using his drag reduction system (DRS), Hamilton swept into the lead and held onto it for the remaining 14 laps.
A forced retirement for Webber gave Alonso his podium, while further back Hamilton’s team-mate and compatriot Jenson Button enjoyed a brilliant race.
Despite starting 12th on the grid and being hit by a bad pit-stop half-way in, Button’s tyre strategy combined with some exhilarating overtaking to see him end in fifth place, behind Massa.
FORMULA ONE FINALE
Drivers’ Championship 2012
1. Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull) 273 points
2. Fernando Alonso (Ferrari) 260 points
US Grand Prix Result
1. Lewis Hamilton (McLaren) 1h 35m 55s
2. Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull) 1:35:56
3. Fernando Alonso (Ferrari) 1:36:34