Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Circuit of the Americas, 2017

Another Austin masterclass bring Hamilton’s fourth title ever closer

2017 United States Grand Prix review

Posted on

| Written by

The Circuit of the Americas was built five years ago. It might as well have been created for Lewis Hamilton, who this year took his fifth win in six appearances at the track.

The only other driver to win here was Sebastian Vettel back in 2013 when he had the all-conquering Red Bull RB9 at his disposal. This time his Ferrari SF70H wasn’t quite up to the task, though in the beginning it seemed it might be.

Vettel puts up a fight

Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari, Circuit of the Americas, 2017
Vettel beat Hamilton to turn one
For this, the home race of F1’s new owners, the pre-race festivities were dialled up to 11. The Indianapolis 500-aping driver introductions dragged on a bit, but were fine enough as a one-off concession to the local audience. FOM also brought in Olympic champion Usain Bolt to send the drivers on their way.

Yet somehow back-of-the-grid team Sauber managed to trump the sport’s bosses by bringing the 42nd president of the United States, Bill Clinton. Some 56 laps later he returned to hand the race winners’ trophy to Hamilton.

This had seemed the likeliest outcome before the race began. That changed when Vettel, despite starting from second on the grid where the grip is not as good, fired his Ferrari down the inside of Hamilton at turn one. He made the merest of jinks in the Mercedes driver’s direction, discouraging Hamilton from following too closely, and was on his way.

Valtteri Bottas and Daniel Ricciardo followed them into COTA’s tortuous opening sector for the first time. Behind them Kimi Raikkonen lost fifth place to a daring Esteban Ocon, though once the DRS zones were activated the Ferrari driver was easily past again.

Vettel, however, could not drop Hamilton. The Mercedes driver reckoned his rival was leaning on his tyres too hard in the quicker corners. Vettel, who showed no interest in backing Hamilton into the pack in the hope of improving his championship chances, said he simply didn’t have the speed in the car to get away.

And so it proved. On lap six Hamilton drew up on Vettel in the DRS zone and, despite a late squeeze from his rival, was back at the front of the field. This must have been a crushing disappointment for the Ferrari driver, and his face told as much once the race was over.

Go ad-free for just £1 per month

>> Find out more and sign up

Hamilton nearly loses his lead

Lewis Hamilton, Sebastian Vettel, Circuit of the Americas, 2017
2017 United States GP in pictures
The front runners had started on ultra-softs. As usual Pirelli had talked up the two-stopping possibilities and as usual most teams felt one-stopping was the way to go, the better to keep clear of traffic.

Behind Vettel, Bottas had to work hard to keep Ricciardo behind. The Red Bull driver attempted a couple of his trademark, staggeringly late braking attempts at turn one, but to no avail. This delayed the pair of them and helped Raikkonen stay in touch, until Ricciardo dived for the pits on lap 12, his tyres wilting.

He had just picked of Carlos Sainz Jnr’s Renault and was setting off in pursuit of the front runners when his power unit cried enough. That was it for Ricciardo’s hopes of a tenth podium.

But Red Bull still had one car in the fight. Max Verstappen had started from 16th due to a power unit penalty yet glided past the midfielders with ease. By lap ten he was up to sixth with only his ‘class rivals’ ahead of him.

Verstappen had started on the super-soft tyres and took the opportunity to lead the race as the others pitted. He was ahead for just two laps before Hamilton came back past, the Mercedes driver having had a brief scare after his pit stop.

He had been far enough ahead of Vettel not to worry about the Ferrari driver getting the benefit of the undercut. Instead Mercedes wanted to keep Hamilton out, shortening his second stint. They almost took it too far – he pitted four laps after Vettel and only just got back on track ahead of the Ferrari driver.

Advert | Become a RaceFans supporter and go ad-free

Verstappen enters the equation

Daniel Ricciardo, Red Bull, Circuit of the Americas, 2017
One Red Bull was replaced by another
Vettel’s fading title hopes rested on getting him in front of Hamilton. With the Mercedes driver looking comfortable on his one-stopper, Vettel began asking the team about the wisdom of switching to ‘plan B’. Soon afterwards they made the call and Vettel pitted for another set of tyres – a used set of super-softs.

It cost him two places, though one of those was to his team mate, and so could be recovered without difficulty. First Vettel had to pass Bottas, however, and there was an added complication: Verstappen had also pitted again and he had the benefit of fresh super-softs.

As Vettel closed on the second Mercedes, Verstappen closed on him. Vettel had to act quickly and arriving at turn one he did, inserting his car between Bottas and Stoffel Vandoorne’s lapped McLaren. Job done, Ferrari swiftly alerted Raikkonen who let Vettel by.

But Verstappen kept on coming. With five laps to go he picked off Bottas, and now he had a podium finish in his crosshairs. On the final lap, five corners from the finish, he daringly tried to get up the inside of Raikkonen in the seriously quick, three-part turns 16, 17 and 18.

Raikkonen, who let said he wasn’t aware of where Verstappen was, left him little room to play with. Verstappen strayed across the kerb at turn 17 – a point on the track cars seldom stray – and completed the move.

The stewards’ decision came swiftly. The cheering for Verstappen’s daring pass and remarkable climb to the podium from the eighth row of the grid had barely subsided when the notice was given of the five-second time penalty. After the hype-packed build-up to the race and the genuine excitement it delivered, this soured an otherwise fine demonstration of Formula One racing.

Advert | Become a RaceFans supporter and go ad-free

Sainz stars on Renault debut

Carlos Sainz Jnr, Renault, Circuit of the Americas, 2017
Sainz split the Force Indias
Esteban Ocon rebounded from his sickness during qualifying to claim the ‘best of the rest’ spot in sixth. he had to keep Sainz at arm’s length to do it, the new Renault driver enjoying a superb debut, passing Sergio Perez for seventh.

How Sainz measures up against Nico Hulkenberg remains a mystery, however, as Renault’s season-long driver capped a miserable weekend by retiring early on when his oil pressure dropped.

Felipe Massa was another driver who ran a long first stint on his way to ninth. Daniil Kvyat claimed the final point and some vindication on his return to Toro Rosso. His new team mate Brendon Hartley was a satisfied 13th, though his first standing start for six years had, unsurprisingly, not been one of his best.

They were separated by Lance Stroll and Stoffel Vandoorne, the latter in the sole remaining McLaren. His team mate Fernando Alonso retired with yet another Honda power unit problem having got up to seventh at the start.

Kevin Magnussen followed the rest home after tangling with both Sauber drivers. Marcus Ericsson received a penalty for the latter incident.

Mercedes are champions again

Podium, Circuit of the Americas, 2017
A fourth title beckons for Hamilton
Despite Bottas falling to fifth late on, Mercedes bagged enough points to lock up the constructors’ championship for a fourth year running. The drivers’ title is now almost certain to go Hamilton’s way.

The race was emblematic of how the championship has swung in Hamilton’s favour since the summer break. Vettel and Ferrari seem to have finally run out of answers to the ever-improving pace of their rivals.

Hamilton is on the peak of his form. Memories of how he lost the championship ten years ago will forbid him from taking anything for granted. But it would now take an even greater misfortune than his 2007 title defeat to keep him from becoming a four-times champion.

Author information

Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

Got a potential story, tip or enquiry? Find out more about RaceFans and contact us here.

44 comments on “Another Austin masterclass bring Hamilton’s fourth title ever closer”

  1. Game over for Seb. I’m glad, Lewis deserved it. He had to fight hard this time, so it’s great to see him winning it.

    It was a good race anyway, though I have to say the way Lewis and Seb fought at the beginning gave me the idea that we were about to see an absolute epic fight for the lead. Sad how the season went in that way, how the either Ferrari couldn’t keep up in the development race or Mercedes found extra speed in their diva formula car. This battle should’ve gone the distance. But oh, well…

    I hope Renault can take the next step and get closer to fighting podiums. They are natural racers, and with 3 good chassis using french power, maybe we’ll see more of a battle up front. That McLaren looked very quick in the fast bits, before losing 20 kph on straights. Amaizing they were even in the top 10…

    As for Hartley I hope to see him back on the car! he was very consistent and fast for a first open wheel race in half a decade. I like the Kiwi, and to be honest, I’d rather get him and Gasly before keeping Kvyat who’s not going to get any better…

    1. @fer-no65 Seb had a pretty good weekend, especially Saturday. The move at Turn 1, nipping between Bottas and Vandoorne was pure racers instinct. Glad they rolled the dice on the second stop as well, it contributed to an exciting final third of the race. Overall the chassis change probably had some impact on his pace, Raikonnen looked faster in race trim, he just couldn’t clear Bottas.

      Regarding Mercedes and Hamilton I listened to a podcast this week with an excellent interview with Lewis and Mercedes team members, Lewis was asked what changed over the summer and he talked about thinking and working with the team to understand the car and how he could adapt his driving to it’s difficult characteristics, he now feels confident in the cars response and can drive to his potential whereas in the first half of the season he didn’t trust the response of the car.

      Mercedes haven’t out developed Ferrari (as is seen with Bottas’ performance) – Lewis has been able to find a new level and maximise the car (not my words).

      1. That sounds like an interesting podcast @ju88sy, can you give us a pointer or link?

        1. joe pineapples
          23rd October 2017, 14:02


        2. @bosyber Sure, it was the BBC Radio 5 chequered flag podcast that I subscribe to on my phone.

          1. ‘P1: Lewis, Mercedes and the art of qualifying’

          2. Thanks @ju88sy – unfortunately I can’t access it bc. I am not in the UK, but I’ll be keeping a look at the BBC Radio 5 podcast again then, I can download them for a week (I think?) after they go up.

          3. digitalrurouni
            23rd October 2017, 17:42

            Wow I for one would love to be able to hear that podcast! Sounds fascinating!

    2. It was a great race with action up until the last corner. COTA is a great track which rewards driver skill. There is much time to be gained and lost if you don’t get the esses right, and when two cars are doing it while chasing each other is a great spectacle.

      As for Renault, with three Renault powered teams with amazing drivers in 2018 I sincerely hope they step up, because then the top 10 is competitive. When was the last time that happened?

    3. Lewis hasn’t had to fight hard. Ferrari and Seb took the pressure off him. With no pressure he’s in his element. Ask him if he wants Rosberg back.

      1. More like ask him if he wants a car that can make it to the end of the race. He pasted Nico his entire life and he can continue to do so if he has a working vehicle.

        1. “pasted”… Seems I’ve touched a nerve.
          Rosberg was a thorn in lewis’ side. No one talks about Rosbergs car problems

          1. Lets talk about Rosbergs car problems last year:
            Rosberg had last season: A minor gearbox issue which cost him 3 points at Silverstone after getting demoted from 2nd to 3rd for driver coaching which was banned at the time and a grid penalty for a gearbox change at Austria.
            He was bullet proof all season (engine wise).

            Last Year Hamilton had:
            An ERS failure at the start of qualifying in China, relegating him to 22nd on the grid. He finished seventh.
            An ERS failure during Q3 in Russia, restricting the Mercedes driver to 10th on the grid. He finished second.
            An engine mode issue during the European GP. He finished fifth having started in 10th.
            Used all 5 of his season engine allocation by the mid way point Race 12 Spa, forcing him to start from 22nd on the grid, finished 3rd
            An engine blow-out in Malaysia which cost him 25 points since he was 22seconds ahead of the Red bull in 2nd

            At the end of the season the engine usage statistics were
            Hamilton: ICE: 6 TC: 8 MGU-H: 8 MGU-K: 6 ES: 5 CE: 5
            Rosberg: ICE: 5 TC: 5 MGU-H: 5 MGU-K: 5 ES: 4 CE: 4
            f1technical (.) net/news/21099

            Only Alonso had worse reliability than Hamilton.

            So where are all these imaginary car problems Rosberg had last season BigJoe??? Can you name any i’ve not noted?
            Rosberg didn’t have a single engine failure or grid penalty all season, Hamilton had them all, yet Rosberg only won by 5 points.

            Lets see if you can respond constructively

          2. Rosberg was a highly underrated driver. I think he’s at least as good as Vettel, and without Hamilton as a teammate, he’d be a multiple-time world champion right now.

            Unfortunately, Hamilton has always had an edge on Rosberg in wet weather, and in passing. They’re pretty much tied on one-lap and race pace. I think Rosberg is slightly better at running the engineer’s strategy, but Hamilton is better at reacting to the unexpected.

            However, Rosberg was with Mercedes from 2010 to 2016, and helped develop most of their cars– Bottas is still catching up.

            My single biggest concern with Bottas is that it appears he drops off towards the end of a long race.

        2. Rosberg certainly wasn’t ‘pasted’ last year.

          1. I love how the Seb fans / German fans / Hamilton detractors are having to fall back on an incredibly lopsided 2016 to get their kicks on here, sad really.

            Lewis has been faultless and he’s about to take his 4th title, sorry guys but thats a FACT and we’re pretty happy about it. Better luck next year 👍🏽

          2. Hamilton won more races despite all the engine problems and other setbacks. Rosberg was beaten in terms of performance. On reflection, comparing to Bottas’s troubles in his first year at Mercedes, it’s true that Rosberg was always close enough to capitalize in terms of points when Hamilton had set backs, had a couple of poor starts, and put in a low-par (distracted) performance at Baku. But on the whole Rosberg did luck in to the title. At the same time, although the Mercedes’s garages may be more tranquil without him, and perhaps Hamilton is better focused, he would have taken more points off Ferrari I’m sure. Including securing first or second this last race. Bottas does need to improve – a lot – next year. Clearly Hamilton’s form is making the difference more acute, but Rosberg would have matched Vettel far more often I think.

          3. @offdutyrockstar everyone that doesn’t go your way is forcibly an Hamilton detractor. Truth is, I’m rooting for Hamilton but I am able to recognize that while Hamilton got unlucky Rosberg still gave him a run for his money (despite being less gifted), far more than Bottas is able to do.

          4. @spoutnik fair comment.

      2. Bottas has shown us this season how good Rosberg really was.

    4. “He had to fight hard this time” yes because as we seen that nico rosberg never once challenged Hamilton for the 3 years they were teammates.

  2. How is it that Sainz had a much harder time trying to overtake Ocon despite having passed Perez driving the same machinery rather quickly after having caught him up?

    1. Ocon is simply faster than Perez?

      1. @eljueta this is impossible, Perez was clear about that in the team radio. I mean, he had a lot more to give if I remember correctly…

        1. @m-bagattini that’s what he said before Sainz overtook him, the team gave a weird radio response to that anyway. Also as someone below already pointed, he had less fuel and tyres when he got to Ocon. He still gave it a try but then had to back off.

        2. this is impossible, Perez was clear about that in the team radio.

          Perez said it so it must be true right?

          What happened to Canada 2017 Checo “Please let us race man” – what happened to that philosophy Sergio??

          You can tell it really pains him when Ocon gets the upper hand and the guy just can’t help but let his insecurities show. His stock must be taking a real beating with the big teams this year every time he starts crying when Ocon is in front.

    2. By the time he cleared Perez he didn’t have enough fuel and tyres left to also clear Ocon.

    3. I think the reason was Perez was Blue Flagged to let Vettel passed, and Sainz managed to sneak passed Perez at the same time.

      1. @drycrust on lap 34 Sainz passed Perez normally. Vettel wasn’t there. The Renault was just way quicker. Or are you talking about another moment?

        1. @spoutnik My thanks for correcting me. I only recall that someone passed another car by taking advantage of Vettel passing that same car courtesy of the Blue Flag rule. As I think about it I think it was a little later in the race than lap 34, maybe about lap 45 or so.

    4. @jerejj Sainz’s tyres were much fresher when he overtook Perez. After that it took him around five to six more laps to hunt down Ocon, who had pitted two laps after Perez. I’m guessing his tyre-life advantage over Ocon was much lesser than over Perez.

      Also, we heard in Perez’ radio conversation with his team that Ocon was saving tyres initially, while Perez seemed to be pushing in that very stage. Running behind Ocon worsened Perez’s tyre life even further, and made him easy pickings for Sainz. Ocon’s lap times in the second half of the race were much faster than his teammate’s, who was running in clear air as well, further indicating that the Frenchman had been saving tyre-life initially.

    5. The team told Perez to save his tyres, otherwise he would have to make another stop, which means he would’ve dropped out of the points. Ocon managed his tyres and fuel better than his teammate and was able to keep Sainz behind.

  3. What a shame that Seb couldn’t put up more of a fight. Unfortunately his pace was very poor in the first two stints (except the first few laps). Seems like missing the long runs on Friday cost him badly on Sunday as his pace dropped rapidly after a couple of laps, especially compared to Kimi, who did an excellent job (apart from the start).
    Seb got very lucky today with Danny Ric retiring from the race and having the right strategy to keep him in front of Bottas and Verstappen.

  4. What I did not understand was why Merc didn’t tell Bottas to simply let Max through. It was clear Bottas was having tyre issues and clear that Max would have passed him before the end (especially as Bottas had to come in for new tyres as soon as max passed him), so letting max pass quickly would have given them the best chance of stopping Vettel from finishing second and making it even easier for Lewis in Mexico.

    1. that was also my thought when vettel approached Bottas, i would have let him through the moment vettel overtook bottas. Anyways, Bottas really became No2 driver. He can’t even maintain 3rd place anymore, what a shame. Max coming from 16th and challenging him, and him snoozing when he was expected to hold at least vettel from approaching lewis.

      I would have gotten Sainz or Ocon for this job. Even Perez and Wehrlein will do a better job than him.

      1. Max coming from 16th and challenging him…

        Not forgetting Bottas effectively starting 4th in Malaysia, 15 places ahead of Vettel, and finishing 19 seconds adrift of the German.

      2. Ocon is the man for the second Merc seat imho. Depends how VB’s 2018 goes but if he maintains this form it wouldn’t surprise me if Ocon gave something for Perez to really cry about.

  5. I don’t know what’s going on with bottles but he needs to pull his socks up and get with the program, he has, potentially the best car he will ever have.

    1. The Mercedes isn’t glued as what in previous years, it looks really twitchy compared to the Ferrari. Hamilton has the confidence to drive with that edginess, Bottas clearly less so.

      1. I do think it looks more twitchy when exiting corners. However that does not mean bottas can’t close the door on an obvious move from the car behind. Vettel got past Bottas because Bottas pretty much left him an open door, it was nothing to do with the cars handling.

        1. I think he’s too nice for his own good and didn’t want to squeeze Vettel into an innocent Stoffel Vandoorne. Especially given Seb’s track record for spatial awareness this season.

  6. Indeed, Rosberg was hugely under-rated. I certainly place him above Jenson in terms of out right pace, but not as good wheel to wheel racer or as good in damp conditions.

    1. Yep… Rosberg definitely was no slouch. I don’t care what anyone says: it was no simple feat, running Lewis that close on so many occasions in qualifying, & beating him many times. He was nowhere near as good a racer, but he definitely had pace. Both he & Button aren’t very adaptable, though. When the car’s perfect, they’re close to perfect. But if the car is wayward, they look ordinary. That’s where Lewis whoops them… that & the wheel to wheel stuff.

  7. Hamilton is without doubt a great driver. However it is hard to judge his own individual contribution when Merc has clearly been so far ahead over the last four years. They have won something like 85% of the races since 2014. Comparing Hamilton against Rosberg shows Hamilton on top only 55% of the time in qualifying. Clearly Hamilton has won loads of races and is a very talented driver. But Hamilton himself is very quick to acknowledge the role of the team. Ham-Merc as a package is incredibly succesful but based on these facts it’s hard to rate him compared to other drivers who are in less competitive cars. Yes he’s one of the greats but in this era of Merc domination and twenty race seasons the stats become skewed. It’s the car-driver partnership that is successful – not the driver alone.

Comments are closed.