AUSTIN – Qualifying was set up for Lewis Hamilton on the strength of dominating practice. Then after taking pole, the 2014 United States Grand Prix was set up for Hamilton’s Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg to capture what would have been a crucial victory in the World Championship.
But when Rosberg needed to deliver – and when Hamilton was vulnerable given his braking issues that cost him dearly on Saturday – he was unable to pull it off.
Rosberg held the edge in the opening stint, leading away from pole, and had a slightly quicker pit stop than Hamilton when the pair pitted a lap apart to switch from Pirelli’s soft to medium tires.
However, Rosberg lost ground in the middle stint and Hamilton was able to make it through courtesy of a run to the inside on Lap 24.
Hamilton pulled the gap to more than 1 second shortly after completing the move, which made another DRS-aided rebuttal impossible.
For Rosberg, he said post-race he was unable to get into a proper rhythm and failed to properly defend against Hamilton’s closing.
“It’s pretty simple. I didn’t find my rhythm early on until after Lewis passed me,” Rosberg admitted. “I knew there was a chance he’d try a pass. I was halfway defensive, but Lewis did a good job and that was it. I finally found a rhythm 5-10 laps later, but it was too late.”
An outside chance existed for Rosberg to close the gap back within the final 5 to 10 laps of the 56-lap race. A number of drivers at the back of the 15 remaining runners – the two Lotus-Renaults and Jean-Eric Vergne in his Toro Rosso, among others – were all in striking distance as the Mercedes pair lapped through.
Hamilton navigated the traffic slightly better and was able to extend the gap to Rosberg to an ultimate margin of victory of 4.314 seconds.
Now down 24 points to Hamilton as a result of this race, Rosberg said he won’t change his strategy heading into the final two Grands Prix of the season.
But, ultimately, he’ll have to beat his teammate at Interlagos next weekend if he is to have a fighting chance heading into the double points finale at Abu Dhabi.