Lewis Hamilton has been crowned Formula 1 world champion for a third time after winning a frantic United States Grand Prix at the Circuit of The Americas in Austin, Texas on Sunday.
After a weekend marred by torrential rain, the race finished in dry conditions with Hamilton heading up a Mercedes one-two to give himself an unassailable lead with three remaining in the 2015 season.
In a race that saw numerous lead changes, two safety car periods, two virtual safety cars and just 12 finishers, the die was cast with eight laps to go when Rosberg ran wide in the lead of the race, handing Hamilton the advantage that was enough to clinch him the title in Austin.
The start saw Hamilton make the better getaway in the damp conditions, forcing Rosberg wide at turn one with a slight touch to take the lead of the race. Rosberg dropped down to fifth behind Daniil Kvyat, Daniel Ricciardo and Sergio Perez, and although he was able to recover P4, he still found himself stuck behind the Red Bulls in the opening stages of the race.
Further back, Sebastian Vettel and Carlos Sainz Jr. both made up positions as Valtteri Bottas, Romain Grosjean and Fernando Alonso were hit, prompting them to pit for repairs. Bottas opted to gamble and take on slicks on just the second lap, but eventually swapped back to intermediates due to the damp track conditions.
Hamilton was struggling at the front of the pack with his tires, allowing Kvyat to close in the Red Bull. Just as the Russian threatened to seize the lead of the race, his charge was halted when the Virtual Safety Car was deployed to allow the debris at turn one to be cleared following a clash between Sauber teammates Felipe Nasr and Marcus Ericsson.
Trailing Hamilton, Kvyat complained that the Briton was going too slowly under VSC conditions, but there was thinking behind this. Upon the restart, Rosberg managed to jump both Ricciardo and Kvyat to reclaim second place, giving Hamilton some breathing room at the front once again.
Hamilton soon found himself under pressure once agin, though, as Ricciardo managed to pass Rosberg for second place at the first corner when the German’s tires began to fade. Ricciardo moved to within DRS range of the leader, and even managed to get alongside at one point, only for the superior power of the Mercedes engine to pull Hamilton clear.
As the track continued to dry, Ricciardo found his feet and managed to pass Hamilton for the lead of the race on lap 15 before pulling out a comfortable gap at the front. Hamilton was soon left with Rosberg to contend with for second place as more and more drivers contemplated making the switch to slick tires.
Hamilton was the first of the front-runners to make the switch, moving onto the soft tire. Ricciardo, Rosberg and Kvyat followed suit one lap later, all emerging ahead of Hamilton, who now ran fourth. As things stood, his championship celebrations would have to wait.
Just as he managed to pass Kvyat for third, Rosberg was also on the move as the slick tires began to bring Mercedes back into the race. The German driver eased past Ricciardo for the lead on lap 22 before eking out an advantage once again at an impressive rate of knots. All the while, Vettel had been flying on the dry tires, passing Kvyat for fourth and bringing himself into the fight for the podium after starting down in 13th place.
Just before the race passed half distance, Hamilton managed to work his way back up into second place ahead of Ricciardo before being handed a reprieve when the safety car was deployed to recover Ericsson’s stricken Sauber. The ten second advantage Rosberg had enjoyed was now lost.
Both of the Mercedes and Red Bull drivers stayed out, but Vettel, Verstappen and a handful of other drivers dived into the pits to make their second – and, all going to plan, final – pit stop. Running fifth on track within striking distance of the leading quartet, Vettel was in a prime position for the second half of the race.
Towards the back of the pack, American driver Alexander Rossi found himself running in a lofty P13 under the safety car thanks to a flurry of retirements that saw Kimi Raikkonen, Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas join Ericsson, Grosjean and Will Stevens on the sidelines before half-distance.
On the restart on lap 33, Vettel put his fresh tires to good use by passing Kvyat into the first corner to take fourth, before picking off Ricciardo for P3 one lap later. Also running on fresh tires, Verstappen and Hulkenberg followed Vettel past Kvyat, relegated the Russian down to seventh place with 20 laps to go.
Verstappen continued to excel on the fresh soft tires, passing Ricciardo for fourth with ease one lap later. Hulkenberg tried to do the same, only to make contact with the Red Bull driver and sustaining damage, adding him to the list of retirements.
The Virtual Safety Car was issued once again, prompting Mercedes to pit Rosberg. However, Hamilton was kept out, leaving him in the lead of the race ahead of Vettel. Red Bull opted to stack Kvyat and the ailing Ricciardo, dropping them to the fringes of the top ten.
Upon the restart, Rosberg managed to use his tires to pass Verstappen for third before setting his sights on Vettel and Hamilton, 3.1 and 5.2 seconds up the road respectively. The German made light work of Vettel, and with Hamilton struggling on his tires, he found himself in prime position for the race win.
For the second time in the race, Hamilton was given a reprieve by the safety car after Kvyat ran wide at the penultimate corner and crashed into the barrier. This allowed Mercedes to pit the Briton, bringing him out in second behind Rosberg. Vettel was also pitted by Ferrari, bringing him back out in fourth behind Verstappen.
Rosberg led the drivers away on the restart with ten laps to go, managing to keep Hamilton at bay. Vettel got the jump on Verstappen thanks to his fresher tires, but was unable to keep pace with the leaders.
The race – and the championship – took a huge twist when Rosberg ran wide on lap 48, handing Hamilton the lead of the race and putting him into a title-winning position.
Despite coming under some pressure from Rosberg late on, Hamilton managed to hold on to his lead and cross the line for his tenth win of the season, and, more crucially, his third F1 world championship.
Rosberg fended off Vettel to end the race in second, leaving the Ferrari driver to complete the podium. Verstappen managed to hold on at the end with worn tires to match his best result of the season in fourth.
Sergio Perez will head to his home race in Mexico on a high after finishing fifth. McLaren enjoyed one of its strongest races of the season as Jenson Button finished sixth, with teammate Fernando Alonso finishing 11th. Carlos Sainz Jr, Pastor Maldonado and Felipe Nasr split the drivers in seventh, eighth and ninth respectively.
Ricciardo’s race of early promise ended in a lowly 10th place, while Rossi matched Manor’s best result of the season so far to finish 12th in his first home grand prix.
Hamilton’s third world championship brings him level with Ayrton Senna, Jackie Stewart and Niki Lauda for titles won, while victory in Austin takes him clear of Vettel into third place on the all-time wins list.
Hamilton also becomes the first British driver to defend his F1 championship, and is now statistically the most successful driver to hail from the United Kingdom.