Hamilton, the King of COTA, rules USGP for 4th year in a row


‘What a beautiful place. … I think this track is now my favorite.’

Mercedes superstar can nail down 4th world title in Mexico City.

Vettel takes 2nd place; Verstappen’s penalty lifts Raikkonen to 3rd.

The American Soundtrack? More like a broken record.

Organizers had a catchy label for the sixth United States Grand Prix in Austin, which included concerts from Justin Timberlake, Stevie Wonder, two marching bands and 30 Texas music acts.

In the end, they were all singing Lewis Hamilton’s song. The three-time Formula One world champion belted out the winning tune Sunday for the fifth time at Circuit of the Americas — same as every other year but 2013. The Mercedes man finished in 1 hour, 33 minutes, 50.991 seconds, a whopping 10.143-second gap on Sebastian Vettel.

“I love this track. What a beautiful place,” said Hamilton, inching ever so close to another world title. “Since 2012, this crowd has been growing year-on-year. I think this track is now my favorite.”

Former President Bill Clinton was in the huge audience and congratulated Hamilton afterward. Then the World’s Fastest Man, Usain Bolt, joined the world’s fastest driver on the podium to do “The Bolt” celebration.

Hamilton, who helped Mercedes clinch a fourth straight constructors title, holds a 66-point lead over Ferrari’s Vettel. A top-five finish in Mexico City next Sunday would end any remaining suspense.

“In my mind, I still have three more races to win,” said the 32-year-old from Stevenage, England, who already has won nine of 17 this year.

Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, forced to start 16th after an overnight engine change, charged through the field, delighting fans all the way, and actually was the third car across the finish line. But the Flying Dutchman was slapped with a 5-second penalty for leaving the track on a final-lap pass of Vettel, dropping him to fourth.

Kimi Raikkonen, Vettel’s Scuderia Ferrari teammate, was elevated to third.

It was a rough day for the Americans. Haas F1 Team drivers Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen struggled and finished 14th and 16th.

Vettel, a four-time world champion and the only other driver to win an F1 race at COTA, looked to snap Hamilton’s COTA streak when he jumped past the pole sitter up and around Turn 1. By lap six, Hamilton, with the help of his drag reduction system, had overtaken the German at the end of the back straight on Turn 12.

“We had the great start, but I felt the tires suffering a lot after three or four laps,” Vettel said. “We couldn’t keep the same pace as Lewis. I tried to block some; maybe I could have done a bit more, but he was much faster, so it probably didn’t matter.

“There was no real strategy after that. They were quicker than us.”

Hamilton indicated it wasn’t that easy, all the while professing his admiration for Circuit of the Americas.

“This was one of the most fun races in a while, not getting it right at the start but knowing from the past you can overtake here,” he said. “It was reminiscent of our 2012 battle here.

“The wind changed about 180 degrees from Saturday and made the track so special to drive through the high-speed section. Going through the esses with that headwind, it’s fire through there, incredible the way it throws your car around. To have the tail wind at the corners, pushing and pulling … I just enjoy it so much here.”

Hamilton broke a tie with legendary Michael Schumacher with his sixth U.S. Grand Prix victory; he won one at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 2007.

“I’m not sure why I have so much success here in America, but it seems to bring out the best in me, and I get such great support from the fans.”

Hamilton’s Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas took fifth.

Vettel, who tied for his best finish since Belgium in late August, broke a course race record with a lap of 1:37.766, an average speed of 126.14o mph. It was small consolation.

“I thought we closed the gap (on Hamilton) Saturday, but the gains weren’t there (Sunday),” Vettel said. “We just got beaten.”

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