Torrential rain that caused big delays on the schedule, lots of incidents on track, safety car periods, a surprise winner: the 2015 US Grand Prix had it all.
First things first: Lewis Hamilton clinched his third world title, elevating himself to rare heights, alongside legends such as Ayrton Senna, Niki Lauda and Sir Jackie Stewart. That, in and of itself, is witnessing history in the making.
The way Hamilton’s win, which ended the fight for the championship, was achieved was quite unexpected. Yes, seeing the Brit on the top step of the podium has become a usual sight; in this race, though, he inherited the win at the 11th hour.
Eight laps before the chequered flag, it was all but certain that he would have to settle for second place. Not a bad result, considering that at the first corner he made contact with his team mate in Mercedes, Nico Rosberg, dropping to fourth place.
Then, his German arch-rival, who was leading the race, made a mistake on Turn 13, lost control of his car and had to use the run-off area. One man’s loss is another man’s gain and Hamilton had no problem grabbing the lead and crossing the finish line first, followed by a frustrated Rosberg.
The two Mercedes drivers were lucky to find themselves there in the first place, since they clashed onto each other at the very first corner but neither car was damaged and Hamilton continued while Rosberg dropped to fifth.
As the damp track started to dry up, though, it was Daniel Ricciardo who climbed to first place as his Red Bull was quicker than Hamilton’s Mercedes on intermediate tires.
A few laps later the conditions allowed for slick tires to be fitted and Mercedes once again proved their superiority over the rest of the field. The first round of pit stops saw Rosberg taking the lead, with a recovering Hamilton passing the two Red Bulls.
Then, when a Sauber stopped on the track and the safety car came out, Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel dive into the pits for new tires and was thus best equipped to overtake the Red Bulls, which did not pit, when the race resumed, moving to third place and going after the two Merc drivers.
Contact between Ricciardo and Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg made the stewards enforce a Virtual Safety Car period; decisions on whether to pit had to be made again and, this time, it was Rosberg who got the advantage.
With fresh rubber, he had no problem passing Vettel for second place and going after Hamilton, who would have to pit again. When the second Red Bull, that of Daniil Kvyat, ended up on the barriers and the safety car came out again, Vettel and Hamilton pitted together.
The Merc came out ahead of the Ferrari: now it was a battle between the two Silver Arrows, provided Hamilton could close the gap on Rosberg who had put a comfortable distance between himself and his rival, keeping his chances for the title alive.
Eventually, it just wasn’t meant to be. Vettel finished a solid third, Max Verstappen and Toro Rosso were delighted with fourth, Force India’s Sergio Perez fifth and McLaren’s Jenson Button scored his best finish of the year in sixth – a silver lining in what was a very disappointing year for the Waking-based team. Even Fernando Alonso was more than satisfied, since he managed to fight his way from last place to fifth before a mechanical failure occurred 10 laps before the end.
Afterwards, Hamilton said that he had achieved his dream of matching Ayrton Senna’s three titles “as he was the one who inspired me”. Do numbers speak for themselves? Maybe, maybe not: the new champion has every right to feel on top of the world right now. It might be a bit premature making comparisons between him and the stellar Brazilian who is sadly no longer among us.
This doesn’t take anything away from Lewis’ accomplishment, nor did he imply anything by his statement. Congrats for a job (very) well done.