McLaren's Lewis Hamilton won his second consecutive United States Grand Prix on Sunday after holding off Red Bull driver and current points leader Sebastian Vettel in the closing laps at the brand new Circuit of the Americas.
While Hamilton picked up his fourth win of the season and the 21st of his Formula One career, Vettel finished second to increase his championship points lead to 13 over Ferrari's Fernando Alonso, who finished third. Vettel entered this 56-lap race with a 10-point advantage over Alonso. The 20-round F1 season concludes next Sunday with the Brazilian Grand Prix.
Vettel, the two-time defending F1 world champion, started on the pole and led the way for 41 laps before Hamilton overtook him for the top spot. Hamilton, who started second, led the final 15 circuits around the 3.4-mile, 20-turn course, located 15 miles southeast of downtown Austin. He beat Vettel at the finish by just 0.6 seconds.
Hamilton won the last USGP during his rookie season in 2007, which was held on Indianapolis Motor Speedway's road-course.
"First-time winner (at COTA), and I'm so happy," Hamilton said. "I think this is probably one of the best, if not the best, grand prix we've had all year. This is so special for me and my team. It's been a long time since we had a win."
Hamilton's last win came in the Sept. 9 Italian Grand Prix.
Vettel made his 100th grand prix start. His F1 debut came in the '07 USGP at Indy.
"It was a close fight with Lewis," Vettel said. "He had one chance, and he took it. After that, I tried to stay with him and maybe pass him again, but he was probably as quick as I was. There wasn't too much between us. It was a great race and a great result for us."
Vettel is attempting to become just the third driver in F1 history to win three straight championships. The young German would join Juan Manuel Fangio, who had four titles in a row from 1954-57, and Michael Schumacher, who captured five straight from 2000-04.
His second-place finish allowed Red Bull to clinch its third straight constructors' championship. Red Bull has accumulated 440 points compared to 367 for Ferrari and 353 for McLaren.
"I'm happy for the team that we won the constructors' championship," Vettel said. "Now we have another race coming up in Brazil. In terms of the (drivers") championship, it's looking a little bit better after the race today."
Vettel's teammate, Mark Webber, experienced an alternator issue in the early going, which led to his retirement. Webber and Toro Rosso's Jean-Eric Vergne were the only drivers who retired in this race.
"It was an alternator problem," Webber said. "We had a good start and a good fight with Lewis in the first few laps. Then we had a lot of issues that we had to manage."
Felipe Massa from Ferrari finished fourth after starting 11th. Massa qualified sixth on Saturday, but his team made a gearbox change hours before the start of the race, which led to a five-spot grid penalty. That allowed Alonso to move up to seventh on the grid. Alonso jumped to fourth on the opening lap.
Jenson Button from McLaren took the fifth spot after he rolled off 12th on the grid.
Kimi Raikkonen, who won two weeks ago in Abu Dhabi, finished sixth, followed by his Lotus teammate, Romain Grosjean, who also received a five-spot grid penalty for an unapproved gearbox change.
Force India's Nico Hulkenberg placed eighth, followed by the Williams duo of Pastor Maldonado and Bruno Senna.