The Mercedes show continued at the United States Grand Prix (Austin). The team has already locked down their maiden Constructors Title (2nd, if you count Brawn GP title in 2009), and with two races left for the season, the drivers Championship battle is heating up. Technically, with Hamilton having won 10 races this season to Rosberg’s 4, you’d think the Brit has it all tied up and ready to complete formalities at Brazil and Abu Dhabi, but here is the interesting part: A double-points scoring opportunity at the last race in Abu Dhabi (new rule) makes it possible for the German to pull off one of the greatest magic tricks in F1 history.
However, the story in Austin pretty much unraveled the way it has been for a while now, with the Brit winning his 5th consecutive race, and powering ahead of Rosberg—who is now 24 points behind with two races left.
Both drivers were locked in battle for much of the race, leaving the rest of the field to duel within themselves. Rosberg enjoyed a powerful qualifying weekend, starting from pole position after out-qualifying Hamilton by half a second. He didn’t exactly pull away at the beginning of the race either.
Hamilton did a good job of sticking in his slipstream, until both drivers began to feel the effects of their tyres wearing out early, perhaps because they were one of few cars who hadn’t pitted during the Safety Car Period (brought out due to a crash between Perez and Sutil). Once they were on mediums, it was Hamilton who looked the more comfortable of the two, as he began to close the gap down to less than two seconds, constantly sauntering in and out of the DRS zone. On Lap 24, the Brit—who is on the verge of winning his second World title after being the youngest ever to win the first title in 2008—made his move. Rosberg went wide on turn 12, and Hamilton drove hard to push Rosberg off the track and move ahead.
There was, of course, no looking back after that. While Rosberg didn’t give up, he never looked likely to overtake Hamilton—who was determined to drive like a World Champion-in-waiting. This was his 32nd race win, one more than previous British record-holder Nigel Mansell.
A lot of excitement took place behind these two, with Red Bull rookie and possible future World Champion Aussie Daniel Ricciardo once again impressing with 3rd place. He pulled off a couple of stunning overtaking moves, passing Massa and Alonso after starting slowly from 5th place, losing 4 positions before he got his groove on. Massa tried his best to get back up in front, but Ricciardo toiled and maintained his podium position, almost sealing 3rd place in the Drivers Championship in the process.
The way he has out-raced 4-time World Champion and teammate Vettel this season has been compelling, with Vettel moving to Ferrari next year, while Ricciardo looks primed to make crucial decisions as far as cars are concerned if he has to challenge the Champions. He wouldn’t want to end up as Rosberg, who was as promising at the beginning of his career, but seems to be shrinking under pressure after being the favorite at mid-point this season.
With trouble brewing off the track, and the sport in great strife overall (only 18 cars started the US GP), the excitement of the final two races could be a temporary tonic. Chief Bernie Ecclestone will have to find a solution, and fast, for the 2015 season to have a starting line-up. Till then, though, Hamilton could seal his place as one of the legends of his generation.