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Blast from the Past - The 2015 United States Grand Prix

Written by Jacob Awcock, Edited by Sharifah Zaqreeztrina

After a thrilling 2015 season which saw three different drivers take a Grand Prix win, it all came down to Texas for Lewis Hamilton. With a commanding lead of teammate Nico Rosberg and Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel, he had the opportunity to wrap up the championship here, at a circuit he claimed to be one of his favorites. All he had to do was outscore his German rivals, his teammate by two points and Vettel by nine. Simple, some would say. Yet this race was far from simple, for every driver.

Hurricane Patricia brought heavy rains, and cancelled qualifying; Image Credit - JEWEL SAMAD/AFP via Getty Images

The weekend brought heavy rain as Hurricane Patricia welcomed F1 to the States. Qualifying was a wash out with drivers only managing to complete the first two sessions before the red flag came out. Rosberg took pole from teammate Hamilton, who had a high-speed spin on his last flying run, with Vettel down in 13th following an engine change. Daniil Kvyat took an impressive fourth place in his Red Bull while Sergio Perez rounded out the top five with another stunning performance, having got a podium in the previous race in Russia.

The rain had eased off for race day but was still present and all drivers started on intermediate tyres ahead of a highly anticipated race. As the lights blinked out, Hamilton got the better start and pulled up alongside Rosberg on the run down to turn 1. Hamilton slowly turned in but let the car drift out wide and, with Rosberg alongside, made contact with his teammate, forcing him off the track and leaving him to fend for himself against the two Red Bulls and Sergio Perez, all of whom managed to get past the German by the end of lap 1. By the end of lap 1 Hamilton led with Rosberg in fourth place while Vettel, who had had a flying start, was up in seventh place. Will Stevens was the first of many retirements from the race following a collision at turn one. He was quickly followed by Valtteri Bottas who retired with a rear suspension failure which would strike teammate Felipe Massa later on, forcing both Williams’ to retire from the race.

Following the collision at turn 1, a virtual safety car was required to recover the debris that had been left on the track. Once it was withdrawn, Rosberg reacted the fastest while catching Ricciardo napping and shooting past the Red Bull and then, later on in the lap, passing Ricciardo’s teammate Kvyat for second place. This wouldn't last long though as both Red Bulls had extraordinary pace on the intermediates and, following a mistake from Rosberg, Ricciardo passed him up the inside of turn 1 for second place.

Ricciardo (in pic) and Kvyat managed to keep up with the Mercedes early on; Image Credits - Clive Mason/Getty Images

Ricciardo’s pace was unbelievable and slowly but surely he reeled Hamilton in and passed him for the lead of the race. Despite this, Hamilton would still win the Grand Prix if the race finished in the current order. And the situation would be better for Hamilton. Further back in the field, Vettel had been struggling to make progress from sixth place and he would begin to move backwards rather than forwards as a young Max Verstappen passed him for sixth place in a Toro Rosso.

As the first pit stops loomed Hamilton began to struggle, and both Rosberg and Kvyat were aware of it. Rosberg pushed and managed to slide past his teammate following a battle that lasted almost a third of the circuit. With Kvyat breathing down Hamilton’s neck, Mercedes decided to pull the Brit in for slick tyres. In response to this, both Red Bulls and Rosberg pitted, all managed to stay ahead of Hamilton. The race was officially on.

On lap 22, it became apparent that Mercedes had a better dry race set-up than Red Bull. Heading down the back straight and into turn 12, both Mercedes pulled out from behind the Red Bull in front of them and shot down the inside in a synchronized maneuver. This put Rosberg in the lead with Hamilton third; Ricciardo splitting the pair.

Hamilton found himself behind Ricciardo, and passed him on lap 25; Image Credits - Lars Baron/Getty Images

On lap 25, Hamilton had had enough of seeing the rear end of Ricciardo’s car and battled past the Red Bull to make it a Mercedes one-two. Hamilton now had to chase Rosberg down in the remaining laps if he had any hope of sealing the championship in Texas. Yet more drama was to come as Marcus Ericsson pulled over to the side of the track with an electrical issue bringing out another safety car, thus becoming the sixth retirement in a chaotic race.

As the safety car peeled into the pits, Vettel hadn't given up hope of prolonging the Hamilton celebrations until next week in Mexico. He dived down the inside of a struggling Kvyat to move into fourth place and begin to chase after Ricciardo and the two Mercedes. And chase after them he did, the next lap he passed the Aussie for third to reignite his championship hopes. But it was second that Vettel needed to keep his hopes alive and that was occupied by a stern Rosberg at the moment who was giving all he could to get close to his teammate.

After a few more laps, Nico Hulkenberg went for an ambitious move down the inside of Daniel Ricciardo into turn 12. Ricciardo turned in and hit Hulkenberg’s suspension, breaking it and forcing the German to become the next retirement and, yet again, bringing out another virtual safety car.

Rosberg decided to pit for fresher tyres so he could be quicker on the restart, in which he was. As soon as the virtual safety car was withdrawn, he passed Vettel with ease, thus handing the championship back to Hamilton, but it was not done yet.

Kvyat's race came undone by a crash at turn 19; Image Credits - MARK RALSTON/AFP via Getty Images

Having had an impressive start to the weekend, it would all end up shattered for Kvyat. Accelerating out of the penultimate corner, he dipped a wheel on the damp grass and careered into the barrier bringing out another safety car to recover the stricken Red Bull. In response to his teammate’s moves, Hamilton pitted from the lead for fresher rubber coming out in second place, behind his teammate. He had to pass Rosberg by the end of the race in order to win the championship.

It seemed to have all gone well for Hamilton up until now as, despite the fresh rubber, Rosberg began to pull away. It looked like Hamilton would have to wait until Mexico to wrap up the championship as it looked certain that Rosberg was to win.

But no. Luck was on Hamilton’s side that day. Heading out of turn 13 Rosberg ran wide, onto the damp part of the track and lit up his rear tyres. He crawled across the track so as not to spin the car and risk retirement but Hamilton seized his opportunity, shooting down the inside of his teammate to retake the lead and with it the championship.

With just eight laps to go, Rosberg unfortunately couldn't catch up to Hamilton, and fireworks lit up the overcast Texas sky, celebrating a victory for Hamilton in Texas, and the world championship. An exciting end to a season which had given so much.

Hamilton won the race, and with it, the championship; Image Credit - MARK RALSTON / AFP via Getty Images


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