McLaren's Lewis Hamilton carried his winning ways through from Canada to the United States as he took his second victory of the season at the US Grand Prix. Hamilton led from pole to flag while teammate Fernando Alonso had to settle for second;...
McLaren's Lewis Hamilton carried his winning ways through from Canada to the United States as he took his second victory of the season at the US Grand Prix. Hamilton led from pole to flag while teammate Fernando Alonso had to settle for second; the Spaniard challenged for the lead in the middle stint of the race but didn't make it stick. Ferrari trailed in the wake of the McLarens, Felipe Massa third and Kimi Raikkonen fourth.
It was hot at Indianapolis on Sunday, the track in the mid fifties at the start and the air temperature around 20 degrees lower. It was a clean start at the front, with Alonso tucking in behind Hamilton, mindful of his first corner error at Montreal. Massa held third but Raikkonen was slow away on the harder tyre and dropped to sixth behind the BMW Sauber of Nick Heidfeld and Renault's Heikki Kovalainen.
Toyota's Jarno Trulli gained a couple of places to seventh and Mark Webber's Red Bull went up one to eighth. Meanwhile, slightly further down the field there was trouble. A first corner incident involving Honda's Rubens Barrichello, Red Bull's David Coulthard and the Toyota of Ralf Schumacher saw all three retire from the race. Schumacher locked up and went across the track, into Coulthard.
Barrichello tried to avoid it and hit th back of teammate Button. Coulthard believed that Schumacher had been hit by somebody else first. "I was quite a way behind the guys I started with, my start wasn't very good," said the Scott. "I think Ralf and someone else came together and Ralf got turned around." Schumacher himself shrugged it off. "I think it was a normal race incident," he remarked. "Things can happen at the start."
Schumacher was out straight away, while Coulthard managed to nurse the car back to the pits but the oil cooler was damaged and he retired. Barrichello did the same shortly afterwards with broken front suspension. Back on track -- or off it in some cases -- Giancarlo Fisichella's Renault spun and took a trip through the gravel. He managed to keep going but it dropped him down near the back of the pack.
By lap five Hamilton was nearly two seconds ahead of Alonso the top eight positions holding after the first couple of laps. Nico Rosberg's Williams was up to ninth and Sebastian Vettel, whose BMW Sauber had gone wide at turn one at the start, possibly to avoid the trouble, was down to 10th. Toro Rosso's Tonio Liuzzi had climbed to 11th and was defending from the second Williams of Alex Wurz in 12th.
Adrian Sutil had a good start and his Spyker was up to 13th, followed by the Super Aguri of Takuma Sato. Scott Speed's Toro Rosso was 15th and Jenson Button had dropped a couple of places to 16th. Fisichella was running 17th after his early spin and Super Aguri's Anthony Davidson and Spyker's Christijan Albers were the backmarkers in 18th and 19th respectively.
Fisichella was making his way through the pack and went side by side with Button through turns eight and nine but Button held him off. It wasn't for long, though, as Fisichella had another go down the pit straight and dispatched the Honda at turn one. Wurz was all over the back of Liuzzi's Toro Rosso but couldn't find a way past. Fisichella was still on it and Speed was next to fall to the Renault, also at turn one.
Sato was under investigation for overtaking under yellow flags after the first corner incident but his race was over fairly quickly. He lunged past Sutil but then spun off into the gravel and got bogged down. The stewards later decided that Sato had overtaken at the wrong time and he will be penalized by a drop of ten places on the grid at the next race, the French Grand Prix in two weeks time.
Fisichella was then up to 13th behind the still-feuding pair of Liuzzi and Wurz. At the front Hamilton was three and a half seconds ahead of Alonso and the pair were already starting to lap the backmarkers. Raikkonen was harassing Kovalainen, then Heidfeld ran wide and the Renault got up into fourth. Hamilton, Massa and Heidfeld were the first to pit and Alonso was in on the next lap.
Raikkonen and Vettel followed suit shortly afterwards, while Fisichella got past Wurz round the outside through six and seven and homed in on Liuzzi. There were some fights going on the midfield, half a dozen cars or more ducking and weaving down the main straight, and Button got past Speed. Kovalainen pitted from the lead and Hamilton had a few slow laps in traffic which allowed Alonso to close in.
Heidfeld and Raikkonen were scrapping down the straight and Kovalainen rejoined behind them. Fisichella beat Liuzzi through six and seven and Alonso was still closing on Hamilton as they came up behind the train of midfield cars. They made their way through quite easily until they came to Liuzzi, when Hamilton lost some ground and Alonso was right on his rear wing.
Liuzzi dived into the pits and Alonso slipstreamed Hamilton down the straight. They were side by side and the crowd was going bonkers, but much to Alonso's frustration Hamilton held his ground. The fans might have enjoyed it but the McLaren pit wall looked rather uptight for a few minutes. Fisichella made his one and only stop, as did Rosberg who had a slight delay with the fuel rig.
The points' running order was then Hamilton, Alonso, Massa, Raikkonen, Heidfeld, Kovalainen, Trulli and Webber. Raikkonen was closing on Massa and seemed much quicker in the middle stint of the race. Little changed in this period; Sutil and Davidson were squabbling over 12th and Alonso lost a little time to Hamilton when he went a bit wide, but there were no particular dramas.
In the second round of pit stops the McLarens an Massa switched to the harder tyre while Raikkonen went on to the soft compound. Hamilton retained the lead, with Alonso close behind again, and Massa stayed ahead of Raikkonen. Heidfeld was forced to retire with some kind of problem on the hydraulics, as he slowed on track and then pulled off onto the grass.
McLaren had presumably told Hamilton and Alonso to cool it as they were holding steady at the front and starting to drop off their pace a little. Raikkonen was looming large in Massa's mirrors but even despite a small error from the Brazilian Raikkonen couldn't get past. Davidson whipped past Button, who didn't put up much of a fight, and that put the Super Aguri up to 11th. But time was running out.
With just four laps to go Rosberg, who had been running a solid sixth, was forced out due to an oil leak that ignited. The Williams began puffing blue smoke at the rear down the straight and Rosberg pulled off at the pit exit with flames spouting from the car. A real shame as he'd had a good afternoon. That put Vettel up to eight and his first championship point in his debut race.
Liuzzi was another very late retiree; two laps to go and the Italian went into the pits with a water pressure problem. He and Rosberg were classed 17th and 16th respectively. Hamilton took the chequered flag to become the first Briton to win the US GP in over 20 years, with Alonso a second and a half behind. They put on a good show of solidarity on the podium but the tension in McLaren must be pretty high by now.
"I was under pressure all the way from Fernando and we were both pushing as hard as possible," said Hamilton. "I made a good start to maintain the advantage but Fernando was right there. In the second stint Fernando managed to get really close when my tyres were graining, and he had a go at the end of the straight, but I was able to keep him behind. It's been a long and hot day, but I have really enjoyed myself and the support from the fans."
Alonso was satisfied to at least get a trophy, his first at Indy. "I think the race was decided after the first corner, and I didn't manage to get past," he commented. "The car was working well, and I'm looking forward to the rest of the season. At the end of the day the team can leave Indianapolis having extended the gap to Ferrari in the Constructors' battle and having eight points is better than none. I'm looking forward to going back to Europe and the rest of the season."
Massa held off Raikkonen to take third but he and the Finn are slipping down in the title fight. Ferrari was expected to pick up its form in North America, where it usually goes well, but the Scuderia really wasn't on McLaren's pace. Raikkonen did set the fastest lap of the race in the middle stint but overall Ferrari wasn't in a position to threaten McLaren. Third was pretty much the best Massa could expect.
"We can't be satisfied with third place," he said. "I did my best and I am happy to have got on the podium. We need to work out how to improve the car to get ahead of our closest rivals. We need to work flat out on the technical development to make up the ground lost over these past three races. In the final stint of the race, Kimi got very close and I was struggling a bit because I was on the hard tyres and he had the softs. I didn't make any mistakes and managed to stay ahead of him."
Kovalainen had another string race to come home fifth, his form currently on an upward trend after his miserable early season. Fisichella at least improved one place from his starting position with ninth but his spin pretty much messed up his afternoon right from the start. Trulli had a rather anonymous race; he came under pressure from Webber towards the end but held on to sixth, with Webber picking up his first points of the season in seventh.
Vettel should be pleased with his one point but Heidfeld's retirement was a let down. BMW is nibbling at Ferrari's heels in the competitiveness stakes and reliability issues are disappointing after the team has been improving steadily. The remaining Williams of Wurz was 10th, a reality check after his podium in Canada perhaps, and Davidson held on to 11th ahead of Button at the finish line.
Speed at least finished his home race this time, 13th, ahead of the Spykers, Sutil and Albers 14th and 15th respectively. Indianapolis wasn't exactly a thriller but the ongoing battle between Hamilton and Alonso kept up the tension. Hamilton is now 10 points clear of the Spaniard and Massa a further nine points behind Alonso. With Raikkonen seven behind his teammate, it's clear that Ferrari has a lot of work to do.
McLaren is 35 points clear at the top of the constructors' standings -- it makes one wonder if Raikkonen is regretting his decision to switch teams. The Finn and Alonso were tipped to go head to head for the title this year but for the moment both are struggling to get the upper hand on their teammates. Final top eight classification: Hamilton, Alonso, Massa, Raikkonen, Kovalainen, Trulli, Webber, Vettel.