Lewis Hamilton continued to keep his title hopes alive with his 50th career victory in Texas last weekend, becoming just the third driver to do so: Alain Prost (51) and Michael Schumacher (91) are ahead of him.
However, if Nico Rosberg wins on Sunday and Hamilton fails to finish inside the top nine, Rosberg will be crowned champion. Hamilton is now 26 points behind with 75 available in the final three races.
There are things that Hamilton has done that no other driver has – for instance, he became the first driver to have set pole position at 23 different circuits, beating Prost’s previous record. There are only 9 places around the world where both have taken pole position, highlighting just how much the championship has changed in the last two decades. For those who care, those circuits are in Spain, Canada, Germany, Hungary, Brazil, Monaco, Italy, Britain and Belgium. Hamilton has just three circuits on the current calendar where he hasn’t taken pole: Baku, the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez and Suzuka.
Away from the stats, Hamilton’s first win since the German Grand Prix in July was a dominating display. Rosberg finished second after losing a position to Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo at the start. Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel finished fourth.
Ricciardo was a solid second for a lot of the race, certainly up until the first pit stops – after which he made an early final pit stop for medium tyres on lap 25. However, teammate Max Verstappen suffered a gearbox failure, creating a virtual safety car period allowing the two Mercedes drivers to get a free pit stop scuppering Ricciardo’s chances of securing second place from Rosberg.
Verstappen also caused some interest in the middle of the race by thinking that his team had called him in for a pit stop. The mechanics were not ready for him and he was delayed as they scrabbled to get tyres together for him. The Red Bull mechanics were impressive as they managed not to waste too much of his time – in the end it didn’t matter as he didn’t finish the race.
There was more pit stop drama too as the Ferrari of Kimi Raikkonen, who was on course to take fifth, had to stop at the end of the pit lane after the team believed a wheel was not secured properly.
Behind all of this was a great battle for fifth place between Carlos Sainz (Toro Rosso), Felipe Massa (Williams) and Fernando Alonso (McLaren). Alonso grabbed sixth place from Massa with four laps to go after the retiring Brazilian driver locked a wheel. Alonso then closed down the two-second gap to Sainz with less than a lap to go. He dived for the inside at turn 12 and took the place to further boost his points total for the season.