Lewis Hamilton moved within clear reach of his fourth world title on Sunday, when he came home 10 seconds clear of nearest rival Sebastian Vettel and won the United States Grand Prix.
The 32-year-old Briton, who started from a record 72nd pole position, recovered after losing his advantage at the start to regain the lead and steer his Mercedes to his ninth win this year, his fifth in Texas and the 62nd of his career.
With three races remaining, Hamilton leads Vettel by 66 points and can take the championship by winning, or finishing in the top five, at next weekend’s Mexican Grand Prix.
“What a beautiful day,” said Hamilton, interviewed on the podium by multiple Olympic champion Usain Bolt.
“I love this track and I think it’s now my favourite!
“I feel just amazing. Look at this crowd. Since 2012, this crowd has been growing year on year, and a big congratulations to the team – they work so hard at the factory and here.”
Hamilton’s victory, with teammate Finn Valtteri Bottas finishing fifth, sealed the constructors' championship for Mercedes for the fourth consecutive season.
Four-time champion German Vettel came home second for Ferrari and with three races remaining trails Hamilton by 66 points in the drivers’ title race.
“It was looking good at the start, but we had to realise we couldn’t get at that pace – we were in no man’s land and there was no secret to it,” Vettel said.
“It’s not strategy. They were quicker than us, so congratulations to Lewis.”
Max Verstappen crossed the line in third place after a controversial final corner passing move that saw his Red Bull car run off track as he swept beyond Kimi Raikkonen in the second Ferrari.
The move was investigated immediately by the stewards, who gave Verstappen – already in the podium ceremony waiting room – a five-second penalty that lifted Raikkonen back to third for Ferrari.
All this meant the angry and disappointed Verstappen finished fourth ahead of Bottas, Esteban Ocon of Force India and Carlos Sainz, who finished seventh on his debut with Renault following his move from Toro Rosso.
Felipe Massa finished ninth for Williams and Russian Daniil Kvyat 10th in the second Toro Rosso.
After a savage overnight storm, the race began in dry and warm conditions with an air temperature of 24 degrees Celsius and the track at 33, near perfect for a big crowd that included former American president Bill Clinton.
When the lights went out, it was Vettel who had the best getaway and he held off Hamilton, who had been on pole, as he tried to respond into Turn 1.
The Ferrari soon pulled clear to lead by 0.8 seconds and increased it to a second by the end of the second lap with Bottas scrapping hard to resist a determined Ricciardo to retain third.
After a few laps reassessing his position, Hamilton picked up his pace and clocked fastest laps before regaining the lead on lap six with a move that appeared to catch Vettel by surprise.
He surged into position and then with the aid of his Drag Reduction System (DRS) outpaced him at the end of the back straight. Vettel attempted to fight back in vain and was soon trailing by 1.2 seconds.
Further back in the field, Verstappen, who started 16th, rose to eighth and was carving through the traffic, soon reaching sixth place by lap 10.
By lap 12, Hamilton was leading by 3.5 seconds ahead of Vettel, with Bottas third and Ricciardo fourth ahead of Raikkonen and Verstappen.
Ricciardo was the first of the leaders to pit after 12 laps, rejoining ninth and passing Sainz for eighth before an engine failure ended his race after 16 laps.
Vettel, by then more than four seconds adrift of Hamilton, pitted immediately for softs while the Englishman told his team his tyres remained “good” and he could extend his opening stint.
This resulted in the two Mercedes running one and two at the front ahead of Raikkonen until the Finn pitted after 18 laps.
Hamilton followed one lap later, allowing Raikkonen to take the lead with Verstappen second, and he exited the pits only just ahead of a rampant Vettel.
“That was a little bit close guys,” said Hamilton, calmly, on team radio. Despite all his speed, Vettel was still behind his rival as they both gained a place when Raikkonen pitted.
This left Verstappen in the lead, after 22 laps, with Hamilton catching and then, on lap 23, finding his way back to the front.
As he did, the luckless Fernando Alonso was coasting back to the McLaren Honda pits for his 11th non-finish of the year and Sainz split the Force Indias to take seventh.
The leaders remained unchanged until lap 38 when, after Verstappen had pitted to give Red Bull an ‘under-cut’ chance, Vettel came in to cover that move and exited fourth, in front of the Dutchman.
“Keep me up to date with what you need me to do – tyres are still good,” said Hamilton.
Mercedes, holding first and second on well-used tyres, dived for their calculators in the knowledge that Ferrari were flying – as seen when Raikkonen, 38 last week, dived inside Bottas for second after 42 laps.
By lap 44, Hamilton led Bottas by 9.5 seconds and was agitated. “How are they so close?” he asked. He responded himself and by lap 46 was 11.6 clear.
Vettel chased and then passed the sliding Bottas for third on lap 51 and his Ferrari teammate, who moved aside, on lap 52.
Finally, Bottas pitted with four laps of guaranteed tension – and excitement – to go.