Austin, 17 November – Fernando Alonso is classified second in the Drivers’ World Championship: the Spanish Ferrari man cannot be overtaken now with one race remaining, having picked up ten points for his gritty drive to fifth place. In the other F138, Felipe Massa looked to heading for the points, but the need for a second tyre stop put that out of reach and he came home thirteenth, where he had started, later promoted to twelfth, when Vergne ahead of him got a post race time penalty. Having picked up 14 points today, the Mercedes team has edged further away from the Prancing Horse in the Constructor’s table now leading us by 15 points.
Perfect warm and sunny conditions greeted the 22 drivers as they lined up on the grid, Fernando in sixth place and Felipe in thirteenth. The entire field was on the Medium tyre, apart from Vergne in the Toro Rosso on Hards. As they headed up the hill to turn 1, the order was Vettel from pole, while Grosjean and Hamilton got ahead of Webber now fourth, followed by Hulkenberg Perez, Alonso, who lost a place to go seventh, Bottas, Di Resta, Ricciardo Rosberg, Kovalainen, Massa, still thirteenth. Behind him came Button and Vergne. Sutil crashed heavily in the Force India after a coming together with Maldonado’s Williams and that immediately brought the Safety Car out on the opening lap. Guttierez was the only driver to take to the pits at this point to switch to the Hard tyre.
The race resumed on lap 4, with the order remaining unchanged, although a battle for fifth was developing as Perez in the McLaren and Fernando were chasing down Hulkenberg in the Sauber, while ahead of this trio, Webber in the Red Bull had closed on Hamilton’s Mercedes, helped by the DRS being enabled on lap 6. Still thirteenth, in these early stages, Felipe trailed Kovalainen in the Lotus by 0.8 and led Button by the same margin. On lap 13, Webber managed to get ahead of Hamilton to take third place. One lap later and Felipe was coming under attack from Button in the McLaren. Kovalainen started the run of planned stops on lap 17, fitting the Hard tyre. On lap 20, Button pitted, while Fernando had now closed to around half a second off sixth placed Perez in the other McLaren. Felipe changed tyres on lap 21, fitting the Hards and found himself fifteenth. Lap 22 and Fernando was right on Perez’s tail as the Mexican pitted, as did Di Resta, Rosberg and Ricciardo.
Hamilton pitted the Mercedes from fourth on lap 25 and one lap later, Fernando pitted from fifth, taking on the Hard tyre and this later stop meant he got ahead of Perez.
Race leader Vettel brought the Red Bull in on lap 27, as did Hulkenberg in the Sauber from fourth. When Webber changed tyres on lap 28, it promoted Grosjean, the only man not to have pitted, into the lead, while out on track, Fernando dispensed with Gutierrez to be sixth and further back, Felipe was fourteenth. The lead Lotus came in on lap 29, with the majority clearly planning a one-stop race. The order on lap 31 with 25 to go was now Vettel, Grosjean, Webber, Hamilton, Hulkenberg, a comfortable 4.2 ahead of Fernando in sixth, while behind the Spaniard, we had the battle of the Mexicans between seventh placed Perez and Guttierez. Further back, Rosberg got his Mercedes past Kovalainen, the Finn having to pit for a new nose.
The race ordered seemed set for a while, but as we have seen so often this season, different rates of tyre wear would lead to more excitement in the closing stages. frozen now, any possible changes maybe coming towards the end as tyre wear would begin to be a factor. Rosberg was still moving up, now passing Di Resta in the sole Force India to go tenth. At this point the excitement was provided by a battle for eighth as Bottas took a couple of laps of wheel to wheel dicing to pass Gutierrez and when the Mexican pitted for a second time, taking on the Medium Pirellis, it promoted Felipe to twelfth, except that on lap 39, he too needed an additional set of tyres, which dropped him back to sixteenth. Fernando was chipping away at Hulkenberg’s lead and by lap 40 it had come down to 1.8 from over 4 a few laps earlier. Three laps later and it was under the one second mark, meaning the Ferrari man would get a shot at using the DRS to pass and on lap 45, Fernando got ahead into fifth spot. Could he work a miracle to close on the Mercedes of Hamilton ahead of him in fourth with ten laps to go? Answer no, because he too was running out of grip and, on the very last lap, the hard charging Hulkenberg briefly relegated Fernando to sixth at Turn 1, but the Ferrari man steered back inside and got the place back.
Joining Vettel on the podium, for his record eighth consecutive victory was Romain Grosjean for Lotus and Mark Webber in the second Red Bull.