Hamilton Bests Vettel at U.S. Grand Prix

Sebastian Vettel’s team works on his Ferrari during a pit stop at the 2017 U.S. Grand Prix in Austin, Texas. The four-time world champion finished No. 2 in the Oct. 22 race. Photo courtesy of Federation Internationale de l’Automobile.

The lights went out. Sebastian Vettel accelerated down the hill, overtaking the pole position leader, Lewis Hamilton, for the lead at the U.S. Grand Prix in Austin, Texas Sunday, Oct. 22. Ferrari had a phenomenal evening thanks to Vettel and fellow teammate Kimi Raikkonen. But Hamilton emerged victorious, overtaking his German nemesis, Vettel, in the first lap. Hamilton completed the Circuit of the Americas with a time of 1:33.50, more than 10 seconds faster than No. 2 Vettel.

The final standings generated feelings of both joy and despair. Max Verstappen, the youngest driver to ever race in a Grand Prix at 17 years old in 2015, started the race in the 16th slot but experienced engine problems in the first lap of the race. A charging drive made up for his slow start, which earned him a spot on the podium just below Vettel at No. 3. But Verstappen procured a 5-second penalty for overtaking Raikkonen outside track limits, dropping the Dutchman to No. 4 in the final standings. That drop secured Ferrari two much-needed podium finishes after their failure to reach the podium at Suzuka, Sepang and Marina Bay. Even with the results of the race, Ferrari is 147 points behind Mercedes, effectively cementing Mercedes as No. 1 and Ferrari as No. 2 for the 2017 Constructors’ World Championship.

Hamilton went on to extend his World Championship lead over Vettel by 66 points. But there remains a thin ray of hope shining over the German for a Championship win this year. Vettel, a four-time Formula One (F1) World Champion with Red Bull Racing, moved to Scuderia Ferrari, the oldest team in F1, on a three-year contract that was extended another three years in August 2017. Many say that Vettel lost his spark after his move from Red Bull Racing to Ferrari in 2015, failing to secure first place in season standings since the switch.

With only three races left in the season, it is still unclear whether Vettel will succeed in his pursuit for a fifth World Championship and his first World Championship title with Ferrari. Vettel will need at least two first-place finishes and one second-place finish. Even if Vettel were to achieve victories, it is highly unlikely that the four-time champion would be able to win the Championship this year, because it would require Hamilton to not put anymore points between him and the German.