Lewis Hamilton edged ever closer to winning a fourth world championship after an emphatic victory over Sebastian Vettel at the United States Grand Prix.
Hamilton lost out to his fast-starting rival on the uphill dash to the first corner at a sun-blazed Circuit of the Americas, but reclaimed the lead just six laps later.
The Briton survived a nervy opening pit stop, in which he rejoined the track just in front of Vettel, but this win – his ninth of an impressive season and fifth in the six grands prix since the summer break – rarely looked in doubt.
Hamilton now needs to finish only fifth in Mexico, the second race of this back-to-back instalment next Sunday, to clinch his fourth crown.
Hamilton crossed the line 10.1 seconds ahead of Vettel with Max Verstappen, who started way down in 16th, producing another startling performance with a sensational last-lap move on Kimi Raikkonen.
The Dutchman however, was stripped of his third place after he was handed a five-second time penalty for leaving the track when he made his move on Raikkonen to demote him back to fourth.
Valtteri Bottas finished only fifth on a disappointing day for the Finn, but Northamptonshire-based Mercedes did enough to secure their fourth consecutive championship with three rounds still to go. “I think this track is now my favourite,” a jubilant Hamilton, who has won five of the six grands prix staged in Austin, said.
“A big congratulations to the team who have worked so hard back at the factory.
“They truly deserve it as they have been the best team this year.
“It is a dream job, and I know many of you would love to drive a Formula One car and I can tell you that it is the greatest experience and feeling in the world.
“I would not be here without my family. My brother is down here and my mum is up there, so I am sending you guys love.”
Hamilton, interviewed by eight-time Olympic champion Usain Bolt on the podium after his victory, added: “Bro, you’ve got to teach me to do the Bolt.”
The two them performed the Jamaican sprinter’s signature pose.
“I am trying to catch you up dude,” Hamilton added. “You have led the way.
“It has been an incredible year so far. There are still three races to go, so three more to win.”
Vettel, now 66 points behind Hamilton with only 75 remaining, added: “At the start it was looking good. We got past Lewis, but then we realised we could not match his pace today.
“Towards the end we decided to pit again so the last laps were especially exciting, but overall it was not the result we wanted.”