AUSTIN (Texas) • A happy and victorious Lewis Hamilton bounced with joy on Sunday, but said he was surprised that Sebastian Vettel did not put up a tougher fight in 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 Ferrari's Vettel by 66 points with 75 left and can take the championship by finishing in the top five at this weekend's Mexican Grand Prix.
"That was one of the fun races I've had in a while," he said. "But I was expecting it to be more of a tough fight with Sebastian.
"Maybe it will come in Mexico. I didn't get away to a great start. Seb got a great start, but I was chilled as I know you can overtake here.
"So I stayed cool and then it was great having that battle, trying to keep up, stay close, get within DRS.
"That is what I looked for and that is what I enjoyed the most. But as I said, I was a bit surprised Seb didn't defend more, but it was still fair."
UNITED STATES GRAND PRIX
1 Lewis Hamilton (Gbr) Mercedes 1hr 33min 50.991sec
2 Sebastian Vettel (Ger) Ferrari +10.143sec
3 Kimi Raikkonen (Fin) Ferrari +15.779
4 Max Verstappen (Ned) Red Bull +16.768
5 Valtteri Bottas (Fin) Mercedes +34.967
6 Esteban Ocon (Fra) Force India +1:30.980
7 Carlos Sainz Jr (Esp) Renault +1:32.944
8 Sergio Perez (Mex) Force India +1 lap
9 Felipe Massa (Bra) Williams +1 lap
10 Daniil Kvyat (Rus) Toro Rosso +1 lap
Daniel Ricciardo (Aus) Red Bull 42 laps
OVERALL STANDINGS - DRIVERS
1 Hamilton 331pts
2 Vettel 265
3 Bottas 244
4 Ricciardo 192
5 Raikkonen 163
6 Verstappen 123
1 Mercedes 575
2 Ferrari 428
3 Red Bull 315
4 Force India 159
5 Williams 68
Hamilton added that he was delighted to play his part in the Mercedes team's victory in the constructors' championship for a fourth consecutive season.
"I want to say a big congrats to everyone in the team and everyone back at the factory," he said.
"There has been an incredible push for this kind of performance this year and we have really pulled together to really get something quite special."
A disappointed Vettel, who finished second, said: "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 this was not the result we were looking for."
Vettel's team-mate Kimi Raikkonen finished third, but only after Max Verstappen was demoted to fourth for "exceeding the track limits to gain an advantage".
Following the decision, the Red Bull driver accused Formula One stewards of killing the sport.
"The engine penalty is what it is," said Verstappen, who started 16th after being demoted for power unit changes.
"We had a great race but with those stupid decisions you kill the sport. I hope the fans do not like this decision and next year they do not come."
Verstappen overtook Raikkonen on the last lap to take third place and was voted driver of the day by fans, but was hit with a five-second penalty for cutting the track to overtake the Finn on the final lap.
Red Bull boss Christian Horner was furious at the stewards' inconsistency. "It is an appalling decision. They have robbed all of the fans here," he said.
Mario Andretti, the 1978 world champion, tweeted: "After watching videos could equally argue Kimi forced him there. Best overtake of #USGP. Feel sorry for @Max33Verstappen you got robbed."
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS