United States Grand Prix 2012

/ Commentary

Race

13:02 Time for all the talking to stop and the driving to start. The cars are on the grid and the lights come on... One, two, three, four, five ... GO!

13:01 Doug says: "All's fair in love & War...and this is neither....brilliant strategy on the team's part and props to Massa for supporting the larger goal. I still think Vettel's going to take the championship."

13:01 Naas emails in to say: "I'm watching RTL in Germany. They just interviewed Vettel and he was unbelievably relaxed, calm and friendly with the commentators. He must have balls of steel!"

13:00 The drivers on the left hand side of the grid really lighting up the rear tyres as they leave the grid. They'll hope that gives them enough grip at the start

12:59 We're away on the formation lap and only Button and Rosberg are starting on the hard tyre

12:57 The title permutations for you before the formation lap gets underway. Vettel will be champion if he wins and Alonso is fifth or lower. If Vettel finishes second then he will be champion if Alonso is ninth or lower, and if Vettel is third then he will only win the title if Alonso fails to score.

12:56 Track temperature is up at 32C and air temperature is also warmer than yesterday at 23C

12:55 A couple of comments on the Ferrari situation, one from Siddhesh: "I think its a fair enough strategic call by Ferrari. Its no different to Redbull or Mercedes or any other team finding loopholes in the regulations to bring innovations to their cars. If at all the blame has to be placed somewhere, it should be with the track! How come starting on the dirty side has never been this big a issue in any of the other new tracks in the past?"

And one from George: "How is it in the best interest of the team when the drivers start from 7th & 11thinstead from 6th & 8th. It is just in the interest of Alonso!"

12:51 Massa is asked by Sky about his demotion, and he says "For sure it's difficult to find a driver like me". Really feel for him, he'd done such a good job yesterday to outqualify Alonso.

12:49 For those in the UK - the BBC and Sky just interviewed Vettel together at the same time. It was tense. Vettel refused to be drawn on Alonso's promotion though.

12:47 Vinay adds the Massa's penalty is "Brilliant from Ferrari"

12:45 Vinay asks: "What tyre does Alonso starts on. Surely it must be the hard tyre as he could go longer in the race and for a chance to catch Vettel. This is want Vettel did in the last race."

Alonso starts on the medium compound tyre as that is what he qualified on in Q3. It's what the rules dictate so there's no way he can do what Vettel did in Abu Dhabi.

12:40 All the talk is about the dirty side of the grid, but Hamilton looks relaxed and happy on the grid. He said he plans on giving Vettel a hard time, but those first few metres could be crucial

12:35 I get the feeling a few of you may have opinions on that move from Ferrari. Let us know your thoughts either by emailing us using the link above or via Twitter @ESPNF1

12:33 Don't think that's just how I'm deciphering the move, either. Here's the full Ferrari statement:

"We've decided to accept the penalty normally associated with the gearbox change on Felipe's car which means that he'll get a 5 place grid penalty. The reason for this was for strategy considerations, with the objective of maximizing Alonso's start potential given that he's still in with a chance to win the Drivers' championship. We saw yesterday that starting from the dirty side of the track would have been penalizing: there was a significant risk of finding ourselves too far behind the leaders at the end of the first lap. It was a decision agreed by both drivers. We've always maintained that the interests of the team come before that of the individual drivers and this has always been our very transparent policy. Felipe has fully comprehended the reasons behind this decision and so he's once again proven his total dedication to the team - something for which we would publicly like to express our gratitude."

12:31 Ferrari has broken the seal on Felipe Massa's gearbox in order to give him a five place grid penalty. The reason for that? It promotes Fernando Alonso to seventh place on the grid and more importantly the clean side of the grid, with both drivers having originally been starting sixth and eighth

12:30 Hello and welcome to ESPNF1's live coverage of the United States Grand Prix. We could have the title decided in a little over two hours, but first there's some breaking news for you from the circuit...

Lap 1

Vettel and Webber get good starts and lead through turn one. Hamilton decent enough and drops to third, Alonso up to fourth immediately! That's why Ferrari did it!

Perez dives up the inside of Senna for 11th place.

Lap 2

Vettel leads by 0.7s at the end of the first lap but hasn't disappeared like we've seen before. Hulkenberg dives up the inside of Schumacher for fifth in to turn one.

Raikkonen passes Schumacher in to turn 11 but Grosjean then passes the pair of them in to turn 12!

Lap 3

Vettel with the fastest lap is 1.4s clear of Webber and Hamilton another 1.3s back. DRS is enabled and we have a train behind Schumacher now.

Hamilton passes Webber in to turn 12 and then runs wide to allow Webber back through, Vettel's getting away but Hamilton looks very quick. Vettel doesn't seem all that quick and Hamilton is faster despite that error

Lap 4

Hamilton is the quickest man in the opening sector. He'll have another go at Webber here... and he's through! Up in to second and sets off after Vettel - Hamilton looks faster here. Race is on!

Hamilton takes a tenth out of Vettel despite having to make that move on Webber. Hulkenberg has Grosjean for close company in the battle for fifth

Lap 5

Schumacher going backwards. Raikkonen and di Resta are through. Massa's next to have a look.

Button attacks Maldonado but can't get through and Vergne almost runs in to the back of him at turn 12

Lap 6

Vettel pulls 0.2s out of Hamilton on the last lap, but then Hamilton takes another 0.3s out of the Red Bull in sector one.

Button passes Maldonado in to turn one, while Grosjean tries the same on Hulkenberg but runs wide and loses out again.

Lap 7

Hamilton sets the fastest lap to bring the gap down to 2.6s.

Grosjean spins! He's dropped it in to turn 19 and rejoins alongside Schumacher - Massa dives up the inside of both in to turn 20 and then Grosjean drops another place to Perez at turn one.

Senna uses DRS to pass Grosjean for 11th place.

Lap 8

Hamilton with another fastest lap and the gap now is just 2.2s. Webber already 2.3s behind and Alonso has dropped 3.7s behind the Red Bull.

Button dives up the inside of Grosjean in to turn one. Replays show Grosjean had already lost it before he got to the apex of turn 19. That's left Raikkonen to chase Hulkenberg. Senna passes Schumacher for 10th place using DRS.

Lap 9

Hamilton closes the gap to 2.1s. For the first time Alonso closed the gap to Webber by a tenth, while Hulkenberg is now six seconds behind Alonso.

Hamilton is mighty in sector one - 0.4s out of Vettel on this lap alone. And another 0.2s in sector two. Button all over the back of Schumacher as Ricciardo passes Grosjean for 13th in to turn one. Tyres will be ruined on the Lotus after that spin

Lap 10

Hamilton takes 0.6s out of Vettel to lower the gap to 1.6s. Another 0.4s out of Vettel in sector one and he'll be in DRS range soon.

Grosjean pits for a set of hard tyres as Button passes Schumacher in to turn one with a robust move - Schumacher squeezed him tight to the inside.

Raikkonen all over the back of Hulkenberg now, the Lotus looks very quick today when it has a good set of tyres on!

Lap 11

Vettel is told about the gap is 1.5s. Hamilton is told that he's 0.4s from DRS. It's tense at the front. Alonso now 3.4s behind Webber.

Raikkonen opens the DRS but is too far back to attack Hulkenberg. Behind that battle Massa dives up the inside of di Resta in to turn 12 for 7th place.

Lap 12

Hamilton and Vettel do almost identical lap times. Hamilton is told that he is "in the window", and then sets the fastest first sector of the race.

Raikkonen again uses DRS but Hulkenberg defends the inside. Raikkonen gets a run towards turn 13 but Hulkenberg hangs him wide and holds him off - great racing.

Lap 13

Fastest lap from Vettel but only 0.1s quicker than Hamilton. Massa told he's catching Raikkonen who's being held up, but Raikkonen pulls a brilliant move around the outside of turn two! I said great racing, that was BRILLIANT racing.

Maldonado makes Schumacher defend in to turn 12 and then gets the undercut for turn 13 to take 13th place

Lap 14

Here comes Hamilton. Takes 0.1s out of Vettel and then another 0.4s in sector one - he could be in DRS range. He isn't but Vettel locks up in to turn 15.

Kobayashi pits for a set of hard tyres.

Di Resta has Perez and Senna right behind him. Button catching all three rapidly on the hard tyres.

Lap 15

Hamilton is within a second now and has been told to use maximum revs. Hamilton gets the DRS and closes right up behind the Red Bull in to turn 12. Vettel looks rattled.

Vergne has stopped with another broken suspension after hitting a kerb too hard.

Lap 16

Hamilton is 0.9s behind Vettel at the end of the lap but still within DRS zone.

Vergne is out of the race, we have yellows and cars have taken a while to clear this weekend.

Lap 17

Vettel is now a second behind Vettel but again quicker in sector one. Alonso is 3.3s behind Webber now, while Webber is told that KERS has failed. AGAIN!

Vergne's car has been cleared so we're green again. Massa is past Hulkenberg now.

Webber is out! Alonso is up to third, Webber's parked it outside turn 12...

Lap 18

Hamilton with a scruffy final sector and he drops 1.4s behind Vettel. The fastest man on track at present is Raikkonen.

Hulkenberg pits for a set of hard tyres.

Lap 19

Hamilton is suddenly slow everywhere but the first sector. He lost 1.1s to Vettel on that last lap and is now 2.5s behind Vettel.

Grosjean with the fastest lap down in 14th place on hard tyres. Massa had previously set the fastest lap. Hamilton seems to be struggling...

Lap 20

Vettel has pulled 3.2s clear of Hamilton. Alonso is third but 11.5s back after running wide at turn 19.

Vettel is quicker than Hamilton in sector one on this occasion. That's worrying for McLaren. Raikkonen is 6.5s behind Alonso and catching.

Hamilton pits for a set of hard tyres. Vettel is told of it, and Alonso pits too. SLOW STOP FOR ALONSO. Right rear wouldn't go on, and Raikkonen could get him here as about 4 seconds were lost.

Lap 21

Alonso struggling for grip in the opening sector. Alonso's dropped behind di Resta on his out lap as Button passes Perez for seventh.

Vettel pits at the end of the lap.

Lap 22

Replays show Button had to muscle his way past Senna in turn 15 a lap before.

Raikkonen is right behind Vettel right now, while Alonso has Button all over the back of him too. Raikkonen is told of the position of Hamilton and says "I know, I passed him in turn one!"

Lap 23

Hamilton's back in the race now as he's got his hards up to temperature. He's 2.1s behind Vettel and quicker, but has Raikkonen in front.

Massa is told Alonso is struggling on the hards, and Button has just DRS to pass the Ferrari in to turn 12.

Lap 24

Raikkonen and Hamilton battling for second place right now through sector one, and it's allowing Vettel to get away. I think Raikkonen will jump Alonso for third when he pits. Hamilton makes it through using DRS in to turn 12 and sets off after Vettel once again.

Massa has yet to pit and is catching Raikkonen too. Raikkonen pits from third while Massa continues. Slow stop for Raikkonen! That lets Alonso off the hook, who only just stays ahead of the Lotus

Lap 25

Raikkonen should have been comfortably ahead of Alonso, but instead he's now behind Ricciardo who is yet to stop.

The McLarens are flying as Hamilton sets the fastest lap and takes 0.3s out of Vettels lead. The gap now two seconds.

Lap 26

Massa and Button are third and fourth but yet to pit. As it stands Vettel would be champion, but Alonso should make up at least one place when Button stops. Massa pits and rejoins ahead of Raikkonen

Lap 27

Webber reveals it was an alternator failure for him; Vettel will not be sitting comfortably.

Hamilton now 1.8s behind Vettel. Button is still circulating in third place, while Massa loses out to Ricciardo in the DRS zone for fifth place and Raikkonen is right behind the Ferrari which is struggling to heat the hard tyres

Lap 28

Hamilton with another fastest lap and he's 1.5s behind Vettel. Button is slow now - 2.5s off the pace but he had to negotiate traffic.

Raikkonen dives up the inside of Massa in to turn one and makes it stick. Good move. He has an HRT in between him and Ricciardo. Could be a need for two stops here looking at the way Button's tyres are going off.

Lap 29

Hamilton with a slow lap as he negotiates traffic and he's now 2.4s behind Vettel. I was wrong about Button; he's just matched Hamilton so isn't that slow.

Yet to pit are Button, Ricciardo and Rosberg. Grosjean has just passed Rosberg for eighth place, but traffic is a real issue at present.

Raikkonen defends from Massa in to turn 12; looks like the Ferrari has switched those hard tyres on

Lap 30

The gap at the front is now 2.5s. Hamilton may be biding his time for a while as he appeared to overheat the tyres in the first stint.

Alonso is 1.9s behind Button but losing 0.5s back. Button asks "What about Felipe?" and is told that Massa's stuck in traffic and losing time

Lap 31

Vettel, Hamilton and Button all do lap times within 0.1s of each other. Hamilton's told that his tyres were fine and that he can push on this set. Having been told that, Hamilton does indeed push and sets the fastest middle sector.

Ricciardo pits and Di Resta pits for a second time. Is that going to be the strategy now?

Lap 32

Hamilton sets the fastest lap and reduces the gap to 2.1s. Vettel is getting a little but held up by Glock in the first sector and Hamilton is gaining a lot of time there. He's yet to pass the Marussia himself though and Glock appears to hold Hamilton up in the second sector too.

Button now 2.9s clear of Alonso.

Lap 33

Focus is on the front because Hamilton has set another fastest lap and reduced the gap to 1.6s. He's so quick in the first sector but Vettel gets another DRS boost passing a backmarker to keep Hamilton at bay.

Button radios in to say "tyres are good, tyres are good" and he's bringing himself in to podium contention. Massa has dropped 1.1s behind Raikkonen now.

Lap 34

Another fastest lap from Hamilton and he's now in DRS range as Vettel makes a mistake. He;s not close enough to pass though. Vettel seems slow and Hamilton is all over the back of him.

Lap 35

The gap is 0.6s at the end of that lap, can Hamilton stay close enough in the first sector to make a move stick using DRS?

Alonso is three seconds behind Button now and 10 seconds clear of Raikkonen. He seems comfortably set for third when Button pits as Button can't pull away

Lap 36

Vettel responds with the fastest lap of the race after setting an impressive fastest final sector. Button pits from third to promote Alonso. New set of mediums for Button who loses out to Grosjean out of turn one. That's seventh place for Button.

Vettel is giving it everything he's got to hold on to the lead.

Lap 37

Fastest lap from Vettel, but Hamilton just 0.1s slower. The gap is 1.1s. These two are in a league of their own today. With 20 laps to go they are half a minute clear of Alonso who in turn is 10 seconds ahead of Raikkonen.

Button is flying - fastest first sector and he's a second behind Grosjean. He's only five seconds behind Raikkonen in fourth too

Lap 38

Hamilton is so much quicker in the first sector and he takes half a second out of Vettel. He's closer than he's ever been in to the DRS zone but still not close enough, despite a little jink to the left to let Vettel know where he is. The Red Bull seem to respond in the final sector.

Button uses DRS on Grosjean but that's good defence. Grosjean places his car well but Button then catches him sleeping in to turn 15 and dives up the inside for sixth place. Good move.

Lap 39

Hamilton 0.9s behind Vettel and again in the DRS zone but just keeps running out of straight.

Button is 2.7s behind Massa but definitely in the quicker car. Hulkenberg in eighth place has Senna 1.2s behind and is doing a good job of maintaining the gap. Maldonado is catching his team-mate

Lap 40

What a move from Massa! He sets up Raikkonen in turn one and then drives around the outside of him in turn two for fourth place! Button just one second behind Raikkonen now for fifth place as Schumacher pits for a second time.

Hamilton much closer to Vettel too

Lap 41

Hamilton 0.6s behind Vettel at the end of that lap, but when he's that close he seems to be unable to make such an impression in sector one. He's closer this time in the DRS zone but can't make a move.

Hulkenberg, Senna and Maldonado covered by two seconds from eighth to tenth

Lap 42

Vettel with the fastest lap, he's driving superbly it must be said as Hamilton is incessant. An HRT just held up Vettel though, here's Hamilton's chance...

AND HAMILTON IS THROUGH! DRS does the job, Vettel defends the inside but Hamilton is through on the outside before the braking zone. It was SO close at full speed. Can Hamilton get away now?

Lap 43

So Hamilton leads by 0.9s at the end of that lap, and Vettel is complaining that something was "unbelievable" on the radio. Personally I think he was complaining about the HRT but I'm not certain.

Button is still stuck behind Raikkonen for fifth place and looking for a way through. Massa is now five seconds clear of this pair and quicker than Alonso too but 10s behind his team-mate.

Lap 44

Crooner emails in to say: "Yes yes yes. Hamilton can and will get away for the rest of the race!!!!!"

Hamilton sets the fastest lap and is 1.3s clear of Vettel. Now he just needs his car to hold out...

Lap 45

Button attacks Raikkonen around the outside in to turn 12 but sees Raikkonen defend well all the way to turn 15. Button's chances of fourth are disappearing as Massa is now 7.1s ahead.

Vettel with a good lap and cuts the gap to 1.2s. This race is far from over.

Lap 46

Hamilton getting sector-by-sector updates on the gap to Vettel.

Button around the outside again at turn 12 but this time he's closer and Raikkonen leaves him just a cars width on the outside to get the job done, which Button does in to turn 13. Button up to fifth and then the fastest first sector.

Fastest lap comes from Alonso... but he's 30s off the lead.

Lap 47

Kit emails in to say: "Vettel, u stay cool...remember, u are not racing Hamilton...u are racing alonso for Driver's Championship...! Most important, bring the car home for this race...!"

Vettel is not giving up on this one though, and he's only 1.2s behind the McLaren. Button has a 7.8s gap to make up to Massa, and closes that to 7.2s on the first lap in clear air.

Raikkonen has Grosjean just a second behind him. The points look sorted as Maldonado in 10th is 11s clear of Perez and quicker

Lap 48

Gap at the front extended to 1.4s, although Hamilton just went wide at turn 11. Button takes over a second out of Massa - who is stuck in traffic - and the gap is now 6.1s.

Interesting battle at the back. Kovalainen in 18th is 0.5s ahead of Glock, and the Marussia looks quicker.

Lap 49

Vettel takes 0.4s out of Hamilton on that lap, although Hamilton responds again in sector one to keep him out of DRS zone.

Alonso 33s behind the leaders and 12s clear of Massa so he'll look to cruise home. As it stands Vettel will only gain three points in the standings.

Button now 5.5s behind Massa. Senna closing down Hulkenberg for eighth, 1.1s the gap there

Lap 50

Good lap from Hamilton and the gap is 1.3s. Button's charge has been halted as Massa extends the gap to 5.7s

I said Senna was closing and he attacks using the DRS but Hulkenberg defends the inside line well. Maldonado is right behind these two.

Lap 51

Vettel with the fastest final sector and he's 1.2s behind Hamilton. Some good on-track battles out there as 1.6s covers Hulkenberg, Senna and Maldonado.

A sign of how much Raikkonen is struggling, he lost 3.4s to Button on the last lap and Grosjean is right behind him. There's a potential water leak in one of those Lotus cars, and I'm assuming it's Kimi's with that pace.

Lap 52

Hamilton leads by 1.3s. Still close. Grosjean is told to use the overtake button but he locks up in to 15. He radios in to say "I'm much quicker, can I have a go?" The response is "OK".

Maldonado dives up the inside of Senna in to turn one and muscles his way past for ninth. Raikkonen's pace has bunched up the field, he's 1.7s clear of Grosjean with Hulkenberg, Maldonado and Senna close behind

Lap 53

The gap at the front is 1.5s but Vettel gets the DRS from Pic and closes half a second in the middle sector. Hamilton responds in the final sector but Vettel sets the fastest lap. The gap is 1.4s.

Button radios in to say "Guys we're losing a lot of lap time by not being able to use all of the KERS". Massa sets the fastest lap of the race but is 10s behind Alonso and 5.7s clear of Button

Grosjean not making much impression on Raikkonen right now but sixth is up for grabs.

Lap 54

Hamilton the first man under 1m40s to set the fastest lap. He leads by 1.6s. Vettel has a lot to lose in these final two and a bit laps because he will gain on Alonso and Red Bull is set to take the constructors' championship.

Lap 55

Marlon emails in: "Hamilton is the man in Austin ... he even is helping Alonso for the title ... but the cherry on the cake would be vettel's alternator ...which could also help !!!"

Doesn't looks likely, but Hamilton has eased away a touch. Massa sets another fastest lap while Raikkonen has dropped Grosjean by three seconds

Lap 56

We're on to the final lap; Hamilton set the fastest lap on the last one. He's 1.8s clear and looks set for what could be his final win with McLaren.

Maldonado is within 0.5s of Hulkenberg on this final lap...

Here comes Hamilton, despite a charging Vettel, and LEWIS HAMILTON WINS THE UNITED STATES GRAND PRIX!

Pop open the champagne; Vettel sets the fastest lap and Red Bull win the 2012 Constructors' Championship.

Alonso does what he does best and finishes third, getting the maximum out of the Ferrari and taking the title right down to the wire.

Massa comes home fourth ahead of Button, while Raikkonen is sixth. Grosjean finishes seventh and Hulkenberg holds on to eighth just ahead of Maldonado and Senna.

It's Hamilton's 21st victory, and it comes by just 0.6s as Vettel set the fastest lap on the final lap. What a race at the front that was.

Hamilton jumps on the top of his car in celebration. He's delighted with the victory. Vettel congratulates him in parc ferme but in all honesty he looks gutted.

Nice touch from Vettel though as they crossed the line, he applauds Hamilton from within his car.

For the first time ever, Hamilton, Vettel and Alonso will stand on the podium together.

What a touch; Pirelli have COWBOY HATS for the podium! The drivers laugh as they are handed them. They come off though as they stand on the podium and the national anthem rings out. Hamilton is keen to put it on again, and I must admit they look awesome.

Martin Whitmarsh lifts the constructors' trophy above his head and Vettel pats him on the back and says "good job". It's a smile on Vettel's face, but Alonso shows great determination on his face as he points to his Ferrari team and lifts his trophy above his head. With this result, you must admit that Ferrari's move paid off this morning. In response to Tony's email "What cheating by Ferrari shouldn't there be a penalty for this" - it wasn't cheating, it's allowed in the rules.

Mario Andretti asking the questions on the podium, Vettel says: "Well done to Lewis, he had one chance and he took it".

Alonso praises the circuit and the fans - many of who are on the track and chanting "A-lon-so, A-lon-so".

With that it's time for us to sign off. In seven days it will come down to one race in Interlagos; just 13 points separating Vettel and Alonso and we know anything can happen in the last race of the season. What a climax it will be. Oh, and the forecast is for rain...

Stick with ESPNF1.com for all the reaction to today's race, and thank you for joining us. It was such a close race I'm sorry we couldn't use all your comments and questions, but make sure you join us again for live commentary from Interlagos in just five days time. See you then.