2013 U.S. GP: Unstoppable Sebastian Vettel wins a record eighth straight race
In-form Grosjean beats Webber to second; Frustrated Hamilton comes home fourth; Bottas scores first points in F1; Ousted Perez impresses
By James Galloway
Last Updated: 17/11/13 10:34pm
With the brilliant German's fourth championship long since sewn up, Vettel, even though he might not admit it, has been able to focus on record-collecting during the final weeks of his sensational season and the first landmark fell in Austin on Sunday as he became the first man to win eight straight events in one calendar year.
Vettel's margin of victory may not have been as crushing as in Abu Dhabi a fortnight ago - just six seconds over Lotus's Romain Grosjean - but as so often in the German's unstoppable run since the summer break he saw off the challengers into the first corner and wasn't seen by the pack thereafter.
The German now heads to the season-finale in Brazil in seven days aiming to round off his glorious 2013 by equalling two more milestones: Michael Schumacher's 13 victories from 2004 and Alberto Ascari's nine straight GP wins, a mark which has remained impregnable for 60 years.
With the destination of the winner's trophy again not in doubt at the Circuit of the Americas, attention was therefore on second place as Romain Grosjean and Mark Webber engaged in a game of cat and mouse over the second half of the race.
From third on the grid, Grosjean managed to split the Red Bulls as Webber became trapped behind his team-mate on the uphill run into turn one, the boxed-in Australian also passed by Lewis Hamilton's similarly fast-starting Mercedes.
However, although Webber dispatched Hamilton in impressive fashion around the outside of Turn 12 on lap 13 and caught up with Grosjean through the second stint, the 37-year-old was unable to get close enough to the Lotus to make a pass.
So for Grosjean, after five third places this season, the runner-up finish was therefore particularly rewarding and emphasised that F1's one-time bad boy is ready to lead Lotus's challenge for honours in 2014. Indeed, the 18 points keep the team in the outside hunt for third place in the Constructors' Championship.
Hamilton, meanwhile, eventually finished over 20 seconds behind the podium positions in fourth at the end of what was evidently a frustrating 56 laps for the Mercedes man amid yet more tyre management concerns.
That annoyance appeared to boil over in Hamilton's conflicting radio instructions to his race engineer during the race, the Briton first calling for no information on tyre wear while battling cars behind, before later urging to be actually be kept up to date about tyres and temperatures.
"You need to give me some feedback man about my tyre temperatures, do I need to push more, less?" urged a clearly exasperated Hamilton.
Still, with the Red Bulls and lead Lotus out of reach for Mercedes, Hamilton drove solidly to finish fourth - his best finish for seven races - which moves him ahead of the absent Kimi Raikkonen into third place in the Drivers' Championship.
The Mercedes driver ultimately finished two seconds ahead of Ferrari's Fernando Alonso, who was forced to fend off Sauber's Nico Hulkenberg into the closing stages for fifth.
Fresh from the news that he is being dropped for 2014, Sergio Perez confirmed his status as the lead McLaren driver in Austin by finishing seventh while Valtteri Bottas, at the 18th attempt, opened his F1 points account via eighth place.
Not only did the result more than double Williams' points tally for their whole depressing season - Pastor Maldonado's point in Hungary was their only one before Sunday - but belatedly confirmed Bottas's status as a rising star of the future.
The points finishers were rounded out by Nico Rosberg and, via a penultimate-lap pass on Daniel Ricciardo, Jenson Button who both just about salvaged something from disappointing weekends.