The Englishman shrugged off a slow start and embarked on a race-long pursuit of his Red Bull rival; the two trading blows lap-after-lap with both having a clear advantage at different parts of the circuit.
Although Vettel opened an advantage before making his sole tyre stop Hamilton continued his hunt on new hard tyres, finally making his way past with a DRS-assisted move with fourteen laps to go.
Clearly incensed, the Red Bull fought back hard, but was powerless to stop the McLaren star taking his fourth victory of the season. To rub more salt into the wounds, a fine third from Fernando Alonso means the title will go down to the wire in Brazil – with thirteen points separating the two contenders.
Of course Alonso’s recovery was aided by Ferrari’s late decision to change Felipe Massa’s gear box; controversially moving the Spaniard on to the better side of the grid – something he maximised to the best of his abilities, moving from seventh to fourth by lap one.
This soon became the final step of the podium after Red Bull were hit with another alternator failure, this time Mark Webber the unlucky recipient in the opening stages. Ultimately this placed yet more worry onto the team’s pit wall; the weight only lifted at the chequer with Vettel’s points enough to secure it a third-successive Constructors’ crown.
Even with his penalty, Massa showed great pace to climb to fourth at the finish, the Brazilian comfortably gapping Jenson Button who fell as far as sixteenth on lap one. Initially it had looked as though McLaren had made the wrong call to start on hards, only for the Brit to find his feet as soon as the tyres came up to working temperature.
Despite losing considerable ground at the start, Kimi Raikkonen showed superb pace on the medium rubber and looked set to be a real threat to Alonso’s podium ambitions. However the Lotus driver faded after his pit stop, forcing him to settle for sixth. Right behind came team-mate Romain Grosjean, who also looked rapid in the opening stages only to spin away his initial gains on lap five and being forced into an early stop on lap nine.
Nico Hulkenberg was another to make heavy advances at the start, only to see his challenge fade as he came home eighth for Force India. Right behind the Williams duo of Pastor Maldonado and Bruno Senna completed the top ten – the latter coming alive in the final stages, muscling past his team-mate with a fierce move into turn one.
Sergio Perez failed to give his legion of traveling support something to smile about with a distant eleventh, although the Mexican proved far more convincing that Sauber team-mate Kamui Kobayashi who wallowed in fourteenth.
Though a long opening stint elevated him to fifth, Daniel Ricciardo could no better than twelfth, with Toro Rosso stablemate proving to be the race’s only other casualty after retiring with suspected steering issues.
Austin proved something of a horror show for Mercedes, with yet more tyre issues leaving Nico Rosberg thirteenth at the flag, whilst Michael Schumacher would require two pit stops as he collapsed to sixteenth from his encouraging grid position.
Meanwhile Vitaly Petrov and Heikki Kovalainen reclaimed top honours at the back of the field, finishing ahead of both Marussias and HRTs.
So Lewis Hamilton completely upset the applecart, coming out on top of a thunderous battle with Sebastian Vettel to win a packed United States Grand Prix.
With a bulging crowd Formula One did not disappoint, with the Circuit of the Americas providing the perfect hunting ground for a fantastic race.
What the future holds for Lewis Hamilton is another tantalising question which will only be answered with time. Certainly the Brit will look back with regret at a title he could have so easily won had it not been for numerous failures out of his hands. Nevertheless, 2012 has seen a stark improvement in the 27-year-old’s driving and re-established him as one of the sport’s current superstars. Though the move to Mercedes may not prove immediately fruitful, it seems the Brit is doing everything he can in the final few races to remind us just how special he is.
Of course even before the start there was controversy; courtesy of Ferrari’s decision to purposely sacrifice Massa for Alonso’s title ambitions. Certainly it was not to everyone’s pleasing and arguably unsporting, but it did not break any rules and given the stakes the Prancing Horse would argue it was forced to do it to limit the points loss to Vettel.
Yes, it will win it no friends, but should it contribute in the long run then it will be viewed as a masterstroke from the team.
Needless to say it would have been interesting to see Massa’s pace had he started where he had qualified, with the Brazilian appearing far more confident than his team-mate throughout the weekend. However the result does keep Alonso in the title hunt; even if it remains Vettel’s to lose. Brazil is far from sewn on for either challenger and with a mountain of possibilities, there may yet be one final sting in the tail.
Of course Red Bull will strive to provide its champion all the tools he needs; the Milton Keynes outfit with barely any time to reflect on what it has achieved. Ultimately the team’s Constructors’ success has already been overshadowed but must be given proper recognition. To win not two, but three titles on the bounce is remarkable for a team which at was close to the wall during the dying embers of the Jaguar days.
Hats off Red Bull and for making history and here’s a bright future for all concerned.