LEWIS Hamilton wore a cowboy hat at the end of the United States Grand Prix when a crown would have been more appropriate, for whatever happens now he has been the outstanding driver of the 2014 Formula One season.
He would now be on his way to Brazil to seal his second world championship next weekend but for the absurdity of the double-points rule in Abu Dhabi in the final race on 23 November. If Nico Rosberg wins the title now it will be represent an outrageous piece of larceny by his Mercedes team-mate.
Hamiltonâ€™s 10th win of the season, and the 32nd of his career, saw him overtake Nigel Mansell as the most successful British driver of them all. This was also his fifth win in a row, and the last British driver to achieve that was Mansell in 1992.
He will have to threaten to boycott future races, it seems, if other drivers are to get a look-in. The threat of a boycott from Force India, Sauber and Lotus did not materialise, though there is destined to be more trouble in Brazil and Abu Dhabi unless a coherent strategy is quickly put in place to let the smaller teams know where they stand.
At the moment, though, all the talk is of Mercedes. At least we now know that a Mercedes driver will win the championship. Daniel Ricciardo, who produced yet another fine drive to win another podium place, ahead of the Williams pair of Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas, is now mathematically out of the running.
Hamilton finished 4.3 seconds ahead of Rosberg and now leads him by 24 points in the championship. And he looked the only winner once he had overtaken the German on the 24th lap of the 56-lap race, something he went along with himself after the race.
Rosberg, meanwhile, put on his well-rehearsed expression of phlegmatic disappointment. â€œItâ€™s pretty simple. I didnâ€™t find my rhythm early on â€“ it took a long while,â€ he said. â€œIn the overtake I knew there was a chance he could try. I tried halfway defensive, Lewis did a good job, and that was it.â€
By starting on the cleaner side of the grid, Rosberg had an additional advantage over Hamilton worth about four metres. He made the most of his pole position as he got away well and Hamilton was content to tuck into his team-mateâ€™s slipstream.
Once the two drivers had pitted for medium tyres, Hamilton looked the more comfortable. By lap 21, Hamilton had picked up his pace once more and was now just 1.4sec behind. Two laps later he had moved into the DRS zone, with just 0.8sec separating the Silver Arrows. And in the following lap Hamilton made his move.
Rosberg went slightly wide into Turn 12 and when Hamilton came across the front of him it forced Rosberg to drive off the track. It was a piece of hard driving by Hamilton but perfectly within the rules.
It was a move that brought back memories of his overtake on then leader Sebastian Vettel here in 2012, the first F1 grand prix at this circuit, which is the 10th track used in the USA.
Hamilton wasted no time in pulling away from Rosberg and won at something of a saunter by F1 standards. Most of the good racing, apart from that impressive overtake, came behind the Mercedes drivers.
Ricciardo made a slow start from fifth on the grid and lost another four places. But he surprised Fernando Alonso, a rare achievement, and then went past the two Williams cars at successive pitstops to take his place on the podium.
His Red Bull team-mate Vettel, who started from the pitlane, made it up to sixth before being overtaken by Alonso, whose Ferrari was shod with fresher and softer rubber. It was a difficult day for McLaren, with Kevin Magnussen finishing eighth, four places ahead of Jenson Button.
The two Force India cars, driven by Sergio PÃ©rez and Nico HÃ¼lkenberg, did not finish. PÃ©rez made a bad mistake on the first lap and collided with Adrian Sutil not once but twice as both cars were put out of the race. It was a sad end for Sutil, who had made the top 10 on the grid for the first time this season.
But the early end to PÃ©rezâ€™s race was also a big disappointment for the large number of Mexican fans, who will have their own race to cheer on next year.
The threat of a three-team boycott was made only 90 minutes before the start of the race when Bob Fernley, the deputy team principal of Force India, said: â€œItâ€™s been acknowledged that there is an issue. The question is can that issue be resolved. But the fact that itâ€™s been acknowledged is enough for the moment to be able to progress.â€
But given the determination of Fernley and other members of the smaller teams to determine a clear strategy for the future of the sport, the financial crisis that has seized Formula One, with both Caterham and Marussia going into administration in the past 10 days, has merely been postponed.
F1 supremo, Bernie Ecclestone, hinted at trouble ahead when, in a maladroit statement just before the race, he said: â€œThey [the teams in dispute] have to look at the way they run their companies. The trouble with all these people is that they spend more money than they earn.â€
This one will run longer than any race. – The Independent