Lewis Hamilton got the better of Sebastian Vettel in an enthralling battle to win a thrilling United States Grand Prix.
Hamilton relentlessly tracked the championship leader for the majority of the race, and made his move along the back straight on lap 42 to take his fourth win of the season.
Fernando Alonso finished a crucial third to keep this title hopes alive, coming in just one place behind Vettel and trails his championship rival by 13 points.
It means the championship goes down to a final race showdown in Brazil next week, with Vettel needing only a top four finish to take the championship for the third successive year.
But there were celebrations for the Red Bull team, with Vettel’s second place securing them the points they needed to win the constructors’ championship, and become only the fourth team in Formula One history to take a hat-trick of titles.
This was despite the retirement of Mark Webber, who was forced out with an alternator failure on lap 17 while running in third place.
Felipe Massa produced a good drive to finish fourth after starting 11th following Ferrari’s decision to tactically enforce a gearbox penalty in order to put Alonso on the clean side of the grid at the start.
Jenson Button drove an equally impressive race to come from 12th to fifth, passing Kimi Raikkonen with ten laps remaining to cap a fine performance.
Raikkonen came in sixth ahead of his Lotus teammate Romain Grosjean, with Nico Hulkenberg and the two Williams’ of Pastor Maldonado and Bruno Senna completing the points.
The race proved to be a spectacular return to the USA for Grand Prix racing following a five-year hiatus, with the Circuit of the Americas proving worthy of its hype to throw up a stunning race for the hoards of American fans.
The start went as predicted, with those on the clean side of the grid enjoying a huge advantage over those on the dirtier side. Vettel led away from pole, while Webber got the better of Hamilton to move up to second. Further back, Alonso made a great start from seventh to jump to fourth by the first corner.
Behind the top four Michael Schumacher was already holding up those behind him, and Hulkenberg made short work of his compatriot by passing him into turn one on lap two.
Schumacher fell back, and now it was Hulkenberg’s turn to hold up the pack, with Raikkonen being frustrated behind the Force India for several laps, before finally passing the German with a bold move going into the esses.
Upfront it was Hamilton making progress. Having lost a place to Webber off the line, he made short work of the Red Bull and retook the position on lap four. He then set about Vettel and closed to within a second of the race leader, but his tyres couldn’t cope with the Brit’s effort and he fell away towards the end of the first stint.
Webber dropped out on lap 17 when his alternator failed, allowing Alonso to inherit third place and a crucial spot on the podium.
Hamilton and Alonso were the first to pit, but whilst the McLaren driver got a perfect pit stop, the Ferrari wasn’t so lucky, his right rear tyre refusing to come off and he lost time which resulted in him rejoining in a pack of cars.
The delay almost resulted in Raikkonen jumping the Spaniard after his pit stop, but the Lotus driver also had a problem in his stop and rejoined just behind the Ferrari.
The Iceman had looked quick before his stop, but afterwards he struggled to keep his pace up and he fell into the clutches of Felipe Massa, eventually losing the position to the Ferrari number two when the Brazilian swept past on the exit of turn one on lap 40.
And Button then took his turn to pass Raikkonen, going around the outside of the Finn at turn 12 with ten laps left to take fifth place.
The big battle however was at the front, as Hamilton was once again edging his way back towards Vettel. He got into the DRS zone for several laps, but didn’t have the traction out of turn 11 to make a move down the back straight.
But Hamilton waited patiently for the right moment, and on lap 42 got a great exit out of turn 11 to launch himself into Vettel’s slipstream before breezing past the German on the outside to take the lead.
And it was a lead he would not lose, with Hamilton hanging on to secure his fourth win of the season after a thrilling race at the Circuit of the Americas.
But all eyes will now focus on Interlagos in Brazil, as Vettel does battle with Alonso for the world championship with a memorable season set to come to a spectacular conclusion.
1) Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes – 1:35:55.269
2) Sebastian Vettel Red-Bull Renault – +0.675 seconds
3) Fernando Alonso Ferrari – +39.229 seconds
4) Felipe Massa Ferrari– +46.013 seconds
5) Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes – +56.432 seconds
6) Kimi Raikkonen Lotus-Renault – +1:04.425 seconds
7) Romain Grosjean Lotus-Renault– +1:10.313 seconds
8) Nico Hulkenberg Force India-Mercedes – +1:13.792 seconds
9) Pastor Maldonado Williams-Renault – +1:14.525 seconds
10) Bruno Senna Williams-Renault– +1:15.133 seconds
11) Sergio Perez Sauber-Ferrari – +1:24.341 seconds
12) Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso-Ferrari – +1:24.871 seconds
13) Nico Rosberg Mercedes – +1:25.510 seconds
14) Kamui Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari– Lapped
15) Paul di Resta Force India-Mercedes – Lapped
16) Michael Schumacher Mercedes – Lapped
17) Vitaly Petrov Caterham-Renault – Lapped
18) Heikki Kovalainen Caterham-Renault – Lapped
19) Timo Glock Marussia-Cosworth – Lapped
20) Charles Pic Marussia-Cosworth – Lapped
21) Pedro de la Rosa HRT-Cosworth – Lapped
22) Narain Karthikeyan HRT-Cosworth – Lapped
23) Mark Webber Red Bull-Renault – Retired
24) Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso-Ferrari – Retired