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Hamilton pips Vettel to US victory, Alonso third

Lewis Hamilton has won the US Grand Prix, after overtaking pole-sitter Sebastian Vettel late on. Vettel stretches his championship lead over Fernando Alonso - but the title will be decided in Brazil next weekend.

Sebastian Vettel couldn't convert pole position into a win at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas, on Sunday - despite leading for the majority of the race. Lewis Hamilton, second on the grid in his McLaren, hounded Vettel all race before overtaking in the closing stages and clinging on to the win.

Sunday's race was the first ever Formula One event at the purpose-built Texan track. Hamilton won the last US Grand Prix at Indianapolis in 2007, a race in which a teenage debutante by the name of Vettel finished eighth, becoming the youngest ever points-scorer.

Red Bull Formula One driver Sebastian Vettel (R) of Germany leads the first corner in the first lap at the start of the U.S. F1 Grand Prix at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas November 18, 2012. (Photo via Reuters)

Vettel held his lead into the tricky turn 1, but couldn't go the distance

Vettel, driving in his 100th race, mentioned on the podium how nice it was to return to the country where his career began after a four-year absence.

Championship rival Fernando Alonso finished third – meaning Vettel did not extend his lead enough to decide the championship one race before next weekend's season finale in Sao Paolo. Vettel leads Alonso by 13 points in the overall standings, while a race victory is worth 25 points.

Vettel's Red Bull team, however, wrapped up the constructors' championship on Sunday; Vettel and Mark Webber combined have secured enough points to make their team's lead over Ferrari insurmountable - whatever happens at the unpredictable Interlagos circuit.

Unprecedented podium

In the 100 Grands Prix since Hamilton, Vettel and Alonso have been in Formula One together, the trio had never before shared a winners' podium.

McLaren Formula One driver Lewis Hamilton of Britain holds up his trophy next to second placed Red Bull Formula One driver Sebastian Vettel (L) of Germany and third placed Ferrari Formula One driver Fernando Alonso of Spain during the podium ceremony after the U.S. F1 Grand Prix at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas November 18, 2012. Hamilton won the U.S. Grand Prix on Sunday while championship leader Vettel failed to clinch his third consecutive drivers' title on his 100th career start. REUTERS/Adrees Latif (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT MOTORSPORT SPORT MOTORSPORT F1)

Believe it or not, no previous F1 podium had ever showcased these three superstars together

Alonso started the race back in seventh, but made up three places in the first lap and then inherited another position when Webber, running third in the early going, retired with an alternator failure. The Spaniard was over half a minute behind the top two by the end.

Alonso's Ferrari teammate Felipe Massa finished fourth, with Jenson Button in fifth. Force India's Nico Hülkenberg, on an impressive late-season charge, was the next-best German driver in eighth, behind the Lotus cars of Kimi Raikkonen and Romain Grosjean. The Williams duo of Pastor Maldonado and Bruno Senna rounded out the points-paying top ten places.

Sebastian Vettel of Germany and Red Bull Racing locks his wheels during the United States Formula One Grand Prix at the Circuit of the Americas on November 18, 2012 in Austin, Texas. (Photo via Getty Images)

Vettel cannot relax going into the season finale at Interlagos, though he has the upper hand

It was a miserable weekend for the all-German Mercedes GP team. Nico Rosberg and Michael Schumacher, apparently struggling with tire wear relative to their rivals, slid down the field early to finish 13th and 16th.

Sao Paolo, a common venue for Formula One finales, is renowned as a circuit with a changeable climate where anything is possible. Current weather forecasts suggest a high chance of rain next weekend. Vettel has the clear upper hand over Alonso though; he goes into the race knowing that he is guaranteed a third consecutive drivers' title if he can finish in fourth place or better. The 25-year-old from Heppenheim has finished in the top three in the last six races.

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