US GP: Lewis Hamilton says Sebastian Vettel blew his lead
Mercedes driver criticises his title rival after winning head-to-head duel in Texas; Hamilton now on brink of fourth championship
Lewis Hamilton says Sebastian Vettel blew his early lead of the United States by overcooking his tyres.
Hamilton also revealed he was surprised Vettel didn't fight him harder when he overtook the Ferrari to retake the lead on lap six.
A victorious Hamilton eventually finished the race 10 seconds clear of his title rival and is poised to wrap up his fourth world championship next week in Mexico.
"When Sebastian got a better start than me, l didn't know how it was going to go. But then I noticed l was able to remain relatively close. Did l know l was going to be able to overtake him? Initially l was just thinking l needed to stay close and wait for the pit-stops," Hamilton told Sky Sports F1.
"But then l could see him pushing and l was thinking 'I am pretty good on my tyres right now and he is going through that corner too quickly, he is going to kill his tyres' And that's what he did - he was driving too quick through some of those corners when he didn't have to. He blew.
"If he had backed off in those places he would have been able to keep me behind, I'm certain."
In a separate interview with Sky F1, Hamilton added: "Before the race you have to sit and study where you need to save the tyres. There are corners which are tougher on the tyres than others. At points in the lap he wasn't saving tyres and l was thinking 'he is going to run out of tyres way before me because l am saving there'. And that is what happened."
With Hamilton now all-but certain to be crowned world champion, a dejected Vettel reflected: "Not quick enough, that sums it up.
"As a team, we want to win, l thought we could today but we didn't, which is why l am not happy.
"Lewis was a lot quicker, when he got past he was just playing. Not a good day."
Hamilton overtook Vettel at Turn 12, but was expecting to be made to work harder for the lead.
"I was a little bit surprised Sebastian didn't defend more, but it was fair," he said.
Despite losing the lead at the start, Hamilton said he felt "chilled" and enjoyed the challenge of hunting down and then passing his Ferrari rival.
"One of the most fun races I've had for a while," he added. "Didn't get a great start but I was kind of chilled about it from the past knowing you can overtake it.
"It was very reminiscent of 2012 here. I had a lot of fun trying to get closer and it obviously came down to the overtake in Turn 12, which was the same in 2012.
"That's what I look for."
Hamilton and Vettel's cars had made slight contact into the first corner when the Ferrari snuck ahead.
"It was interesting," reflected Hamilton. "I moved over at the start and then he moved on me through the braking so l had to avoid a collision. He didn't need to go in this direction, but he did."