Hamilton edges teammate Alonso, wins U.S. Grand Prix

Updated: June 18, 2007, 12:42 AM ET
Associated Press

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. -- Lewis Hamilton is as surprised as anybody by his sensational start in Formula One.

The 22-year-old Englishman fought off a couple of challenges from Mercedes McLaren teammate and two-time world champion Fernando Alonso on Sunday to win the U.S. Grand Prix, the second straight victory for the first black driver in F1's 61-year history.

F1 standings after seven races

Lewis Hamilton maintained control of the Formula One standings with his U.S. Grand Prix win Sunday.

Driver Team Points
1. Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 58
2. Fernando Alonso McLaren-Mercedes 48
3. Felipe Massa Ferrari 38
4. Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 32
5. Nick Heidfeld BMW-Sauber 26
6. Giancarlo Fisichella Renault 13
7. Robert Kubica BMW-Sauber 12
7. Heikki Kovalainen Renault 12
9. Alexander Wurz Williams 8
10. Jarno Trulli Toyota 7

"Coming into the season, being realistic, I never expected anything like this, but I hoped to do well,'' Hamilton said. "I hoped maybe I'd get a podium at some point. This is just insane.''

This latest win, coming on the heels of his inaugural F1 victory a week earlier in the Canadian Grand Prix, gave Hamilton his seventh top-three finish in as many starts -- one of his numerous unprecedented feats for a rookie.

Another is his lead in the points.

After being tied for the top with his teammate, Hamilton took an eight-point lead in the standings with his win in Montreal and will now carry a 10-point margin over Alonso into the French Grand Prix in two weeks.

The two finished 1-2 for the third time this season, but this time the order was reversed from Malaysia in April and last month's race at Monaco.

Hamilton started from the pole for the second straight race and Alonso tried hard to pass his less experienced teammate at the start. He darted to the outside and pulled nearly alongside Hamilton for a moment, then backed off and dived to the inside as the leaders squirted through the first two narrow turns, a sharp right-hander and then a left-hander.

"I think the start was the key point of the race because after that, whatever, you were second and we finish second in the race,'' Alonso said.

Hamilton managed to stay in front and was able to continue to fend off pressure from the hard-charging Spaniard to the end of the 73-lap event on Indy's 2.605-mile road circuit.

Blount: Another historic day

The comparisons to Michael Schumacher are inevitable. Could rookie Lewis Hamilton be the most talented driver ever to sit in an F1 cockpit? After his victory Sunday at Indy, he just may be, writes Terry Blount. Story
• Oreovicz: Alonso settles for second -- again
• Notebook: Ferrari playing catch-up

Alonso almost wrested the lead from Hamilton as they began lap 39. He had been dogging the back of his teammate's silver and red McLaren for several laps and pulled alongside on the main straightaway but was unable to complete the pass as they drove into the first turn.

The outcome of the race remained in question until Alonso locked up his brakes on lap 47 and drove through the grass, allowing Hamilton to pull out to a 2.5-second lead. Hamilton drove on to the win without further challenge, finishing 1.5 seconds -- nearly half the main straight -- ahead of Alonso.

"To follow that close is not easy,'' Alonso said. "I did have my chance [at the end of lap 38], but it was not possible. I could get close to him but not overtake. He made no mistakes.''

Asked about his teammate's attempt to pass at the midway point, Hamilton said, "I was very nervous about that. I saw him coming. But I made sure I made one move [to block], which is all you're allowed, and made it stick.

"So it was very, very tough, but he fought very well, very professional. At the end, I managed to pull a gap and ... I was able to maintain that gap and control the rest of the race.''

Unlike Canada, where Hamilton had to have perfect restarts to maintain his lead after each of the five full-course caution flags, Sunday's race was very clean, with the safety car remaining behind the pit wall all day.

Even so, it wasn't as easy as it looked.

"They came across the radio and said '15 laps' and I was like, 'Yeah!' And the 15 laps just seemed a lifetime, especially when you're out in the lead, trying to maintain it, not to push too hard and not to damage the car. But I was able to do it and, as I said, [it was] just very, very emotional.''

Reports earlier in the week that Alonso thought his new teammate was being given preference by the British-based McLaren team were allayed by the warm hug they gave each other when they reached the victory podium.

The two then turned to the cheering crowd with arms over each other's shoulders, smiling widely.

"We're very, very close on the track and I think we are getting closer and closer off track,'' Hamilton said. "And our respect for each other I think is growing and it's great. We're really happy for the team. But, once again, I'm just proud and honored to be sitting next to him as I've always looked up to him for the last few years.''

Ferrari had won six of the previous seven F1 races at Indy, five of them by now-retired Michael Schumacher. But, this time, the McLarens were just too strong.

The Ferraris of 2006 Indy runner-up Felipe Massa and Raikkonen, who replaced Schumacher, battled each other most of the day before finishing third and fourth, respectively, with Renault rookie Heikki Kovalainen fifth, followed by Toyota's Jarno Trulli and Red Bull's Mark Webber.

"It was difficult to fight the McLarens with their consistency and their pace,'' said Massa, sounding somewhat frustrated. "We're going to work a lot the next two weeks to improve the car. The championship is not so close, but we need to keep fighting.''

BMW Sauber's Sebastian Vettel, a 19-year-old rookie filling in for Robert Kubica and making his first F1 start, finished eighth, earning the final point. Kubica missed the race after sustaining a concussion and a sprained ankle in a spectacular crash in Canada.

Fifteen of the 22 cars were running at the finish.

Honda's Rubens Barrichello, a former USGP winner when he was with Ferrari, didn't make it past the start, colliding with Toyota's Ralf Schumacher and Red Bull's David Coulthard as they fought for position near the back of the grid on the start. All three were out before completing a lap.

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press