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As it happened: The United States Grand Prix
By Geoff Creighton and Emlyn Hughes
The live commentary has ended. No further updates will be posted.
Vettel18:45 Good afternoon everyone and welcome to AUTOSPORT Live for coverage of the penultimate round in the 2012 FIA Formula 1 world championship. It's showdown in Texas - the United States Grand Prix and the title is on the line.

Sebastian Vettel stormed his way to fastest in all three practice sessions and then backed that up with another pole position yesterday, edging out McLaren driver Lewis Hamilton, with Mark Webber third on the grid.

Vettel beats Hamilton to Austin pole

Fernando Alonso qualified way down the order in ninth position, but he has found help thanks to Romain Grosjean taking a five place grid penalty for a gearbox change. Then his own team deliberately broke the seal on Felipe Massa's unit this morning, gaining the Spaniard a further position on the grid. He starts seventh, with still a lot of work on his plate, but critically does now start on the clean side of the circuit.

Ferrari incurs penalty for Massa to boost Alonso

So, with fun and games taking place between the top two teams already, we are set for a highly charged race for the sport's return to America.

18:47 Here's how the standings look with two races remaining, with Vettel and Red Bull able to clinch the titles this afternoon.
World Championship standings, round 18:                

Drivers:                    Constructors:             
 1.  Vettel       255        1.  Red Bull-Renault          422
 2.  Alonso       245        2.  Ferrari                   340
 3.  Raikkonen    198        3.  McLaren-Mercedes          318
 4.  Webber       167        4.  Lotus-Renault             288
 5.  Hamilton     165        5.  Mercedes                  136
 6.  Button       153        6.  Sauber-Ferrari            124
 7.  Massa         95        7.  Force India-Mercedes       95
 8.  Rosberg       93        8.  Williams-Renault           73
18:47 Fans in the packed grandstands rise as the US national anthem is played.

18:49 Weather conditions are fine and dry for today's 56-lap encounter. No threat of rain this afternoon and the sky should remain clear for the race.

A light-to-moderate breeze has increased slightly from the south-east, with air temperature up to the projected maximum of 21 degrees Celsius.

18:49 Plenty of concern for those starting on the dirty side of the grid, with practice starts performed yesterday delivering lots of wheelspin.

18:50 The all-new asphalt lacks any rubber on the off-line side of the grid, with plenty of construction dust as well despite sweeping efforts.

18:50 A flypast of historical planes zooms overhead to entertain the huge crowd.

18:51 Here's how the revised grid looks for today's race:
Pos Driver                Team
 1. Sebastian Vettel      Red Bull-Renault       
 2. Lewis Hamilton        McLaren-Mercedes       
 3. Mark Webber           Red Bull-Renault       
 4. Kimi Raikkonen        Lotus-Renault          
 5. Michael Schumacher    Mercedes               
 6. Nico Hulkenberg       Force India-Mercedes   
 7. Fernando Alonso       Ferrari                
 8. Romain Grosjean       Lotus-Renault *  
 9. Pastor Maldonado      Williams-Renault       
10. Bruno Senna           Williams-Renault       
11. Felipe Massa          Ferrari *
12. Jenson Button         McLaren-Mercedes       
13. Paul di Resta         Force India-Mercedes   
14. Jean-Eric Vergne      Toro Rosso-Ferrari     
15. Sergio Perez          Sauber-Ferrari         
16. Kamui Kobayashi       Sauber-Ferrari         
17. Nico Rosberg          Mercedes               
18. Daniel Ricciardo      Toro Rosso-Ferrari     
19. Timo Glock            Marussia-Cosworth      
20. Charles Pic           Marussia-Cosworth      
21. Vitaly Petrov         Caterham-Renault       
22. Heikki Kovalainen     Caterham-Renault       
23. Pedro de la Rosa      HRT-Cosworth           
24. Narain Karthikeyan    HRT-Cosworth

*  Five-place gearbox penalty       
18:52 Vettel, starting his 100th race from pole after his debut at the last Indianapolis race in 2007, looks calm and focussed as he gets ready.

Alonso18:53 Tyres have been a major factor this weekend, with Pirelli's medium and hard compounds proving difficult to get up to temperature thanks to the super-smooth new Austin asphalt.

With the rubber barely wearing as it struggles to bite into the surface, a one-stop race is planned throughout the field.

Nevertheless, strategists are still concerned about the lengthy time required to warm the tyres up to temperature, with the best grip delivered after four or five laps on the tyres.

That means leapfrogging a rival by pitting earlier may not work well and could lead to drivers staying out as late as possible to ensure they have a margin to allow for tyre warm-up.

18:53 Hamilton, who won that last US race, put in a brilliant qualifying effort, but could struggle to launch from the dirty second place spot.

18:54 The uphill, tight first corner presents the possibility of an early tangle, so the championship contenders will need to be cautious there.

18:55 There are just five minutes remaining until the formation lap begins at the Circuit of the Americas.

18:56 Only one DRS zone here down the long back straight, with the gap between drivers detected heading down to Turn 11.

18:57 Air temperature has ballooned up to 24 Celsius, with the track at 31 degrees with a few minutes to go.

18:57 Final choice of rubber going on the cars now, with little in it for those outside the top 10 with a free choice of rubber.

18:59 A capacity crowd is on hand and perfect for the sport's return to the United States. Fans are filling every grandstand and spectator bank.

19:00 The formation lap begins at the Circuit of the Americas. Vettel answers the call and leads the field away from the grid.

19:00 Button and Rosberg have opted for the hard tyres.

19:00 All 24 cars have left the grid, as Vettel winds his way through the fantastic sweepers between Turns 3 and 9.

19:01 Down the back straight and Vettel is keeping the pace up, warming up his tyres, as he continues to lead them around.

19:02 The polesitter generates heat through the final multiple apex corners on his way to the final corner of the lap.

19:02 Drivers weaving vigorously to build tyre temperature, the lack of which is likely to be a factor in the early laps.

19:02 Vettel makes the turn for home and slows down to bring the field into line behind him.

19:03 The front three rows are in position and the pack is forming up nicely behind them. Watch for the dirty side. We await the lights...

Lap 1: The five red lights go out and we are racing in Texas, USA!

Lap 1: Vettel gets a predictably good start and leads into Turn 1 with Webber coming into second. Hamilton third and Alonso up to fourth!

Lap 1: Down the back straight for the first time it is Vettel from Webber, with Hamilton demoted to third and the fast-starting Alonso fourth.

Lap 1: Behind them some minor altercations but the pack seemed to get through the opening corners without too much trouble, despite the concerns.

Lap 2: Hamilton was slow away from the dirty side and strong moves from Webber at the first corner has shuffled the McLaren down to third.

Lap 2: Schumacher is fifth with Hulkenberg up to an excellent sixth, Raikkonen seventh, Grosjean eighth, di Resta ninth and Massa 10th.

Lap 2: But it is Alonso that benefits most from a brilliantly-executed first lap to make his team tactics pay off.

Lap 2: Vettel's lead is 0.7s over team-mate Webber.

Lap 2: Perez is 11th and cheered on by the countless Mexican fans here, with Senna 12th, Maldonado 13th, Rosberg 14th and Button down to 15th spot.

Lap 3: Grosjean sent a big move on Schumacher and made it stick. The Frenchman is up to sixth, with Raikkonen now attacking the German.

Lap 3: Vettel sets the fastest lap to pull 1.4 seconds clear, with Hamilton a similar distance back in third. Alonso is currently another 2.5s back

Lap 3: Hulkenberg sneaked through ahead of Schumacher before that chaos happened, so the Force India driver has clear air in fifth.

Lap 3: Alonso's pace isn't great at the moment, with the Spaniard struggling to warm his tyres .

Lap 4: Hamilton tries DRS on Webber at Turn 11 but can't make it stick and is forced to back out of his move over the run off.

Lap 4: So behind the critical four up front, Hulkenberg is fifth with Grosjean sixth, Schumacher seventh and Raikkonen in eighth spot.

Lap 4: Nevertheless, Hamilton is giving Webber a headache as team-mate Vettel streaks away up front.

Lap 4: Raikkonen is through, ahead of Schumacher and up into seventh position.

Lap 4: Replays show Alonso found space on a wide outside line at Turn 1, cutting past Raikkonen and Schumacher to take fourth spot.

Lap 4: Schumacher drops to eighth and is under attack from di Resta, with Massa 10th, Perez 11th, Senna 12th and Button up a place to 13th.

Lap 5: Hamilton is at it again on DRS and this time he's got Webber back for the first corner and is now second.

Lap 5: Hamilton's car looks hooked up - can he chase down Vettel? The gap is 2.6 seconds as he sets the fastest lap.

Lap 5: Rosberg continues to lose places with those hard tyres. He has dropped down the field to 16th position.

Lap 5: Di Resta is up ahead of Schumacher now and takes over eighth position in the Force India.

Lap 5: Vettel responds with the fastest first sector but Hamilton is already closing on the leader.

Lap 5: Behind the top four, Hulkenberg is now coming under attack from a fast-starting Romain Grosjean.

Lap 5: Hamilton has pulled over a second clear of Webber, with the McLaren very strong down the straights in comparison with the Red Bull.

Lap 6: Vettel is fractionally quicker than Hamilton on that lap, with the gap now 2.7 seconds.

Lap 6: Schumacher - now down in ninth - is acting as train driver here with Massa, Perez, Senna, Maldonado, Button and Vergne all up his gearbox.

Lap 6: Alonso is now clocked 2.9 seconds behind Webber and already 7.1 off the lead.

Lap 6: Ricciardo is making progress. He is on the back of that large group and has passed Rosberg in the process. The Australian is up into 16th.

Lap 7: Grosjean sent another huge move up the inside of Hulkenberg, but he loses out on the exit and slots in behind the Force India again.

Lap 7: Hamilton sets the fastest lap at 1m44.293s, closing a tenth on the leader.

Lap 7: Grosjean has spun, no doubt trying to pass Hulkenberg. He recovers but has lost several places. Yee-ha!

Lap 8: Grosjean rejoined right in the path of the Schumacher versus Massa fight. Both get through but Massa passes the Mercedes as well.

Lap 8: Hulkenberg is now a comfortable fifth in his Force India, with Raikkonen 1.4 seconds behind in sixth.

Lap 8: Hamilton is quicker again on lap seven, closing to just 2.2s behind leader Vettel.

Lap 8: So behind the top seven we now have Massa eighth and Schumacher ninth. Perez is up to 10th as Grosjean continues losing places.

Lap 8: Hamilton is told his pace is "excellent" as he moves ever closer to DRS range behind the lead Red Bull.

Lap 9: Perez then passes Schumacher to take over ninth position, as the Mercedes also slides back through the pack.

Lap 9: Senna is now through on Schumacher and the Brazilian is through, into 10th position. There are overtakes happening all the time here.

Lap 9: This huge midfield pack is finally starting to sort itself out. Ricciardo now tries a move on Grosjean as they fight for what is 13th position.

Lap 10: Alonso can't match the 1m43s pace of the leaders and is now 8.8s off the front in fourth place.

Lap 10: Hamilton tops all three sectors for a new best of 1m43.279, closing to just 1.6s off the lead!

Lap 10: Button is also making some progress through this gaggle. He is up to 12th, having dispatched Grosjean. He is on Schumacher's tail.

Lap 10: Grosjean pits the Lotus from 15th position.

Lap 10: It's game on up front as Hamilton hunts down the championship and race leader. Vettel will surely be cautious when the McLaren arrives.

Lap 11: It is a quick stop for the Frenchman and he is back out into the race, but way down the field now.

Lap 11: Button is through on Schumacher and the Briton takes 11th place.

Lap 11: Another fastest lap for Hamilton and the gap is now 1.5 seconds with the McLaren getting a sniff at the DRS zone.

Lap 11: Senna also passed Schumacher's Mercedes and the Williams driver is into ninth spot.

Lap 11: Ricciardo comes through ahead of Schumacher, dropping the German down to 13th position.

Lap 11: Red Bull's car is set up for maximum downforce and is particularly vulnerable to DRS attack on the straights.

Lap 12: Meanwhile, Raikkonen is giving Hulkenberg a hard time and is right on the gearbox of the Force India.

Lap 12: Di Resta is seventh, but now coming under attack from Massa. The Brazilian makes the move and is through.

Lap 12: So Massa is up to seventh with di Resta down to eighth, Perez ninth, Senna 10th, Button 11th, Ricciardo 12th and Schumacher 13th.

Lap 13: Hamilton is right with Vettel now but just a fraction outside the DRS zone on the latest tour.

Lap 13: Schumacher starts driving another train, with Maldonado, Vergne, Rosberg and Kobayashi in 17th all right there with him.

Lap 13: Raikkonen vs Hulkenberg kicks off again but the German is holding his own as the squabble over fifth continues.

Lap 13: Raikkonen tries the outside line though the sweeping early corners and finally makes it past Hulkenberg for fifth. Great driving there.

Lap 14: This race is finally settling down just a bit, but there are still plenty of battles going on down the order.

Lap 14: 1.4 seconds is the lead gap this time as Vettel just keeps Hamilton out of DRS range for the moment.

Lap 14: Maldonado moves to the outside of Schumacher at the end of the back straight. Schumacher defends the dirty line and gets railroaded.

Lap 14: Hulkenberg, now 2.4 seconds behind the released Raikkonen, has Massa, running seventh, closing in.

Lap 14: Maldonado moves into 13th, leaving Schumacher to defend against Vergne and Rosberg, as Kobayashi pits from 17th.

Lap 15: Grosjean has passed Glock and is up to 20th position in the Lotus.

Lap 15: Vettel locks up at Turn 11 as he is pushed on by the closing Hamilton. 1.2 seconds is the gap as Hamilton is told to use extra revvs.

Lap 15: McLaren has nothing to lose here, so is risking engine life by allowing Hamilton to use his overtake button.

Lap 15: Di Resta in eighth is now coming under attention from Perez and Senna, as Schumacher pits from 14th spot.

Lap 15: Hamilton has a much better button this time though - DRS - and uses it to draw right up to Vettel's gearbox.

Lap 16: Kobayashi rejoined in 22nd place after his recent stop. Schumacher roars back into the race but well down the order.

Lap 16: Meanwhile, Massa already has the job done on Hulkenberg, with his Ferrari very strong on DRS down into Turn 12.

Lap 16: Vergne has stopped on the circuit after a huge fight with the two Mercedes drivers. He has similar suspension damage to his practice incident.

Lap 17: DRS again for Hamilton and he's looking for a move on the leader.

Lap 17: So we have yellows out at Turn 7, as Vergne's car is recovered.

Lap 17: One second covers Vettel and Hamilton as they flash past the pits one more time.

Lap 17: Alonso passes the pits 13 seconds off the lead as he is given the news of the lead battle.

Lap 17: Hulkenberg remains in seventh spot with di Resta eighth Perez ninth, Senna in 10th and holding off Button, ahead of Ricciardo in 12th.

Lap 18: Big problems for Webber again with a failed KERS, which could be a chance for Alonso...

Lap 18: Webber has pulled off and looks to be out of the race.

Lap 18: Maldonado is 13th with Rosberg 14th. Then a 10s gap top Grosjean 15th, Petrov 16th and Kovalainen in 17th spot.

Lap 18: That puts Alonso into a podium place as Webber steps out of his broken Red Bull.

Lap 18: Hulkenberg pits from what is now sixth position in the Force India.

Lap 19: Webber trudges away from his stricken Red Bull, which is now safely behind the barriers at Turn 14.

Lap 19: Di Resta is promoted to sixth for the time being, with Perez seventh, Senna eighth, Button ninth and Button in 10th.

Lap 19: Meanwhile, Hamilton has faded slightly from the rear of Vettel and may have used the best from his tyres.

Lap 19: Massa, who is told by Rob Smedley that a podium finish could be possible, sets the fastest lap. He runs fifth at the moment.

Lap 19: Hulkenberg rejoined from his stop in 13th place, but behind him is a charging Grosjean, who has just set the fastest lap of the race.

Lap 20: Normally this would be a good opportunity for Hamilton to pit, but this is still early for a one-stop plan and the undercut is tricky here.

Lap 20: Alonso, up to third with Webber's retirement, runs off at Turn 19. He is now 14.7 seconds off the lead.

Lap 20: Raikkonen is setting good pace at the moment and is now just 6.5 seconds behind Alonso and closing.

Lap 21: McLaren is ready in the pits for a Hamilton stop.

Lap 21: Di Resta in sixth is dropping away quickly from Massa. The Scot has Perez, Senna, Button and Ricciardo close behind him.

Lap 21: Hard tyres for Hamilton and he heads out to resume the chase.

Lap 21: Hamilton needs to get the best out of these tyres immediately but be aware that they need to go the distance.

Lap 21: A stop for Alonso as well and an unusual Ferrari fumble. He resumes after a short delay a the rear.

Lap 22: Maldonado is 11th ahead of Rosberg 12th, Hulkenberg 13th, Grosjean 14th and Petrov in 15th place.

Lap 22: Vettel will likely respond with his own stop, though Red Bull could gamble on Hamilton struggling to get his rubber up to temperature.

Lap 22: Red Bull goes safe and Vettel is in for a rapid change of tyres.

Lap 22: Button moves through ahead of Senna, then almost immediately Perez and he is up to seventh position.

Lap 22: Vettel resumes clear in the lead, while Raikkonen, yet to stop, is in between him and Hamilton.

Lap 22: Replays of that move show that Senna and Button made extremely light contact. Both continued.

Lap 22: Alonso made it out just ahead of Button on the road and now has the McLaren on his case.

Lap 23: Di Resta, Maldonado, Kovalainen and Glock have all just made a stop.

Lap 23: Raikkonen is giving Vettel some stress at the moment with the Red Bull man still warming up his tyres.

Lap 23: Alonso has Button all over his gearbox as he tries to get his hard tyres up to temperature.

Lap 23: Di Resta has rejoined in 12th position after that short stop. Perez is in this time round.

Lap 24: Massa is encouraged to continue his pace on the soft tyres as others struggle to get the hards switched on.

Lap 24: Button goes for the DRS shuffle on Alonso and is through into fifth place.

Lap 24: Ricciardo, still to pit in the Toro Rosso, is right with that pair.

Lap 24: Meanwhile, Hamilton is chasing the yet to stop Raikkonen in a scrap over second place on the road.

Lap 24: Rosberg is up to eighth with the first stops nearing completion, but he is yet to come in. Grosjean is up to ninth with Hulkenberg 10th.

Lap 24: DRS for Hamilton this time but that Lotus is slippery down the straight...

Lap 25: Petrov pits from 15th place in the Caterham, handing it to Schumacher.

Lap 25: Hamilton gets the job done and sets off in pursuit of leader Vettel.

Lap 25: Lotus now out in the pitlane and Raikkonen answers the call. This will be tight with Alonso...

Lap 25: Not a great stop for Lotus though and Raikkonen resumes just behind Alonso on the road.

Lap 25: Meanwhile, Button is the fastest man on track with his used tyres.

Lap 26: Replays show a slow release of the rear jack at Lotus and that has cost Raikkonen the opportunity to leap past Alonso.

Lap 26: And another place on the road as the still-to-pit but flying Ricciardo takes the Lotus.

Lap 26: Rosberg holds onto eighth but has yet to make a stop. Grosjean is ninth with Hulkenberg 10th, Senna 11th and di Resta in 12th.

Lap 26: Meanwhile, Hamilton is encouraged on as he is clocked two seconds off the lead and aiming for the Red Bull.

Lap 27: Maldonado is 13th and on the tail of di Resta, with Perez 14th, Schumacher 15th and Kobayashi 16th.

Lap 27: Massa is up to third on the road and still lapping quickly. He's a threat to Raikkonen when he does pit... now.

Lap 27: Karthikeyan pits the HRT from 21st. Before the stops, he was right on team-mate de la Rosa's tail.

Lap 27: Webber tells Sky Sports that his alternator failed, a worrying development for Red Bull.

Lap 27: Meanwhile, Massa has made his stop and resumes behind team-mate Alonso.

Lap 28: Pic pits this time round from 17th position.

Lap 28: Up front, Hamilton is closing on leader Vettel again with the fastest lap.

Lap 28: Button is now third on the road but still to make his final stop. Alonso is just behind him in fourth.

Lap 28: Ricciardo is now up to fifth before his pitstop as Raikkonen makes his warm tyres pay off by taking sixth from Massa at the first corner.

Lap 29: Still a long way to go in a breathless US Grand Prix.

Lap 29: Behind them, Rosberg is 2.8s back in eighth spot, with Grosjean one second behind him in ninth, Hulkenberg 10th and Senna 11th.

Lap 29: Traffic in the form of Pic's Marussia didn't work out well for Hamilton there, falling 2.4 seconds off the lead.

Lap 29: Di Resta is 12th in the other Force India, but he has Maldonado on his gearbox.

Lap 29: Vettel, who must be deeply concerned that his alternator could go the same way as Webber's, continues to push on for the moment.

Lap 30: Grosjean passes Rosberg and takes over eighth position in the Lotus.

Lap 30: Massa vs Raikkonen isn't over yet with the Brazilian, now on warm rubber, looking at the back of the Lotus on DRS.

Lap 30: Grosjean, now in free air, is catching the Raikkonen vs Massa battle quickly.

Lap 31: Plenty for the lead strategists to ponder, with those relatively early first stops meaning the tyres have to go quite a way to the flag.

Lap 31: Button is told Massa is now stuck in traffic in the form of Massa as he continues to find good speed in his old set of hard tyres.

Lap 31: Maldonado and Perez have both blasted through ahead of di Resta. The Scot is down to 14th after losing 10s on the last lap.

Lap 31: Hamilton is told the tyres that came off his car look good and he can push on this set of hard rubber.

Lap 31: Ricciardo finally makes his pitstop at Toro Rosso.

Lap 31: Di Resta pits from 14th position in the Force India.

Lap 32: Hamilton responds to that instruction with a fastest middle sector and the lap overall - the gap now 2.1 seconds.

Lap 32: It is a reasonably quick stop for Force India and di Resta rejoins the race in 16th position.

Lap 32: Traffic now for Vettel as well, closing on a slow Marussia through the sweeping early turns.

Lap 32: Ricciardo comes out in 13th after his stop. He is in clear air.

Lap 33: Glock slows the leaders equally there, but both are now back in clean air.

Lap 33: Still, it's a fastest lap for Hamilton again and the gap is now 1.6 seconds.

Lap 33: Alonso questions the team about Button ahead of him and is probably surprised to learn of the McLaren's speed on old rubber.

Lap 34: Hamilton charges on, with the gap now 1.2 seconds after gaining again in traffic.

Lap 34: Vettel has some uncharacteristic oversteer through the sweepers and Hamilton is right with the leader as DRS kicks in.

Lap 35: That puts Hamilton right on the Red Bull's gearbox and it is surely only a matter of time before a DRS move is sent on the leader.

Lap 35: Just 0.6 seconds between Vettel and Hamilton as they flash past the pits.

Lap 35: Rosberg is holding onto eighth but he is losing pace now and needs to come in. Hulkenberg and Senna are closing.

Lap 35: Hamilton, with nothing to lose on his penultimate McLaren outing, is all over championship leader Vettel as they head on to the straight.

Lap 35: Rosberg duly pits the Mercedes, handing eighth to Hulkenberg, ninth to Senna and 10th to Maldonado.

Lap 35: Not quite enough this time but Hamilton continues to pile the pressure on Vettel.

Lap 36: Vettel responds with the fastest lap but the gap is still under a second as the battle rages on.

Lap 36: Button is in for his stop from third.

Lap 36: Alonso moves into third spot, with Raikkonen now fourth, Massa fifth, Grosjean sixth and Button rejoins in seventh.

Lap 37: Tense times in the Red Bull garage as Hamilton keeps the pressure on. Vettel isn't giving up though as he clocks the fastest lap.

Lap 37: DRS for Hamilton again but he is hitting the limiter while drawing up to Vettel down the back straight.

Lap 37: Hulkenberg is eighth ahead of Senna ninth, Maldonado 10th, Perez 11th, Ricciardo 12th and Rosberg rejoined in 13th after his stop.

Lap 38: Button is fastest in the first sector of his next full lap and catching back up to sixth placed Grosjean quickly.

Lap 38: Hamilton looks closer this time into the DRS zone but it is not quite enough despite a look to the inside of the Red Bull.

Lap 38: Raikkonen in fourth has Massa still on his tail. Just two seconds behind them, Grosjean is now under attack from Button.

Lap 39: Alonso remains in a lonely third place. He has no immediate threat from behind, but he is 30 seconds back from the leaders.

Lap 39: Button makes the move on Grosjean and he is through - bravely through into sixth.

Lap 39: Vettel is certainly keen to keep his points margin over Alonso as he once again sees Hamilton close up on DRS.

Lap 40: Raikkonen vs Massa enters round 10 and the Brazilian is through! He takes over fourth from the Finn.

Lap 40: Hamilton is super close this time on DRS and the lead battle continues to simmer nicely.

Lap 40: Button is right with them now in sixth, as Schumacher pits from 14th spot.

Lap 41: Schumacher rejoins from his stop with a grandstand view of this epic fight for the lead.

Lap 41: The leaders are now drawing up on an in-house battle at HRT.

Lap 41: Button in sixth is now just half-a-second behind Raikkonen's Lotus.

Lap 41: Hamilton looks to the inside of Vettel this time at Turn 11, with his lunge moving ever closer.

Lap 42: Vettel clocks the fastest lap but Hamilton is just 0.8 seconds behind at the line.

Lap 42: Great racing between the lead pair as they continue to get amongst the HRTs.

Lap 42: Hamilton is pretty damn close heading on to the straight...

Lap 42: Around the outside of Vettel and Lewis Hamilton leads the US Grand Prix!

Lap 42: Button was alongside Raikkonen at the end of the back straight, but the Finn was able to hold him off this time round. They stay fifth and sixth.

Lap 42: That's a brilliant move from Hamilton on DRS, taking the long way around Vettel's stiff defence.

Lap 43: Hamilton leads into lap 43 with Vettel down to third and Alonso third.

Lap 43: Vettel is furious on the Red Bull radio and is unimpressed by the DRS effect

Lap 43: With Vettel just one place ahead of Alonso on the road, the points difference will be 13 if it finishes like this.

Lap 43: Alonso is still third, exactly 30 seconds back from the top two. Massa is fourth and Raikkonen is still holding off Button.

Lap 44: Hamilton sets the fastest lap and pulls 1.3 seconds clear of Vettel.

Lap 44: Alonso is clocked a massive 31.5 seconds off the lead in third place, indicating how hot the pace has been up front.

Lap 44: Grosjean is seventh and coming back to the Raikkonen vs Button battle, with Hulkenberg eighth, Senna ninth and Maldonado 10th.

Lap 45: Red Bull remains on course for the constructors crown this afternoon, providing Vettel's alternator makes the flag.

Lap 45: Button has another go at Raikkonen's Lotus, but is again unable to find a way through. The Finn is clinging onto fifth.

Lap 45: Vettel is not letting Hamilton get away with it and remains just 1.2 seconds behind the new leader.

Lap 46: Button gets the DRS and sweeps to the outside of Raikkonen at the end of the back straight. They are side by side and Button is through!

Lap 46: Alonso has plenty of pace at this stage, clocking the fastest lap. He's still over 30 seconds off the lead pair though.

Lap 46: So that's the other McLaren into fifth, Raikkonen drops to sixth spot with Grosjean close behind in seventh and Hulkenberg eighth.

Lap 46: 10 laps remain in a thrilling US Grand Prix.

Lap 47: Hamilton leads by 1.2 seconds as Vettel refuses to let the McLaren get away. Tyre life could be a factor in the closing laps.

Lap 48: Button has jumped clear of Raikkonen to the tune of almost three seconds. He is catching fourth placed Massa quickly.

Lap 48: Grosjean is now just 0.8s behind his team-mate.

Lap 48: Much further down the order, Schumacher in 16th is closing down on di Resta and will be with him before the end.

Lap 49: Vettel continues to give chase to Hamilton, who is likely taking it easy to ensure his car makes the distance on fuel after a rapid pace.

Lap 50: Senna is ninth and he sends a move to the outside of Hulkenberg. The German resists and keeps the place - for now.

Lap 50: Maldonado in 10th is on the tail of his team-mate, with these three drivers providing the entertainment for the final points positions.

Lap 51: Hamilton has the lead gap under control at 1.2 seconds but Vettel is still refusing to be dropped.

Lap 51: Down the field, Schumacher in 16th is now less than one second behind di Resta's Force India.

Lap 51: Five to go in F1's brilliant return to the United States.

Lap 52: Grosjean has caught up to the back of team-mate Raikkonen and they begin a scrap for sixth.

Lap 52: Maldonado squeezes through against team-mate Senna and he is through into ninth spot.

Lap 52: Vettel still giving chase with four remaining as Hamilton is being made to work for it by the Red Bull man this afternoon.

Lap 53: But Senna is staying with the Venezuelan and looking to get his own back, as they fight at the back end of the top 10.

Lap 53: Hamilton is told that the traffic has now been cleared with three to go at the line. Vettel clocks a 1m40.082s fastest lap.

Lap 53: Button continues to try and chase down fourth placed Massa, but the gap is 5.5 seconds with only three laps to go.

Lap 54: Button reports on the team radio that he is losing a lot of lap time by not being able to use all of the KERS, suggesting there is a problem.

Lap 54: Massa takes the fastest lap away from Vettel, which won't be popular with the German.

Lap 54: Hamilton responds to the pressure with a new fastest lap, pulling 1.6 seconds clear of Vettel with two to go.

Lap 54: Grosjean has backed off from team-mate Raikkonen, as the team ensures sixth and seventh positions towards the end of the race.

Lap 55: Massa continues to underline his strong pace this afternoon as he takes back the fastest lap.

Lap 55: Hamilton flashes past the pits a lap away from back-to-back US Grand Prix victory.

Lap 56: Maldonado in ninth is now on the rear of Hulkenberg and may challenge for another spot on the final lap.

Lap 56: Alonso is way behind the leaders, some 40 seconds back, but on course for a vital podium.

Lap 56: Schumacher remains in 16th. He caught di Resta some time ago, but has been unable to find a way through.

20:39 Lewis Hamilton wins the United States Grand Prix!

20:39 A brilliant drive from the outgoing McLaren driver, finally making his race-long pressure pay off with a decisive lap 42 pass for the lead.

20:39 Vettel fought Hamilton to the flag but ends up second, though still well in control of the title race.

20:40 Vettel now has the fastest lap as we wait for Alonso to make it around.

20:40 Another brilliant podium finish for Alonso to keep his title challenge alive, profiting from team strategy and a strong first lap.

20:40 Massa has a great drive to take fourth despite his sacrifice of grid position - with some fast pace today from the Brazilian.

20:40 Fifth for Button in the end as he recovers from problems in qualifying thanks to a strategy gamble by starting on hard tyres.

20:40 A fighting sixth for Raikkonen with some great wheel-to-wheel dicing from the Abu Dhabi winner.

20:40 And it is a Lotus in seventh as well with Grosjean taking another good points finish.

20:41 Delight for Hamilton as McLaren finally celebrates a return to the top step of the podium after recent car failures from the lead.

20:41 Hulkenberg comes home in eighth spot, holding off Maldonado and Senna in the final stages. Out of the points, Perez was 11th.

20:42 And there are smiles at Red Bull as well with Vettel's finish being enough for the team to clinch the constructors award for the third time.

20:42 Ricciardo ends his race in 12th with Rosberg 13th, Kobayashi 14th, di Resta 15th, Schumacher 16th, Petrov 17th and Kovalainen in 18th spot.

20:43 Glock was 19th for Marussia with team-mate Pic 20th, de la Rosa 21st and Karthikeyan is the final finisher in 22nd position.

20:43 Vettel pulls up at the second place marker and clearly that isn't the result the German wanted this afternoon.

20:44 Meanwhile Hamilton is delighted with his win and jumps into the arms of his celebrating team.

20:45 Two drivers retired from the United States Grand Prix:

Mark Webber pulled out of the race while running strongly, after an alternator failure and Jean-Eric Vergne was involved in a ding-dong battle with the Mercedes drivers, when he made light contact and was forced out with deranged suspension.

20:45 The top three drivers make their way into the cool-down room to compose themselves and towel down before the podium ceremony.

20:47 Complete with Pirelli cowboy hats, they make their way onto the podium and Hamilton jumps for joy on the top step.

20:47 God Save the Queen rings out over the Circuit of the Americas for today's winners - Lewis Hamilton and McLaren.

20:48 Lewis Hamilton is delighted as he collects the winner's trophy from Texas Governor Rick Perry

20:48 Martin Whitmarsh is on hand to receive the constructors' award for the winning team, McLaren.

20:49 Vettel receives his award for second place. He raises the trophy above his head and looks pleased to have extended his points advantage.

20:49 And it's another podium trophy for Alonso as he takes the title fight to the wire in Brazil.

20:49 The champagne sprays and Hamilton makes sure his boss gets a soaking, before moving onto another battle with Vettel.

20:50 The top three and Whitmarsh stand atop the podium for the traditional end of race photograph.

20:50 Three of the world's finest drivers finally together on the podium as Mario Andretti is introduced to interview the top three for the fans.

20:51 Only one points gap that matters now, with Vettel 13 clear of Alonso heading to the showdown at Interlagos next weekend.

20:52 Meanwhile, stewards will now be investigating an incident between Kovalainen and Glock at Turn 16.

20:53 Stick with AUTOSPORT for all the reaction to a fantastic first race at the Circuit of the Americas.

20:56 Lewis Hamilton takes the Texas headlines, but it's Vettel who edges out just a little further over Alonso in the championship race.

Vettel made a predictably solid start from pole position, as Hamilton got wheelspin on the dirty side of the circuit, allowing Mark Webber through into second. Behind them, Alonso made a stunning start from seventh to fourth and that was the making of another strong afternoon for the Spaniard.

Up front, Webber's alternator failed and that was his race done on the spot, leaving Hamilton to put the pressure on the championship leader. On lap 42 he made his move with the aid of DRS and was able to slip through and go on to a fabulous victory.

Vettel has a 13-point lead over Alonso going into Brazil, but Red Bull has clinched the constructors' championship today - a fine achievement. But the drivers' fight will go down to the wire and ensure headlines throughout next weekend.

This was the 2012 United States Grand Prix on AUTOSPORT Live. Thanks for joining us over the last three days of coverage. We will be back with all the action from the season finale at Interlagos next weekend. Join us then.

Race length: 56 laps
Clear skies High Temp: 24°C / 75°F
Track: Dry
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Friday 16 Nov Start GMT
 Friday practice one 14:55
 Friday practice two 18:55
Saturday 17 Nov
 Saturday practice 14:55
 Qualifying 17:50
Sunday 18 Nov
 The United States Grand Prix 18:45