Formula One: Hamilton thanks fans, flag power as title looms

AUSTIN - A serene Lewis Hamilton increased his lead in the world championship to 24 points and then thanked his fans for their support after he swept to victory in the United States Grand Prix.

It was his fifth consecutive victory, his 10th of the season and the 32nd of his career - one more than Nigel Mansell - making him the British driver with the most career successes in Formula One.

"I feel very privileged to be at the top of the British winners," he said. "It means so much.

"I did my homework for this race last night. I felt confident I could win and I had great energy from the British fans with all the flags here today. The fans were great and I never had any doubt I could win." The 29-year-old, who started second behind his pole sitting Mercedes team-mate and nearest rival Nico Rosberg, took the lead with a bold move after 24 laps on his way to a perfectly-measured triumph ahead of the German by 4.314 seconds.

His triumph meant he also became the first Briton since Mansell, in 1992, to win five races in a row.

Hamilton, the 2008 champion, now has 316 points to Rosberg's 292 following the Englishman's dominant success, earned by clever tyre preservation and well-judged speed, with two races remaining, including the final race in Abu Dhabi where double points are scored.

Hamilton added: "It is such a privilege to represent my country and to be top of the drivers' standings. It's been an incredible run. This whole season has been incredible." "For me, I think it goes back to growing up in Stevenage where I never thought I would be in this position and have people supporting me all over the world, wearing my top, the cap and waving the flags.

"I have made a conscious decision these last few years, I have felt more mature and I know this is a great sport, but it is also a great platform for me to inspire others - to inspire people never to give up and to keep pushing and keep working at it to achieve what you want." The result left the two Mercedes men as the only drivers now capable of winning the title contest which will go down to the wire in Abu Dhabi on November 23, no matter the result in Brazil next weekend.

Sunday's triumph was also the Mercedes team's 10th one-two triumph of the year, equalling the 1998 record set by McLaren's pairing of Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost.

Hamilton also became the first Briton to win 10 races in a season, a feat achieved by two Germans Michael Schumacher and Sebastian Vettel.

Mansell said on Twitter: "Brilliant for Lewis and Mercedes. Nico put up a strong fight but Lewis did a fantastic job.

"Many congratulations - five wins on the trot and 32 wins altogether." Rosberg was downcast at his latest setback.

"It kind of sucks," he said. "It took too long for me to find my rhythm. It's pretty simple. In the overtake, I knew there was a chance he could try it. I tried halfway defensive, but Lewis did a good job and that was it.

"Five to 10 laps later, I started to feel ok, but unfortunately it was too late. I never gave up, I was determined to put pressure on Lewis all the way and try to get closer, but it just wasn't possible.

"What is clear is that I still have a chance and so I go to Brazil and keep pushing, flat out, try to be on pole and win and that is it. There are many points to be won and a lot can still happen."