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Sunday, November 17, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Lewis Hamilton clinches F1 championship at U.S. Grand Prix

Lewis Hamilton locked up a Formula One championship with a second-place finish at the U.S. Grand Prix in Austin, Texas, on Sunday. (Mark Ralston / Associated Press)
Lewis Hamilton locked up a Formula One championship with a second-place finish at the U.S. Grand Prix in Austin, Texas, on Sunday. (Mark Ralston / Associated Press)
By Jim Vertuno Associated Press

AUSTIN, Texas – Lewis Hamilton secured his sixth Formula One championship with a second-place finish Sunday at the U.S. Grand Prix, a race won by his Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas.

The British driver now ranks second in F1 history behind German Michael Schumacher’s record seven titles. Hamilton has won the last three season championships and locked this one up with two races left.

He has been a dominant force at the Circuit of the Americas, with five wins here since it opened in 2012, but a poor qualifying set up a start from fifth.

Hamilton quickly bolted to third on the first lap as he passed the Ferraris of Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc. From there, Hamilton looked to be in the hunt for his sixth win at the track while knowing he could coast in for the championship, because a finish as low as eighth would clinch it.

He still fought hard for the victory before fading late in the final five laps to fall behind Bottas, who was on fresher tires.

“Still we rise!” Hamilton radioed to his garage on a lap after the checkered flag.

Sunday was the second time Hamilton secured the championship in Austin, matching his 2015 title, when he fought off Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg in the final laps to get the victory. In 2017 and 2018, he clinched the title in Mexico City without reaching the podium either time.

Hamilton could have rolled through a lazy Sunday drive had he wanted to, but championship drivers seldom do. Not when in pursuit of history.

“It’s an honor to be up here with these (past) greats,” Hamilton said. “My dad taught me when I was like 6 or 7 years old to never give up. That’s our family motto.”

Bottas was the only driver still mathematically in the hunt for the title, but just barely. Bottas had to win and have Hamilton fade to ninth or lower in order to extend the championship to the Brazilian Grand Prix in two weeks.

Saturday’s qualifying left Hamilton starting from the third row as the cars bolted uphill into the blind left turn that can make the field become a demolition derby. Hamilton stayed clear of the dangerous traffic, giving Red Bull’s Max Verstappen and Ferrari’s Leclerc plenty of room to maneuver to avoid a collision.

Hamilton wasn’t content to stay there.

He quickly reeled in and zoomed past the Ferraris into third halfway through the first lap. From there it was a matter of settling in for a long race to see whether he could make a move for a championship victory.

Hamilton grabbed the lead when Bottas pitted for tires and he didn’t let it go without a fight. He defended against a Bottas pass with six laps remaining before finally surrendering the spot on the next lap.

Verstappen was looking to pass Hamilton on the final lap, but a yellow flag caused by Haas driver Kevin Magnussen ended the threat and gave Mercedes the 1-2 finish.

The Circuit of the Americas had a special spot reserved for the championship car next to the podium winners for the post-race celebrations.

There was only one car that could be.

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