Lewis Hamilton's dream run continues

The McLarens were clearly the class of the field and with their rookie British driver again performing at the absolute peak of his form, Fernando Alonso could do little, writes Alan Henry.

Lewis Hamilton's magic carpet ride towards the world title in his first year of Formula One continued in flawless style when he dominated the US Grand Prix from start to finish, roundly beating his team-mate Fernando Alonso.

Hamilton survived a wheel-to-wheel battle with his fellow McLaren-Mercedes driver that saw them come inches from disaster as they weaved at each other at 195mph on the main pit straight, but the Briton held on for a second win in as many weeks after his maiden victory in Montreal. Hamilton now leads the drivers' world championship by 10 points with seven of the season's 17 races completed.

Third and fourth were the Ferraris of Felipe Massa and Kimi Raikkonen with Heikki Kovalainen's Renault and Jarno Trulli's Toyota completing the top half-dozen. In eighth place the 19-year-old Sebastian Vettel became the youngest points scorer in the history of the world championship in his BMW Sauber.

Facing a 600-metre sprint to the first corner, the McLarens did their best to expunge painful memories of last year's race, in which Raikkonen and Juan Pablo Montoya were eliminated in a collision just seconds after the starting signal. On this occasion the front half of the field got away cleanly with Hamilton just easing ahead of Alonso as the pair accelerated cleanly away from the rest of the pack.

Straining every sinew as he went into the braking area for the first tight right-hander, Alonso pulled level with Hamilton on the outside line. For a moment the two cars jinked towards each other as Alonso momentarily considered taking a lunge around the outside but then the Spaniard thought better of it and dutifully slotted in behind.

By the end of the opening lap Hamilton was already 0.4sec ahead of Alonso with Massa's Ferrari leading the pursuit behind them.

The McLarens were clearly the class of the field and with Hamilton again driving at the absolute peak of his form, Alonso could do little more than follow in his wheel tracks and hope the 22-year-old Briton might slip up. Yet despite racing for the first time at Indianapolis, Hamilton was in no way flustered and reeled off the laps with metronomic consistency.

The Briton had built up a 3.5sec lead by the time he came in for his first refuelling stop with 21 of the race's 73 laps completed. Alonso stopped next time round, but as the race settled down again Hamilton was just over a second ahead of Alonso.

Then, suddenly, the leader hit trouble. Slowed in back-marker traffic, Hamilton found that Alonso was right on his tail. Out of the last banked corner on lap 38, the world champion slipstreamed up on to Hamilton's rear and moved to surge past, only for the British driver to swerve across him to keep him boxed out. From then on Hamilton kept the upper hand through the second round of refuelling stops all the way to the chequered flag, the two McLarens crossing the finishing line 1.5sec apart after a dominant display of technical firepower and driving excellence. Alonso had arrived here determined to expunge the disappointment of the previous Sunday in Canada, where he finished a distant and frustrated seventh. The US circuit has never been one of his favourites, his best placing being fifth for Renault last year, but the Spaniard initially set the qualifying pace in torrid conditions which saw the track temperature soar to well over 50C, levels more usually seen in Bahrain and Malaysia.

Yet history was about to repeat itself. As in Montreal, just as it seemed as though the world champion would get the upper hand, so Hamilton stole pole in the closing moments of the final session, rubbing in his advantage by projecting a surprised innocent delight that he had again managed to outflank his more experienced colleague.

"Yes, it was quite a surprise, to be honest," said Hamilton. "Going into qualifying, we hadn't really found the best, the optimal set-up and I knew Fernando is obviously extremely quick here. But it's great to see that the team is so quick and ahead of the Ferraris, obviously. So I could not be happier. I did not really expect to be on pole. I thought Fernando would have been quicker, but obviously not."

Massa and his team-mate Raikkonen monopolised the second row of the grid, third and fourth in their Ferraris, while Nick Heidfeld's BMW Sauber shared the third row with Kovalainen's Renault.

In seventh place, the 19-year-old Vettel became the second youngest driver to qualify for a Grand Prix after taking over from Robert Kubica after the Pole was refused permission to compete on medical grounds following his 193mph accident in Canada.

� Guardian Newspapers Limited 2007 * * * Storm at Mclaren-Mercedes

Fernando Alonso may well have found the way to prematurely break his contract with McLaren-Mercedes, the Formula One team where he has said he is not "comfortable."

"Alonso's entourage could have found the legal way to break (the contract)," the Spanish sports daily, Marca, said. The newspaper added that there was tension at McLaren-Mercedes, between twice world champion Alonso of Spain and his team-mate, British Formula One rookie Lewis Hamilton, who currently leads the drivers' standings.

According to Marca, the team was undergoing a "civil war that has few chances of ending well."

"Two and a half years in this situation would be an unbearable sentence. People know it at McLaren and people know it in other teams, which have already rushed to knock on the door of Alonso's entourage," the daily added.

Marca said three other teams could be interested in signing the man who won the drivers' world championships with Renault before joining McLaren this season. Earlier, Italian media reported that Ferrari was interested in the Spaniard. "What is impossible is that Fernando serves his three-year contract with his team in the current tense situation," Marca said.

Hamilton currently leads the standings with 58 points to Alonso's 48. The "war" between them started at the Monaco Grand Prix, when the Brit expressed his regret that he is the team's number two driver and hinted that Alonso might be favoured by team decisions. Tension grew at the Canada Grand Prix, when the Spaniard said that his team's support went Hamilton's way and admitted that he did not feel "comfortable" at McLaren-Mercedes.

DPA