With no choice but to win, Lewis Hamilton went out and did exactly that at the Circuit of the Americas... There may still be a long way to go if he wants to get back into the driver’s championship, but for Lewis Hamilton, Sunday was finally a step in the right direction. His first win since the summer break – six races ago in Germany – Hamilton once again occupied the top-step of the podium after a dominant drive from pole in Austin. In something of a reversal of fortunes from two weeks ago at Suzuka, it was Hamilton who got the better start of the two Mercedes drivers, as teammate Nico Rosberg needed to overcome a fast-starting Daniel Ricciardo to take second. While out in front the race quickly became a straightforward affair, that wasn’t the case for the non-podium positions. Points-paying positions opened up first with after a phantom stop message to Red Bull’s Max Verstappen’s on lap 27 was greeted by an empty pit-box, followed by a gearbox failure two laps later, while a costly tyre-fitting error by one of Kimi Raikkonen’s mechanics forced his Ferrari into retirement on lap 39. As a result, McLaren’s Fernando Alonso was able to finish P5, closely followed by the Toro Rosso of an impressive Carlos Sainz Jr, while Romain Grosjean was able to earn Haas’ first points since Austria in the inaugural home race. A race with plenty of quality and a dash of controversy, read on for a look all the major talking points from the 2016 United States Grand Prix. Hamilton Corrects Course, but Rosberg Still in Control It wasn’t the massive leap he needed, but his result in Austin was enough to keep the dream well and truly alive for Lewis Hamilton. Having alternated pole positions with teammate Nico Rosberg since returning from his summer vacation, Hamilton was finally able to make one stick with a commanding drive in Austin. On Saturday he was spectacular, beating Rosberg to pole by 0.216s to give himself every chance of a victory, and without the start problems of Suzuka, or the adverse reliability of Sepang, the Brit spent Sunday in full flight. Where Rosberg couldn’t escape the clutches of Daniel Ricciardo on the super-soft tyres at the start, Hamilton went unchallenged into the first corner, and proceeded to drive the most controlled of races. Effortlessly balancing his pace and tyre management, there was never a point where the win was realistically in doubt, as Rosberg couldn’t challenge until the race’s closing stages, at which point Hamilton had already turned down the wick. Hamilton could not have been more deserving of the 7 points taken out of Rosberg’s lead – but the problem is it was only 7 points. Still trailing Rosberg by 26 points in the standings, the result would have been less than ideal for Hamilton, given his teammate was at several points vulnerable to finishing further downfield. The virtual safety car spurred by Max Verstappen stopping in a hard-to-remove spot off of the penultimate corner was massive for the German, who obviously lost a challenger while gaining a “free pit-stop” over Ricciardo. If Hamilton hoped Austin was to mark the start of the championship seesaw tipping back in his direction, the Verstappen VSC was something akin to a fat kid hopping-on slightly off-centre towards Rosberg. It’s no longer enough for Hamilton to leave each race with the biggest trophy, he needs Rosberg to leave sorely disappointed. Alas, it wasn’t to be on Sunday, and he heads to Mexico City with much the same work cut out for him. Spaniards Star in Texas Rodeo Having brought Spanish race-driving to new heights in his storied career, Fernando Alonso got to share the spotlight with the next generation on Sunday. Finishing fifth and sixth respectively, Alonso and Toro Rosso’s Carlos Sainz Jr were the standout performers at CoTA, dragging their similarly-underpowered cars to equal their season-best finishes. Separated by a 13-year age gap, the two are unquestionably at very different stages in their careers, but one thing they share besides nationality is they both had plenty to prove. For Alonso, any doubt as to whether he still “had it” after another gruelling season with McLaren – if not removed after his stellar 22nd-to-12th opening lap in Malaysia – had to have been quashed after Sunday. The two-time world champion was at his opportunistic best, as after having started in 12th but finding his way behind the P5 Sainz and Williams’ Felipe Massa in the race’s latter stages, Alonso was able to pull the move of the race on his ex-Ferrari teammate before taking Sainz on the final lap of the race. Letting out a hearty “yeehaw!” on team radio, it’s clear Alonso remains primed to take advantage of a truly competitive car, should McLaren and Honda be able to give it to him. Despite finishing behind Alonso, Sainz was undoubtedly the driver of the day having put his Toro Rosso in a position it had absolutely no right to be in. Massa was sat on the 22-year-old’s gearbox for the better part of 10 laps, and even with Mercedes power on the straights couldn’t find a way past. It was a high point in a season that has been impressive not just for his performances relative to the car and his teammates, but in the way Sainz has set aside what had to be profound disappointment at losing out on the senior-team drive to Max Verstappen. He’s been given another year to strut his stuff at Toro Rosso, and should a promotion to Red Bull still be closed-off to him, he’s sure to be at the forefront of the silly season rumour mill for 2018. On a related note, watching Sainz battle his childhood hero has to be one of the cooler moments of the season. Such moments are the stuff of dreams, and the Toro Rosso driver got to live his. And while Alonso will hopefully be around for a few more seasons yet, from what we’ve seen so far, it looks like the Spanish crown will have a worthy successor. Fight for 2017 Spot Heats Up at Renault Two drivers. One spot for next year. Things are getting spicy at Renault. With the announcement last week that the French constructor has signed Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg to a race seat for 2017, the Kevin Magnussen and Jolyon Palmer suddenly have the most high-stakes teammate battle outside of Mercedes. Points-or-no, the last four races could prove crucial in deciding their future – in which case, first blood goes to Magnussen. Finishing 12th to Palmer’s 13th, Magnussen was able to get the best of his teammate, albeit in contentious circumstances. Having followed the Dane for much of the race, Palmer admitted afterwards he’d made repeated overtures to be allowed past on the basis of being “a lot quicker”, but was denied. To make matters worse for the Brit, Magnussen was given a late stop for super-softs, temporarily conceding position only to take it back again on lap 49, and would have finished 11th if not for earning a penalty in his pass of Daniil Kvyat’s Toro Rosso. As frustrated as Palmer was at Renault’s reticence to issue team orders, Sunday’s result wasn’t exactly an outlier in a teammate battle that has seen Magnussen score 7 championship points to only 1 for himself. 2016 has been mostly a ho-hum year in Renault’s return as a constructor, and Palmer has been a ho-hum driver. While Magnussen hasn’t exactly stood out either, he’s been solid after a year out of the sport, has shown glimpses of the promise he had at McLaren. If Palmer is to retain the Renault seat, it might only be if Magnussen decides to sign elsewhere, otherwise, he’s got an awfully difficult fight on his hands. If Palmer is to rediscover the magic of his 2014 GP2 title, certainly there’s no time like the present. Has Hamilton regained his mojo? Is Sainz capable of succeeding Alonso? Can Palmer beat Magnussen to the 2017 Renault seat? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.