AUSTIN — Lewis Hamilton, SebastianVettel and Nico Rosberg were sitting at the podium of the press room at the Circuit of The Americas Race Track at 4:30 p.m. on Sunday.

The FIA Formula 1 World Championship’s United States Grand Prix had concluded 30 minutes prior.

A reporter asked Vettel and Hamilton, “Can you please describe exactly what it feels like to win a world championship?”

The two friends — and competitors — looked at each other.

 They shrugged: Who was supposed to answer that question first?

Vettel chuckled.

“You, first, Lewis,” Vettel said. “Today was your day.”

Indeed it was.

Starting in the No.2 position, England’s Hamilton took the lead from Mercedes teammate and pole-sitter Rosberg in the very first turn of the race after the two cars collided.

“We hit each other — or I should say Lewis came into me,” said a clearly miffed Rosberg, post-race.

No penalty was called regarding their collision.

And from that point forward, this 56-lap race was a pulse-pounding, hold-your-breath thriller.

Australia’s Daniel Ricciardo made a daring and spectacular pass of Hamilton on Lap 15, and held the lead until Rosberg snuck around Ricciardo seven laps later.

Rosberg, of Germany, pitted on Lap 38 and Hamilton took the lead, while Vettel was close behind in second place.

By Lap 45, Rosberg was back in the lead.

On Lap 48, Rosberg’s car went off the track. He was only off the track for a second, but that was long enough for Hamilton, who seized the opportunity, grabbed the lead, never let it go, took the checkered flag — and clinched his third world championship.

“The last 10, 15 laps of this race were tough ones,” Hamilton said. “What an extraordinary race this was. At one point in the race, I was in the lead. Then, all of a sudden, I fell to fourth. I sympathize with Nico: I had some issues with wheels spinning, too.

“I just can’t believe I’m sitting here as the winner of this race. This is an amazing race track. This is an incredible sport and today was one of its best races.”

And Hamilton is currently its best racer.

Hamilton won in Austin in 2012 and 2014.

He also won the world championship last year and 2008.

Of course Vettel, of Germany, is another great champion of the sport. He has captured four world championships: 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013.

“Congratulations to Lewis today,” Vettel said. “He deserved this year’s world championship.”

Hamilton’s winning time was 1:50:52.70. Rosberg finished second, 2.85 seconds back, and Vettel was third, 3.38 seconds behind.

Max Verstappen took fourth, Sergio Perez fifth, Jenson Button sixth, Carlos Sainz seventh, Pastor Maldonado eighth, Felipe Nasr ninth and Ricciardo 10th.

And, by the way, Hamilton did give an answer to the reporter’s question about how it “feels” to win a world championship at Sunday’s press conference.

“It’s the pinnacle of everything,” he said.

“It is the pinnacle of everything.”

Contact Allan Mandell at 254-501-7566,

amandell@kdhnews.com

Contact Allan Mandell at amandell@kdhnews.com or 254-501-7566 and read his column at KDHPressbox.com

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