Start of the United States Grand Prix Mark Thompson/Getty Images

Sebastian Vettel finished second at the United States Grand Prix in Austin, Texas, Sunday, giving Red Bull Racing the points it needed to lock up its third constructor's championships in a row -- and join elite company.

Only three other teams have won three straight titles: Ferrari, McLaren and Williams.

"It's fantastic. It's all down to the team. We've joined a list of illustrious teams," said Red Bull Racing Team Boss Christian Horner after the race.

Vettel, in finishing ahead of Ferrari's Fernano Alonso, also padded his slim lead in the drivers' championship -- 273 to 260 -- going into the season's final race next week in Brazil.

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The points gap might have been more had it not been for a shrewd and controversial decision by Ferrari moments before the race.

With Alonso qualifying down in eighth position and his teammate Felipe Massa, who was already eliminated from the championship, in sixth, the team elected to open a seal on Massa's gearbox.

The move meant that Massa had to incur a five-spot grid penalty, effectively bumping Alonso up to seventh and setting both cars on the cleaner side of the track.

"It's fantastic. It's all down to the team. We've joined a list of illustrious teams" -- Christian Horner

Ferrari's move seemed to pay off immediately at the start, as Alonso moved up to fourth at the very first corner -- the minimal position he needed to ensure the title hunt would continue in Brazil.

Vettel, meanwhile, had the advantage early. McLaren's Lewis Hamilton showed surprising speed, however, and remained close throughout the 56 lap race. By the middle laps, the McLaren driver had closed the gap to around a second or less.

Then on lap 42, Vettel ran up against HRT's Narain Karthikeyan, who was down a lap. Karthikeyan was slow in allowing Vettel through and within three corners, Hamilton was close enough to set up a pass down the long back straight between turns 11 and 12.

Hamilton would make it stick for his third win of the season.

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Vettel, who had the fastest lap of the race on the final lap with 1m 39.347s, said on the podium after the race, "He had one chance and he took it." He added, "I'm very happy to the team in particular, we won the constructors' championship."

Alonso finished third, adding a strange bit of trivia to the day: it was the first time that Hamilton, Vettel and Alonso -- with seven titles between them -- have been on the podium at the same time

"The circuit was fantastic, and the fans have been fantastic all weekend," said a smiling Alonso, no doubt happy that he still had a mathematical shot at his third world title.

However, there was nothing stopping Red Bull Racing from celebrating a constructors' championship in Austin on Sunday -- even with Mark Webber's car dropping out early due to engine failure.

Horner said that the team now has their head down and focused on the drivers' championship for Vettel. "It's going to be a busy week ahead of us," he said.

Driver Team Interval
Lewis Hamilton McLaren  
Sebastian Vettel Red Bull 0.6
Fernando Alonso Ferrari 39.2
Felipe Massa Ferrari 46.0
Jenson Button McLaren 56.4
Kimi Raikkonen Lotus 64.4
Romain Grosjean Lotus 70.3
Nico Hulkenberg Force India 73.7
Pastor Maldonado Williams 74.5
Bruno Senna Williams 75.1
Sergio Perez Sauber 84.3
Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso 84.8
Nico Rosberg Mercedes 85.5
Kamui Kobayashi Sauber 1 Lap
Paul di Resta Force India 1 Lap
Michael Schumacher Mercedes 1 Lap
Vitaly Petrov Caterham 1 Lap
Heikki Kovalainen Caterham 1 Lap
Timo GLock Marussia 1 Lap
Charles Pic Marussia 2 Lap
Pedro de la Rosa HRT 2 Lap
Narain Karthikeyan HRT 2 Lap
Mark Webber Red Bull 40 Lap
Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso 42 Lap

 

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