Updated at: 11/19/2012 5:35 AM
By JIM VERTUNO
(AP) AUSTIN, Texas - Red Bull lost the top spot at the drivers’ podium on Sunday, but the team won its third consecutive Formula One constructors’ championship behind Sebastian Vettel’s second-place finish at the U.S. Grand Prix.
"I’m very, very happy for the team," Vettel said after Lewis Hamilton passed him on lap 42 to win and push him to second at the Circuit of the Americas. "It’s been a tough year so far and they have been pushing incredibly hard; they deserve to win, as we have been the best team."
Red Bull has earned seven wins and eight pole positions this season with one race left to run next week in Brazil. Vettel started on the pole Sunday and teammate Mark Webber was in the No. 3 spot.
But Webber did not finish after retiring on the 17th lap with engine problems.
"Obviously Mark and I were pushing throughout the year. It was a shame for Mark not to finish today," Vettel said. "Lewis beat us fair and square. We showed we had the pace today and now it’s full steam ahead to the next race."
While the drivers get the glory, the constructors’ championship awards the work to put the best cars on the track, said Red Bull team principle Christian Horner. Red Bull is just the third team to win the title three years in a row.
"The constructors’ is what we use to measure ourselves against our competitors and, for every member of the team, it’s how we gauge our performance," Horner said. "The drivers obviously have the prestige and public following but within the team they carry equal importance."
Vettel leads the drivers’ championship by 13 points over Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso.
TEAM STRUGGLES: Team HRT had the two slowest times in qualifying and finished last in the standings, not counting the two drivers who didn’t finish.
Pedro de la Rosa was 21st and Narain Karthikeyan was 22nd. The team is for sale and de la Rosa this week was forced to deny reports in Spain that the cars may be lacking spare parts and dangerous to drive.
"Five laps to the end, part of the carbon seat broke and I was afraid that I might have to retire, but I managed to adapt to the new driving position and we were able to get to the checkered flag, which was not only important for me but for the whole team," de la Rosa said. "Now it is time to look ahead and get ready for Brazil."
Team principle Luis Perez-Sala called the two-car finish important for team morale.
"It hasn’t been easy, but everyone had done a fantastic job and I am very proud of this team and its members," Perez-Sala said.
NEARING THE END: Mercedes’ Michael Schumacher, who is nearing the end of his decorated career, couldn’t take advantage of his surprise No. 5 starting position and slipped all the way to 16th.
The five-time U.S. Grand Prix winner may have been hoping to capture some of his former dominance on American soil but was never really in the race. Schumacher, who won seven world championships, then came out of retirement to drive again, is set to retire after next week’s race in Brazil.
"I can’t find any words other than ironic ones for the race today _ there was a lot of action around me but unfortunately in the wrong direction. To say that the race was a real struggle would be an understatement," Schumacher said.
"I couldn’t get any grip from my first set of tires, and there must have been some kind of damage for them to perform so badly. We had to change our strategy to two stops which then compromised our race even further. All in all, it was much worse than expected today," Schumacher said.
(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)