AUSTIN, Texas -- Lewis Hamilton wanted to make Formula One's return to the U.S. something special, for him and for racing.

The Briton did just that Sunday, using a thrilling pass of Sebastian Vettel at the end of a long straightaway to take the lead, then holding off the German for the final 14 laps to win the U.S. Grand Prix, the first Formula One race on American soil since 2007.

Hamilton won that race five years ago and made the move of the day to capture his fourth victory of the 2012 season.

"Wicked!" roared Hamilton, who pumped his fists, waved to the crowd and danced on the nose of his car after the win. "This is one of the best, if not the best Grand Prix, we've had all year."

Hamilton had driven his McLaren car to wins in Canada, Hungary and Italy earlier this season and relished his chance to return to the U.S. Grand Prix, run on the new $400 million Circuit of the Americas.

Hamilton talked of his love affair with the U.S. all week and raced with the stars and stripes of the American flag painted on top of his helmet. After the win, he wore a black cowboy hat on the podium.

Red Bull's Vettel, who had a string of four consecutive victories end two weeks ago, started on the pole Sunday. The two-time defending world champion was a heavy favorite to win and perhaps even clinch his third consecutive world title.

Vettel finished second and Ferrari's Fernando Alonso was third Sunday. Vettel now leads Alonso by 13 points heading into the final race of the season next week in Sao Paulo, Brazil.

"Bit of a shame to lose first place, but I think we did everything we could," Vettel said. "We've been very quick in Brazil the last few years so plenty to look forward to."

Lotus driver Kimi Raikkonen, who won in Abu Dhabi two weeks ago, finished sixth. Michael Schumacher of Mercedes, a former seven-time world champion who is set to retire again after Brazil, could not capitalize on starting from the No. 5 spot and slipped to 16th.