If Lewis Hamilton's maiden Formula One victory resembled a stroll in the park - albeit one interrupted by safety cars periods - his second shown composure under a different kind of pressure as McLaren team-mate Fernando Alonso harried him to the flag at Indianapolis.

Despite the Spaniard suggesting that he would not be averse to making the sort of first corner lunge that has backfired on him twice already this season, Hamilton was allowed relatively clear passage into the opening right-left combination as Alonso tucked in behind the poleman, reckoning his start not quite good enough to warrant an assault.

Felipe Massa duly slotted in behind the two McLarens from third on the grid, but Ferrari team-mate Kimi Raikkonen again lost out after a tardy start, the Finn's decision to take the harder Bridgestone tyres to the grid suffering an immediate setback as he dropped behind not only Nick Heidfeld, but also Heikki Kovalainen.

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Heidfeld's BMW team-mate Sebastian Vettel showed his lack of experience at the first corner, the debutant spearing across the grass as he carried too much speed to the turn, but that was minor compared to what was going on in his mirrors. David Coulthard and Ralf Schumacher were always expected to be close off the line, having qualified together on row six, but neither would have expected the fast-starting Rubens Barrichello to appear between them as they prepared to turn in.

Caught in a pincer movement, the Brazilian appeared to tag Schumacher's left rear wheel, turning the luckless German into Coulthard, ending his race on the spot with frontal damage to the Toyota. DC and Barrichello both made it back to the pits for assessment before being told that their races were also over.

Benefiting from the melee were both Toro Rosso drivers - Tonio Liuzzi up to twelfth and Scott Speed to 15th - and Spyker's Adrian Sutil, who found himself in the rarefied atmosphere of 14th and ahead of the Super Aguris and Honda's Jenson Button, who had lost out perhaps worst of all. Giancarlo Fisichella then joined the Briton at the back of the field, the Renault driver spinning on his own at turn four and only retaking the track after a long detour through the gravel trap, another promising situation negated.

While Fisico embarked on a comeback of sorts, the race at the front appeared to be all about Hamilton, the leader easing out a bigger advantage over his team-mate with each passing lap. Both started, like the majority of the pack, on the softer Bridgestones and, by lap five, the Briton was nearly two seconds to the good, while Alonso enjoyed a similarly healthy gap back to Massa as McLaren confirmed that it was the class of the field once again.

By lap ten, with Fisichella having passed Christijan Albers, Anthony Davidson and Button to reclaim 16th, Hamilton's lead was up to 2.2secs, with Heidfeld and Kovalainen continuing to frustrate Raikkonen and Liuzzi doing likewise to Alex Wurz - who took repeated looks at the Toro Rosso on the run to turn one - Sutil, Takuma Sato and Speed.

Wurz believed that he had the place won on lap twelve, the Williams dummying one way then the other before claiming the inside line for turn one - only to run wide form his shallow entry and hand the position back again. The Austrian had only been able to make his move following the removal of the yellow flags that had flown since the lap one incident, and therefore did not incur the wrath of the stewards - unlike Sato.

The Japanese driver's name flashed up on the monitors as being under investigation, before it was confirmed that he would have to serve a drive-thru' for allegedly passing Button in the yellow zone. Although Sato insisted that he had been defending from his former BAR team-mate, the punishment stood, but was never served as the Super Aguri broke away under Sato in turn four, just after he competed a move on Sutil, leaving him stranded in the gravel. It was not over for the hero of last weekend's Canadian GP, however, for the stewards then decided that the penalty would be carried over the Magny-Cours in a fortnight, where Sato will take a ten-place hit on his grid position.

Alonso and Hamilton exchanged fastest laps shortly before the first round of pit-stops, and it was the Briton who appeared for fuel and tyres first, remaining stationary for 8.7secs before being sent on his way. That allowed Alonso into the lead, but his chance to open out a gap on a lighter fuel load was short-lived as McLaren summoned him the very next lap.

The world champion was stopped for noticeably less time than his team-mate, but still rejoined marginally behind the #2 McLaren as Kovalainen took over at the front of the field. Any immediate hope Alonso may have had of closing the gap to Hamilton was then dealt a second blow as he found himself bottled up behind former Renault team-mate Jarno Trulli, costing him vital seconds as they battled over third and fourth.

Massa had stopped at the same time as Hamilton, with Raikkonen coming two laps after Alonso, but the order remained largely the same, save for those who were considering the option of just one stop should a safety car be necessary. Thus, by lap 30, the order was Hamilton, Alonso, Trulli, Mark Webber, Massa, Nico Rosberg, Raikkonen, Heidfeld, Kovalainen - the Finn losing out by dropping behind his fellow countryman - and the recovering Vettel, who had dropped from seventh to eleventh after his grassy first turn moment.

Fisichella's comeback, meanwhile, had stalled with the Italian in twelfth, although he had shown that it was possible for F1 cars to dice with, and pass, each other, and that the short chute between turns six and seven could be a legitimate passing opportunity if your car was positioned correctly. Twice the veteran managed to make up a place there, passing Wurz in a wheel-banging move on lap 24 and then Liuzzi, more easily, five tours later.

Liuzzi continued to be a stopper in the bottle for those behind him, and was no easier to pass when the leaders came upon his Toro Rosso on lap 38. Hamilton had already lost time lapping backmarkers, allowing Alonso to close in, but the Italian gave the world champion his best opportunity to make a move for the lead.

Although the Toro Rosso pulled off for its first scheduled stop as the leading pair homed in on it, Alonso had the better momentum, pulling up under Hamilton's wing before diving out to the left as he attempted to out-drag the rookie to the braking zone for turn one. Hamilton refused to be fazed, however, hanging in there with his more experienced team-mate as they came perilously close to touching wheels down the main straight. Both braked at roughly the same time but, with the advantage of the inside for turn one, Hamilton was able to hold the lead.

Alonso was clearly not happy, swerving towards the McLaren pit-wall next time around. The consensus was that, having been fuelled for less time than his team-mate, perhaps he felt he had some divine right to be allowed through as the lighter car, but the status quo remained and, as the next few laps ticked by, the gap re-established itself at around a second between the two silver machines.

With both drivers equally matched, the only remaining glimmer Alonso had - second stop mishaps aside - was the amount of brake dust emanating from Hamilton's front wheels, especially under retardation at the end of the main straight, but the Mclaren, like its young pilot, showed few signs of cracking under the strain.

It wasn't only the McLarens indulging in a little inter-necine activity, for Raikkonen's decision to start on the harder tyres began to pay off when he was able to switch to the softs for his second and third stints. The Finn was almost immediately lapping quicker than team-mate Massa, and was closing on the Brazilian, having been freed by the likes of Trulli, Webber and Rosberg making their belated first stops.

The suspicion that Alonso had been fuelled lighter than Hamilton first time around was all but confirmed by the Spaniard's re-appearance on pit-lane on lap 50, one tour ahead of his British colleague. Again, however, the world champion was stationary for less time, but again he had to accept the sight of Hamilton leaving the pits ahead of him, the pair racing into turn one on lap 52 from different starting points.

When Massa pitted next time around, Hamilton was back into the lead and, despite brief initial opposition from Alonso, both silver machines quickly cut their pace, suggesting that the race was over. The leading Ferrari - still Massa's despite Raikkonen's improved pace - was over ten seconds in arrears, leaving McLaren to keep a watchful eye on its machinery.

It was left to the Scuderia and others to provide the excitement in the closing stages, with Raikkonen closing right onto the tail of Massa when the Brazilian made a mistake in turn one and two. Try as he might, however, there was nowhere for the Finn to put his nose and the positions remained unchanged to the flag.

Further back, the different strategies had more of a say, with Webber, Heidfeld, Trulli and Kovalainen all appearing to be in with a shout of fifth. It wasn't to be for Heidfeld as BMW's strong early run again faltered, the German pulling off reporting power steering problems but with his engine stuttering on gearchanges as well. With Kovalainen staking the strongest claim to fifth, the interest then centred on the final three scoring spots, with Webber, Trulli and Rosberg all in the frame.

The first two almost came to blows on lap 60 when Trulli appeared to edge Webber onto the grass in the infield, prompting the Australian to try a slightly optimistic lunge into turn one next time around. Following Wurz's earlier cue, the Red Bull driver found himself on too shallow an entry, bouncing across the inside kerb before spearing across the Toyota's bows and on through the grass, rejoining back where he started, slightly chastened and settling for a point.

Webber's mood was only lightened a handful of laps later, when former team-mate Rosberg was forced to park his Williams-Toyota with engine failure, elevating the battle to one for sixth - and handing debutant Vettel a point with which to mark his substitute role. Liuzzi then competed the comparatively short list of retirees, the Toro Rosso quitting under him with five laps to run.

By the time the combatants returned to parc ferme to begin their discussions, Hamilton and Alonso were already out of the cars and swigging mineral water in an attempt to offset the effects of one of the hottest races of the year. The Briton, however, appeared cooler than his rival, just as he had on track.

Two wins on tracks unfamiliar to him have set Hamilton up nicely for the return to Europe, his ten-point advantage all but ensuring that he goes home to Silverstone in three weeks on top of the standings, regardless of what happens in France the week before. Propelled by hype to this point, the Hamilton steamroller may just be about to take on a life of its own....