Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen takes long awaited victory as Hamilton moves closer to fifth title
By: S. Harding, Xiro Xone News October 21, 2018 Updated: 8:41 PM PT
AUSTIN, Texas — The beautiful skies of Austin, Texas was the perfect backdrop for Round 18 of the Formula One season as Kimi Raikkonen claims what has been a long awaited 21st career victory at Sunday’s United States Grand Prix as the championship fight between Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel continues.
The Finnish driver, better known as the “Iceman,” stood on the podium with a warm smile, wearing his signature shades as he takes his first victory since 2013 and gives Ferrari their first U.S. Grand Prix win since 2006.
”Obviously it’s a great feeling to win this race,” said Raikkonen. “It’s nice to prove to all the people that we can still win; that’s the reason we are here for, try to win races and Championships. It was an exciting race, not only for us but also for all those who were watching.”
Red Bull’s Max Verstappen had a monster drive. After starting the race in 18th, Verstappen charged up the field to take his eighth podium of the season in second.
Lewis Hamilton finished third needing only eight points to secure the title, but the mix of Ferrari’s race strategy and solid drives from Raikkonen and Verstappen did not give him the points necessary to clinch the championship.
Despite missing an opportunity to close out the championship, there appears to be no sign the result has slowed Hamilton’s momentum heading into next week’s Mexican Grand Prix.
“It was actually a really fun race, to be close with Kimi and have a bit of a battle with him and Max. It was quite cool that it was Ferrari, Red Bull and us battling for positions and it must have been exciting to watch. Naturally, I’m a bit disappointed in our performance, to have started first but finished third, but I’m still grateful that I managed to finish up ahead of Sebastian Vettel,” said Hamilton
Räikkönen’s teammate Sebastian Vettel finished fourth as the German driver lives to fight another day in the championship. However, he must win the remaining three races to continue to challenge Hamilton for the title.
Valtteri Bottas finished fifth after losing fourth to Vettel in the closing laps. Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg finished best of the rest in sixth ahead of teammate Carlos Sainz in seventh.
Force India’s Esteban Ocon, who’s future remains unclear for 2019, finished eighth but was later disqualified for exceeding the fuel mass flow of fuel-flow limit of 100 kg/hour in the opening lap of the race.
After a points scoring ninth place finish Haas’ Kevin Magnussen was also disqualified for consuming too much fuel during the race. Along with losing teammate Romain Grosjean at the start of the race, made it a disappointing weekend for the American team on home soil.
Sergio Perez took the tenth and final points paying position in the second Force India.
How the race unfolded
The lights went out with a battle between Lewis Hamilton and Kimi Raikkonen going wheel to wheel with Räikkönen taking the lead on the inside of Turn 1.
It was a chaotic first lap with a number of drivers forced to retire. McLaren’s Fernando Alonso retired after making heavy contact with the Williams of Lance Stroll. Haas lost driver Romain Grosjean after he made contact with Sauber’s Charles Leclerc at Turn 12. Damage caused by the collision would also force Leclerc to eventually retire from the race.
During his charge Vettel made contact with Verstappen’s teammate Daniel Ricciardo while battling for fourth. The contact sent Vettel’s car into a spin, dropping him down to 15th. He would later recover to finish fourth. By lap 5 Max Verstappen had advanced to 7th place from 18th.
Daniel Ricciardo was forced to retire on lap 9 due to a power failure, triggering the deployment of a virtual safety car (VSC). This meant no overtaking and a 40% reduction in speed. Hamilton used this opportunity to pit, reentering the race in third on a fresh set of soft (yellow stripe) tires.
Hamilton closed the gap on Raikkonen, challenging the Finn, for position but Raikkonen was able to hold off Hamilton’s charge and keep the lead until he eventually had to pit on lap 22. With Hamilton leading on lap 34, the rear tires of his Mercedes began blistering with a 10-second gap between him and Raikkonen.
Instead of pitting Hamilton upon discovery of the condition of his tires, Mercedes waited until lap 38 to call Hamilton in. The call may have been too little too late as Mercedes needed to get Hamilton on a fresh set of tires to get him back out on the grid and ahead of title rival Sebastian Vettel.
The call left Hamilton emerging onto the track in fourth, just ahead of Vettel but behind Raikkonen, Verstappen, and teammate Valtteri Bottas.
The closing laps saw Hamilton battling Verstappen for second as the British driver needed a second place finish to secure the title. Hamilton gained a slight advantage on Verstappen on the outside of Turn 16 before the Dutchman regained the position. Hamilton continued to follow before running wide at Turn 18.
Just behind Hamilton, Sebastian Vettel managed to snatch fourth place after Bottas ran wide at Turn 12 while the two went head to head on the penultimate lap of the race. The next round of the championship heads to Mexico. Hamilton will need 5 points to secure the title while Sebastian Vettel will need to win the final three races to keep his chances alive.