By Joey Barnes, Editor-in-Chief
AUSTIN, Texas — Kimi Raikkonen snapped a win drought of over five years to capture a highly-contested victory in Sunday’s United States Grand Prix, while Lewis Hamilton saw chances of clinching the championship evaporate at Circuit of the Americas.
Despite constant pressure in the dwindling laps from both Max Verstappen (No. 33 Red Bull Racing) and Lewis Hamilton (No. 44 Mercedes), Raikkonen (No. 7 Ferrari) held steady to score the 21st victory of his Formula One career and first since the 2013 Australian Grand Prix – 113 races ago.
Hamilton needed to outscore Sebastian Vettel (No. 5 Ferrari) by eight points to lock up his fifth F1 title, and it was boosted the Brit’s pole position. However, it was Raikkonen who got the jump from the front row as he charged ahead of Hamilton entering Turn 1.
Over the course of the 56 laps, the 39-year-old Finn put in a masterful performance with a one-stop strategy, undoing Hamilton’s two-stopper en route to the top step on the podium.
“I’m happy with how it went,” Raikkonen said. “I’m happy for the team.
“Obviously, we had a pretty rough two races and I’m proving people certain things. I might be getting older, but it’s not too bad still. Maybe I’m okay to be [here] a few years more. I enjoy it, so we are here to try to win. I always try to do it, but obviously it’s not easy, otherwise anybody could do it.
“I think this weekend we have been pretty solid in many ways. I just had a good feeling with the car. We’ll see what happens in the next race, but so far it’s been okay. I don’t complain a lot. We’ll have for sure some fun tonight and we go next week to the next one.”
Hamilton’s second stop came on Lap 38 following numerous circuits that saw dramatic falloff from his supersoft tires. Upon the swap for the soft compound, the gap was simply too great to as the four-time F1 champion could only pressure Verstappen and even attempted an aggressive pass with two laps to go for the runner-up spot before the side-by-side battle left Hamilton briefly drifting off track.
“I think ultimately I came out and the pit window was very, very close, but then after I did my stop it was 12 second and it was way, way too far to catch up,” Hamilton said.
“I’m not really quite sure how the strategy ended up like that. It’s always difficult. You only have a certain amount of life with the brand new tire to make a difference and once you put 12 second up there’s none left.
“But anyway, I’m really happy. We still got a top three. It’s still close; Ferrari picked up their game this weekend, so we’ve got to push hard for the next race.”
The outcome was exceptional for Verstappen considering he made a relatively quiet run from 18th on the grid. Overall, it wasn’t the result the 21-year-old Dutchman was expecting.
“Yeah, a bit unexpected but a good start, a good first lap, and then very quickly we were back into P5, P4 and we could just follow the leaders and we had really good pace,” Verstappen said.
“We made the right call to undercut Valtteri (Bottas, No. 77 Mercedes) and from there onwards we could do our own race. I think in the end we could put a bit of pressure on, but unfortunately in the last three or four laps I ran out of tires on the supersoft compared to the guys on the soft around me.
“Still very happy. I destroyed my shoe; I think I was pushing a bit hard, but it felt good.”
The gap in the championship between Hamilton and Vettel sits at 70 points entering the Mexican Grand Prix.
United States Grand Prix – Provisional Race Results
|2||33||RED BULL RACING TAG HEUER||56||+1.281s||18|
|8||31||FORCE INDIA MERCEDES||56||+99.288s||4|
|10||11||FORCE INDIA MERCEDES||56||+101.080s||1|
|11||28||SCUDERIA TORO ROSSO HONDA||55||+1 lap||0|
|12||9||SAUBER FERRARI||55||+1 lap||0|
|13||2||MCLAREN RENAULT||55||+1 lap||0|
|14||10||SCUDERIA TORO ROSSO HONDA||55||+1 lap||0|
|15||35||WILLIAMS MERCEDES||55||+1 lap||0|
|16||18||WILLIAMS MERCEDES||54||+2 laps||0|
|NC||3||RED BULL RACING TAG HEUER||8||DNF||0|
* Provisional results