UNITED STATES GRAND PRIX WRAPUP
Kimi Raikkonen wins in Austin; delays Hamilton's title
It was a gorgeous Sunday in Austin with everything looking as though it was set up perfectly for Lewis Hamilton and the Silver Arrows of Petronas Mercedes AMG. Starting Second on the grid was the number 7 car of Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen. Ferrari had rolled the dice and placed Kimi on the Ultra Soft tires to start the race- opposite of what the rest of the top five had chosen. The gamble paid off as Kimi was able to take the lead through turn one. Lewis harassed Kimi for several laps but settled down knowing that Kimi would have to pit sooner due to his softer tires.
Meanwhile, Sebastian Vettel who needed to stay within 7 points of Lewis to stay in the World Championship hunt, suffered a spin from 5th to 15th place after contact with Daniel Ricciardo’s Red Bull, seemingly dashing any hopes of postponing Lewis’ 5th title.
Ricciardo’s chances of a podium finish ground to a halt as his engine failed, putting the entire grid into a Virtual Safety Car (VSC) situation- which requires drivers to slow down and maintain gaps. The radio call to Hamilton was to do the opposite to Raikkonen- pit if he stays out, stay out if he pits. Raikkonen made a dodge towards pit lane but pulled away at the last moment as Hamilton went in for fresh tires. This caused Hamilton to lose only 9 seconds behind Raikkonen as opposed to the normal 20 due to the grid being slowed by the VSC.
Raikkonen pitted a few laps later leaving Hamilton in the lead. The race once again looked like it was Hamilton’s to lose, but the radio call from Ferrari to Raikkonen told him not to worry, Hamilton would have to pit again.
During this action at the front Sebastian Vettel methodically made his way up to fifth place, meaning that Hamilton would have to at least finish second to win the title this day.
The prescience of Ferrari then came to pass as Hamilton’s tire blistered and he went in for fresh rubber at lap 38. When he came out he was in third place by 9 seconds and 12 from first. He quickly closed the gap leading to a furious battle between the top 3 of Raikkonen, Red Bull’s Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton. On the second to last lap a slight error by Verstappen allowed Hamilton to pull alongside but brilliant defense by the Dutchman caused Hamilton to run wide thus preserving the positions. Vettel managed to pass Hamilton’s teammate Valteri Bottas into 4th place as Kimi crossed the line first.
Kimi Raikkonen scored his first victory in 113 Grand Prix to the uproarious cheers of the crowd. In so doing, he also managed to pass his Finnish countryman Mika Hakkinen into 15th on the all-time wins list. Sebastian and Ferrari live to fight another day and the championship moves on to Mexico City where now Hamilton only needs to score a further five points to win the championship regardless of any other outcomes.