Kimi Raikkonen delivered Scuderia Ferrari’s sixth win of the season which came about thanks to determination, a calm approach and strategy implemented by the driver and the entire team. Sebastian Vettel finished fourth, having to fight all the way. Mathematically at least, both the Drivers’ and Constructors’ championships remain undecided.
The sun finally shone on the Circuit of the Americas for raceday, after two days of cold and rain, with the thermometer showing 21 degrees air temperature and 32 on track. Raikkonen was second on the grid, running Ultrasofts. Vettel, with a three place penalty, was fifth on Supersofts.
As the lights went out, Raikkonen was in brilliant form, getting the better of Hamilton to take the lead. Vettel stayed fifth, attacking Ricciardo who immediately fought back. The Ferrari and the Red Bull collided at turn 13 and, on the inside, Vettel spun round, but kept going, although it meant he had to start yet another climb up the order from fifteenth place. The stewards decided it was a normal racing incident.
Raikkonen was suffering from bad oversteer, while the number 5 Ferrari was lapping quickest of all, and Vettel was already back in ninth spot.
On lap 10, Ricciardo parked at the hairpin and that required a crane on track, so the Virtual Safety Car was indicated, requiring drivers to slow by 40% compared to the reference point. As expected by those on the Ferrari pit wall, Hamilton pitted and dropped one place. At the restart, Vettel dealt with Hulkenberg to move up to fifth.
Raikkonen held off Hamilton on tyres that were now well worn for 21 laps, which was some help to his team-mate’s return up the order. Then he pitted for the yellow-banded tyres, the hardest on offer, to run to the flag with just the single pit stop. Shortly after, he swapped places with Vettel (setting the fastest race lap on the way) as the German was due to come in for fresh tyres. He too went for the Softs.
On fresher rubber, Raikkonen closed up to the leader, while Vettel, quickest on track, caught up to Bottas. On lap 37, Hamilton pitted for a second stop, which meant Raikkonen was leading again.
With ten laps to go, a battle ensued for the top three places, with Vettel right behind, closing in on Bottas. In the final few kilometres, as Verstappen fought Hamilton, Raikkonen made the most of it to pull out a bit of a gap. Vettel was duelling hard with Bottas who overshot at turn 12 which meant the Ferrari number 5 went up to fourth. Raikkonen meanwhile was first past the chequered flag to take his first win for five years.
Maurizio Arrivabene: “Today’s win came courtesy of Kimi who drove a great race and the team, which at such a tricky time, showed great courage in taking a step back, fighting our closest rivals on equal terms. Seb was unfortunate and had to fight his way back up the order after the collision on the opening lap. In the championship, the numbers are against us, but we will knuckle down and fight all the way to the end, just as we did today.”
Kimi Raikkonen: “Obviously it’s a great feeling to win this race. 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. We had a very solid weekend, I felt confident and I’m glad about that especially because lately we’ve had rough weekends for the team. I’m glad we had a fight and it’s nice to see that we still have the speed to go for it and fight has hard as we can. This weekend we found the car that we expected to have. The start was a key moment; In the first part of the race we had the speed, I tried to take care of tires and save fuel. Then the Mercedes stopped and came back on fresher tires: at that time, my target was to keep them behind before we, too, stopped for tyres. If Hamilton had passed us before our stop, it would have been a different story. We are still in the fight for both Championships and this is a good thing. We’re off to Mexico now, where we’ll try do the best we can and hopefully we can get a great result for both teams. We’ll keep fighting until the end.”
Sebastian Vettel: “I am really, really happy for Kimi and his result today, but I am not happy with my race and I am disappointed for letting the team down today. I had a contact with Ricciardo on lap one, I am not sure he saw me when I was getting closer to him. I wanted to put him under pressure for the next corner, I wasn’t thinking about passing in that point at any rate, but I had nowhere to go, we touched wheels and I span around. I think this has been an important race for us as a team and it’s nice to see that we had a good pace during the race, even though there are still many things we need to learn and to understand. It has not been an easy time for me lately and bad results are part of the game, but I believe it’s always possible to overcome issues.”
Photos: Scuderia Ferrari - 2018 FIA Formula 1 World Championship
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