United States GP: Kimi Raikkonen wins to delay Lewis Hamilton's title bid
Raikkonen's first win since 2013; Ferrari's 'long game' strategy works perfectly; Hamilton denied by late stop and stubborn Verstappen
By Pete Gill
Last Updated: 04/12/18 4:18pm
Kimi Raikkonen won an outstanding United States GP ahead of Red Bull's Max Verstappen with Lewis Hamilton's title coronation delayed for at least a week.
Hamilton pitted from the lead of the race with 20 laps remaining but couldn't pass Verstappen, who started in 18th, and Raikkonen for the race victory he required to secure a fifth world championship.
The next race is in Mexico on Sunday, exclusively live on Sky Sports F1.
In the race's decisive moments, Sebastian Vettel collided with Daniel Ricciardo while Raikkonen passed Hamilton off the line and Ferrari then elected not to pit the Finn under a Virtual Safety Car period.
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When Mercedes called in Hamilton for a cheap stop, it appeared that the world champions had pulled off a strategic masterstroke. But with Hamilton unable to make his tyres last after being held up by Raikkonen prior to the Finn's only stop, a second visit to the pits demoted the Englishman to fourth.
"We made it so hard for ourselves," Hamilton admitted. "I'm not really quite sure how the strategy ended up like that."
Although team-mate Valtteri Bottas swiftly pulled aside to let Hamilton through, the championship leader was unable to pull off the overtaking moves required to wrap up the title.
In a dramatic conclusion, Hamilton slipped off track when he tried in vain to pass Verstappen before backing out. But with Vettel rounding Bottas on the final lap, only victory would have been sufficient in any case for Hamilton to conclude the title race.
"Ferrari did the better job, they were quicker today," said Hamilton.
What happened to Vettel and what now for the title race?
Any hopes Vettel had of achieving a victory to significantly derail Hamilton's championship push effectively ended on the first lap.
For the second race in succession, Vettel tangled with a Red Bull as he collided with Ricciardo. The German was sent spiralling to the back of the field and although he launched another spirited fightback, the incident will once again pose awkward questions for the Ferrari driver.
"Vettel's forgotten how to do wheel-to-wheel combat," said Sky F1's Martin Brundle
"He seems to be on the receiving end of contact every single time he gets into a squabble."
The stewards investigated the clash but deemed it a racing incident.
Vettel now must win all of the remaining races to have any hope of beating Hamilton to the championship. But the more salient detail heading to Mexico is that Hamilton will be crowned champion if he finishes seventh or higher.
"I am not happy with my race and I am disappointed for letting the team down today," said Vettel. "It has not been an easy time for me lately and bad results are part of the game."
How Ferrari's 'long game' strategy worked perfectly
Ferrari initially appeared to have made a critical error when they chose not to pit either Vettel or Raikkonen behind the Virtual Safety Car.
In fact, it proved to be the smart call - and Hamilton's cheap stop, in which he effectively saved around eight seconds compared to a conventional stop in full race conditions, would later prove costly and his undoing.
At first, it looked as if Mercedes had played a strategic masterstroke when Hamilton, relishing the extra grip from a brand new set of softs while Raikkonen tried to prolong the set of ultrasofts he had started the race on, swiftly reeled in the Ferrari.
But the time Hamilton lost then trying and failing to pass Raikkonen before the Finn called off the fight by pitting would prove critical later in the race when it became clear Hamilton's soft tyres wouldn't complete the required 45 laps to the finishing line.
Hamilton was the only driver in the top five to stop twice and despite a late charge to close in on Verstappen and Raikkonen, his frustration was plain afterwards.
Ferrari, meanwhile, made their own response subtlety and silently…
Drama after the chequered flag
Two hours after an epic race concluded, the finishing order was changed as a result of disqualifications for Esteban Ocon and Kevin Magnussen.
Both drivers, who finished ninth and 10th respectively, had their points finishes scrapped after fuel infringements.
Those rule breaches meant Brendon Hartley and Marcus Ericsson each climbed into the top ten.
Haas' Romain Grosjean, meanwhile, was handed a three-place grid penalty for Mexico after colliding with Charles Leclerc on the first lap.
How the United States GP unfolded
Lap 1: Raikkonen takes the lead from Hamilton in the first corner. Vettel and Sainz are both off track at the first corner and Vettel then clashes with Ricciardo, spins and returns to the field in just 18th.
Lap 10: Daniel Ricciardo's Red Bull car suddenly crawls to a halt. The Virtual Safety Car is deployed…
Lap 11: Told to pit if Raikkonen doesn't, Hamilton pits under the Virtual Safety Car and returns in third - 16 seconds behind Raikkonen.
Lap 20: Hamilton has caught Raikkonen but cannot pass the Ferrari. Hamilton only inherits the lead when Raikkonen pits.
Lap 24: Verstappen puts on the supersoft tyres and holds on for track position ahead of Bottas when the Mercedes stops for softs.
Lap 37: Losing time and grip, Hamilton and Mercedes pull the trigger and opt for a second stop. Hamilton returns in just fourth - a place ahead of Vettel.
Lap 40: Bottas lets Hamilton through - and Hamilton sets new track record.
Lap 45: As Verstappen closes within two seconds of Raikkonen, Vettel moves into DRS range of Bottas.
Lap 50: The top three are covered by three seconds while Vettel continues to hound Bottas.
Lap 54: Hamilton finally makes his move on Verstappen. After a thrilling wheel-to-wheel duel, Hamilton slides off track and the Red Bull escapes.
Lap 55: Vettel passes Bottas for fourth - all-but guaranteeing the title race will carry on to Mexico.
Lap 56: Raikkonen crosses the line for his first victory since 2013.
United States GP race result
|1) Kimi Raikkonen||Ferrari||1:34:18.643|
|2) Max Verstappen||Red Bull||+ 1.281|
|3) Lewis Hamilton||Mercedes||+ 2.342|
|4) Sebastian Vettel||Ferrari||+ 18.222|
|5) Valtteri Bottas||Mercedes||+24.744|
|6) Nico Hulkenberg||Renault||+87.210|
|7) Carlos Sainz||Renault||+94.994|
|8) Sergio Perez||Force India||+101.080|
|9) Brendon Hartley||Toro Rosso||+1 LAP|
|10) Marcus Ericsson||Sauber||+1 LAP|
|11) Stoffel Vandoorne||McLaren||+1 LAP|
|12) Pierre Gasly||Toro Rosso||+1 LAP|
|13) Sergey Sirotkin||Williams||+1 LAP|
|14) Lance Stroll||Williams||+1 LAP|
|Esteban Ocon||Force India||DSQ|
|Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull||DNF|
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