Kimi Räikkönen proved to be the surprise victor of the United States Grand Prix on Sunday (Oct 21), his first win since 2013, or 113 races. Though Lewis Hamilton had won the pole, he failed to keep Raikkonen behind him on the start, Hamilton and his team could never recover. Räikkönen and Ferrari seemed in control throughout, though Mercedes did their best to craft a late-race challenge, Hamilton couldnʻt keep the pace and fell to third.
Max Verstappen of Red Bull started 18th on the grid after a suspension failure killed his qualifying effort, but managed to work his way to second on the podium. Sebastian Vettel kept any remote chance of winning the drivers title alive by finishing fourth. The difficulty is that Hamilton extended his lead by three points over Vettel and, regarding a failure, is rather certain to be confirmed as champion next weekend at the Mexican Grand Prix, as all he needs to do is finish seventh or higher.
The USGP at the Circuit of the Americas has not always been an entertaining affair, sometimes because Hamilton has cruised to victory without challenge or because the track has not allowed for the best racing. It really seems to be hit or miss. This year turned out to be a hit, partially because of Räikkönenʻs victory, to the delight of many F1 fans, but also because of how tire strategies played out allowing for both battles on the track as well as battles in the pits.
In a twist, Mercedes, who has done so well in the second half of the season in pushing Hamilton and the team to the brink of both championships, they faltered. It looks like more of a glitch than anything of major concern because sometimes a team or driver is just better — and on Sunday, Ferrari were.
For Räikkönen, the win serves as a send-off to his time at the Maranello outfit, claiming what is likely a final victory before vacating his seat for Charles Leclerc next year. Of course, to detractors of the move, the win is evidence that Räikkönen is still more than capable and should have been retained for 2019.
The race began with incidents at both the middle and back of the field. The notable collision came between Vettel and Daniel Ricciardo, contact that caused Vettel to spin and drop through the order. If there has been one aspect about Vettelʻs latter part of the season, it has been how contact has felled his efforts, making his drives more difficult than they need be and allowing Hamilton to drive further and further away.
While Vettel recovered, Ricciardo earned another unfortunate DNF, something that has marked his season with Red Bull. The switch to Renault next year must look like a chance for a career renaissance, or at the very least a chance to start anew.
Joining Ricciardo with DNFs, were Leclerc, Romain Grosjean, and Fernando Alonso. Lance Stroll wounded Alonsoʻs car enough on the opening lap to send the popular Spaniard out of the race and earned Stroll a five-second penalty. That Stroll was filling in the last position in the field, the penalty mattered little.
Some quick notes:
– Grosjean is close to earning a one-race ban after he was deemed to be at fault in a collision with Leclerc. He has now earned a three-place grid penalty for the Mexico GP.
– Haas F1 driver Kevin Magnussen, and Force India driver Esteban Ocon were both disqualified and their points rescinded after they were found to have gone over the 100 kg/hr fuel flow for the race. This penalty came as a surprise as few teams/drivers have incurred it since the sport moved to remove fueling during pit stops.
United States Grand Prix Results
1 7 Kimi Räikkönen FERRARI 56 1:34:18.643 25
2 33 Max Verstappen RED BULL RACING TAG HEUER 56 +1.281s 18
3 44 Lewis Hamilton MERCEDES 56 +2.342s 15
4 5 Sebastian Vettel FERRARI 56 +18.222s 12
5 77 Valtteri Bottas MERCEDES 56 +24.744s 10
6 27 Nico Hulkenberg RENAULT 56 +87.210s 8
7 55 Carlos Sainz RENAULT 56 +94.994s 6
8 31 Esteban Ocon FORCE INDIA MERCEDES 56 +99.288s 4
9 20 Kevin Magnussen HAAS FERRARI 56 +100.657s 2
10 11 Sergio Perez FORCE INDIA MERCEDES 56 +101.080s 1
11 28 Brendon Hartley SCUDERIA TORO ROSSO HONDA 55 +1 lap 0
12 9 Marcus Ericsson SAUBER FERRARI 55 +1 lap 0
13 2 Stoffel Vandoorne MCLAREN RENAULT 55 +1 lap 0
14 10 Pierre Gasly SCUDERIA TORO ROSSO HONDA 55 +1 lap 0
15 35 Sergey Sirotkin WILLIAMS MERCEDES 55 +1 lap 0
16 18 Lance Stroll WILLIAMS MERCEDES 54 +2 laps 0
NC 16 Charles Leclerc SAUBER FERRARI 31 DNF 0
NC 3 Daniel Ricciardo RED BULL RACING TAG HEUER 8 DNF 0
NC 8 Romain Grosjean HAAS FERRARI 2 DNF 0
NC 14 Fernando Alonso MCLAREN RENAULT 1 DNF 0
Note – Ocon excluded for exceeding fuel flow limits on Lap 1. Magnussen excluded for consuming more than 105kg of fuel during the race..