United States Grand Prix – Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen has won the race at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, ahead of Red Bull’s Max Verstappen & Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton.
The start of the race proved decisive on this occasion, with Kimi Raikkonen starting well from P2 on the grid to challenge Hamilton into Turn 1. Diving up the inside, the Ferrari driver forced his way past the Mercedes driver to take the lead, with Hamilton setting into P2 ahead of teammate Valtteri Bottas & Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo. Sebastian Vettel, starting from P5 in the other Ferrari, challenged Ricciardo hard at the end of the back straight on the opening lap but, approaching Turn 13, got caught out by the rear of his car stepping out and spun. He fell backwards, down to P15, as a result.
Raikkonen slowly edged away from Hamilton up front, making use of his UltraSoft tyres well, while Hamilton was protected with Bottas acting as a rearguard action against Ricciardo. Increasing the lead to around 2.5 seconds, the race complexion changed on Lap 10 when Daniel Ricciardo suffered a technical failure entering the back straight. With the Red Bull stranded on track, the Virtual Safety Car was deployed to cover it. Hamilton was told to ‘do the opposite of Kimi’ and, when Raikkonen stayed out on track, Hamilton dived in to change from the SuperSofts to the Soft tyres.
He came back out in P3 behind Valtteri Bottas and, using the pace of the Soft tyres early, was allowed through to go chasing after Raikkonen. Closing right up on the Finn, the pair engaged in a game of cat and mouse as Raikkonen eked out lap after lap on his now decrepit UltraSofts before he dived into the pits on Lap 20 having successfully defended the lead.
Max Verstappen, having started the race from P18 on the Soft tyre, had made excellent progress through the first stint to be right behind Valtteri Bottas before coming into the pits to attempt to undercut the Mercedes by fitting the SuperSoft. When Bottas came in a lap later, he came out behind Verstappen, with the Red Bull now up to P3 and with no need to pit again.
Hamilton, now leading after Raikkonen’s pitstop, was 17.5 seconds clear of the Ferrari but, as his Soft tyres went off, that lead was eroded to around 8 seconds by the time Mercedes cried enough and brought him in again for a fresh set of Softs with less than twenty laps to go. He came back out in P4, again behind Bottas, but was let straight through into P3 again. Raikkonen, resuming the lead, was around four seconds clear of Verstappen but, due to the fresher tyres on the Red Bull, that gap reduced to around two seconds while Hamilton was a further 5 seconds behind.
Over the remainder of the race, the gaps between each driver reduced so that each was within DRS range of the other, Raikkonen weathering the pressure from Verstappen who, in turn, was doing the same against Lewis Hamilton as they each used DRS against each other. With two laps to go, Verstappen made a small error and ran wide and allowed Hamilton an attempt at passing him around the outside of the long right hander in the final sector, but ran wide himself and this squabbling gave Raikkonen the breathing space to get to the chequered flag without any further attacks. It was Raikkonen’s first victory since Australia 2013, and his first for Ferrari since Spa 2009. Verstappen brought home his car in P2, holding off Hamilton, while Lewis settled for P3 after his attack towards the end.
Valtteri Bottas had been P4 for a long time but, struggling with tyres, came under pressure from the recovering Sebastian Vettel in the closing stages. With two laps to go, Vettel used DRS to get alongside the Mercedes before Bottas made an error and outbraked himself to hand the position to Vettel. With the Ferrari reclaiming P4, this keeps the championship alive, in theory at least. Bottas was forced to settle for P5.
Outside of the expected positions of the top three teams, it was a Renault 1-2 as best of the rest. Nico Hulkenberg finished P6 after a great race long battle with teammate Carlos Sainz. Sainz’ race was compromised by having a 5 second time penalty imposed on him for going off track and gaining an advantage on the opening lap, but finished 7.7 seconds behind Hulkenberg anyway. Esteban Ocon finished P8 for Force India, but this is under investigation due to the car allegedly exceeding the fuel flow limit on the opening lap. Kevin Magnussen finished P9 for Haas, with Sergio Perez taking the last points position in P10 in the other Force India.
Outside the points, Brendon Hartley finished P11 for Toro Rosso after vying for a lower points position for most of the race. Marcus Ericsson finished P12 for Sauber, ahead of Stoffel Vandoorne’s McLaren. Pierre Gasly was P14 for Toro Rosso, and the Williams of Sergey Sirotkin in P15. Lance Stroll was P16, having been responsible for a first lap collision with Fernando Alonso. He speared into the side of the McLaren driver and fully damaged the sidepod of the car. While Alonso was forced to retire at the end of that lap, Stroll was able to keep going and bring it home in P16, albeit with a drive through penalty for the accident.
Charles Leclerc was another retirement, following a clash with Romain Grosjean. The Haas driver attempted to dive up the inside of the Sauber at the end of the back straight early in the race, and both retired as a result.