Exactly eleven years ago, Kimi Raikkonen won his first Championship title and the last, to date, for Ferrari. Today, Kimi Raikkonen wins the US Grand Prix, nine years after his last win for the Prancing Horse and five years after his last win overall, at the age of 39.
An overall superb drive for the Iceman, taking the first place from Lewis Hamilton in Lap 1 and keeping it with an amazing defense strategy and excellent tyre management. Teammate Sebastian Vettel’s otherwise equally exciting drive has been unfortunately overshadowed by yet another mistake.
The starting grid
Lewis Hamilton starts from pole, followed by the two Finns, Daniel Ricciardo and Sebastian Vettel. The German driver had qualified with the second fastest time, but was demoted to P5 after failing to comply with speed limitations in red flag regime on Friday’s practice. Lap 1 immediately sets the mood for an action-packed race: Raikkonen cleanly overtakes Hamilton, while the back of the grid is sent into a frenzy by two accidents, respectively involving Leclerc and Grosjean (both retired in different times) and Alonso and Stroll (the latter gets a drive-through penalty after causing the Spaniard to retire). Sebastian Vettel puts up a great fight with Daniel Ricciardo for fourth place, but, as we’ve seen maybe too many times this year, his aggressive approach has him spinning and falling back to P14. Ricciardo will however retire at lap 10 for an electrical failure, one the many during this season. To retrieve the Aussie’s car, a Virtual Safety Car is deployed at lap 11: surprisingly, Hamilton pits for Soft tyres, setting his pace for a 2-stop strategy.
The pit carousel
Every top driver except for the Brit opts for a one-stop strategy, starting to come into the after lap 20: Valtteri Bottas loses a position after Verstappen successfully performs an undercut on him, while Vettel prolongs his stint on Supersoft tyres in order to progress through the ranks. The last 25 laps of today’s race are probably the most tense we’ve seen this year, with all the five top drivers (Raikkonen, Verstappen, Hamilton, Bottas, Vettel) in extremely small intervals, and the top three actually been in their respective DRS zones. Despite that, Raikkonen keeps his cool and holds the young and hungry Verstappen back (which proved his talent once again, by nurturing Supersoft tyres until the chequered flag). Sebastian Vettel manages to get Bottas’s P4 just two laps before the end, keeping the championship fight open.
It all comes down to Mexico
Despite today’s race being incredibly important for the Prancing Horse’s morals, championship hopes are still extremely low. Lewis Hamilton still has a very solid 70 points lead (with 75 points available) and Mercedes is 66 points ahead in the Constructors’ Championship. At least for today, however, the guys in Maranello can celebrate with a new flag in their collection.