Report by Jamie Downes (@JamieDownes11)
Lewis Hamilton must wait until the Mexican Grand Prix for another chance at a fifth world drivers championship, as Kimi Raikkonen took victory in an enthralling race in Austin.
Hamilton’s title rival Sebastian Vettel did just enough to make sure the title wasn’t decided in America, as it has been seven previous times in F1’s history. The German finished fourth after passing Valtteri Bottas with only a few laps remaining. Hamilton came within inches of a fifth world title, but ran wide after attempting to pass Max Verstappen on lap 54. The Dutchman was arguably the star of the race, making up 16 places after starting near the back of the grid to finish second.
There was drama right from the opening lap as Vettel was spun around and dropped down the field after a collision with Daniel Ricciardo.
Also on lap 1, Lance Stroll collided with Fernando Alonso, resulting in a retirement for the veteran McLaren driver, and a drive through penalty for the young Canadian. Haas Driver Romain Grosjean also hit and spun Ferrari protege Charles Leclerc. It was a disappointing showing for Haas at their home Grand Prix.
Verstappen’s teammate Daniel Ricciardo started strongly in the Red Bull, before retiring with a mechanical issue, an almost unbelievable seventh retirement of the season for the likeable Australian. Ricciardo is moving to Renault next season.
In an uncharacteristic lapse, it was Mercedes who dropped the ball tactically. By delaying bringing Hamilton in for his second pit stop, they allowed Raikkonen to build a gap that would ultimately never be claimed back. Raikkonen had overtaken pole sitter Hamilton into turn 1, and then led for much of the race.
The day ultimately belonged to Ferarri, and to Raikkonen, who broke the record for the longest amount of time between wins (2044 days!). The Finn, who is moving to Sauber next year, remains one of the sport’s most popular figures.
Hamilton had on Saturday set the best possible chance for himself by claiming pole position ahead of Vettel, who dropped down to fifth after a penalty for speeding under red flags during practice. The fast charging Max Verstappen started in 18th owing to a drive shaft issue in Q1. Esteban Ocon was the “best of the rest” after finishing in sixth. The Force India Driver, who is still searching for a seat for next season, was four-tenths faster than his teammate Sergio Perez.
Fernando Alonso failed to get out of Q1 in what will be his final US Grand Prix before retirement, highlighting what was a dismal showing for McLaren. Alonso’s teammate Stoffel Vandoorne was plum last in 20th.
The F1 circus will briefly rest before travelling to the Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez in Mexico City next week, where Hamilton won the last of his World Drivers’ championships’ in 2017. The Briton can wrap up the title if he finishes higher than seventh position, regardless of where rival Vettel finishes.
Although Texas has not produced a world champion this time, the Lone Star State produced a hugely entertaining race.