What A Race! This one is clearly one of the best races of the 2018 season, up there with Silverstone for me, but who would have thought... Kimi Raikkonen, wins the United States Grand Prix. I mean, a lot of us hoped that he would achieve some glory before leaving Ferrari, especially after coming so close in Monza, but what a race.
I mean there was everything: differing tactics, amazing wheel-to-wheel races, and quite a few big crashes. But how did Ferrari and Raikkonen prove everyone wrong to win the eighteenth round of the 2018 F1 season?
This was crucial. Top 5; all on the super-softs, except for the Iceman, who opted for the Ultra-soft tyres in Q2. We knew this would make Hamilton more vulnerable in Turn 1 but the durability of the super-softs would allow Hamilton to stay out longer, and most of the field in fact. But Kimi still had to do the job.
As the lights went green, initially it was a pretty even start, until Raikkonen just starting closing up to Hamilton, until he was alongside him. Hamilton tried to block his overtake, but Raikkonen cheekily used the wide exit pit lane to keep on the inside and once he did that, he gave Hamilton just enough room to get through turn one. Right, the first step was complete.
After creating a 2.5 second lead over Hamilton (and 7.5 seconds over Bottas), Daniel Ricciarod retires frustratingly from P4 due to a battery problem in sector two, causing a virtual safety car, allowing around half a free stop.
Hamilton was instructed to do the opposite to Raikkonen, and as the two leaders approached the pitlane Raikkonen did a dummy into the pitlane, but stayed out, with Hamilton going in. THe four time world champion put the soft tyres on, hopefully enough to be able to reach the end of the race on.
With Raikkonen opting to stay out, the game was afoot.
After some blitzkrieg laps, Lewis Hamilton had closed the gap to a second, and now he had the job to overtake the 39 year old Finn who was ailing ultra-soft tyres.
Over the next three laps Raikkonen just would not let Hamilton through. Despite the assistance of DRS, Raikkonen used every ounce of his pure F1 talent to keep Hamilton at bay, and out of the top five, he was now the clear slowest.
This allowed the likes of Bottas, Verstappen, and even worryingly (For Mercedes) Vettel to close up to sixteen seconds behind Hamilton.
However on Lap 21 Raikkonen pits. He had had enough with these tyres and had done a fantastic job. Now he would put on the soft tyres and would have enough grip to reach the end of the race on a one-stop strategy, where as Hamilton would have to decide very soon whether to ditch the one-stop strategy for a two or keep with his guns.
Both Verstappen and Bottas pit, meaning that Hamilton now lead the race by seventeen seconds to Sebastian Vettel - who had yet to pit - and Kimi Raikkonen just behind.
Raikkonen overtakes Vettel at turn one. The next car on the road is Hamilton, who is seventeen seconds ahead. On average twenty seconds is needed for a pit stop, meaning if Hamilton bails to a two-stop, he will come out behind of the Iceman.
Over the next ten laps Raikkonen stays cool (obviously), and as Hamilton's tyres begin to degrade, the Iceman cooly slowly eats in to his lead, and after ten laps, the lead was down to ten seconds. With twenty laps to go, Mercedes needed to choose quickly whether to keep Hamilton out or pit him.
And Hamilton just could not hang on with those tyres. He pits, coming out on P4 behind Bottas, but with his little German friend Sebastian Vettel only 3.2 seconds behind. After his first lap fracas, Vettel was now back in the hunt for even a podium.
Hamilton instantly lights up the time-boards, and 'overtakes' his team-mate Valtteri Bottas for P3, and now has Max Verstappen to bear down on. He is ten seconds behind Raikkonen with sixteen laps to go - it couldn't be closer.
The top three (Raikkonen, Verstappen & Hamilton) are now separated by less than five seconds, with Vettel only 1.5 seconds behind Bottas. Raikkonen is instructed by his race engineer that Ferrari believe Hamilton will catch up to him with three laps to go. Quite an ominous message if you ask me. On that particular lap, Raikkonen set his fastest lap of the day.
The top three are now separated by 2.5 seconds with seven laps to go. Hamilton is in DRS range of Verstappen, but is struggling to find a way pass the Dutchman. Meanwhile Vettel is told that he can race Bottas now on Engine 1 until the end of the race. If Vettel passes Bottas, Hamilton has to win the race to win the title.
And Hamilton goes for it! Hamilton gets DRS on the pit straight. Verstappen's Red Bull is mighty in the high-speed esses in the first sector. Verstappen has fallen back a bit from Raikkonen. Hamilton is now very, very close to Verstappen! He gets a poor exit from turn 12 and Hamilton takes his opportunity? Or does he? He runs massively wide out of the exit and that could be that.
And Vettel goes around the outside of Bottas and is into fourth place, meaning Hamilton will have to wait for another week to win the title unless he pulls of a miracle.]
The checkered flag. Kimi Raikkonen wins the US GP. It's the Finn's first win since Melbourne 2013 (113 races) and nearly 5,700 days since his first win in Malaysia 2003 for McLaren. He is now the most successful Finnish F1 driver of all time - surpassing Mika Hakkinen. Not a bad stat at all.
SO - A GREAT RACE - BUT WHAT HAPPENED IN THE BATTLE BEHIND
Well, if you didn't see it, there was a huge amount of crashes on the first lap, involving Lance Stroll, Fernando Alonso, Romain Grosjean and Charles Leclerc.
Meanwhile the Renault duo of Hulkenberg and Sainz Jr. kept their races clean, and by the first half of the lap Hulkenberg was P6 and Sainz Jr P7. This is how they would finish, one of the best days for the Renault team since returning to the sport.
Sainz Jr. was awarded a five second penalty for apparently gaining an advantage off track, but he was still able to take seventh place. Renault extended their lead to twenty points over Haas and now it looked like they had wrapped up fourth place in the constructors championship, breaking the 100 point barrier in the process.
Now the race finished like this:
However Esteban Ocon was disqualified from the race after finishing P8 for exceeding fuel flow limits on lap 1. This promoted Magnussen to P8, Perez P9 and Hartley to P10.
However that wasn't the end of it. Then Kevin Magnussen was also disqualified from the race after finishing P9 for consuming more than 105 kg of fuel during the race.
So that mean't the final result was this:
This was a good result for Hartley, who was in need of a good result to keep his seat at Toro Rosso.
So here are the drivers standings with three rounds to go:
1. Hamilton - 346
2. Vettel - 276
3. Raikkonen - 222
4. Bottas - 217
5. Verstappen - 191
And the constructors standings:
1. Mercedes - 563
2. Ferrari - 497
3. Red Bull - 337
4. Renault - 106
5. Haas - 84