Kimi Raikkonen stole the spotlight from Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel on Sunday with a superb victory in the Formula 1 United States Grand Prix 2018 at the Circuit of Americas in Austin, Texas.
Raikkonen registered his first win since the season-opener in 2013 when he was driving for the then-Lotus F1 Team. It was also his first triumph of the season and the sixth for Ferrari this year.
Most importantly, the result extended the title fight for teammate Vettel as well as for Ferrari.
After two days of cold and rain, the sun finally shone on Sunday.
Raikkonen was second on the grid alongside pole-sitter Hamilton, with Vettel in fifth due to a grid penalty.
As the lights went out, Raikkonen was immediately in brilliant form, getting the better of Hamilton to take the lead. Raikkonen got away clean but Vettel and Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo collided at turn 13 and, on the inside, Vettel spun around but kept going, although it meant that he had to start yet another climb up the order from 15th.
After a virtual safety car period, Raikkonen held off Hamilton on tyres that were now well worn for 21 laps, while Vettel managed to climb right back up the order.
Raikkonen then pitted and gave up the lead to Hamilton, but following the stop and n ow on fresher rubber, Raikkonen closed in on first place. On lap 37, Hamilton pitted for a second stop, which put Raikkonen back in the lead.
With 10 laps to go, a battle ensued for the top three places between Raikkonen, an in-form Max Verstappen and Hamilton, with Vettel closing in on Valtteri Bottas who was then fourth. In the final few kilometres, as Verstappen fought Hamilton, Raikkonen made the most of it to pull out a bit of a gap.
He was eventually first past the chequered flag in one hour 34 minutes 18.643 seconds to take his first win for five years.
Verstappen was a close 1.281 seconds behind while Hamilton was classified third 2.342s back.
Vettel, Bottas, Nico Hulkenberg and Carlos Sainz of Renault, Esteban Ocon of Racing Point Force India, Kevin Magnussen of Haas and Ocon’s teammate Sergio Perez rounded out the top 10, all of whom scored points.
Following the race, Raikkonen commented:” Obviously it’s a great feeling to win this race. It’s nice to prove to all the people that we can still win; that’s the reason we are here for, try to win races and Championships.
“It was an exciting race, not only for us but also for all those who were watching. We had a very solid weekend, I felt confident and I’m glad about that especially because lately we’ve had rough weekends for the team. I’m glad we had a fight and it’s nice to see that we still have the speed to go for it and fight has hard as we can.
“This weekend we found the car that we expected to have. The start was a key moment; In the first part of the race we had the speed, I tried to take care of tires and save fuel. Then the Mercedes stopped and came back on fresher tires: at that time, my target was to keep them behind before we, too, stopped for tyres. If Hamilton had passed us before our stop, it would have been a different story. We are still in the fight for both Championships and this is a good thing. We’re off to Mexico now, where we’ll try do the best we can and hopefully we can get a great result for both teams. We’ll keep fighting until the end.”
The Formula 1 season continues this weekend with the Mexican Grand Prix on October 28.