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Raikkonen takes long-awaited win, Hamilton made to wait for F1 title

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Raikkonen takes long-awaited win, Hamilton made to wait for F1 title
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Oct 21, 2018, 11:18 PM

In what will go down as one of the most popular race wins of recent times, Kimi Raikkonen took a well-executed victory in Austin ahead of Max Verst...

In what will go down as one of the most popular race wins of recent times, Kimi Raikkonen took a well-executed victory in Austin ahead of Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton to stand on the top step of the podium for the first time in 113 races.

Tasked with disrupting Lewis Hamilton's championship quest, the Finn profited from Mercedes' decision to pit Hamilton twice and take his first win for Ferrari since the 2009 Belgian Grand Prix.

Mercedes' decision to pit Hamilton under the virtual safety car - deployed for an early race retirement for Daniel Ricciardo - forced them into a two-stop race, which also brought the hard-charging Red Bull of Max Verstappen - who started down in eighteenth place - into play.

Following Raikkonen closely, Verstappen fended off Hamilton to hold on to second place, but was unable to prevent Raikkonen taking the victory.

"It's been a great weekend, the car's been pretty good the whole time," said Raikkonen.

"I got a good start, then I needed to push hard, I was battling a few times, and then in the end the tyres were not staying in the best shape, but it was a bit similar for Max and obviously Lewis had more tyre [life] left.

"We kept it consistent and just tried to keep the tyre alive until the end."

"It's been a long time, obviously I'm much happier than finishing second."

Sebastian Vettel committed another opening lap error when racing against Daniel Ricciardo to force himself into another race of recovery, eventually finishing fourth after passing Valtteri Bottas in the final moments of the race.

The results mean that Hamilton extends his championship lead to 70 points with a maximum of 75 still to claim. Hamilton will take the title in Mexico if Vettel fails to win, or if he finishes in a minimum of seventh place.

In a very strong day for Renault, Nico Hulkenberg and Carlos Sainz finished at the head of the midfield in sixth and seventh, taking fourteen points to extend their lead over Haas in the battle for fourth place in the constructors' championship.

At lights out, Raikkonen succeeded in capitalising on being the only man in the top five to start on the ultrasoft tyres by out-launching Hamilton and taking the lead of the race at turn one, followed by Hamilton and Mercedes team-mate Bottas. Interestingly this was the first race where Raikkonen had gained a position on the opening lap since the final race of 2016.

Vettel was unable to gain positions off the line but immediately went to pass Ricciardo. He appeared to have the job done at the end of the back straight into turn twelve, but the Ferrari man ran wide and allowed Ricciardo a chance to fight back.

Under pressure from the Australian, Vettel lost the rear of the car and spun when he tried to complete the pass on the inside of turn thirteen. As was the case at Suzuka, he now had to fight his way through the field.

In other first lap chaos, Lance Stroll clattered into Fernando Alonso - eliminating the McLaren - and earning himself a drive-through penalty. Haas' Romain Grosjean also bumped into Sauber's Charles Leclerc, putting one Haas car out of their home race.

Attentions turned to how quickly both Verstappen and Vettel could cut through the field, with the Dutchman - starting on the hardest available tyre - now running ahead after gaining several places in the opening couple of laps.

Verstappen would then become the sole focus of Red Bull's efforts, with team-mate Ricciardo forced to retire the car on lap ten. The stranded car eventually brought out the virtual safety car.

Under the instruction of "do the opposite to Raikkonen", Hamilton pitted on lap eleven for a new set of supersoft tyres, being the only man to take advantage of the safety car period, and only dropping him to third. Vettel elected to stay out.

As the only man equipped with fresh rubber, Hamilton was the quickest on track, and had no resistance from team-mate Bottas in taking second place.

He gradually reeled in Raikkonen, but the Finn's defence of the lead was resolute, and Hamilton was unable to pass the Ferrari before it was called into the pits at the end of lap 21.

The gap between the new top three (Hamilton, Bottas, Verstappen) had closed up considerably, and swift pit stop for Verstappen allowed him to get the undercut on Bottas, moving him ahead of the Mercedes.

Vettel - almost a full pit stop behind Raikkonen and told to not hold him up - pitted a couple of laps later, and now required extenuating circumstances to get any big result out of the race.

With the gap between Hamilton and Raikkonen now falling, Mercedes made the call to pit again, bringing Hamilton in at the end of lap 37 for soft tyres. He was now down to fourth (behind Bottas, Verstappen and Raikkonen) and twelve seconds off the race-leader.

Once again he was permitted to pass Bottas, and with fifteen laps to go he'd reduced the gap to nine seconds from the race leader.

With Verstappen ever-so-gradually catching Raikkonen, the top three closed up to be separated by just 2.5 seconds with five laps to go.

On lap 54 of 56, with drivers edging in-and-out of DRS activation zones, Verstappen made a mistake by running deep into turn twelve and presenting an opportunity to Hamilton. The pair were side-by-side for most of the final sector, but Hamilton ran ever-so-slightly wide at turn seventeen, which put him very wide at turn eighteen, handing the place back to Verstappen.

Slightly further back, Bottas was under huge pressure from Vettel and also made a mistake into turn twelve. He ran off the track and Vettel was gifted fourth place to aid his quest to keep the championship fight continuing to Mexico.

With the top three now spaced out after the Verstappen and Hamilton fight, the pressure reduced on Raikkonen, and the Finn was able to take a popular 21st career victory, his first since his return to Ferrari in 2014.

Verstappen held on to second place - a remarkable turnaround from eighteenth on the grid - with Hamilton in third and Vettel in fourth, with the championship gap now at 70 points, and 75 points still available.

Bottas finished fifth, whilst the winner of the midfield battle was Renault's Nico Hulkenberg,  led team-mate Carlos Sainz to a big double-points finish for the team to give them a big advantage in their battle for fourth in the constructors' championship.

Esteban Ocon finished eighth ahead of Haas' Kevin Magnussen and Force India team-mate Sergio Perez.

UNITED STATES GRAND PRIX

1 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 56 Laps

2 Max Verstappen Red Bull/Renault 1.281s

3 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 2.342s

4 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 18.222s

5 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 24.744s

6 Nico Hulkenberg Renault 87.210s

7 Carlos Sainz Renault 94.994s

8 Esteban Ocon Force India/Mercedes 99.288s

9 Kevin Magnussen Haas/Ferrari 100.657s

10 Sergio Perez Force India/Mercedes 101.080s

11 Brendon Hartley Toro Rosso/Honda 1 Lap

12 Marcus Ericsson Sauber/Ferrari 1 Lap

13 Stoffel Vandoorne McLaren/Renault 1 Lap

14 Pierre Gasly Toro Rosso/Honda 1 Lap

15 Sergey Sirotkin Williams/Mercedes 1 Lap

16 Lance Stroll Williams/Mercedes 2 Laps

17 Charles Leclerc Sauber/Ferrari DNF

18 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull/Renault DNF

19 Romain Grosjean Haas/Ferrari DNF

20 Fernando Alonso McLaren/Renault DNF

By: Luke Murphy

All images: Motorsport Images

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Series Formula 1
Author Luke Murphy
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