From 1999 to 2008, Ferrari witnessed its Formula One (F1) heydays – owing to the brilliance of one maverick named Michael Schumacher. After his retirement in 2006, Ferrari still managed to win two F1 World Constructor’s Championships (WCC), in 2007 and 2008. In both of those years, Ferrari’s success was attributed to a young Kimi Raikkonen, who won the 2007 World Drivers Championships (WDC) in his first season at Ferrari.
Since then, Red Bull Racing and Mercedes-Benz have dominated F1, thanks to Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton respectively. Coming into the 2018 United States Grand Prix, Hamilton required just eight points more than title rival Vettel, now a driver for Ferrari, to clinch his fifth WDC. Instead, the party was spoiled by Vettel’s teammate Raikkonen, who emerged victorious for the first time since 2013. Raikkonen’s previous victory arrived 2,043 days ago at the 2013 Australian Grand Prix. Since then, the “Iceman” has failed to register a victory in 153 races.
Requiring eight more points than Vettel, Hamilton lost the lead at the start of the race to Raikkonen, who used Ferrari’s softer tires to out-accelerate Mercedes. On lap 11, Mercedes decided to pit under an early virtual safety car period, a decision that saved Hamilton 10 seconds as he caught onto Raikkonen’s tail within the next eight laps. He gained a big lead over Raikkonen when the later underwent his pit-stop. However, Hamilton’s early pit-stop backfired as the tires of his Mercedes began to blister, requiring him to go through a second pit-stop. During the five laps that he took on his blistered tires, he ran into both traffic and grip problems. Meanwhile, Reb Bull’s Max Verstappen joined Raikkonen to lead the proceedings of the race.
When Hamilton re-joined the race after his unwarranted second pit-stop, he questioned why Mercedes had provided him with soft tires rather than the super-softs that other teams had taken. As a result, he wasn’t able to go by Raikkonen and Verstappen, despite closing up on them. Raikkonen emerged victorious, making him the most successful Finnish driver with 21 victories under his belt. Throughout the race, he drove at a faster speed than anybody else and judged the position of his car beautifully to ensure Verstappen didn’t overtake him at corners.
Meanwhile, his team-mate Vettel committed yet another mistake in a season that has been characterized by them. On the first lap, he tangled up with Verstappen’s teammate Daniel Ricciardo and spun his car around. The incident cost him valuable time, as others gained momentum. Since his mistake, he managed to race superbly to end up 4th behind Hamilton during the final lap.
After the win, “Iceman’ Raikkonen was calm and composed as he celebrated his first victory in half-a-decade. He said, “It has been a great weekend. The car has been good all the time. Got a good start and needed to push hard. The tires were going off at the end but we had enough speed and kept it consistent and just tried to keep the tires alive to the end.” Meanwhile, Hamilton was upset with Mercedes choice of tires. He aims to clinch his 5th WDC title at the Mexican Grand Prix.