Scuderia Ferrari racing driver Kimi Räikkönen defied the odds on Sunday, putting on a brilliant performance to win the 2018 United States F1 Grand Prix. Thus ended a 112-race losing streak – the longest gap between race wins in Formula 1 history – and Räikkönen became the oldest driver in the sport to score a victory since Nigel Mansell in 1994.
Räikkönen’s Scuderia Ferrari teammate, Sebastian Vettel, ran a very different race. Starting from fifth on the grid, Vettel made contact with Red Bull Racing’s Daniel Ricciardo on the opening lap, spinning and dropping back to fifteenth. By the end of the race, he’d fought his way back up to fourth, one place behind Drivers Championship frontrunner Lewis Hamilton, but if there’s a silver lining, it’s that Hamilton’s failure to pull out a win keeps the title fight alive for at least another week.
Sunday’s race largely came down to tire strategy, as a course caution in the first few laps gave Mercedes a chance to pit Hamilton and change his tires without quite the usual time penalty. Ferrari chose not to pit either Sebastian Vettel or Kimi Räikkönen, and as Hamilton, on fresh tires, managed to rapidly close the gap Räikkönen had created, it began to appear that they’d made the wrong call.
But try as he did, Hamilton couldn’t keep his tires from wearing out as the race went on, necessitating a second pit stop that cost valuable time and allowed Räikkönen to retake the lead. The Finnish driver successfully held off Hamilton and a resilient Max Verstappen (Red Bull) in second until the end.
“It’s not a big deal for me, it’s a much bigger deal for a lot of the people,” Kimi Räikkönen said after the race. “If it comes, it comes; if it doesn’t, it really doesn’t change my life one bit. I’m happy we are here and that we win but I think the biggest difference is the way people look at you. If you look at people in a different way if they win or not, it doesn’t make a lot of difference in my mind.
“But obviously I’m happy, just proving some people wrong is enough fun for me.”