Raikkonen’s victory drought comes to an end
Kimi’s long run without a win (113 races!) came to an end in America yesterday.
An excellent start saw him overtake Lewis Hamilton for the lead and gain a place on the first lap for the first since Abu Dhabi 2016. Raikkonen delivered some excellent defensive driving to keep Hamilton at bay before making his one and only stop. It was very impressive and critical after the Brit made a stop under VSC conditions and came charging at the Finn on much fresher rubber.
The Finnish driver beautifully preserved his tyres throughout the final stint and held off the superb Max Verstappen and the two-stopping Hamilton to claim his 21st Grand Prix victory – and in the process became the most successful Finnish driver in the history of F1.
It was a very popular win and well-deserved after some near misses during 2018.
Contrasting fortunes at Red Bull Racing
This is becoming quite the common theme for RBR this year.
In qualifying, Ricciardo ended up 5th, while damage after hitting a sausage kerb in Q1 left Verstappen down in P18 on the grid.
Ricciardo’s survived the wheel-to-wheel contact with Vettel to run P4 following the first lap. Cruelly, his car let him down once again as he retired in the early stages while keeping Bottas in touch. It’s the fifth time this year the car broke down on him on a Sunday afternoon.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the garage, Max Verstappen produced one of his trademark drives through the field to end up on the podium. After avoiding the carnage on the opening tour, he worked his way up to P4 by lap 10.
A great strategy call got him ahead of Bottas and Hamilton as well. He did a mega job to hold off the charging Brit in the closing stages and claim a stunning 2nd from 18th on the grid.
A possible case of what could have been for Ricciardo...
Renault back at the front of the midfield
Following some disappointing showings at recent races and suggestions their car had fallen behind some of the other ‘Class B’ runners, the French team fought back at COTA.
It didn’t seem things changed too much when they only qualified P7 and P11 – but a superb start from both Hulkenberg and Sainz saw them run P5 and P6 at the end of the opening tour of the race.
They maintained their positions as best of the rest throughout the whole race and came home in 6th and 7th. Those crucial 14 points pocketed yesterday has given Renault a 22-point buffer in the standings over Haas with three races to go in 2018.
Poor driving standards on the first lap continue
Yet again in 2018, yesterday’s race saw a series of collisions on the opening lap as some of the racing turned into a game of bumper cars.
Lance Stroll smashed into the side of Fernando Alonso’s McLaren in the Esses section and the Spanish star was forced to retire due to the damage from the contact.
Leclerc and Ocon made contact at T8 as the Monegasque driver tried a move that was too ambitious.
However, the tables turned at turn 12 as Grosjean clumsily went into the Sauber and left both of them with damage. Ultimately, the aforementioned drivers retired because of the severity of the collision.
Finally, Vettel made contact with a Red Bull for the second consecutive race and found himself having to work his way through the field once more. It’s the third time in six races that the German has touched another driver and spun around.
Not for the first time this year, Alonso was an innocent victim of errors from others. The two-time World Champion felt disappointed.
‘’I'm not upset. I'm disappointed because I'm nine days here in the US to do a race and I do 600 meters of the race and they push you off.
That's the way it is, but it's more a problem for the FIA if they keep allowing this type of driving. I drive in another series with amateur drivers, theoretically, and there has never been a problem.
There are more amateurs here than in other series.’’
A number of crashes or incidents on the opening laps at Baku, Spa, France, Britain and in yesterday’s Grand Prix suggest the quality of driving has dropped this year.
A lack of Friday running leads to a cracking Grand Prix
FP1 and FP2 were unrepresentative sessions thanks to the very wet weather that hit the circuit on Friday. It meant the teams only had 60 minutes of dry running in FP3 before they tackled qualifying and the race.
Quite simply, they didn’t have enough time to understand how the tyres would behave on Sunday afternoon and it left them guessing about what might happen in the Grand Prix.
With a lot of question marks, it led to a fantastic race. Mercedes were quite hard on the tyres and this opened the door for Raikkonen and Verstappen to get in the mix. Just 2.3s covered Kimi, Max and Lewis in a tense finish. It was a great advertisement for the sport.
Should Friday running be scrapped to potentially have more unpredictably like this? Possibly. The teams have less data and knowledge of the compounds certainly makes it more interesting. Yesterday gave us a real example of that.