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Ferrari kept their title hopes alive during Sunday’s Formula 1 USA Grand Prix, as Kimi Raikkonen won the race and Sebastian Vettel finished in fourth place to stop Lewis Hamilton from claiming the championship.
The Mercedes man appeared to be on his way to the title when Vettel spun out early, but Ferrari’s tactics proved superior, as Hamilton was forced into a second stop that saw Raikkonen and Max Verstappen move ahead of him.
Vettel got past Valtteri Bottas late and Daniel Ricciardo retired yet again due to engine failure. For Raikkonen, the win was long overdue, as he had failed to win in his last 113 tries.
While Ferrari celebrated the win, Hamilton increased his championship lead over Vettel to 70 points. With a maximum of 75 points still available, the German needs a miracle to get past his rival.
Here is the final result:
Formula 1 @F1
FINAL CLASSIFICATION: Kimi on top for the 21st time in his career! #USGP 🇺🇸 #F1 https://t.co/XNaWGanwyW
Raikkonen made a perfect start to the race and soared past Hamilton into the lead in Turn 1, while Vettel just about managed to keep his spot after he was forced wide. The German and Ricciardo soon engaged in a battle, and disaster struck for the Ferrari, as he made contact and spun.
In the background there was even more chaos, with Fernando Alonso and Romain Grosjean both ducking into the pit lane for repairs. Both would retire from the race.
All eyes were on Vettel, however, who dropped to 15th place to put Hamilton in a virtual title-winning position.
The German has had several similar incidents in the second half of the year, and ITV’s Alastair Stewart had some advice for the Ferrari man:
Alastair Stewart @alstewitn
Someone should tell Vettel that dodgems are for fun-fairs, not #F1 https://t.co/Uk1pKR1NQE
Verstappen made up a ton of ground in the confusion, while Raikkonen quickly built a solid lead on the faster tyre and Hamilton put some distance between himself and Bottas. Ricciardo had solid pace early but once again, his Red Bull didn’t last long:
The Virtual Safety Car gave Hamilton the chance to pit for fresh rubber―ignoring a dummy from Raikkonen―but neither Ferrari followed suit.
Bottas moved out of the way for Hamilton to put his team-mate back into second place, running much faster than Raikkonen. Vettel moved up to fifth but had 10 seconds to make up on Verstappen in fourth.
Raikkonen managed to hold off Hamilton’s attack briefly before pitting himself, while a flying Verstappen got ahead of Bottas. Vettel moved into second but still had to pit, and he moved over for his team-mate on the fresher rubber. He pitted shortly after and emerged in fifth place.
The German had quite a bit of time to make up on Bottas in fourth:
Philip Duncan @PhilDuncanF1
Can’t see how Hamilton will not win the title today as long as Bottas and Verstappen get their cars to the end. Vettel 18 seconds behind fourth.
Hamilton’s tyres had a fair bit of wear on them, however, and the question turned to whether he would pit a second time. His lap times worsened significantly, and the championship leader had no choice but to pit to go on soft tyres.
It set up a fantastic scenario in which Hamilton hunted down Verstappen and Vettel did the same to Bottas, with both eyeing moves to either win the championship or keep it alive. Raikkonen’s pace also dropped, leaving the door open for a win for Verstappen and adding even more intrigue:
Luke Smith @LukeSmithF1
LOVING this race – impossible to say how things are going to play out with 10 laps to go at @COTA 😬 #F1 #USGP
With DRS coming into play in the final laps, Hamilton launched his attack on Verstappen, but the Brit ran wide and lost his opportunity. In the background Vettel got past Bottas, ensuring the title battle would move on to Mexico even if Hamilton could make another move stick. The defending champion backed off, however.
The F1 season will continue next Sunday with the Mexican GP.