THE Iceman finally did it: Kimi Raikkonen won the US Grand Prix at Austin, Texas, and set a new mark for the Formula 1 record books.
His win at the Circuit of the Americas was more than 15 years after his first GP victory – in the Malaysian Grand Prix in 2003 and it was also the Flying Finn’s first win since the Australian Grand Prix of 2013, 112 grands prix ago.
It was a welcome change from the usual Hamilton versus Vettel pantomime that dominated most of the 2018 season and was very well received by the more than 250,000 fans at the US venue and millions more worldwide.
However, it was another dismal day for Australia’s Daniel Ricciardo, who retired his Red Bull Renault on lap 10 after contact with Sebastien Vettel’s Ferrari in the opening laps.
But teammate Max Verstappen had a blinder of a race, starting from 18th and thrusting through the field to claim second spot after a terrific dice with Lewis Hamilton in the Mercedes.
Vettel finished fourth for Ferrari after spinning and dropping to 15th in a vain bid to barge past Ricciardo and fifth was Valtteri Bottas in the Mercedes.
It was a great day for Renault with Nico Hulkenberg and Carlos Sainz taking sixth and seventh places and extending their lead on fourth place in the constructors’ standings ahead of Haas.
It was a difficult homecoming for Haas.
The American outfit was left empty-handed after Kevin Magnussen’s ninth-place finish was disqualified while teammate Romain Grosjean retired after a collision with Charles Leclerc’s Alfa Sauber on the opening lap.
Stewards determined that Magnussen’s Haas VF-18 used more than the maximum allotment of fuel during the 56-lap race on the 5.5km circuit – and disqualified him.
Force India’s Esteban Ocon finished eight, but was also disqualified after his car was exceeded permitted fuel flow limits on the opening lap.
That moved Sergio Perez (Force India) up to eighth, while Toro Rosso’s Brendon Hartley and Sauber’s Marcus Ericsson were elevated to ninth and tenth.
It was one of the season’s most exciting races, though Raikkonen led from the start thanks to a sound tyre choice.
He started on supersofts, edging ahead of polesitter and championship leader Lewis Hamilton. Then the 39-year-old defended strongly and used his experience to fend off challenges from Verstappen and Hamilton in the closing stages.
Raikkonen typically downplayed his victory.
“It’s not a big deal for me, it’s a much bigger deal for a lot of the people,” he said.
“If it comes, it comes; if it doesn’t, it really doesn’t change my life one bit.
“Obviously I’m happy, just proving some people wrong is enough fun for me.”
He moves to Alfa Sauber for the 2019 season.
“I had my time with Ferrari, I won my championship with them, I won many races with them and for me, as a driver, I want different challenges, I want different things,” he said.
“I’m actually really happy to go there (to Alfa Sauber), it’s roughly 40 minutes from my home, so for sure my family will be happy.
“I’ve been long enough in Formula 1 to know that it doesn’t matter if you have a contract or not, things happen for different reasons. The end result is what I’m excited about.”
Hamilton, who has a 70 point lead in the driver’s championship, will now look to Mexico next weekend as his chance to clinch the title.
“We were going for the win today,” Hamilton said.
“But it wasn’t meant to be. I haven’t always had the best results Mexico, but I definitely want to win that race.”
Daniel Ricciardo was wondering when his run of bad luck would end.
“It’s incredibly frustrating to retire so early in the race – he was fourth at the time – and I just don’t seem to have any luck at the moment,” he said.
“Everything just switched off and it seemed pretty much identical to the issue I had in Bahrain at the beginning of the year. I couldn’t even communicate with anyone on the radio so it looks like a battery failure.
“Now, seeing how the race played out makes it even harder to take as it could have been pretty interesting and it was a great afternoon for Max.
“The biggest shame is that I only have a handful of races left with Red Bull and I want to have more highs than we’ve had. I want to be able to celebrate with the Team at least one more time and be on the podium to enjoy that feeling, but we’re running out of races which is pretty tough to take at the moment.”
His friend, Fernando Alonso, also had a rotten day after covering just a few hundred metres before his McLaren was T-boned by Lance Stroll’s Williams.
Stroll got a drive-through penalty, but the Spaniard had to retire his orange car on lap 1.
“These guys are impossible to race with,” Alonso muttered over team radio.
“It was disappointing. Only 600 metres before being hit. Too many cars together in Turn 4. Just unlucky today.”