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Raikkonen Rocks Austin, Slows Hamilton

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Monday, October 22 2018

Ferrari driver Kimi Raikkonen celebrates his victory in Sunday’s F1 race in Texas.

By John Sturbin | Senior Writer

How ‘bout that Kimster!

Scuderia Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen scored his first Formula One victory since 2013 and prevented Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes from securing his fifth World Driving Championship Sunday with an inspired drive during the seventh annual Pirelli United States Grand Prix in Austin, Texas.

His second tenure with Ferrari drawing to a close, Raikkonen muscled past pole-sitter Hamilton in the uphill run to Turn 1 at Circuit of The Americas and held off Aston Martin Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen during the closing stages of the 56-lapper around the 3.426-mile/5.513-kilometer/20-turn layout in Travis County.

Raikkonen’s margin of victory was 1.281-seconds over Verstappen, who started 18th. Raikkonen, who won the 2007 World Championship during his first tour with Ferrari, scored his 21st F1 victory and first since the 2013 Australian Grand Prix _ snapping a 113-race winless streak. It also was Raikkonen’s 50th career podium for the Scuderia.

Raikkonen, of Finland, broke the record for wins between races previously held by Italy’s Riccardo Patrese, who went 99 races between his victories in the 1983 South African Grand Prix at Kyalami and the 1990 San Marino Grand Prix at Imola, Italy.

Hamilton, the four-time/reigning World Champion from Great Britain, finished third _one spot ahead of Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel of Germany. Hamilton, who began the day with a 67-point lead, needed to outscore Vettel by eight points

Haas F1 driver Kevin Magnussen finished in the points in Sunday’s race at the Circuit of the Americas. (Photo courtesy of Haas F1)

to clinch at COTA. Instead, Hamilton extended his advantage to 70 points with only three races and 75 points available on the FIA Formula One World Championship schedule.

The 39-year-old Raikkonen _ who will move to Sauber for the 2019 season _ is F1’s oldest race-winner since Great Britain’s Nigel Mansell won the 1994 season-ending Australian Grand Prix for Williams. Raikkonen’s opening-lap pass on Hamilton marked the first time he had gained a place on Lap 1 since the 2016 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

“It was a great battle,” said Raikkonen, an international favorite largely based upon his “Ice Man” image. “That’s what we all want as drivers and for the people here.”

Vettel, also a four-time World Champion, overcame an opening lap spin to pass Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas of Finland on the 55th lap to finish fourth. Vettel qualified second but was forced to start fifth after incurring a three-spot grid penalty from FIA Stewards for failing to slow down sufficiently during Friday’s rain-soaked opening practice. Vettel aggressively went after fourth-place Daniel Ricciardo of Australia and Red Bull on the opening lap, and the resulting wheel-to-wheel contact sent Vettel into a spin that dropped him to 15th.

Verstappen started 18th after the right rear suspension of his car failed during knockout qualifying Saturday, prompting the subsequent grid penalty. But during the closing laps, the Dutchman moved to within a second of Raikkonen.

“The last three laps were really exciting,” Verstappen said. “I just didn’t have enough traction to catch (Raikkonen).”

Hamilton handed out kudos to both Raikkonen and Verstappen post-race before criticizing his team’s decision to start on Pirelli’s P Zero Red supersoft tire rather than the more grippy Purple ultrasoft compound. Hamilton initially closed to within striking distance of Raikkonen on Lap 18, but the Finn held serve during three intense laps before Hamilton pitted.

“That was the wrong tire to start on,” said Hamilton, who was denied his fifth consecutive win at COTA. “We already knew there was a big difference between the start performances on these different tires, yet we fell for something we already knew was potentially not the way forward.”

Meanwhile, American-owned Haas F1 Team exited its only home race empty-handed after Kevin Magnussen’s ninth-place finish was disqualified and teammate Romain Grosjean suffered a DNF stemming from an opening-lap collision.

FIA Stewards determined Magnussen’s Ferrari-powered Haas VF-18 consumed more than the maximum allotment of 105 kilograms of fuel during the 56-lapper. Magnussen had kept his No. 20 car clean during the chaotic first lap that claimed Grosjean, who made contact with the Sauber of Charles Leclerc of France at the entry to Turn 12, damaging his front suspension and forcing Grosjean to retire from the race after only two laps.

”I had a decent start,” said Frenchman Grosjean, who gridded the No. 8 car eighth. “There was a lot of action going on. I was fighting with Charles and Esteban (Ocon). I got to Turn 12 and I braked early because I was behind them. I didn’t want to take much risk, but I ended up in the dirty air and I couldn’t stop the car. I tried to avoid the contact as much as I could, but Charles was trying to get a good exit and I hit him. I feel sorry for Charles and I’m frustrated for the team. This being our home race, we wanted to do well. It’s not been a great afternoon.”

After starting 12th, Magnussen was 11th when the field returned to the front straight for the second lap. He picked up 10th on Lap 9 when the Red Bull of Ricciardo came to a stop just past Turn 11, its engine silent.

By qualifying outside the top-10, Magnussen had the benefit of choosing his tire compound for the race. Magnussen went with the slightly more durable Pirelli P Zero Red supersoft tire while most of those ahead of him opted for the grippier Purple ultrasoft tire. The ultrasofts, however, degraded at a faster rate and as those ahead of Magnussen began to pit, he stayed out, rising to sixth by Lap 26.

Magnussen held that position until making his scheduled pit stop on Lap 30, jettisoning the supersort tires for a new set of Yellow softs that would carry him to the finish. He emerged from the pits in ninth place.

With 25 laps remaining, Magnussen was sandwiched between the Force Indias of eighth-place Ocon of France and 10th-place Sergio Perez of Mexico. Magnussen’s margins between the two drivers stayed healthy, allowing him to hold onto ninth through the checkered flag. However, the record book will show the Dane was DQed.

“I would say it was a steady race. The car was very good,” Magnussen said. “We had good pace and I was able to put pressure on the Force Indias. I passed Perez just after the pit stop and I was faster than Ocon, but I had to save so much fuel that I couldn’t afford to attack him. It’s a shame that we have fuel saving in Formula One and not being able to attack. At the end of the day, what the fans want to see is great racing. We can’t do it because we have to save fuel. It’s disappointing.”

Eighteen rounds into the 21-race schedule, Haas F1 Team remains fifth in the constructors’ standings with 84 points. However, the team founded by American businessman Gene Haas now is 22 points behind fourth-place Renault after the manufacturer placed both its drivers _ Nico Hulkenberg of Germany and Carlos Sainz Jr. of Spain_ in the top-10, with the duo finishing sixth and seventh, respectively. Haas F1 Team did, however, maintain its 26-point margin over sixth-place McLaren.

”It wasn’t a good event for us,” said Guenther Steiner, team principal for Haas F1. “Grosjean’s collision with Leclerc on the opening lap _ he ended up getting a penalty for the next race, so we’re penalized for that already. We get a three-place grid penalty for him.

“Kevin finished ninth, but has been disqualified because we used too much fuel. In the end, that’s our responsibility to control the fuel amount, but I still disagree with Formula One having to run on these rules. I hope next year, with having 110 kilograms, this will change, but we change another rule and put a big front wing on, so maybe this will be the same. One day we’ll get to have a good show, but at the moment it isn’t.”

Magnussen is ninth in the driver’s standings with 53 points while Grosjean is 13th with 31 points heading into the Mexican Grand Prix at Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez in Mexico City on Oct. 28. Practice begins on Oct. 26 with qualifying on Oct. 27.

Haas F1 Team debuted in the FIA Formula One World Championship in 2016, becoming the first American F1 entrant since 1986. Haas F1 is based at the same Kannapolis, N.C., campus that houses Stewart-Haas Racing, the championship-winning NASCAR Cup Series organization Haas co-owns with retired three-time champion Tony Stewart.

Founded by Haas in 1983, Haas Automation, Inc., is America’s leading builder of CNC machine tools and the team’s primary sponsor. Haas Automation employs approximately 1,300 at its 1.1-million square-foot/102,000 square-meter headquarters in Oxnard, Calif. Haas Automation exports its machines to more than 60 countries through a worldwide network of Haas Factory Outlets.


| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Monday, October 22 2018
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