Belfast Telegraph

Hamilton's wait for championship goes on as Raikkonen reigns in US

By Philip Duncan

Lewis Hamilton came up short in his mission to win the Formula One world championship for a fifth time after he finished third at a thrilling US Grand Prix.

Hamilton appeared to be handed the title after Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel spun on the opening lap when he banged wheels with Daniel Ricciardo and dropped down the order.

But Hamilton lost track position when Mercedes elected to move him on to a two-stop tyre strategy, to take the chequered flag in third.

Kimi Raikkonen won the grand prix, his first victory in 113 races, ahead of Red Bull driver Max Verstappen, who started 18th.

Hamilton is now 70 points ahead of Vettel, who passed Valtteri Bottas to finish fourth in the closing stages, with 75 remaining.

The only lead driver on a two-stop tyre strategy here at the Circuit of the Americas, Hamilton emerged from the pits for a second time 12 seconds behind Raikkonen, and 10 seconds down on Verstappen, with 19 laps remaining.

The rampant Briton delivered the fastest lap after fastest lap to reel in both the Ferrari and Red Bull cars. With eight laps to go, the top three were covered by a little more than two seconds.

Hamilton could smell championship glory, and went wheel-to-wheel with Verstappen in a dramatic finale, but the Dutchman held firm to retain the position.

At that stage, second would have been enough for Hamilton to take the championship, but a recovering Vettel fought his way past Bottas, meaning Hamilton would have then required to get past race winner, Raikkonen, too.

The championship battle will now go on to Mexico next Sunday with Hamilton needing to finish only seventh to join Juan Manuel Fangio on a quintet of titles.

"I thought we would have been able to do better today but it was great that we got to do some racing," Hamilton said.

"I am not sure how the strategy ended up like that. Ferrari picked up their game, and we need to push hard at the next race."

Hamilton started from pole, but lost the lead to Raikkonen on the long uphill race to the left-handed first corner.

Vettel, starting fifth after he was penalised for failing to slow under red flags in practice, was out of contention for the win after just 13 corners.

He roared past Ricciardo on the back straight, only to go too deep on his brakes, and lose the position.

In a desperate attempt to get back past at the right-handed turn 13, he collided with the Australian and spun round in a plume of tyre smoke, dropping to 15th.

But he recovered and passed Valtteri Bottas to finish fourth in the closing stages.

Belfast Telegraph

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