Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari, Circuit of the Americas, 2018

Raikkonen could put Hamilton’s championship celebration on ice

2018 United States Grand Prix pre-race analysis

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There were two surprises on Saturday at the Circuit of the Americas.

The first was that it stayed dry. For days the forecasts had agreed Saturday would be another day of persistent rainfall. So much so that the teams made sure they saved as many sets of wet weather tyres as they could for qualifying.

But the rain didn’t come, and so we saw the day’s second big surprise: Ferrari are back.

The reason why the red cars had fallen so far behind Mercedes in the last three races has been a point of much conjecture. According to Sebastian Vettel, they have rediscovered their pace by removing recent “major” upgrades which had failed to do their job.

They were quick enough for both Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen to get within a tenth of a second of Lewis Hamilton’s pole position time. Although pole position was never a possibility for Vettel due to his three-place grid penalty, you wouldn’t have thought so to hear his bilingual cursing when his engineer informed him of his six-hundredths deficit after the chequered flag dropped.

Lining up second on the grid needn’t have been a disaster for Vettel. After all he started there last year and beat pole-sitter Hamilton to turn one. But he will start fifth while Raikkonen lines up closest to Hamilton.

Raikkonen has a serious chance to get past Hamilton. While both Mercedes and Vettel will start on the strategically preferable super-soft tyre, Raikkonen has the softer ultra-soft compound on. Mercedes admitted on Saturday they are concerned about the difficulty of containing Raikkonen’s pace on the first lap.

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Ferrari’s strong straight-line speed will aid Raikkonen’s charge. The red cars were quickest through the speed traps in qualifying, and already there are rumours they have unlocked more performance from the SF71H’s engine.

If Raikkonen can get ahead of Hamilton, he may be able to repay the favour Mercedes paid him via Valtteri Bottas at Monza, bottling up Hamilton while his tyres degrade. Alternatively – and perhaps more likely – Ferrari could use him as the ‘hare’, try to win the race on sheer speed, and deal with whether Raikkonen can help Vettel’s dwindling championship chances later.

The latter is the more realistic scenario as the teams are operating with much less data about how their tyres are likely to perform than usual. Friday’s practice was a washout, and although yesterday was dry the track was green, and Sunday is expected to be quite a bit hotter. As we saw in 2015, that can be a recipe for an unpredictable race.

But if Hamilton can keep his lead and control proceedings, his chances of clinching the title look very good indeed. If Hamilton wins, Vettel can only stop him clinching the title today by finishing second.

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Qualifying times in full


Q2 (vs Q1)

Q3 (vs Q2)
1Lewis HamiltonMercedes1’34.1301’33.480 (-0.650)1’32.237 (-1.243)
2Sebastian VettelFerrari1’34.5691’33.079 (-1.490)1’32.298 (-0.781)
3Kimi RaikkonenFerrari1’34.7031’32.884 (-1.819)1’32.307 (-0.577)
4Valtteri BottasMercedes1’34.5181’33.702 (-0.816)1’32.616 (-1.086)
5Daniel RicciardoRed Bull1’34.7551’34.185 (-0.570)1’33.494 (-0.691)
6Esteban OconForce India1’34.8761’34.522 (-0.354)1’34.145 (-0.377)
7Nico HulkenbergRenault1’34.9321’34.564 (-0.368)1’34.215 (-0.349)
8Romain GrosjeanHaas1’34.8921’34.419 (-0.473)1’34.250 (-0.169)
9Charles LeclercSauber1’35.0691’34.255 (-0.814)1’34.420 (+0.165)
10Sergio PerezForce India1’35.1931’34.525 (-0.668)1’34.594 (+0.069)
11Carlos Sainz JnrRenault1’34.8911’34.566 (-0.325)
12Kevin MagnussenHaas1’34.9721’34.732 (-0.240)
13Pierre GaslyToro Rosso1’34.850
14Brendon HartleyToro Rosso1’35.206
15Max VerstappenRed Bull1’34.766
16Fernando AlonsoMcLaren1’35.294
17Sergey SirotkinWilliams1’35.362
18Lance StrollWilliams1’35.480
19Marcus EricssonSauber1’35.536
20Stoffel VandoorneMcLaren1’35.735

Sector times

DriverSector 1Sector 2Sector 3
Lewis Hamilton24.729 (3)36.845 (1)30.663 (1)
Sebastian Vettel24.556 (1)36.886 (3)30.856 (5)
Kimi Raikkonen24.611 (2)36.869 (2)30.827 (3)
Valtteri Bottas24.769 (4)36.986 (4)30.843 (4)
Daniel Ricciardo24.984 (6)37.705 (7)30.797 (2)
Esteban Ocon25.184 (9)37.629 (5)31.332 (7)
Nico Hulkenberg25.274 (11)37.695 (6)31.246 (6)
Romain Grosjean24.959 (5)37.855 (13)31.387 (9)
Charles Leclerc25.028 (7)37.730 (10)31.371 (8)
Sergio Perez25.348 (14)37.718 (9)31.450 (11)
Carlos Sainz Jnr25.343 (13)37.742 (11)31.439 (10)
Kevin Magnussen25.046 (8)37.873 (14)31.632 (15)
Pierre Gasly25.641 (19)37.707 (8)31.473 (12)
Brendon Hartley25.705 (20)37.960 (15)31.502 (14)
Max Verstappen25.213 (10)37.806 (12)31.489 (13)
Fernando Alonso25.303 (12)38.284 (18)31.707 (16)
Sergey Sirotkin25.459 (17)38.131 (16)31.772 (17)
Lance Stroll25.417 (16)38.162 (17)31.901 (19)
Marcus Ericsson25.404 (15)38.340 (20)31.792 (18)
Stoffel Vandoorne25.479 (18)38.313 (19)31.943 (20)

Speed trap

PosDriverCarEngineSpeed (kph/mph)Gap
1Kimi RaikkonenFerrariFerrari327.8 (203.7)
2Sebastian VettelFerrariFerrari326.1 (202.6)-1.7
3Lewis HamiltonMercedesMercedes323.8 (201.2)-4.0
4Valtteri BottasMercedesMercedes322.8 (200.6)-5.0
5Charles LeclercSauberFerrari321.7 (199.9)-6.1
6Esteban OconForce IndiaMercedes321.5 (199.8)-6.3
7Sergio PerezForce IndiaMercedes320.9 (199.4)-6.9
8Brendon HartleyToro RossoHonda320.7 (199.3)-7.1
9Pierre GaslyToro RossoHonda319.8 (198.7)-8.0
10Lance StrollWilliamsMercedes319.6 (198.6)-8.2
11Romain GrosjeanHaasFerrari319.4 (198.5)-8.4
12Marcus EricssonSauberFerrari319.1 (198.3)-8.7
13Kevin MagnussenHaasFerrari318.7 (198.0)-9.1
14Nico HulkenbergRenaultRenault316.9 (196.9)-10.9
15Carlos Sainz JnrRenaultRenault316.8 (196.9)-11.0
16Sergey SirotkinWilliamsMercedes316.4 (196.6)-11.4
17Daniel RicciardoRed BullTAG Heuer314.2 (195.2)-13.6
18Stoffel VandoorneMcLarenRenault314.0 (195.1)-13.8
19Fernando AlonsoMcLarenRenault313.9 (195.0)-13.9
20Max VerstappenRed BullTAG Heuer309.6 (192.4)-18.2

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Drivers remaining tyres

Lewis HamiltonMercedes200103
Valtteri BottasMercedes200103
Sebastian VettelFerrari101103
Kimi RaikkonenFerrari102003
Daniel RicciardoRed Bull201102
Max VerstappenRed Bull202021
Sergio PerezForce India101004
Esteban OconForce India101004
Lance StrollWilliams102022
Sergey SirotkinWilliams102022
Carlos Sainz JnrRenault101014
Nico HulkenbergRenault101004
Pierre GaslyToro Rosso102013
Brendon HartleyToro Rosso102013
Romain GrosjeanHaas101004
Kevin MagnussenHaas101014
Fernando AlonsoMcLaren201022
Stoffel VandoorneMcLaren201022
Marcus EricssonSauber101032
Charles LeclercSauber101004

Over to you

Will Lewis Hamilton clinch the world championship today? Is this Kimi Raikkonen’s best chance to win a race this season?

Share your views on the United States Grand Prix in the comments.

2018 United States Grand Prix

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Author information

Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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17 comments on “Raikkonen could put Hamilton’s championship celebration on ice”

  1. Lol inb4 race when kimi ends up in 4th place

    1. And Vettel out of the points because of a strategy mess up.

      1. … or first-corner crash Vettel will be blamed for.

    2. You were saying? 😏

  2. I don’t get this story’s title Hamilton only has to finish 2 cars ahead of Vettel. Which suggests Raikkenen would have to take Hamilton out for Vettel to have any real chance at still winning the Championship.

    It will interesting to see what Riccardo and Bottas makes of Vettel. Also I expect Verstappan to figure round about Vettel first stop.

    The Ferraris gambled with their tire selection on starting at the front and pulling away. If that doesn’t happen they’ll be stopping early and hoping their tires last the rest of the races.

    I wonder if Haas…..

    1. I don’t get this story’s title Hamilton only has to finish 2 cars ahead of Vettel

      No he has to finish 8 points ahead. If Hamilton finishes 4th and Vettel finishes 6th the championship continues to Mexico even though the race fulfilled your 2 cars ahead requirement.

    2. Another way to think about it is that Hamilton can lose 17 points to Vettel in the next two races and still win the championship in Mexico. Realistically – barring incidents or DNFs – Ferrari would need two 1-2s with Vettel beating Hamilton by ten points (1st to 3rd with Kimi in 2nd) to take the battle to Brazil. And even then Hamilton would just need 3 points in two races. Probably doable.

  3. More important question. How did Ferrari overnight found the extra speed boost? Is the second sensor on their PU removed already?

    Because they got angry the info of second sensor got leaked, and they kept denying their slump was due to the sensor?

    Because Mercedes didnt find extra boost over night, its aero upgrades worked and helped them corner better not go any faster on the straights then before…

    Ferrari finding speed boost sounds like contraversy started again… i wonder if the second sensor removed or Ferrari allowed to do what they did before?

    1. @mysticus, the whole “second sensor” story looks like it was wide of the mark from the start – there are claims that the second sensor has been there since Monaco, multiple races before their more recent slump in form.

      I wonder if part of the reason why they were more competitive was the fact that it was comparatively cool in qualifying, which nullified some of their recent problems in qualifying.

      We have seen in Sochi and Japan that Ferrari were having problems with overheating their rear tyres, both over a short stint and in race trim (recall Kimi’s complaints in Japan about his tyre wear problems, for example), pointing towards a handling balance issue and towards thermal management issues. The cooler conditions in qualifying might have helped them with some of those issues, at least over a single lap – whether they can replicate that form over multiple laps and in hotter conditions is yet to be seen.

    2. I’ll say it again – I believe Farrari’s advantage comes in part from their floor design and their interpretation of the energy recovery power limits.

      In Singapore just after Haas had issues with their floor, Ferrari suddenly changed their floor – their excuse was something to do with their energy recovery systems.

      In an interview yesterday Vettel told Sky they were reversing their upgrade, to go back quite a way (back to what worked in Belgium).

      That is quite a reverse and only makes sense if the FIA are prepared to bend some of their rules in the name of entertainment.

      It seems to me this is all about putting on a good show for the American audience/market.

      Otherwise we are saying it’s taken Ferrari three crucial races to realise the advantage of their earlier designs. ;-/

      There’s a story here if anyone can be bothered to ask the right questions.

  4. Will Lewis Hamilton clinch the world championship today? – Yes.
    Is this Kimi Raikkonen’s best chance to win a race this season? – If he manages to overtake Hamilton into T1 then possibly.

  5. “Raikkonen could put Hamilton’s championship celebration on ice” – He could but he won’t. There is no precedents apart from Silverston where Raikkonen locked up and ran into the right rear of the Hamilton’s Mercedes.

    1. You are forgetting Monza and Vettel’s move which in his words ended up “ironic”.

  6. It’s an illusion.

    1. No more 😊

  7. Looks like he did it!

  8. Bruno von Niman
    21st October 2018, 22:46

    Brilliant foresight!!!

Comments are closed.