Kimi Raikkonen won the U.S. Grand Prix, his first victory since 2013, as a strong Sunday from Ferrari denied Lewis Hamilton’s bid for a fifth career Formula One championship.
The Mercedes driver could have closed out the season title with a result that would have left him eight points clear of Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel. But Hamilton’s third-place finish, the first time he hasn’t won the U.S. Grand Prix since 2013, and Vettel’s fourth pushed the championship back another week to Mexico City.
Raikkonen, a former world champion, won a race that saw a blistering finish. Hamilton made a late charge for second, only to be denied by Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, who had fought through the field after starting 18th. Vettel make a key move into fourth in the final laps to keep the championship alive.
Hamilton started the day 67 points ahead of Vettel in the title chase and looked to be on course for yet another victory at the Circuit of the Americas, where he has won five of the previous six Grand Prix events. Any finish that put him eight points clear of Vettel on the day would have clinched the championship and tied him with Argentina’s Juan Manuel Fangio for second most in Formula One history.
Hamilton started on pole position but quickly lost position to Raikkonen on the first turn. Hamilton tried to squeeze Raikkonen to the inside on the bolt uphill out of the start, but the Ferrari nosed ahead into the left turn into the slingshot downhill.
Vettel was under pressure from the beginning. He started fifth because of a three-spot grid penalty for driving too fast while under a red flag during a Friday practice.
Vettel at first looked like he tried to make up too much, too soon. A bump with Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo caused Vettel to spin and dropped him to ninth, and the gap looked like it would be too much to overcome.
But the 39-year old Raikkonen, who will be leaving Ferrari after this season to join Sauber, snagged a victory that had been a long time coming.
Hamilton still takes a commanding lead to Mexico City, where he clinched the 2017 championship, but Ferrari’s weekend shows nothing will be guaranteed there either. Vettel was within .061 seconds of Hamilton in qualifying in Texas, and Raikkonen’s late-season victory shows that the red cars still have some muscle to challenge the Mercedes.