Kimi Raikkonen charged to his first Formula 1 victory in over five years in Sunday's United States Grand Prix as Lewis Hamilton was forced to postpone celebrations for a fifth world championship after finishing only third in Austin.

Raikkonen managed to covert a front row start into his first F1 win since the 2013 Australian Grand Prix - 113 races ago - and his first in Ferrari colours since Belgium 2009 after perfecting a one-stop strategy, while Hamilton was forced into two stops.

COTA #4 - Oops... F1 Did it again

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Hamilton was on course to be crowned F1 world champion for a fifth time after seeing title rival Sebastian Vettel spin in the opening stages of the race, only for excessive tyre wear to cause Mercedes to change strategy and bring Hamilton in for a second time.

It meant Hamilton could only finish third ahead of Vettel, who recovered to fourth, meaning the title race will continue to the next race in Mexico.

From second place on the grid, Raikkonen was able to charge up the inside of pole-sitter Hamilton on the uphill run to Turn 1, squeezing out the Mercedes driver on exit to seize the lead of the race. Hamilton was unable to respond, allowing Raikkonen to quickly pull out a buffer as clashes further back resulted in retirements for Fernando Alonso and Romain Grosjean on the opening lap.

Vettel was eager to make up ground from P5 on the grid following his penalty, and was close on the rear of Daniel Ricciardo’s Red Bull through the first sector. Vettel lined up a move along the back straight to try and take fourth, with the pair going side-by-side through Turn 12. Vettel tried to hold the inside through Turn 13, only for him to glance Ricciardo’s front tyres and be sent into a spin, acting as another blow to his fading championship hopes.

Vettel was able to recover without damage, rejoining the track in 15th before starting to pick his way up the order. Hamilton, meanwhile, was closing on Raikkonen at the front, the gap between them reducing to just over one second.

Ricciardo’s hopes of challenging for his first podium finish since Monaco ended in all-too-familiar fashion on Lap 11 when he was forced to park up exiting Turn 11 due to an issue on his car. The Red Bull driver cut a dejected figure as he walked away from his car, having seen his luckless run continue.

Ricciardo’s stricken car sparked a Virtual Safety Car period that left teams considering an early pit stop. Hamilton managed to close to within a couple of car lengths of Raikkonen ahead, and was told to do the opposite to the Ferrari driver. The Finn continued, prompting Hamilton to dive into the pits and switch onto the Soft compound tyre. He emerged from the pits in third place, having negated much of the time ordinarily lost due to the reduced pace of the field.

Hamilton quickly put his fresh tyres to good use, being waved past teammate Valtteri Bottas in second before carving into Raikkonen’s lead at the front, with Ferrari opting to keep their driver out far longer. Hamilton got within DRS range of Raikkonen on Lap 19, only to find a strong defence from the Ferrari driver, who put up a spirited fight. Every time Hamilton closed through the first sector, Raikkonen would then pull clear on the back straight, allowing him to pit from the lead when he ultimately made the switch to Soft tyres at the end of Lap 21.

Raikkonen came out of the pits just behind Vettel, who had recovered to P4 on-track after his early spin. Running a different strategy to his teammate, Vettel allowed Raikkonen to pass, and was also overtaken by Max Verstappen - who had by this point already pitted for Supersofts after starting 18th - before eventually coming into the pits. Vettel emerged back on-track in fifth place, trailing fourth-placed Bottas by over 16 seconds, knowing he had to make up some places to keep the title race alive.

Having taken the lead after Raikkonen’s pit stop, Hamilton was running 17 seconds clear of the pack, albeit needing to look after his tyres to avoid a second stop. It proved easier said than done through the second stint, as blisters became visible on the Mercedes’ rear tyres, allowing Raikkonen to start gaining time quickly.

The gap to Raikkonen fell to less than 10 seconds before Hamilton finally bit the bullet and dived into the pits at the end of Lap 38, taking on another set of fresh Soft tyres. Hamilton emerged from the pits fourth with Raikkonen, Verstappen and Bottas ahead, with the points swing as things stood not being enough to clinch the title.

For the second time in the race, Bottas once again helped his teammate’s title bid by allowing Hamilton to pass, rising to third place just as Raikkonen struggled with traffic, causing the gap between the pair to fall to eight seconds.

Hamilton continued to reel in the leading two drivers, but aired his concern that he was not going to have enough time to close the gap. Also complicating the title picture was the fact that Vettel, running P5, was closing on Bottas for fourth, meaning if he made the pass, Hamilton would have to win the race to clinch the title in Austin.

The gap between the leading trio closed, with just two seconds separating Raikkonen, Verstappen and Hamilton - all by virtue of different strategies - as they entered the final seven laps of the race.

Raikkonen was given the nod to push to the end, with both his tyres and fuel in good shape, but Hamilton was closing on Verstappen for second place. A lock-up from Verstappen at Turn 12 with three laps to go allowed Hamilton to close, with the Mercedes driver attempting to hang his car around the outside of the long right-hand complex of corners in the final sector. Unable to make the move stick, Hamilton ran wide, releasing Verstappen and ending his hopes.

Up front, Raikkonen was able to keep Verstappen at an arm's length through the final two laps before crossing the line to record his first win of the season and snap his victory drought, as well as securing his maiden win in the United States.

Verstappen completed a remarkable fightback from 18th on the grid to finish second, 1.2 seconds off Raikkonen, after a long run on the Supersofts, while Hamilton was left to settle for P3 for only his second defeat on American soil.

Even if Hamilton had made the pass, it would ultimately not have been enough to win the title as Vettel managed to pass Bottas on the penultimate lap, sweeping past at Turn 12. The points gap between the pair stands at 70 points, meaning that if Vettel does not win in Mexico next weekend, Hamilton will be crowned world champion.

Behind Bottas in fifth came the Renault pair of Nico Hulkenberg and Carlos Sainz Jr., both of whom perfected one-stop strategies and avoided drama at the start to take sixth and seventh respectively. Force India's Esteban Ocon finished eighth ahead of Haas' Kevin Magnussen, while Sergio Perez completed the points-paying positions in P10.

Brendon Hartley narrowly missed out on his third top-10 of the season, taking P11 ahead of Marcus Ericsson and Stoffel Vandoorne, while Pierre Gasly slipped to 14th for Toro Rosso after a two-stop strategy backfired. Sergey Sirotkin and Lance Stroll were the last classified finishers in 15th and 16th for Williams, with Charles Leclerc joining Ricciardo, Grosjean and Alonso as a retiree.

 

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