With a prize as great as a fifth Formula One world title at stake, it was only fitting that Lewis Hamilton should have to work for it. In a riveting pot-boiler of a United States Grand Prix, he strained every sinew in pursuit of his prize, weaving all over this Texan track in his quest to hunt down Max Verstappen, but ultimately had to settle for third place and a coronation deferred. As that wily veteran Kimi Raikkonen gatecrashed the party, grasping a first win in over 5½ years, the champion-in-waiting realised he would need to wait another week for his moment of history.
Given he holds a 70-point lead over Sebastian Vettel, his only challenger, with just 75 to play for, it is all but certain that Hamilton will secure his place alongside the immortals in Mexico City next weekend. Here he was gracious enough to cede the stage to Raikkonen, who at the age of 39 offered a powerful testament to his ageless talent, outpacing pole-sitter Hamilton off the start line and managing his tyres perfectly until the end. Indeed, Hamilton looked almost relieved not to be the centre of attention for a few minutes, as questions about his imminent status as a quintuple champion faded amid the surprise at the Finn’s victory.
Under cornflower skies in the Lone Star State, very little about this Austin race unfolded as predicted. Hamilton, expected to assert his supremacy on a circuit where he had won four years in succession, lost out to Raikkonen at the first corner and became sucked into the tensest battle with a defiant Verstappen. As for Vettel, he committed yet another cardinal error, tangling with Daniel Ricciardo and falling briefly to 15th on a day when he needed to make hay. Ultimately, he did well to cross the line fourth and drop only three points to Hamilton, even if his deficit to his rival now looks unassailable.
Hamilton was sanguine as he prepared to wait another seven days to reclaim centre stage. “Kimi made no mistakes,” he said. “He drove fantastically well and I’m really happy for him.” There was a trace of irritation, though, at the strategic miscalculations that denied him a shot at wrapping up the championship with three grands prix to spare. “As a team, we didn’t perform that great today,” he said. “It was a like a double-bogey for us this weekend. I thought we would be able to do better. Once Kimi was ahead, I didn’t have the pace to challenge him. We’ll just have to keep working, keep pushing. It can’t always be perfect.”
For all that a monumental feat for Hamilton was anticipated, Raikkonen’s triumph was rapturously received here at the Circuit of the Americas. He had not stood on the top step of the podium since Melbourne in 2013, in a Lotus uniform, and this result brought just reward for years of tolerating Ferrari’s preferential treatment of Vettel. While his “Ice-man” moniker is well-deserved, his mask of inscrutability has slipped a little of late, possibly as a consequence of becoming a husband and father, and his post-race smile could hardly have been broader. In the circumstances, it appears frankly perverse that he is being forced to accept a demotion to Sauber from next year.
This occasion had been billed by the US hosts as “Showdown: All or Nothing”. Clearly, that was not quite true, with Hamilton conscious that he only needed to finish ahead of Vettel, rather than to engage hero mode. “Championships are not won by making silly mistakes,” he reflected. “It doesn’t matter when you win it, as long as you get the job done.”
While Hamilton was slow out of the blocks by his standards, he closed the gap on Raikkonen as the ultra-soft tyres wore down. At the midway point, he was demonstrably the fastest driver on track. But as his tyres developed severe blisters, he had no option but to pit for a second time, dropping him to fourth, beyond any chance of wrapping up the title battle here. The stakes were spelt out by his race engineer, Pete Bonnington, who told him: “We just need everything now.” His man was only too happy to oblige. Straight away, Hamilton began reeling off fastest laps and purple sectors, giving chase like a man possessed.
There was no issue, at least, with Valtteri Bottas giving way. The unpalatable team-orders drama that played out in Sochi last month, when the Finn was instructed to gift Hamilton a victory, highlighted his role as the No2 driver and deferential team player. Dutifully, he moved aside, allowing Hamilton to take third and pursue the far trickier task of passing Verstappen.
While Mercedes’ straight-line speed should have given a priceless advantage, Verstappen has acquired a reputation for trying every trick possible to defend his ground. “He looks pretty quick,” Hamilton muttered, anxiously. It was no illusion: the Dutchman, seeing his rear-view mirrors fill with shimmering silver and green, found an extra turn of speed to thwart the charge of the champion-in-waiting.
Two fascinating tussles were unfolding concurrently, as the Hamilton-Verstappen skirmish coincided with Bottas’ best efforts to keep Vettel at bay. If he could keep him in fifth, then his team-mate would have the luxury of knowing that second place would be sufficient to grasp the overall prize. But while Bottas fulfilled his half of the bargain, Hamilton could contrive no way past the defiant Red Bull ahead. In a thrilling interlude, they jostled for position through the high-speed S-curves, but Verstappen held firm, completing a remarkable recovery from 18th to second. As for Hamilton, he had to be content, just for once, to play page-boy to a resurgent Raikkonen.
Right, that's it from me today...
...I enjoyed that one immensely. Edge of the seat stuff for much of the race and Kimi Raikkonen emerged victorious for the first time in 113 races. And Hamilton has to wait until Mexico to confirm what will be a certain fifth world title. A word of praise for Max Verstappen, who finished second from P18 on the grid. Vettel had another collision but fought back well to take fourth.
I'll be back next week for all the coverage from Mexico, where SURELY Hamilton will claim the 2018 title?
I'm not going to say that was the result we ALL wanted...
...but it is a very popular result. Raikkonen's first win for 113 races, his 21st in F1 and the first since his return to Ferrari. He leaves the team at the end of the season. A farewell victory for Kimi.
There is a lot to analyse strategy-wise from that race but the upshot is that Ferrari nailed their strategy whilst Mercedes didn't. Hamilton didn't seem too pleased about their tactical choices.
Hamilton has to wait for his coronation but it is merely a formality.
So, really, Hamilton could not show up to the final three races...
...and have a fair chance of winning the title. Vettel needs to win them all with Hamilton scoring no more than five points.
Vettel reacts to fourth place
Happy for Kimi. Not happy with my race. I think I must have been in his blind spot. Obviously the corner keeps tightening, I couldn't get out of it any more and we made contact. It's a shame. Like that obviously a big loss for me to come back.
The Iceman cometh
Lewis Hamilton needs just six points (or seventh place) to win the title in Mexico, whatever Vettel does.
Toto Wolff reacts
We lacked the pace today. I said don't close it too early they are still very fast. Let's go to the next one. It's very difficult to overtake but I think it was worth the strategy and now we have to re-think if there is something we could have done better. We put on a good show altogether and that's most important.
"Always proud of the guys, even more when we are winning races. It was great, thank you USA."
Okay, so that's not what Mercedes will have wanted and it's the first time Hamilton has lost...
...a race since Belgium in August and the first time he's been defeated at the Circuit of the Americas since 2013.
The Italian anthem rings out, Kimi puts his shades on and the Ferrari team sing proudly. They have shown a bit of fight and tactical nous today that has been lacking in recent rounds.
Well, Hamilton has increased his championship lead to 70 points
So that means Vettel needs to win the final three races with Hamilton scoring no more than four points.
For the championship to go to Brazil? Well, it's very, very unlikely.
"Did you win the championship or?" Raikkonen asks Hamilton. "No." is the short answer. That brought out a bigger smile from Raikkonen than winning!
Hamilton reacts to a disappointing third place
Big congratulations to Kimi, he did a great job, no mistakes. Verstappen did a great job as well. He was on a slightly better tyre than us. I thought we would have been able to do better. We just have to keep working and keep pushing to the next race. I think ultimately, it was very, very close. After I did my stop it was 12 seconds and it was way, way too far. Ferrari have picked up their game this weekend.
Max Verstappen reacts
Good start, good first lap and then very quickly we were into P5, P4. We made the right call to undercut Valtteri and we could do our own race. Unfortunately the last few laps I ran out of pace on the supersofts. It was a good fight into the hairpins, in the right-hand corner I was pushing. Happy to stay in second.
The top 10
Raikkonen reacts to his victory
Obviously it's been a great weekend. The car has been pretty good all the time. I got a good start and needed to push hard. In the end the tyres were not in good shape. We had enough speed and we kept it consistent, just to try to keep the tyres alive.
Obviously I am much happier than finishing second. I'm happy but let's see.
I mean, he doesn't sound or look happy but that's Kimi. He's done it all before, hasn't he?
I need a lie down
"A bit unexpected, starting 18th." Verstappen says. He nearly won!
Raikkonen responds to his victory in laconic fashion
"Thank you. **** finally."
KIMI RAIKKONEN WINS THE 2018 UNITED STATES GRAND PRIX
Go Kimi! What a race! What a winner! Fantastic. 113 races since his last win.
Verstappen second, Hamilton third. Vettel fourth and the title fight goes to Mexico!!!!
Race. Of. The. Year.
Raikkonen has a two second lead! Hamilton is closing up on Verstappen again but he will surely be too far back...
Raikkonen is going to take his first win in several years. What a drive from him today...
Arrivabene punches the air in delight as Vettel takes Bottas for fourth
That was so close. Hamilton got a better exit of seemingly every turn towards the end of the lap...
....but he got out on the marbles and that ended his charge.
Are we going to Mexico? Well, are we?!
Vettel goes round the outside of Bottas and is into fourth! Bottas runs wide!
3 LAPS TO GO
Hamilton gets DRS on the pit straight. Verstappen's Red Bull is mighty in the high-speed esses in the first sector. Verstappen has fallen back a bit from Raikkonen. Hamilton is now very, very close to Verstappen! He gets a poor exit from turn 12 and Hamilton takes his opportunity? Or does he?
YES? NO? YES? NO...Hamilton runs massively wide and that could be that....
Lap 53 of 56 - Raikkonen leads Verstappen by a second, Hamilton a further nine tenths back
It's still tighter than a tight thing.
"There is a whole world of pain ahead, so another opportunity could be coming"
Max Verstappen is told on the radio. I think that's a reference to the backmarkers they are all approaching. Will they catch them? They're in a fairly intense fight of their own. Hamilton has closed up to within a second of Verstappen. Will he get DRS?
Lap 52 of 56 - Vettel has dropped by to 1.8s behind Bottas
He could do with fourth but the championship fight would go to Mexico as it stands. But if Hamilton were to finish second and Vettel in fifth Hamilton would be champion.
Lap 51 of 56 - Hamilton loses a bit of time in turn 11
Each car nearly within DRS range of the other.
Raikkonen leads Verstappen who leads Hamilton. A second between each.
Lap 50 of 56 - Raikkonen clings on, can he take his first victory for several years?
Top five and gaps.
2. VER +1.2
3. HAM +2.0
4. BOT +15.1
5. VET +16.2
This is the climax to the championship we all need and want, right?
Whether Hamilton wins it today or not! Who even is favourite now? I'll pass on that one.
"Engine one til the end"
Vettel's cranking up the power! He's within a second of Bottas now!
Lap 49 of 56 - this is just great racing
The leaders are going to catch the midfield runners (who we have barely seen on TV today) before the end of the race.
Hamilton needs to take second to win the title today. Just 2.5s from first to third! So. Close. So, so close. Hamilton's lap times struggling in dirty air right now.
Ferrari's straight-line advantage could be very useful here.
Lap 48 of 56 - Hamilton within DRS range of Verstappen
Raikkonen clings on but his lead is being eaten into gradually. You have to back Hamilton here. Or do you? He's not going to take any unnecessary risks is he? He doesn't need to win the title today, remember, anti-climax though that would be...
Can't see Verstappen dying wondering...
Stroll does well in getting out of the way of the top three.
10 laps to go!
3.5s from first to third! Hamilton 1.7 from Verstappen in second. Verstappen 1.7 from Raikkonen in first. This is going to the wire...
Vettel has fallen behind Bottas by a few tenths in dirty air I think...he won't be giving up yet...
Lap 46 of 56 - 11 laps to go
Raikkonen still leads but his lead is down to 1.8s. Can he hold on to victory? Vettel is very close to Bottas now. Almost, so almost within DRS range. Hamilton is quicker but not by a huge margin...
Gnashing teeth emoji...
The top three are within five seconds of each other...
Leader Raikkonen finds a little pace to post his fastest lap of the day. Vettel 1.4 behind Bottas! Ferrari have a straight-line advantage around this track it seems. Should be a breeze for an overtake then? Haha. Don't count on it.
Lap 44 of 56 - Hamilton flying right now
He's on the charge. And he needs to be. Bottas is vulnerable to Vettel and then if Vettel is fourth Hamilton needs to win!
Raikkonen still leading, by the way.
Lap 43 of 56 - Hamilton seems worried about the pace delta to Verstappen
Bottas has blistered his tyres, Ferrari tell Vettel. A ruse to get him to push or reality? Or both?
Lap 42 of 56 - The top five and gaps
2. VER +2.0
3. HAM +6.7
4. BOT +11.6
5. VET +15.1
15 laps to go!
This is going to get interesting. Verstappen, by the way, is now within 2.5s of Raikkonen. Hamilton can still win this. Verstappen can still win this. Vettel is catching Bottas. And he needs to!
As it stands...
...the championship would go to Mexico. If Hamilton moves up one place then he would be champion.
Lap 40 of 56 - Bottas moves over to let Hamilton through
Hamilton gets DRS and sails past as the Finn moves off the racing line. Hamilton up to third and chasing down Max Verstappen in second. It might not be long before they're dueling...
Lap 39 of 56 - Hamilton 12s from the lead
"How did it get to 12 seconds?" Hamilton asks
"We really suffered with traffic," he is told.
He puts in the quickest lap of the race to reduce it to just under 11 seconds, though.
The moment Hamilton stopped
Hamilton makes his way past a lapped Williams and closes up on Bottas.
"We just need everything now"
Hamilton is told on the radio. Second place, if he could get it, would be enough with Vettel currently in fifth.
Lap 38 of 56 - Hamilton pits!
He goes onto fresh softs and comes out in P4 behind Bottas. Hammer time. Vettel 3.2s behind him.
Lap 36 of 56 - This is all set up very nicely
Hamilton complains about his rear tyres. Vettel is lapping 2.8s quicker than Hamilton and is within 27s of the lead.
Mercedes sounding very calm on the pit wall. Mind you, they don't need to win the race or the championship today, do they? Just to add a little perspective.
Lap 35 of 56 - Vettel the quickest man on the track
It looks certain that Hamilton will have to stop again. Raikkonen - probably not. Vettel - probably not. Bottas - probably not. He might have to fight his way through the pack towards the end of the race.
Hamilton's lead down to 10.6s.
Lap 34 of 56 - Hamilton leaking lap time...
This Ferrari strategy starting to make sense now. And it's all coming into play. Hamilton wants blue flags as he makes his way through backmarkers. He doesn't yet pull into the pits but he's still 1.5s a lap slower than Raikkonen.
The lead is down to 12.1 seconds...
Lap 33 of 56 - Hamilton dropping pace massively now
Another nine tenths Raikkonen takes out of the lead. He would come out behind Verstappen now. Another few laps and he'd be out behind Bottas.
Lap 32 of 56 - Hamilton's lead being eaten into by Raikkonen
Vettel the quickest man on the track, taking a second or so out a lap from the gap. Are Mercedes playing for second here?
Leclerc retires from last on the road. Obviously a fair amount of damage on his car from the first lap incident with Grosjean.
Lap 31 of 56 - Hamilton taking it fairly easy on these soft tyres right now
But he's lapping quite well compared to Raikkonen. There is definitely some blistering on his rear right tyre, though. He's starting to slide around a bit and goes very, very wide on the penultimate corner. His last lap was a 1.40.1, Raikkonen's? A 1.39.2...
Lap 30 of 56 - Hamilton leads by 17.3s from Raikkonen
At just over half-race distance. Verstappen complains about his brakes.
What's happening down the field?
OUT:Ricciardo, Grosjean and Alonso
The moment Raikkonen was let through by Vettel
Vandoorne has been giving a black and white flag for corner cutting, essentially. Takes me back to my F1 97 days on the PlayStation (yes, the original one).
Lap 27 of 56 - Hamilton leads by 17s from Raikkonen
Verstappen in third, Bottas fourth. As it stands Hamilton is champion. If Hamilton wins, Vettel needs to finish second.
Hamilton is looking in good shape but the BIG, MASSIVE question is whether Hamilton's tyres can last until the end of the race and with decent pace.
Lap 26 of 56 - Verstappen all over the gearbox of Vettel
...who gets the call to come in and Verstappen goes around the outside of the Ferrari. Where does Vettel come out? It's a bit of a slow stop, something looked dodgy at the rear there. Softs for Vettel, anyway.
Lap 25 of 56 - Vettel lets Raikkonen through
Raikkonen will most likely not be stopping again. Vettel has yet to stop.
Lap 23 of 56 - Raikkonen sets the quickest lap of the race
Verstappen's undercut works and he jumps Bottas after the Finn's stop. Max in 4th.
2. VET +16.7
3. RAI +17.8
4. VER +21.4
Vettel will be holding up Raikkonen soon enough and he needs to get out of the way.
Carlos Sainz gets a five second time penalty for leaving the track and gaining an advantage
He'll serve that at his next pit stop or at the end of the race.
Lap 22 of 56 - Hamilton lights up the timing screens
He's unleashed from behind the Ferrari of Raikkonen and has clean air. Good job by Raikkonen to hold up Hamilton, regardless. This race is not over yet...
Versteppen pits from third...he goes onto the supersoft tyres. Will they last until the end of the race? Can't see they will. That's an odd strategy...
Lap 21 of 56 - Hamilton tries to go through the inside and tries to go around the outside at turn 12!
It doesn't work. This Ferrari is the widest car on the track. In turn 17 Raikkonen struggles with traction! Raikkonen peels off into the pits!
HAMILTON TAKES THE LEAD!
Soft compound tyres for Raikkonen. Verstappen is now within four seconds of the lead!
Lap 20 of 56 - Hamilton so close to Raikkonen now!
Hamilton has DRS on the pit straight but it's not enough! He has to back out in the esses section. He closes up towards the end of the lap but can he do anything about it?
Nope! Hamilton gets DRS the next time round but again it's not enough. This will be making the Mercedes' tyres scream in agony.
Lap 19 of 56 - Hamilton closes up to within a second of Raikkonen
"I cannot hold him behind," Raikkonen says. This will be a formality, I'd imagine. Hamilton will pass him and they will both need to stop once between now and race end.
Lap 18 of 56 - Hamilton and Raikkonen almost on the same bit of track now
How hard with Kimi fight Lewis? How hard will Lewis fight Kimi? Kimi is leaving Ferrari at the end of the year and is a very fair driver.
Championship update AS WE STAND
Lap 17 of 56 - Raikkonen wants more front wing...and then no he doesn't...
His lead is down to under two seconds, and is losing a lot of time to Hamilton. Vettel within 10s of Verstappen now.
Lap 16 of 56 - the top 10
2. HAM +2.9s
Lap 15 of 56 - Raikkonen leads by 4.7s
Hamilton takes out 1.6s out of his lead on the last lap...he's a very strong favourite for the race. Ferrari are now telling Vettel that Hamilton is two-stopping and might struggle to get to the end on these tyres. I'll believe it when I see it.
Lap 14 of 56 - Hamilton is let through by Bottas and moves up to second
Not for the first time. This is looking very nice for Mercedes and Hamilton. Stopping under the VSC for Raikkonen did seem like the most sensible thing given he was on the less durable ultrasofts...
Right, so where has that left the pack?
2. BOT +5.5s
3. HAM +7.6
4. VER +12.6
5. VET +22.2
6. HUL +24.9
Lap 12 of 56 - VSC ends!
Raikkonen now leads from Bottas. Seems a bit strange that Ferrari didn't bring either of their drivers in under the VSC to be honest, they need to roll the dice. Raikkonen is informed that Hamilton is most likely on two stops but I can't see that - he's on the soft tyres!
So, Hamilton is keeping a close eye on Raikkonen to see if he pits under the VSC
Raikkonen doesn't come in but Hamilton does! A bit of kidology and swerving around there! Hamilton comes out behind Bottas and ahead of Verstappen.
Lap 11 of 56 - Neither of the frontrunners will pit
Will Vettel? Nope. Hmmm. Worth a go, no?A few cars jump in, Gasly and Vandoorne included.
A lonely figure, Daniel Ricciardo
His engine just seemed to cut out. Virtual Safety Car deployed, will Raikkonen pit? We're not quite in the pit window...or are we?
Lap 9 of 56 - no further action for the Ricciardo and Vettel incident
Hamilton took half a tenth off Raikkonen last time round.
Daniel Ricciardo is out! He pulls up by the side of the road and it's another DNF in a season of DNFs. That helps Vettel out a little bit. Will they need a safety car?
Lap 8 of 56 - Raikkonen leads Hamilton and Bottas
Bottas has drifted to over five seconds away from Hamilton. Ricciardo a further two seconds behind. Verstappen is placed well here on fresh soft tyres.
Lap 7 of 56 - Raikkonen increases his lead
So he's either put his foot down again or Hamilton isn't going to go mad chasing him. Which makes sense. At present he only needs second. Vettel up into P8. His target is P4, realistically today, if things stay as they are.
Drivers out already...
...Grosjean and Alonso.
Lap 6 of 56 - Drive through penalty for Stroll for that incident with Alonso
Hmmm. Seems a tad harsh. Anyway, Vettel pases Perez for P9. He's 21s away from the leader Raikkonen.
Raikkonen increases his lead a little.
Lap 4 of 56 - Raikkonen leads by 1.4s from Hamilton
Stroll slid into Alonso on lap one or rather Alonso went into Stroll. Difficult to say but there's a lot of damage to Alonso's right sidepod.
Hamilton closing up on Raikkonen big time!
Lap 3 of 56 - Raikkonen leads
Vettel up to P13. Still to see a replay of that incident. He sends one down the inside of Hartley into turn 12 and up into P12 he is. He will have to do a lot more close combat in this race. If Hamilton finishes second, remember, Vettel needs to finish 4th or higher...
Lap 2 of 56 - Raikkonen leads by 2s from Hamilton
Well, what an opening lap that was. Vettel down in P15. Leclerc, Stroll, Grosjean and Alonso all pit on lap one - was that all of them involved in the first lap incident?
Is that unbelievable for Vettel or all to believable? He's up into P13 now. A rush of blood to the head again for him?
Anyway, top 10:
THE 2018 UNITED STATES GRAND PRIX IS GO!
Five red lights and away we go!
The drivers are kept for a long time and it's a great start by Hamilton who covers off Raikkonen by moving HEAVILY to his left but it's not enough and Raikkonen takes the lead! Hamilton second and Bottas third!
There's contact further down the field! Vettel still down in fifth after an off-track excursion! But he makes up a place on Ricciardo before outbraking himself!
AND THERE'S CONTACT AGAIN! VETTEL AND RICCIARDO TOUCH AND AROUND VETTEL GOES AND TO THE BACK OF THE FIELD. WOW.
FORMATION LAP IS UNDERWAY
Everyone away cleanly. Ericsson and Verstappen are on fresh soft tyres, everyone else from 12-20th are on fresh supersofts. The crowd looks full, and they have the best weather of all weekend.
Pirelli have put up the mandatory minimum tyre pressure for this race...
...concerned about blistering, apparently. Could be interesting. It's another unknown into the equation.
It's nearly time to go
Pumped. I am pumped. Are you? Is Lewis Hamilton? He might be in a couple of hours...
The weather for today
Bottas on turn one action
"Here it's pretty wide but at the same time it's a very tight corner. It depends who gets the best start but we will try to work as a team," he says.
The national anthem rings out over COTA...
As usual, a performance with much gusto.
"Find myself a podium, that's the plan. I'm within touching distance," is what Daniel Ricciardo says.
Sergio Perez speaks to Martin Brundle
"We don't have a lot of information from practice. We'll see what we can do in the race. Track conditions have changed a lot. It will be quite a challenge today to manage the optimum strategy."
20 minutes to go until lights out...
...and it's time for Martin Brundle's grid walk and he's there with future F1 driver George Russell. Just two blokes from Kings Lynn having a wonderful time in America.
These are the overalls that the Red Bull lads will be wearing today
Posted without comment.
This race and any interest in it most likely depends on Kimi Raikkonen's start...
...if he can pass Hamilton and Vettel can make his way past Bottas then GAME ON, as sports commentators love to say. The worrying stat for anyone hoping for this to happen is that Raikkonen has not made up a single place on ANY first lap since the 2016 Abu Dhabi GP. So....err....he's due one then. As sports commentators love to say.
Oh! Some more strategy chat! This time with added infographics
Right, let's have a look at the grid for today's race then
Strategy for #USGP@COTA: quickest is a one-stopper. Initial stint on supersoft for 18-24 laps then soft to the finish. Slightly slower is this: start on ultrasoft for 14-20 laps then soft to the flag. Clearly slower: start on ultrasoft for 20-25 laps then soft to the flag. #F1— Pirelli Motorsport (@pirellisport) October 21, 2018
The one to watch will obviously be Raikkonen. Hamilton may struggle to make his used supersofts last but we will have to wait and see about that. We really need to move away from the boring one-stoppers for next year. Really.
Lewis Hamilton looking pretty relaxed in the drivers' parade
He's won here the last four years. A fifth win and he could take his fifth world drivers' title.
Max Verstappen came a cropper from one of F1's famous "sausage kerbs" yesterday
It was a bit of a shock for it to happen this dramatically, though.
It means he's going to be starting down in 13th today.
Lewis Hamilton's form has been unbelievable/irresistible/sublime/incredible...
...since the British Grand Prix, hasn't it? Again it looks like he will take another world championship with a run of dominance. How does he do it? I crunched the numbers to see how often he does it.
Since the 2018 Formula One season returned from its summer break, Lewis Hamilton has given himself a commanding championship lead. The gap to Sebastian Vettel now stands at 67 points going into the United States Grand Prix, up from 14 before the summer break.
How can Sebastian Vettel keep his title hopes alive?
The drivers' standings - top 10
- Lewis Hamilton - 331
- Sebastian Vettel - 264
- Valtteri Bottas - 207
- Kimi Raikkonen - 196
- Max Verstappen - 173
- Daniel Ricciardo - 146
- Sergio Perez - 53
- Kevin Magnussen - 53
- Nico Hulkenberg - 53
- Fernando Alonso - 50
How Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes built an F1 dynasty to rival that of the great Michael Schumacher
At a touch past 3pm Texan time on Sunday, on a swathe of scruffy, reclaimed grassland once known as Wandering Creek, Lewis Hamilton stands ready to light his name in the Formula One firmament. A fifth world title: it is a moment savoured by a driver only twice before, when Juan Manuel Fangio sliced through the field at the Nurburgring in 1957, and when Michael Schumacher, irresistible as ever in his Ferrari, emulated the Argentine at Magny-Cours 45 years later, with almost half a season to spare. Whatever one thinks of Hamilton or his sometimes lurid off-track antics, this is a rare and precious moment in the annals of sport.
Sebastian Vettel was just a little browned off at losing out on "pole position" yesterday
Of course, he knew he wouldn't line up on pole but still he had to do everything he could to stop Hamilton. And being slower - no matter how small the margin - is clearly not doing everything.
Just under an hour until lights out...
The Circuit of the Americas
Your track for today's race, ladies and gents. It's one of the easier tracks to pass on so expect action, action, action.
Brendon Hartley is clearly not happy with his drivers' parade car...
...as it had an Australian flag on it. Hartley is a Kiwi. Easy mistake to make? I mean the flags are pretty similar, right?
When they give you the wrong flag again, just rip it off!— Toro Rosso (@ToroRosso) October 21, 2018
���� ✅ pic.twitter.com/kCjcP3WfPd
Hamilton's superb pole lap from yesterday
Worth a watch. Swipe right to watch both parts.
The top 10 times from yesterday's qualifying
- Lewis Hamilton (Gbr) Mercedes GP 1min 32.237secs
- Sebastian Vettel (Ger) Ferrari 1:32.298
- Kimi Raikkonen (Fin) Ferrari 1:32.307
- Valtteri Bottas (Fin) Mercedes GP 1:32.616
- Daniel Ricciardo (Aus) Red Bull 1:33.494
- Esteban Ocon (Fra) Force India 1:34.145
- Nico Hulkenberg (Ger) Renault 1:34.215
- Romain Grosjean (Fra) Haas F1 1:34.250
- Charles Leclerc (Mon) Sauber-Ferrari 1:34.420
- Sergio Perez (Mex) Force India 1:34.594
Another reminder that Sebastian Vettel will start in fifth place after his three-place grid penalty has been applied.
Good afternoon F1 fans...
Is today the day Lewis Hamilton wins his fifth Formula One world drivers' title, matching Juan Manuel Fangio and putting him within reach of Michael Schumacher's seven? It certainly looks likely. He is starting from pole position after another superb lap pipped title rival Sebastian Vettel in final qualifying. Vettel, though, will line up in fifth after he was awarded a three-place grid penalty for failing to slow sufficiently under red flags in FP1 on Friday.
"That was close," Hamilton said after qualifying. "I didn’t know how close it was going to be once we got into qualifying but obviously when we went into that last run, I knew it was quite edgy between us and it was going to require solid laps."
"The first one was decent but not good enough. Then the second one was that little bit better that enabled me to pull that out. At some races where I haven’t done a better time – I’ve had to bail out the second lap so I was very, very adamant I was going to do a better lap," he added.
Due to Vettel's penalty, the man who will line up alongside Hamilton on the front row is...Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen. Interestingly - and sensibly from Ferrari's point of view - the Finn will start on the quicker but less durable ultrasoft tyres whilst Hamilton - and Bottas and Vettel - will start on the red-marked supersoft tyres. Ferrari looked to have found some of the form that was lacking in previous rounds after ditching recent upgrades. Mercedes boss Toto Wolff is concerned about their pace, especially on the straights.
It's a fair but not incredibly long run up to turn one at the Circuit of the Americas but this - and Ferrari's supposed straight-line advantage - gives Raikkonen (and therefore Vettel) some hope of upsetting Hamilton's charge to victory. Worth considering also strategically is that Hamilton did an extra couple of laps on his race-starting tyres in Q2 and also locked them up on that run. So what condition they will be in after ten or so laps will be anyone's guess.
But what does Vettel need to do to keep his title hopes alive?
If Hamilton wins then Vettel must finish second to keep the title race alive (well, more realistically it's on life support...) until Mexico next week. In short, he has to finish within seven points of Hamilton today or the number 44 driver takes his fifth title. It will be worth watching, for sure.
I'll be here for the next few hours for all the build-up, live updates and reaction from the 2018 US Grand Prix.