Image Credit: [The Times]
Lewis Hamilton started Sunday’s US Grand Prix in pole position needing just 8 points more than his nearest rival, Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel.
The first corner of the course saw Hamilton lose his lead to the other Ferrari driver Kimi Raikkonen who went on with an outstanding drive to take first place on the Circuit of Americas in Austin Texas.
Mercedes saw an opportunity on lap 11 to change Hamilton to a fresh pair of tyres, but the ‘strategic’ early pit stop left him trailing by 9 seconds. With Hamilton then desperately trying to win back his lead his new tyres became blistered, leaving no choice but to make a second pit stop. Consequently, this meant that Hamilton was then unable to overtake the winner Kimi Raikkonen or second place Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, resulting in a third pace finish.
Mercedes admitted that they had made a mistake in the strategy which in effect cost Hamilton the chance of a potential victory right there in Austin. Hamilton’s frustration was present after the race as he struggled to achieve second place and his title was prolonged for what at least could be another week. After the race Hamilton said; “For me, it doesn’t matter when you win the championship as long as you get it done”. Hamilton can take solace out of the race via the added advantage he now has over Sebastian Vettel.
During the first lap of the race, Vettel collided with Daniel Ricciardo while Raikkonen passed Hamilton. Vettel may have recovered from his poor start however he only managed to take 4th place, giving him a score of 12 points in comparison to Hamilton’s 15. Hamilton is now 70 points in front of Vettel, with Vettel only being able to achieve a max of 75 points from the final 3 races. Although Hamilton was the only driver in the top 5 to stop twice, his second stop didn’t stop him from beating Vettel to the line. Effectively, hopes of Vettel beating Hamilton to winning the title race may have ended on his first lap.
The Mercedes driver needs just 5 points to secure victory in which he has only scored less than on one occasion this season. If Hamilton is to win the World Championship this year it will be his 5th championship world title bringing him level with Juan Manuel Fangio and only 2 titles behind seven-time champion Michael Schumacher. Hamilton has nine race wins to his Ferrari rivals’s five this season with only 3 races left meaning that if their points were to end on a tie; Hamilton would still be victorious.
Before the race, Hamilton may have looked the part while posing for pictures with Hollywood actress Milly Bobby Brown and taking her for a lap around the track; the day belonged to 39 year-old Raikkonen, however, who won his first race in 5 years. Hamilton will now be looking for success in Mexico next week as he is one seventh place finish away from becoming a five-time world champion.