Going into the USGP this past weekend the stakes could not have been higher for Ferrari, Sebastian Vettel in particular. When the Formula 1 circus took their summer break Vettel and Mercedes AMG driver Lewis Hamilton were in spitting distance of each other in the championship and it was anyone’s guess who would come out on top at the end of the season. But since the summer break Mercedes and Hamilton haven’t put a foot wrong and capitalized on the seemingly endless string of mistakes made by Ferrari’s race strategists and Vettel.
Hamilton came into this weekend heavily favored to win the championship in Austin. The odds were on him winning and to keep the championship alive Vettel would have to come in second. After picking up a three place grid penalty on Friday Vettel more than had his work cut out for him in the race on Sunday. After qualifying on Saturday Hamilton would be starting on pole and Seb (with his penalty) would be starting in 5th.
As the lights went out Hamilton got away cleanly but Kimi had more grip from the get go and was able to push ahead going into turn one! Things seemed to be going great for Ferrari as a team until they reached the Mickey Mouse section of turns at the end of the main straight… then disaster struck. Or more specifically Vettel struck Ricciardo in his Red Bull and looped the Ferrari around. Vettel was able to rejoin but near the back of the field, in 15th place out of 20 cars.
As the race drug on it seemed more and more likely that Hamilton had the championship in hand. He was on newer tires than the Red Bull in front of him and he was charging hard. Vettel was making a recovery from his first lap spin but not nearly as fast as he needed to be.
Nearing the end of the race Hamilton was close enough to attempt a move, he dove down the inside of Verstappen but couldn’t seal the deal. At the next series of corners he tried to pass around the outside and that worked even worse for him and he went off track, losing about a second in the process. And then as the Mercedes of Hamilton was floundering in his attempts to pass Max up the circuit Vettel was making a move that stuck on his teammate Bottas further back the track! Everything in Mercedes’ world was unraveling very quickly and there was nothing they could do about!
When the checkered flag flew Kimi Raikkonen ended the longest winless streak in Formula 1 history (about 5 seasons) with Verstappen coming in second and Hamilton third. Vettel wound up fourth overall and scored enough to keep the championship going at least another week when they get to do this all over again in Mexico!