Scuderia Ferrari is back on the podium thanks to Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen finishing second and third at the Circuit of the Americas, at the end of an incredible race that was action packed with passing moves and plenty of dramatic moments. The last of these actually came after the race, once the stewards deemed that Verstappen had left the track with all four wheels in passing Kimi for third at Turn 17.
It meant that the Finn was reinstated onto the last step of the podium. With three races to go, the drivers’ title is still undecided mathematically, with Seb on 265 points and Kimi on 163. The front of the grid read as follows: Hamilton-Vettel, Bottas-Ricciardo, Raikkonen-Ocon. Conditions were warm and sunny after the morning storm: 27 degrees air temperature and 36 on the track. Seb got away really well to take the lead on the run up the hill. However, Kimi lost a place, but then retook the Force India on lap 2 and set off in pursuit of the Bottas-Ricciardo duo. Using DRS, Hamilton closed in on Seb, who had to give best under braking at the end of the longest straight. Kimi was running quicker at this stage and was slipstreaming Ricciardo, less than a second behind. On lap 13, he found a clear track ahead of him as the Red Bull pitted. Ricciardo would retire three laps later.
Sebastian was struggling a bit with his tyres and pitted on lap 17 to fit the Softs, the hardest tyre available this weekend. He rejoined fifth and was immediately very quick. Bottas was the first of the Mercedes drivers to pit, while Seb posted a quickest lap in 1’39”702. On lap 19, Hamilton pitted and as he came out of pit lane, he had Sebastian in close attendance. Kimi then pitted, also taking on the yellow-banded tyre. He gradually closed on Bottas, who was himself making ground on Seb who was managing his race assets. Verstappen had carved his way up from the back end of the grid and when he opted for a second tyre stop, Ferrari changed its strategy, bringing Seb in as well, to fit the Supersofts. The number 5 car rejoined in front of Max, but it was Kimi who was putting on a show, dispatching Bottas at turn 12 to take second place.
Seb upped his pace significantly and the gap to Bottas closed up. On lap 48, Vettel set the fastest race lap, which brought him into the DRS zone.
Then came a simply brilliant move at the start of lap 51, as Seb attacked the Mercedes on the climb up to the first corner, going round the outside of Bottas, catching him out as they came up on the backmarker Vandoorne. Next up he passed Kimi who was on much older tyres. In fact, right at the end, the Finn lost third place to Verstappen, but that particular disappointment was not to last long.