With his time at Ferrari coming to an end at the conclusion of the 2018 season, Kimi Raikkonen was running out of opportunities in a front-running team to take another long-awaited race win.
After their upturn in pace, Mercedes looked like they had the capabilities of winning every race in the tail-end of the season, leaving many to suspect that Raikkonen’s missed chance at the 2018 Italian Grand Prix would’ve been the Finn’s last big attempt to finally win in his second stint at Ferrari, before joining Sauber for 2019.
Despite taking 23 podiums and two pole positions since he rejoined the team for the start of the 2014 season, a win had remained illusive, with Raikkonen being subjected to some poor fortune, misguided tactics or quicker, championship-challenging team-mates.
It’s a run that few would’ve anticipated. He earned another contract with Ferrari following a successful Formula One comeback with the Lotus team, where he had the measure of then-team-mate Romain Grosjean and guided the team to two wins; the 2012 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix and the 2013 Australian Grand Prix.
The latter win would be his last until this year’s US Grand Prix, where he executed Ferrari’s strategy perfectly; with the softer tyres, he got the jump on Lewis Hamilton to lead on the opening lap – ending his unwanted streak of 37 races without gaining a place on the opening lap.
From there, he succeeded in disrupting Hamilton’s race and profited from there need to pit the Briton again, allowing Raikkonen to control the race pace.
His win in Austin means that his run of 113 races without a win – 5 years, 7 months and 5 days (or 2045 days) – has ended, something which he thinks will go some way to proving doubters wrong.
“It hasn’t really been a big deal for me,” said Raikkonen. “It’s been a much bigger deal for other people.
“If it comes it comes, if it doesn’t it doesn’t change my life one bit. I’m happy because we are here purely to try to win. The biggest difference is how people look at you.
” It’s nice to prove to all the people that we can still win; that’s the reason we are here for, try to win races and Championships.
“I’m glad we had a fight and it’s nice to see that we still have the speed to go for it and fight has hard as we can. This weekend we found the car that we expected to have.”
The victory is also Raikkonen’s first for Ferrari since the 2009 Belgian Grand Prix, his only win in a difficult season which resulted in him leaving the sport and turning to rallying. Given that his last win prior to that was the 2008 Spanish Grand Prix, this means that his latest win is only his fourth in a ten-year period.
By: Luke Murphy
All images: Motorsport Images