If you weren’t a Scuderia Ferrari fan at Circuit of the Americas this weekend, you just might have been seeing red.
A Ferrari driver took the victory in the United States Grand Prix on Sunday for the first time since the days of Michael Schumacher dominating at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, while simultaneously preventing Lewis Hamilton from clinching the World Driver’s Championship on home soil. Depending on where your rooting interests lie within the team, this could be either a good thing or a bad thing: it was Kimi Raikkonen, long since eliminated from the points chase, who won the race, while Sebastian Vettel only barely clung on to continued eligibility by finishing just one spot behind Hamilton.
If you were just rooting for an entertaining race, though, you certainly got one.
The chaos began on the very first lap, as Raikkonen came out of an always chaotic first corner ahead of Hamilton and the rest of the field. At the time, that was no big deal for the Brit, as Vettel spun out later that same lap. In a summer of horrors for the German, this weekend appeared to just be the latest disaster: after qualifying second, he was dropped three spots on the grid for failing to slow down during a red flag situation in practice, and with the spin, he would fall even further to 15th.
As Vettel began his comeback trail, two of the most popular drivers on the grid fell out of the running early as Red Bull Racing’s Daniel Ricciardo (battery failure) and McLaren’s Fernando Alonso (collision damage) both took DNFs. And Vettel’s charge through the field was still overshadowed by that of Max Verstappen, who started 18th after a penalty for an unscheduled gearbox change but rocketed his way into podium contention.
With just a few laps to go, Hamilton found himself in third, closing on Verstappen and hoping to perhaps make a late charge to unseat Raikkonen. But in one of the best back-and-forth battles of the season, Verstappen managed to hang on as Hamilton drove wide. Around the same time, Vettel, while well off of a podium place, got around Hamilton’s teammate Valtteri Bottas for fourth to gain a few more precious points and stave off elimination for another week.
Heading into Mexico next weekend, Hamilton’s gap on Vettel is up to 70, meaning he’ll clinch the championship unless Vettel can gain at least 20 points. If Hamilton finishes seventh or better, the driver’s title chase is over. Mercedes and Ferrari are a bit more evenly matched in the World Constructor’s Championship, though: split by only 66 points, and with a maximum of 43 available per weekend, there are still a number of scenarios where that could change hands with three races remaining.