Raikkonen celebrates 'great and good battle'

Race winner Kimi Raikkonen (FIN) Ferrari celebrates in parc ferme.
© XPB 

It's been over five years since Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen last stood at the top of the podium after a Formula 1 Grand Prix victory.

With his imminent departure from Ferrari looming at the end of the current season, it had looked like his win in the 2013 Australian Grand Prix with Lotus would be his final win in F1. That was 113 races or 2044 days ago.

But the 39-year-old had other ideas, and he sensationally added a 21st victory to his career tally by coming off best in today's race in the United States.

“It’s been a long time but here we are again," Raikkonen said after the end of the race at the Circuit of the Americas.

“It’s been a great weekend, the car has been pretty good all the time,” he added. “I’m much happier than finishing second!"

He added that the champagne had a familiar taste even after all this time. "No different really from the last time I was on the podium really! I think it's the very much same stuff as for second and third place."

The decisive moment came at the start of the race. Raikkonen lined up on the faster and shorter-lived ultrasoft tyres, while the other cars in the top four were on the more durable but less grippy supersofts.

That gave the Finn the advantage he needed to make it up the hill and into the turn 1 left-hander ahead of polesitter Lewis Hamilton. After that there was nothing the Mercedes driver was able to do to recover the lost advantage.

"I got a good start and needed to push hard," he said. "If you don't take the start then the most important part was to try to keep the Mercedes behind when they came back with the new tyres after their first stop."

He passed up the chance to make an early stop under a Virtual Safety Car and stuck to the team's single stop strategy for the race.

"It was obviously coming in at the right time and having enough tyres from both times," agreed Raikkonen. "It was a big balancing act, but we did it very well - well enough to win.

"My tyres were pretty okay. I pushed for quite a few laps, and then tried to look after the tyres and the fuel. Obviously you never know, you need to make the decision and then at the end of the race you see if it was right or wrong."

Hamilton did pit during the VSC, but as a result he ended up being forced into a two-stopper which dropped him to third place by the finish. That left Red Bull's Max Verstappen as the chief threat to Raikkonen.

"In the end the tyres weren't in the best shape but I think it was a bit similar for Max," Raikkonen noted. "Obviously Lewis had more tyres left in the end.

"When they came back it wasn't the easiest thing to get past," he said. "I knew the further we go the better my chances. Plus I had one car between me and Lewis.

Kimi Raikkonen (FIN) Ferrari SF71H leads Lewis Hamilton

"We had enough speed and we kept it consistent, and tried to keep the tyres alive to the end," he said.

“It was a great and good battle. That’s what we all want as drivers - and also as the people here," he added, indicating the cheering fans in the grandstand.

"Obviously we always come to the race weekend trying to do our best," he later told Sky Sports F1. "If we don't do out best we don't expect to be up there fighting for the win.

"Today we had a pretty good day, and also other parts of the weekend, so I felt confident and this is how it worked out today."

As for whether this final hurrah for Ferrari had come as a surprise, Raikkonen shrugged and said it really hadn't been a big deal as far as he was concerned.

"I never really made such a big thing about it. I've won races, I've won championships - it's not like I've never won a race in my life.

"For me it would never change my life, one more or not. Maybe people look at it different but that's not really the true story of the life.

"It's nice, for sure, because the reason we are here is to win," he admitted. "It's much nicer to go out in the paddock when you've won than when you've been anything else!"

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