Scuderia Ferrari Finnish driver Kimi Raikkonen admitted that he was never going to drive more aggressively than usual against Lewis Hamilton during their battle in America.
Starting alongside Lewis Hamilton on the front row for Sunday’s race, there had been some speculation that Kimi Raikkonen could be more aggressive than usual against his teammate’s title rival, particularly with Sebastian Vettel starting from P5 and in desperate need of some fortune. When the lights went out, Raikkonen was able to get alongside Hamilton and force his way past, although not in a manner any more ruthless than usual.
Later in the race, immediately prior to his pitstop when Hamilton was on much fresher tyres, Kimi also was able to defend robustly against the Mercedes driver and cost Hamilton considerable time. However, again, Raikkonen’s driving was never questionable, and the Finn stated afterwards he would never have driven in a more aggressive manner against Hamilton, regardless of circumstances: “My purpose is not to be any more aggressive against him than anybody else. I don’t believe in doing crazy things. I want to do my race and do the best that I can do. If that impacts the championship then that’s how it is but I will not do any crazy stuff to be a part of it. My job is purely to try to do win, I’m here for that and I will play as fair as is possible and that’s how it’s going to be and how it’s always going to be. We know what is fair and what is not and I got a bit close once because I lost a bit of grip but there was nothing crazy going on.”
Having utilised a one stop strategy effectively by stretching out his first stint on the UltraSofts through the early Virtual Safety Car and then holding up Hamilton for a few laps, Raikkonen’s 36 lap second stint on the Softs meant that he was vulnerable at the end of the race to the fresher tyres on Max Verstappen’s Red Bull & Hamilton’s Merc, but he absorbed the pressure to come home in front; albeit helped by the pair behind him starting to squabble right at the end.
“I think it was obviously coming in at the right time and having enough tyres both times.” Raikkonen explained. “It was a bit of a balancing act but we did it pretty well, well enough to win it, so it was OK, and a good battle and I think that’s what we all want as drivers and also the people here.”
After Hamilton’s early stop for Softs, the 2007 Formula One world champion capitalised on the Merc’s tyre blistering to close the gap from Hamilton down from 17.5 to 8 seconds by the time Lewis pitted for a second time. Raikkonen said: “Obviously you kind of go by feeling. At a certain point the tyres are going to fall off and there is not a lot you can do. We had a pretty good battle. I tried to stay as far as I could. I could hold him back. And then once we did the pit stops obviously I just needed to keep the gap. I caught up a little bit and then keep the gap and aiming for certain lap times and looking after the tyres, because it will be an issue in the end.”
“So you never know how it’s going to play out, especially after a Friday like we had. I was pretty confident after the first stint that it will be OK, but like we saw it got pretty close and 10 laps I was a bit probably not the most happiest guy in the world. But the closer we got to the end, the closer they got to me, it’s more dfificult for them and then it was OK. It’s been a good weekend. I think the car has been pretty good all the time. I got a good start. I needed to push hard. It was tight a few times and in the end the tyres were not in the best shape but I think it was a bit similar for Max, obviously Lewis had more tyres left for the end. I had enough speed; we kept it consistent and just tried to keep the tyres alive until the end, so a long time, you know, but here we are.” – Scuderia Ferrari Finnish driver Kimi Raikkonen concluded.