Champagne on ice for Hamilton as Kimi rolls back years

2018 Japanese GP

"It's been a pretty positive day and for sure I think we got pretty close (to Mercedes)", said Raikkonen.

Hamilton, who was fastest in both practice sessions in Austin, needs to outscore Vettel by just eight points to win the championship, and emulate Juan Manuel Fangio with a quintet of titles.

"I was adamant that I was going to do a better second lap so I am very happy with that".

Away from F1 this year, Hamilton launched his own fashion range with Tommy Hilfiger - TommyXLewis - and is believed to have at least one more in the pipeline for future.

The German recovered to finish fourth, passing the second Silver Arrow of Valtteri Bottas late on, but he will be powerless to stop Hamilton from beating him to becoming just the third man in history to win as many as five titles if the Briton scores five or more points in Mexico.

A similar incident occurred at the last round in Japan when Esteban Ocon was given a three-place grid penalty for the same infringement. The Mercedes driver is also on a roll, with six wins in the last seven rounds.

On their first Q3 runs, Bottas, Hamilton and Vettel all broke the lap record, the Englishman quickest in 1:32.567, enough to put him 0.088 seconds clear of the resurgent, if penalised, Vettel.

With the race neutralised as marshals tended to Ricciardo's stricken Red Bull, which had stopped on the exit of the Turn 11 hairpin, Mercedes told Hamilton to do the opposite to Raikkonen under the VSC and so he dived into the pits, committing to a two-stop strategy. Vettel was just.061 seconds behind.

Daniel Ricciardo thinks that what Lewis Hamilton has been able to do on and off the track in 2018 shows that winning championships in Formula One is not simply about having the best machinery.

"Twelve seconds was way too far to catch up", he said.

Mercedes pulled the trigger for a second stop, switching Hamilton to a fresh set of soft tires at the end of Lap 37, dropping him to fourth behind Bottas, Verstappen and new leader Raikkonen and only four seconds ahead of Vettel. Getting around that group and still keeping Hamilton close will be hard.

But although he had a big lead when Raikkonen stopped, it soon became apparent Hamilton would have to stop again, unlike his rivals who stopped later, as his rear tyres began to blister.

Hamilton's championship gap now sits at 70 points.

Sebastian Vettel's slim title hopes may have taken another hit after he was summoned to the stewards following first practice at the U.S. Grand Prix.



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