Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen won an action-packed Pirelli United States Grand Prix in Austin, Texas, on Oct. 21, 2018, with the top three separated by less than three seconds and using three very different tire strategies.
While Raikkonen won the race from second on the grid, using an ultrasoft-soft tire strategy, Lewis Hamilton was the only one of the frontrunners to use a two-stop strategy. Having started the race on the P Zero supersoft tire from pole, the Mercedes driver made an early stop on lap 11 under a virtual safety car for soft tires. But after pushing hard to regain the lead, he was forced to stop again for another set of soft tires with 20 laps to go, which dropped him out of championship-winning range.
Yet another tire strategy was used by Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, who started from 18th on the grid but worked his way up to second place at the finish. This was also thanks to an opening stint on the soft tire, before he switched to the faster supersoft tire for a longer stint close to the finish.
Mario Isola -- Pirelli's head of car racing:
"Congratulations to Kimi Raikkonen for a brilliant win, after controlling one of the most tightly-fought grands prix of recent years, where tire strategy played an important role. There were four different strategies in the top four, with the race also influenced by Lewis Hamilton’s early stop under the virtual safety car, as his team opted to take the opposite approach to Raikkonen, who stayed out. This put Hamilton on a very different strategy to those around him, which culminated in an extremely exciting finish. With limited dry running on Friday, the teams didn’t have the full picture on tire wear and degradation, which undoubtedly contributed to the excitement and unpredictability today. Despite this handicap, all three tire compounds performed strongly and very consistently”.
The winning strategy
Kimi Raikkonen made one stop, which was expected to be fastest, making his sole visit to the pits on lap 20. We predicted changing from the supersoft to the soft tire as being the theoretically fastest strategy, but the Finn instead secured victory after starting on the ultrasoft tire compound.