The drivers’ championship is still alive after Kimi Raikkonen won a thrilling United States Grand Prix at Austin, prolonging Lewis Hamilton’s wait to seal the title for another week.
Hamilton, who qualified on pole for the race and was looking to win it for the seventh time – and fifth year in a row, struggled to maintain the pace of his rivals at the front of the grid after a tactical early pit stop forced the British driver to conserve the energy of his tyres.
Mercedes’ strategy backfired, allowing Raikkonen to create a lead that Hamilton was unable to reclaim, with the Finnish driver securing a first Formula One race victory since March 2013, when he was representing Lotus.
Hamilton’s frustration was doubled by his title rival’s struggles in Texas, with Sebastian Vettel’s Ferrari spinning following a battle for position with Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo.
The German fell back to 13th and looked certain to finish far enough down the race standings to hand Hamilton the world championship, only for a late surge – helped by Raikkonen’s drive at the front of the race – taking Vettel to fourth, ultimately finishing just one place behind Hamilton.
Max Verstappen also finished above Hamilton, sandwiched between the Mercedes and Raikkonen in a thrilling finish that saw just three seconds separating the front three drivers.
The result means that Hamilton left the US with a 70-point lead over Vettel with 75 still to play for over the course of the season’s final three races. Five points for the Briton will be sufficient to secure a fifth world title at the Mexican Grand Prix.
Force India closing in on post-takeover team name
Racing Point Force India team principal Otmar Szafnauer has announced that the team plans to have a new name in place before the end of 2018, replacing the Force India moniker that had been introduced following Vijay Mallya’s entrance to Formula One in 2008.
The team was saved from administration by a consortium led by Canadian billionaire Lawrence Stroll in August. Since Mallya left the team following the sale of the financially-stricken business to Stroll, a change has been expected.
It is not known whether the Racing Point element of the title will remain in the new name, though Szafnauer has admitted that there are plenty of options being discussed.
The end-of-year FIA World Council meeting has been earmarked as a possible date for confirmation of the change. He said: “That's the plan, so it's done well in time for next year. When I know [the name] I'll tell you.
“I think it's easier [now to come up with the name]. I think in the last couple of years some of the considerations were around selling the team.
“That bit of it's taken away so it's easier. We just have to come up with the right name that will last for a long time.”
Lawrence Stroll (right) completed his takeover of the financially troubled team in August.
F1 gets new photo filters ahead of Mexican GP
Interactive game company Game Changer MVP has announced a partnership with Formula One to feature its Filter Fan Cam technology during next weekend’s Mexican Grand Prix.
The fan engagement innovation is linked to social media, with the camera applying photo filters to live shots of fans during events.
In addition, the technology features facial recognition tools, which are designed to work alongside video board integration as live cameras capture fan images and integrate the creative filters seamlessly for display instantaneously.
The partnership between the two parties widens Game Changer MVP’s global sporting image, having recently featured at the X Games Sydney, the 2018 Australian Football League Grand Final, soccer matches at France’s Stade de France and the play-offs of both the National Basktball Association (NBA) and the National Hockey League (NHL).
Fan Festivals set for increase in 2019 as Liberty Media focus on the fans
Formula One is to increase the number of F1 Fan Festivals to seven in 2019, with Liberty Media focused on growing the series’ fanbase beyond the product of the Grand Prix races.
The inaugural edition was held in London in 2017, with Shanghai, Marseille, Milan and Miami all hosting the events this season. The Miami event, held the day before the US Grand Prix, holds extra significance, given Formula One bosses’ desire to bring a race to the city. 80,000 people turned out for the festival on Saturday.
Formula One commercial chief Sean Bratches has revealed that more festivals are planned for 2019, with China, Japan and other US cities all regarded as potentially attractive markets.
He said: “We’ve enjoyed great success with the Fan Festivals this year and we’re looking to create a broader programme next year.
“At the present time we are looking at an expanded schedule of six to seven events.
“We’re targeting a second festival in Shanghai, as like the US, we see great potential for Formula One in China. That will also dovetail with our 1000th race, which gives it even greater resonance. Together with the race, it should be an amazing experience.
“Beyond that we are looking to visit Tokyo and Milan, and we are aiming to put on events in Germany and the USA, though the locations there are yet to be confirmed. We are also exploring two other destination cities.”
The Fan Festival in Miami comes amid long-held plans to introduce a race in the Florida city to the annual Formula One calendar.