Sebastian Vettel won the Brazilian Grand Prix after successfully jumping Valtteri Bottas at the start of the race. It’s Ferrari’s first victory in Brazil since 2008.
Vettel’s team mate Kimi Raikkonen held on to third place from Lewis Hamilton. The Briton had started from the pit lane but successfully raced his way back to fourth place by the chequered flag.
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Brazilian Grand Prix – Race results
71 laps – 1:31:26.262s
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After the gloomy, drizzle-hit qualifying session on Saturday, conditions for the race could hardly have been better. The Autódromo José Carlos Pace was basking in sunshine and the hottest temperatures of the race weekend as Valtteri Bottas and Sebastian Vettel took their places on the front row.
It was Vettel who got the better run down to turn 1 when the lights went out. He was able to take control of the inside line, duly demoting Bottas to second place. From the second row, Kimi Raikkonen held on to third ahead of Max Verstappen. He was followed by Fernando Alonso in the McLaren and Williams’ Felipe Massa, starting his final home race before retiring from Formula 1 at the end of the season.
Behind them, there was trouble in the midfield. Contact with Kevin Magnussen’s Haas punted Stoffel Vandoorne into the back of Daniel Ricciardo going into turn 3. The McLaren and the Red Bull both spun, triggering a safety car. Vandoorne and Magnussen were out of the race as a result of damage, but Ricciardo was able to get back underway albeit at the back of the field.
Even as this played out, a separate incident at turn 5 saw contact between Romain Grosjean and Esteban Ocon. The Force India had been sweeping around the outside when the Haas understeered into him, taking both cars off. Grosjean was able to pick up the pieces and resume albeit with a 10s penalty for causing a collision. However for Ocon it was the first retirement of his Formula 1 career to date.
All this proved rather good news for Lewis Hamilton. Starting from the pit lane following overnight repairs as a result of his disastrous qualifying, he avoided the mayhem. He was up to 14th place by the time the safety car was deployed. When racing resumed at the start of lap 6, he immediately got his head down and made rapid passes to put himself into the points by the start of lap 9.
Moments later Hamilton passed the Renaults of Carlos Sainz and Nico Hulkenberg to trade up to eighth place. Sergio Perez proved tougher competition, but Hamilton would not be denied. He soon made the move stick, and picked up seventh place on lap 14. It was all the more impressive as he was one of the few drivers to start the race on soft tyres – the majority of drivers had gone for the faster supersoft compound. Ricciardo was another driver on the same strategy, similarly scything his way through the field after his first lap setback.
Vettel meanwhile was comfortably in charge of the race, quickly pulling out of DRS range of Bottas. However the Finn was able to stay within a couple of seconds of the leader even as they gradually pulled away from Raikkonen and Verstappen.
Having successfully overtaken Alonso at the restart, Massa was soon struggling for handling. He lost ground to the top four, and was an easy target when Hamilton thundered his way past on lap 21.
Despite being up to fifth, Hamilton was still over 17s off the race leader. Even the next man on track – Verstappen – was nine seconds down the road. However the Dutch driver was struggling with his rear tyres and urging the Red Bull pit wall to allow him to make an early stop.
In fact it was Bottas who jumped first. The Mercedes pitted on lap 28 for a new set of soft tyres, with Massa following suit. It forced Ferrari to respond, calling in Vettel next time by – and it was only just in time. Vettel had only a couple of car lengths on Bottas as he emerged from pit exit. Fortunately he was a lot happier with the new tyres than Bottas, the Ferrari soon rebuilding a comfortable gap.
With Raikkonen also pitting, Lewis Hamilton suddenly found himself promoted into the lead of the race having started dead last. However he was only four seconds ahead of Vettel and Bottas, and yet to make his own mandatory stop. His older tyres were also starting to take their toll on his lap times. Ricciardo was in a similar situation, running in fifth place but ordered by the team not to hold up Verstappen on fresh tyres.
Ricciardo finally pitted for supersofts on lap 43, and Hamilton was in immediately afterwards. It restored Vettel, Bottas, Raikkonen and Verstappen to the top four as Hamilton rejoined in fifth place ahead of Massa and Alonso. Ricciardo was now running a true eighth ahead of Perez, with Hulkenberg rounding out the top ten.
Although he was on fresher tyres, Hamilton still had his work cut out to chip away at the seven second gap to Verstappen. Ricciardo had some initial quick overtaking opportunities – passing first Alonso and then Massa for sixth place – but then had a near-half minute chasm between himself and Hamilton. Without a second safety car to compress the field it seemed that the Australian had done all he possibly could today.
Not so Hamilton, who shredded the gap between himself and Verstappen who wasn’t enjoying the soft tyres one bit. Despite a show of resistance from the RB13, Hamilton picked off the Dutchman on lap 60 in turn 4 with a touch of DRS to take fourth. “Nothing you could do about that, Max,” was the sympathetic message from the Red Bull pit wall as he made a ‘free’ stop for new supersofts. “Just need to bring it home now.”
Nor was Hamilton done for the day. Raikkonen – and a podium position – was less than four seconds away now. The Briton made a statement of intent by hammering in the fastest lap of the race so far, 1:11.932s – only half a second off Juan Pablo Montoya’s 2004 lap record. However the pursuit had hurt his tyres: the Mercedes now lacked the grip to successfully jump Raikkonen, and Hamilton was forced to settle for fourth.
At the front, Bottas had managed to stabilise the gap to Vettel and claw back a little of the lost ground. However the Ferrari instantly responded, and it was clear Vettel felt he had the race fully under control. Sure enough, the Ferrari looked untroubled and Vettel went on to clinch his fifth win of the season.
Behind Raikkonen and Hamilton, Verstappen successfully followed directions to bring his car home. Despite the extra pit stop he still finished in fifth ahead of his team mate Ricciardo. The biggest cheer of the afternoon was reserved for Felipe Massa, who concluded his final home race in seventh ahead of Alonso and Perez.
Hulkenberg was a lap down in tenth place just ahead of his team mate Carlos Sainz. Pierre Gasly finishes 12th, but his team mate Brendon Hartley was forced to retire on lap 42 with a terminal issue on the STR12.
Marcus Ericsson was 13th ahead of his Sauber team mate Pascal Wehrlein, who suffered power issues during the race. Grosjean was 15th after serving his ten second penalty, while Lance Stroll was relegated to last place two laps down by a late emergency pit stop. He had locked up and flat-spotted the left-front tyre on the Williams, which then started to come apart in the closing laps.
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