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Sebastian Vettel, winner

Brazilian Grand Prix: Consolation win for Vettel and Ferrari

Sebastian Vettel, winner

Sebastian Vettel returned top the top step of the podium for the first time since the Hungarian Grand Prix in July when he led the championship, since then his title challenge imploded, thus victory at the Brazilian Grand Prix was welcome to lift the spirits of Ferrari – a much needed and timely consolation for the team.

From second on the grid Vettel squeezed past the Mercedes of pole starter Valtteri Bottas, and simply drove off into the distance, controlling his pace while managing the gap until the chequered flag 71 laps later. He won by just over two seconds but one could assume there was more firepower in the Ferrari had it been required.

Vettel said after his 47th career grand prix win, “Initially I had a very good start but then I had a bit of wheel spin so I thought I had missed my chance. But I think Valtteri was struggling even more off the line so I was able to squeeze down the inside and I think I surprised him a little bit.”

“It was very crucial and after that we were pushing for the remaining laps flat out. I was trying everything to pull a bit of a gap and control the race from there.”

“I’m really happy and for all the people in the team and back at Maranello. They’ve been working so hard and it’s been a tough couple of weeks for us but it’s nice to get it today and have both cars up here,” added the race winner.

Bottas, in second place, was the meat in the Ferrari sandwich with Kimi Raikkonen claiming third place.

The Mercedes driver slithered off the line and that tardy start is what cost him possible victory, because the pace he and Vettel had was pretty much the same throughout the race.

Mercedes tried the undercut with Bottas’ pitstop but the effort failed to impact the race – which ended in a true stalemate.

Bottas summed up on the podium, “I didn’t want to be sandwiched. We started from pole so the only goal was to win the race. It’s very disappointing we lost in the race start. After that it was very close between them. I was trying to put pressure on Sebastian but it didn’t lead to anything more.”

It was a similar story for Raikkonen, who was third into Turn 1 after the start and that is where he remained until the end, with a late charge from Lewis Hamilton the only real disruption to a pretty mundane afternoon for the the veteran Ferrari driver.

Raikkonen said afterwards, “I had a little bit tricky balance in the first set of tyres but it improved over the first run and the second set the car handled very well. I could catch up with the guys but it’s impossible to get past here if you have this close a speed between cars. Lewis got close to me, I got close to Sebastian and Valtteri but I wasn’t too worried. I had a good run out of the last corner.”

Hamilton, who crashed out during qualifying and had to start at the wrong side of the grid, starting from the pitlane he stormed through the field to finish fourth and in the process giving Raikkonen a scare in the final laps when the Mercedes driver loomed large in his mirrors.

But Hamilton’s tyres were done and it was a bridge too far, but impressive enough to earn the World Champion the ‘Driver of the Day’ accolade as voted for by the fans.

“It was fun. It felt reminiscent of my karting days when I always started at the back. I messed up yesterday and put myself in the worst possible position. I was quick enough to win the race from pole to the flag and I didn’t do that so I made the job a lot harder,” said Hamilton after the race.

Red Bull duo Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo were fifth and sixth respectively, the Dutchman having an uncharacteristically subdued race while the Australian did well to recover from 14th on the grid and a first lap melee to make it to the finish where he did.

But the truth is that Red Bull simply did not have the ammo on a weekend that Renault power was well down on Mercedes and Ferrari – the French manufacturer enduring the biggest performance deficit so far this season to their rivals.

Felipe Massa will always remember his (real) final grand prix on home soil in which he was forced to work hard in front of his home crowd, with Fernando Alonso doing all he could in the final stages to get the McLaren ahead of the Williams, while Force India’s Sergio Perez stalked the pair ready to pounce had an opportunity presented itself.

But Massa held firm and invariably the following sprang to mind: “Felipe you are faster than Fernando… Can you confirm you understood that message?”

In the end less than a second separated the trio as they crossed the line with Massa in seventh, Alonso eighth and Perez ninth. Nico Hulkenberg claimed the final point for Renault in tenth, finishing one place ahead of teammate Carlos Sainz.

Blow-By-Blow

At the start, Vettel snatched the lead ahead of Bottas, with the German sneaking through on the inside past the Finn. Further back Magnussen collided with Vandoorne, who was in turn pitched into the side of Ricciardo’s Red Bull. The Dane and the Belgian were forced out of the race but the Australian was able to continue.

There was more drama to come. A few corners later, Grosjean tangled with Ocon, with the result that the Force India driver was forced to retire.

That brought out the safety, which remained on course until the end of lap five. When the action resumed Vettel held his lead ahead of Bottas with Räikkönen third and Verstappen fourth.

Hamilton, though, was on a march and after starting from the pit lane due to repairs needed after qualifying crash, the Briton was already up to ninth place on lap 10. Ricciardo too was advancing and by the same tour he had made his way from 17th place to 14th, behind Stroll. He was quickly dismissed, along with Ericsson and by lap 12 the Australian was 12th.

Hamilton too was continuing to stride forward and on lap 14 he overtook Perez to take seventh place. That put him 15.2 seconds adrift of race leader Vettel, who was two seconds clear of Bottas and a further two ahead of Räikkönen.

By lap 21 Hamilton had muscled his to way to fifth place, 10 seconds behind Verstappen and was continuing to gain ground as the Dutchman began to complain of rear tyres wear on his starting set of supersofts. At the front, Vettel was losing ground to Bottas, with the Finn now 1.7s seconds behind the German.

Bottas was the first of frontrunners to Pit on lap 27 for soft tyres and he was followed a lap later by Vettel who responded to the undercut attempt. Verstappen and Raikkonen too made their stop for tyres and on lap 31 Hamilton, who had yet to stop, was promoted to the race lead.

Three seconds behind him was Vettel, with the German now enjoying a 2.7 seconds advantage over Bottas. Räikkönen held fourth ahead of Verstappen and Ricciardo, who had not yet pitted, Massa and Alonso.

Hamilton and Ricciardo finally pitted to change their starting supersofts on lap 44, with both taking on supersoft tyres. Vettel was promoted back into the lead, 2.5 seconds ahead of Bottas, with Räikkönen a further two seconds behind. Verstappen was now fourth, 4.1 behind Räikkönen and 7.3 seconds ahead of Hamilton. Massa now found himself sixth ahead of Ricciardo and Alonso.

The question now was how far Hamilton would be able to advance and his race engineer offered a clue by telling the four-time champion that he was battling for a podium place. That meant he would need to pass Verstappen and find the 10 seconds necessary to get him onto third-placed Räikkönen’s gearbox.

He swiftly began to close on Verstappen who was complaining his tyres felt “like rocks” and by lap 59 the gap had been erased almost entirely. The Red Bull driver defended well through the Senna S at the start of the lap, but he couldn’t resist Hamilton’s pace and the Mercedes man swept past on the straight before Turn 4 to claim fourth place. He now targeted Räikkönen who was 4.8 seconds ahead and with five laps remaining he closed to within DRS range of the Ferrari.

Räikkönen though was alive to the threat and kept Hamilton at bay over the closing laps.

Ahead Vettel took his 47th career victory in relative comfort with Bottas second. Räikkönen took his 91st career podium finish ahead of Hamilton while Verstappen, in fifth, led home team-mate Ricciardo.

Massa ended his final Brazilian Grand Prix with an excellent run to seventh place, the hometown hero finishing ahead of Alonso and Perez. The final point on offer went to Hulkenberg.

2017 Formula 1 World Championship Points – Drivers

POSDRIVERNATIONALITYCARPTS
1Lewis HamiltonGBRMERCEDES345
2Sebastian VettelGERFERRARI302
3Valtteri BottasFINMERCEDES280
4Daniel RicciardoAUSRED BULL RACING TAG HEUER200
5Kimi RäikkönenFINFERRARI193
6Max VerstappenNEDRED BULL RACING TAG HEUER158
7Sergio PerezMEXFORCE INDIA MERCEDES94
8Esteban OconFRAFORCE INDIA MERCEDES83
9Carlos SainzESPRENAULT54
10Felipe MassaBRAWILLIAMS MERCEDES42
11Lance StrollCANWILLIAMS MERCEDES40
12Nico HulkenbergGERRENAULT35
13Romain GrosjeanFRAHAAS FERRARI28
14Kevin MagnussenDENHAAS FERRARI19
15Fernando AlonsoESPMCLAREN HONDA15
16Stoffel VandoorneBELMCLAREN HONDA13
17Jolyon PalmerGBRRENAULT8
18Pascal WehrleinGERSAUBER FERRARI5
19Daniil KvyatRUSTORO ROSSO5
20Marcus EricssonSWESAUBER FERRARI0
21Pierre GaslyFRATORO ROSSO0
22Antonio GiovinazziITASAUBER FERRARI0
23Brendon HartleyNZLTORO ROSSO0

2017 Formula 1 World Championship Points – Constructors

POSTEAMPTS
1MERCEDES625
2FERRARI495
3RED BULL RACING TAG HEUER358
4FORCE INDIA MERCEDES177
5WILLIAMS MERCEDES82
6TORO ROSSO53
7RENAULT49
8HAAS FERRARI47
9MCLAREN HONDA28
10SAUBER FERRARI5