Sebastian Vettel Triumphs Over Bottas, Raikkonen at Brazilian Grand Prix
It's the German's first race win since Hungary in July.
Ferrari ace Sebastian Vettel started on the front row at Interlagos on Sunday alongside Valtteri Bottas. Holding P2 on the grid, he jumped to the lead early and commandeered the role through the majority of this year's Brazilian Grand Prix. After 71 laps, he retained the number one spot and beat out Bottas as well as Kimi Raikkonen, gaining his first victory in seven races after a dominant first half of the season.
With the championship sealed in Lewis Hamilton's favor, it was a genuine arms race between Mercedes, Ferrari, and Red Bull to the finish. The tandem of Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo started outside the top three due to a rough qualifying session and engine penalties, but neither were as unfortunate as Hamilton's Q1. The four-time champ crashed out of the first qualifying round forcing him to start in the pit lane, though he battled his way back into the points within the first 15 laps. He even held the lead at one point but soon surrendered it back to Vettel.
A string of Lap 3 accidents retired McLaren's Stoffel Vandoorne, Haas' Kevin Magnussen, and Force India's Esteban Ocon, handing the latter his first DNF of the season. This put out the safety car and thinned the field for Hamilton to battle back as he and Ricciardo overtook left and right throughout. Both drivers fell just short of the podium in the end but showed extreme resilience through the end as they head into Abu Dhabi for the season finale.
Felipe Massa finished as best of the rest by claiming seventh place in his final Brazilian Grand Prix. The Sau Paulo native bid an emotional farewell to his home crowd by joining the top three at the podium by saying, "I'm really emotional today because of all of you guys [fans]. Thank you for all your support and for helping me make the best race that I could"
Fernando Alonso finished in eighth position after starting in a season-best P6. Perez and Hulkenberg then rounded out the top ten ahead of Carlos Sainz, Pierre Gasly, and both Saubers. Toro Rosso's Brendon Hartley suffered yet another retirement, his second in three races. This will likely spark a bit more controversy between the Faenza-based team and its engine supplier, Renault, who quarreled in days prior to Sunday's race.
Bottas expressed his disappointment as his hopes for second place in the Drivers' Championship are all but gone.
"I didn't want to be in a sandwich today. We started from pole so our goal was to win the race. It is very disappointing, I tried to put pressure on Sebastian, but it did not lead to anything more. Lewis did a great comeback and he got plenty of points for the team."
Vettel, on the other hand, was elated after overcoming recent troubles including two DNFs at in Singapore and Japan.
"I had a chance to squeeze down the inside of Valtteri at the start and I think I surprised him a bit," said Vettel. "I am really happy for everyone at the team. It has been a tough couple of weeks, but it is nice to have both cars up here on the podium.
"There was no room for mistakes. I am sure we will have a drink here to celebrate and then we will see what happens."
It is Vettel's third Brazilian Grand Prix victory in his career.