Lewis Hamilton Wins 2018 Brazilian Grand Prix, Fifth Straight Constructors' Title for Mercedes
Lewis Hamilton won his 50th Grand Prix of the V-6 era, and his team a fifth consecutive World Constructors' Championship in the process.
Lewis Hamilton locked down the World Constructors' Championship for Mercedes-AMG with a win at the Brazilian Grand Prix, his 50th of the V-6 era. Here's how it unfolded.
Mercedes-AMG's drivers Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas rocketed away from the grid, the former escaping into the race lead, and the latter challenging Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel for second. Red Bull Racing's Max Verstappen too got a sharp launch, and took Kimi Räikkönen's position, but the Finn fought back, yanking his P4 back from the Dutchman a few corners later. Verstappen's teammate Daniel Ricciardo, hampered by a five-place grid penalty, recovered to P10 on the first lap.
Cameras turned away from the settling frontrunners on the second lap to capture a pair of furiously fighting Renaults, which spent more of Lap 2 wheel-to-wheel than not. Nico Hülkenberg came out the winner, curbing the enthusiasm of his teammate Carlos Sainz Junior. Further up, Verstappen again assailed Räkkönen's position into turn one on Lap 3, and came away with his rival's P4 position. The Dutchman repeated the move a lap later on Vettel, again succeeding. A disturbed Vettel locked up, permitting Räikkönen passage through.
Ricciardo rejoined the frontrunners' parade on Lap 5, pushing past Charles Leclerc for P6. Another five laps later, Verstappen closed on Bottas, and took him too in Turn 1. A struggling Bottas dealt with a pair of closing Ferraris, their soft tires finally switching on to let them fight for position. With Bottas restraining both prancing horses, Ricciardo took his opportunity to close on the trio, and was soon as close to Vettel as Räikkönen was to Bottas.
Fernando Alonso became the first driver to pit on Lap 16, adopting medium tires, and Ferrari bluffed a stop for the same a lap later. Mercedes did it for real on Lap 18, giving Bottas medium tires, and an exit in P9. Hamilton followed the next lap, exiting P7. Having taken excessive damage from a collision with Romain Grosjean on the first lap, Marcus Ericsson became the Grand Prix's first retirement on Lap 20.
Vettel got himself a set of medium tires after 27 laps, exiting in P9. He rapidly made up places, and by the time Räikkönen stopped for mediums of his own, he was destined to exit in P7 behind Vettel. Lap 34 saw Hülkenberg become the last retirement of the race, the Renault pit wall calling him in due to a clogged radiator.
Verstappen arrived in the pits for soft tires after 35 laps, and returned to the track P3 behind Hamilton. On his fresh tires, Verstappen began to lay down times that would reel in the Brit. Ferrari issued orders to reshuffle its drivers, giving Räikkönen track position over a mysteriously struggling Vettel. Verstappen arrived in DRS range of Hamilton on Lap 38, and used it to full effect on Lap 39 to pass Hamilton on the pit straight while Ricciardo copied Verstappen's move to soft tires. Hamilton attempted to retake the position, but found his older medium tires just weren't up to the task.
Ricciardo bid for Vettel's position on Lap 43, but went wide and off the track. Räikkönen slipped past Bottas with DRS at the end of the same lap, during which, disaster struck for Verstappen. While lapping Esteban Ocon, the Frenchman made a lunge to un-lap himself, and hit Verstappen, damaging the Dutchman's floor and spinning him. Max had to watch as Hamilton retook his position, and flipped Ocon a one-finger salute while rejoining the track. Despite the protest of Force India team principal Otmar Szafnauer, Ocon was issued a massive 10 second stop-and-go penalty for the incident.
On Lap 46, Ricciardo at last managed to get around Vettel, gaining position in Turn 1, but Vettel fought back, and used DRS on the following straight to draw ahead again. Infamous for his late braking, Ricciardo regained position in the entry to the next corner, and Vettel submitted to Ricciardo's unmatchable pace. Struggling with his tires, Vettel would pit again for supersoft tires on Lap 54, and exit P7.
Bottas would be Ricciardo's next victim, losing out to a lunge in turn one on Lap 59. Bottas would become the second driver to stop twice for tires with a switch to softs at the end of the lap, and came out P5 ahead of Vettel.
Despite gradually closing on a foundering Hamilton through the closing laps of the race, Verstappen never came within DRS range, and settled into second behind the Brit at the race's conclusion, Räikkönen coming third. Furious, Max growled over the radio that he didn't want to see Ocon anywhere in the paddock, issuing a bleeped-out opinion of the Force India driver. Winning driver of the day, presumably, was not much of a consolation prize.
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