The bright, sunny and hot Jose Carlos Pace played host to the Brazilian Grand Prix, and what an intriguing one it was. With Lewis Hamilton starting from the pitlane, the race was there for the taking. It was just a question of who would be the one to take it. In the end, it was Sebastian Vettel who crossed the line first for his first win in 12 races.
However, starting from the pitlane did not stop Hamilton from making his presence felt. The newly crowned World Champion produced a stunning drive. He scythed through the majority of the field thanks to his new Mercedes engine, which was replaced after qualifying, and the skill of a four-time Champion. Being on a different tyre from all of his rivals meant Lewis could go long in his first stint and be a threat late on providing he could make his way quickly and efficiently through the field. Which he did, finding himself at the front of the pack after 30 laps (albeit without a pitstop).
After his stop, and on the quicker super-soft tyres, he set off after the leaders. He cleanly overtook Max Verstappen–never an easy task– which left him eleven laps to try and get on the podium. He found himself behind Kimi Raikkonen but couldn’t get past the Finn, who fended him off successfully to finish third.
It was an excellent race for the Brit, underlining why he is the World Champion.
Even though Hamilton had a great race, the man first across the line was Sebastian Vettel. The German got a decent start and slung his immaculate red car down the inside of pole-sitter, Valtteri Bottas, into turn one to take the lead. Though he had a couple of scares–notably, Mereceds trying the undercut where they pit before to try and close the gap on fresh tyres–Vettel maintained his lead and drove a steady if unspectacular race to the chequered flag. It was a satisfying reward for the Scuderia after a challenging few races and keeps Sebastian in a significant second place. It was also the first time the Red cars finished first in Brazil since Felipe Massa in 2008.
For his part, Valtteri didn’t show the pace of his teammate and struggled to stay in touch with the Prancing Horse of Vettel. Though he had a better initial start, Bottas didn’t cover the inside and lost out as a result. The second place all but guarantees he will not finish second in the Championship.
In the fight between Renault and Toro Rosso–which was fought more off the track than on the track this weekend–Renault was the victor, making the Toro Rosso team even angrier than they were before. The retirement of Brendon Hartley put the icing on a decidedly inedible cake for the Red Bull junior team.
After 37 consecutive finishes from the start of his career, Esteban Ocon came a cropper on the first lap after clashing with the Haas of Romain Grosjean. Coming round turn six, Grosjean got a snap of oversteer and hit Ocon giving the Frenchman two punctures for his troubles and ending his race and the record for the consecutive number of starts at the start of one’s career.
In an emotional final Brazilian Grand Prix, Felipe Massa scored a much-deserved seventh place just holding off the McLaren of Fernando Alonso and the Force India of Sergio Perez. His radio message on the formation lap was a timely reminder of how charming the man from Sao Paolo is and how much he will be missed from the paddock next year:
“Such an amazing feeling to be here on my way to the start of my last home race in Brazil. Thank you so much, guys. I love you all”
At the end of the race, the emotion poured out with a beautiful radio message from his young son, Felipinho:
MOMENT OF THE RACE
Difficult to chose. Massa’s emotional start and end to the race springs to mind immediately. However, Daniel Ricciardo’s insane move on Lance Stroll, which felt like it came from as far away as Venezuela, was impossible to beat. He is the best overtaker in Formula One.
DRIVER OF THE RACE
Undoubtedly, Lewis Hamilton was the driver of the race. He got within a sniff of the podium, but fourth place from the pitlane is still an outstanding achievement.