Race - Vettel beats Bottas as Hamilton storms to fourth
Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel took victory in Sunday’s Formula 1 Grande Premio Heineken do Brasil 2017 after holding off Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas for 71 laps of Interlagos. However, it was Bottas’s team mate Lewis Hamilton who was arguably the race’s biggest star, the world champion recovering from a pit-lane start to almost snatch the final podium spot from the Ferrari of Kimi Raikkonen.
Red Bull’s Max Verstappen was a distant fifth ahead of team mate Daniel Ricciardo, the latter fighting back from a 14th-place grid slot, while Williams’ Felipe Massa narrowly won a race-long battle with McLaren’s Fernando Alonso to finish his final home Grand Prix in seventh. Force India’s Sergio Perez also joined that scrap late on, as Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg completed the top ten.
Vettel took the lead at the start and controlled polesitter Bottas to win by 2.7s, though the Finn kept him honest throughout on an afternoon when tyre conservation was key.
The main excitement, however, was provided by a tremendous drive through the field from Hamilton, who more than made up for his error in qualifying with battle after battle as he clawed his way within sight of the top three.
Starting on soft tyres rather than the supersofts on which his main rivals ran their first stints, he took the lead on the 30th lap as the frontrunners began their stops, and held it until pitting on lap 43 for supersofts. That dropped him back to fifth behind Vettel, Bottas, Raikkonen and Verstappen who had run in that order from the start.
Verstappen could offer little resistance as his soft tyres were fading, and he surrendered fifth place on the 59th lap, and then a dramatic chase began as Hamilton went after Raikkonen. He hauled him in and seemed set to join Vettel and Bottas on the podium, but the Finn valiantly held him off by 0.8s at the flag.
Verstappen made a second stop and set fastest lap on a new set of supersofts as he headed team mate Riccardo home. Like Hamilton, the Australian had fought up from his lowly grid position and a spin on the first lap after being hit by Stoffel Vandoorne, who had made contact with Kevin Magnussen. The McLaren and Haas drivers were instant retirements, and the incident brought the safety car out until the fifth lap.
Massa delighted the loyal crowd with a strong and emotional run to seventh (and a valedictory podium appearance) for Williams, but it was a close-run thing as Alonso’s McLaren was only 0.4s behind him after a race-long fight, and the Spaniard had Perez’s Force India just 0.1s off his tail after one of the afternoon’s best battles.
Hulkenberg took a single point on a disappointing day for Renault as he headed team mate Carlos Sainz home, while Pierre Gasly was Toro Rosso’s only finisher, in 12th, after a strong drive. Marcus Ericsson beat Sauber team mate Pascal Wehrlein for 13th place, as Grosjean took 15th after serving a 10-second time penalty for a first-lap collision which brought countryman Esteban Ocon in the Force India his first-ever F1 retirement after 27 completed races. Williams’ Lance Stroll fought Grosjean for a long time, but dropped back with a delaminating left front tyre at the end.
Besides Ocon, Magnussen and Vandoorne, Brendon Hartley failed to finish when his Toro Rosso suffered a mechanical problem.