Authors: Rio Sports
The Formula One world championship may have been decided but there were still pertinent points to be made at the Brazilian Grand Prix. Sebastian Vettel and Ferrari had seen the title slip away but managed to lay down their marker for next season with a commanding victory at Interlagos. Lewis Hamilton, with his fourth F1 championship already under his belt, gave his all for fourth place here after starting in the pitlane, delivering a strident reminder to his rivals that his pace and racecraft are at an absolute peak.
Vettel won at the Autódromo José Carlos Pace, a commanding performance to beat the Mercedes of Valtteri Bottas into second, with Kimi Raikkonen taking third. Hamilton, crowned champion in Mexico, had crashed in qualifying but fought back with a determined and aggressive drive.
Vettel’s challenge for the title fell away in the space of three races – his crash at Singapore, engine change in Malaysia and a spark plug failure in Japan – and he wanted a strong finish to the season. There was some relief then that the Scuderia had finally delivered. “We are in a position to fight for victory, we won here, two cars on the podium. I think there’s a lot of positives. Of course if you miss out it sort of sucks,” he said. “I think we can all feel that we’re getting stronger so hopefully we can carry that strength into the next couple of years, not just next year, not just the winter but also the future because I think our objective is to bring Ferrari back properly, get there and dominate.”
The win will be of some solace for Vettel and Ferrari. He had said on Saturday that they would have “failed” if they did not secure second place in the championship, behind Hamilton. He was 15 points ahead of Bottas and now goes into the final round in Abu Dhabi with a 22-point lead and that place almost assured.
Hamilton, too, enjoyed his afternoon. Having fitted a new powerunit overnight in order to run the engine at maximum output – which his lap times demonstrated was ominously strong – he made the most of it and came through the field with a series of decisive moves.
“It was fun, reminiscent of my karting days when I was starting from the back,” he said. “On one side I messed up yesterday and put myself in the worst position. My goal today was to try and redeem myself from yesterday’s mistake.”
His weekend had been compromised in qualifying, the only major error he has made all season, which he acknowledged but from which he had given his all to recover.
“There is no room for mistakes when you want to be the best,” he said. “But it happens and that is a part of the growing process. Yesterday is behind me, today is a positive, to get back to fourth I am very grateful and very happy with that. I gave it everything, I had nothing left in my heart or in the car.”
He had come back from 17th to third here in 2009 and although he could not quite match it, with the championship decided he could make the most of his charge and did so with verve.
Ferrari will also take heart in finally returning to the top step. They have not won since the 11th round in Hungary – when Vettel led the championship. Converting his second place on the grid into victory, albeit without competition at the front from Hamilton, for their fifth win of the season is a positive the Scuderia will embrace.
Jock Clear, the Ferrari performance engineer was pleased they had made their mark in Brazil. “The pace has always been there,” he said. “It is a good fillip for going into the winter and then coming back even stronger.”
They had not been able to quite reach the Mercedes in qualifying but had been hopeful that race pace would allow them to match Bottas who had started from pole and it proved to be the case. The car has previously proved how well balanced it is and its strength through the corners and at Interlagos they proved to have developed it strongly to the end.
The German controlled the race with great skill, finishing with a rightful victory but is perhaps still left wondering what might have been but for that disastrous sequence of three races earlier in the season.
He enjoyed a superb start and jumped Bottas on the short run into turn one and, with the pace of the leaders very much matched, was able to run a flawless race to the flag, consistently just under two seconds clear of the Finn, while the Mercedes’ attempt at an undercut through the only stop was unsuccessful.
Hamilton scythed through the midfield and had made it to fifth on lap 20 and after his stop on lap 44 emerged just over 10 seconds behind Raikkonen in third. Putting in some very quick laps to catch the Finn, he was with him for the final circuits but with his tyres just losing grip did not have quite enough to take the place.
Vettel had thoroughly deserved the win but Hamilton hurling himself at Interlagos was also a clear reminder of just why he was able to take his fourth title this year. Both made a distinct impression on an otherwise dead rubber.
On an afternoon defined by Vettel’s confident victory and overtaking from the back, Ricciardo was also fully committed to the latter and after his spin he came back to claim sixth with an impressive display, behind Verstappen in fifth. Williams Felipe Massa bowed out in seventh place from his final Brazilian Grand Prix to a huge reception from the home crowd and Fernando Alonso converted his best grid position since he rejoined McLaren of sixth, into eighth place. Force India’s Sergio Pérez was in ninth and Renault’s Nico Hülkenberg in tenth.
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