SAO PAULO, Brazil — Sebastian Vettel won Sunday’s Brazilian Grand Prix at Interlagos, dominating polesitter Valtteri Bottas from the start. World Champion Lewis Hamilton came up from the back of the field to finish fifth, leading several laps at the midpoint of the race.
“Yeah, it was tight, I think we all had more or less the same pace,” Vettel said. “It was difficult to leave the pack. I tried very hard.”
“The start, initially I had a very good launch and thought ‘I’ve got this’ then I was maybe a bit too greedy with the throttle, spinning up the wheel a little bit and losing a bit of the momentum on Valtteri but then I looked over and saw that he was still struggling and then I sort of gained a little bit again on the second phase, which was just enough to give me momentum to hang in there into the first corner. Yeah, I knew I had to go for it. There was a little bit of a gap, I went for that and yeah, obviously it turned out to be very important. Safety Car restart was tricky: I think the Safety Car switched off the lights very late and it was very difficult to then open a sufficient gap because it’s a long straight and the Safety Car is not very quick, so difficult to know how much time you need to give the Safety Car before you can go but that worked well because I think overall we had less straight-line speed than Mercedes this weekend and it was tough: always seeing him in the mirrors in the race and seeing that he was closing, especially in the first and last sector. So I really had to nail the middle sector every single time. At the end it was I think at the limit with the tires. Obviously, I tried to manage the gap but to be honest it was very much flat out all the time and I had to push to stay ahead and try and keep control with one or two or three seconds in the end.”
Kimi Raikkonen had a telemetry issue with his Ferrari, but it wouldn’t affect his ability to start the race. The day dawned sunny and bright as the cars rolled off. Hamilton would start from the pit lane after his crash during Saturday’s Q1.
Vettel was aggressive down into the Senna S to take the lead from Valtteri Bottas, while Daniel Ricciardo got pushed off on the exit of the turn, taking out Stoffel Vandoorne and Kevin Magnussen. Esteban Ocon and Romain Grosjean made contact at Turn seven, sending the Force India into the barriers and bringing out the safety car. The crash was Ocon’s first retirement in 27 races.
Cars streamed into the pits under the safety car as the mess cleaned up. The green came out on lap six, with Vettel gapping Bottas easily. Hamilton made his way through the field at a steady pace, getting up to 12th by the end of lap six, then was knocking on the door of the points by the end of lap seven.
Vettel led Bottas by 1.6 seconds, with Raikkonen a further nine-tenths back. Hamilton got into the points by lap eight, and by lap 13, he was eighth. He kept climbing through the field, getting Alonso for sixth by lap 21. Back up front, Vettel was leading, but Bottas was holding steady as the duo gapped Raikkonen and Max Verstappen.
Bottas pitted on lap 28, allowing Raikkonen by into second. Vettel pitted on the next lap, and just barely came out in the lead ahead of Bottas. Hamilton had the lead from Vettel and Bottas, thanks to not pitting yet.
Brendon Hartley retired his Toro Rosso on lap 42 with an undisclosed issue. Hamilton lost a full second on Vettel, but stayed out until lap 43, coming out in fifth, nine seconds behind Verstappen. The gap between Vettel and Hamilton was 18.3 seconds.
Hamilton set the fastest lap on lap 45, and pushed hard in his pursuit of Verstappen, and thus, Vettel. Vettel was three seconds ahead of Bottas, who was two seconds ahead of Raikkonen. Hamilton was closing in on Vettel at a pace of a second a lap, and the Englishman battled with Verstappen on lap 59 before getting by him on the run down to Turn four. Hamilton set his sights on Raikkonen next, and closed in on him.
Verstappen was pushing hard, breaking Juan Pablo Montoya’s 13-year-old lap record with a 1:11.044. Hamilton was still pushing hard to get Raikkonen, and closed right up on him, but locked up into the Senna S.
Stroll had a tire failure on lap 69, with his left-front Pirelli unraveling. Hamilton tried again, but couldn’t get by the Finn in the laps remaining, finishing fourth.
“I had a great time, I enjoyed the race very much,” Hamilton said. “I had so much pace today, it would have been an easy win this weekend. So on the one side I am disappointed that I put myself in the worst position for today.”
“But yesterday is behind me, today has been very positive, I had fun coming through – it felt like the go-karting days where I would always start in the back in my first year or two. My goal today was really to just try and redeem yesterday’s mistake, to make the team proud and get some points back. I was trying to get back to third, I just ran out of tires in the end. But I enjoyed the battle today and hopefully that continues to show to everyone that I still have a lot of fire in my heart and many, many more races to go.”
Despite Vettel protecting his tires, he held off Bottas for his 47th career victory and Ferrari’s first win at Interlagos since 2008. Daniel Ricciardo recovered from his first lap faux pas to finish sixth after a consistent race. While Fernando Alonso finished eighth for McLaren, Felipe Massa finished seventh in his final race before his home fans.
Massa said he enjoyed his race with Alonso and thanked everyone for all the support through the years.
“It’s such an amazing result and such an amazing feeling to pass through all of this in my career,” Massa said. “The race today was perfect, from beginning to end. An amazing start, overtaking a few cars, then an amazing restart after the safety car, passing Alonso.”
” I knew it would be very important to pass him for my race and result. After that, a perfect race. I managed to keep him behind, even without tires at the end. I’m so happy and emotional about my race today. I finish with my head held high, that’s the most important thing, in this place which is amazing for me. The only thing I can say is obrigado, I will miss all of you guys.”
1. Sebastian Vettel
2. Valtteri Bottas
3. Kimi Raikkonen
4. Lewis Hamilton
5. Max Verstappen
6. Daniel Ricciardo
7. Felipe Massa
8. Fernando Alonso
9. Sergio Perez
10. Nico Hulkenberg
11. Carlos Sainz
12. Pierre Gasly
13. Pascal Wehrlein
14. Marcus Ericsson
15. Romain Grosjean
16. Lance Stroll
17. Brendon Hartley
18. Esteban Ocon
19. Kevin Magnussen
20. Stoffel Vandoorne