Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel took his first race win since Hungary at the Brazilian Grand Prix, which saw a string of early crashes and a late surge from Lewis Hamilton, as Williams’ Felipe Massa bid farewell to his home crowd with a strong finish.
First lap incidents were rampant, with Red Bull’s Daniel Riccardo suffering an early spin in the Senna S turns after McLaren’s Stoffel Vandoorne made contact with Ricciardo’s right rear tyre. Haas’ Kevin Magnussen was involved in the tangle too, having been on the outside of Vandoorne at the time. The incident is set to be investigated after the race.
No sooner had the Safety Car been deployed when Romain Grosjean lost the rear going into Turn 7 and took Esteban Ocon off, damaging the Force India critically. Ocon attempted to nurse the car back to the pits but had to stop on track. Grosjean was later handed a ten second time penalty for the collision.
With the Safety Car leading the drivers through the pits to allow the marshals to clear debris, there were a flurry of tyre changes before the Safety Car came in on Lap 5 and normal racing resumed.
Having made a strong start and taking first from Valtteri Bottas going into Turn 1 during the first lap, Vettel was able to hold onto the lead while Bottas couldn’t quite make a move on the Ferrari driver.
Mercedes did attempt to undercut Vettel with Bottas, with the Finn pitting on Lap 28, but was only just unsuccessful after Vettel came in on Lap 29. A smooth stop from the Ferrari pit crew ensured Vettel came out ahead with both drivers stuck behind race leader Lewis Hamilton, who had yet to pit after starting the race on soft tyres.
The freshly crowned World Champion, who had started the race from pit lane, came into the pits for super softs on Lap 44 and was able to stage a late surge until the end of the race, overtaking Max Verstappen on Lap 59 but third-placed Raikkonen managed to keep him behind. Hamilton ended the race in fourth position.
Verstappen had been struggling with his tyres and with teammate Daniel Ricciardo a fair way off, had a free pit stop at the end of the race to finish on fresh tyres. Ricciardo, who pitted onto the soft tyres after his first lap contact, managed to make up plenty of places with his signature lunge making an appearance more than once going into Turn 1. Verstappen finished in fifth while Ricciardo ended up sixth.
Down the field, much of Felipe Massa’s seemingly final Brazilian Grand Prix was spent tangling with his former Ferrari teammate Fernando Alonso. Despite nearly losing his position on the final lap, he came home to finish in seventh place and was given the opportunity to share an emotional farewell with his home crowd along with his son and fellow Brazilian racer Rubens Barrichello on the podium.
Toro Rosso had a largely forgettable day with Brendon Hartley retiring on Lap 42 with oil consumption issues and Pierre Gasly finishing in twelfth while Renault claimed a single point in tenth with Hulkenberg and Sainz close behind in eleventh. The implications of this in their battle for sixth place in the constructors’ championship will be interesting to see, given Renault are now just four points behind Toro Rosso.
Sauber meanwhile claimed thirteenth and fourteenth with Ericsson and Wehrlein respectively, while Haas struggled, with Grosjean finishing in fifteenth place and Magnussen retiring after the first-lap contact with Vandoorne. Sergio Perez took two points for Force India in ninth after Ocon’s retirement while Williams gained six points from Felipe Massa in seventh. Lance Stroll finished at the back of the pack in sixteenth.
Vettel was ultimately able to fend off the looming Mercedes drivers and take the win, while Bottas finished second and Raikkonen rounded out the podium positions in third. A trio of drivers we’re all used to seeing up there this season.
Though Mercedes and Lewis Hamilton may have already wrapped up both Championships for the year, we can hopefully look forward to an exciting conclusion to the 2017 season in Abu Dhabi.