Vettel ends win drought in Brazil, Hamilton stars with fightback

Sebastian Vettel charged to his fifth Formula 1 victory of the season in Sunday’s Brazilian Grand Prix after a dominant display at Interlagos as Mercedes rival Lewis Hamilton fought his way from the pit lane to fourth.

Vettel was able to seize the lead from Mercedes pole-sitter Valtteri Bottas off the line on the run down to Turn 1, and managed to retain his advantage through the opening stint of the race, only to come under pressure at the pit stop cycle.

Mercedes opted to bring Bottas in early in a bid to get the undercut on Vettel, switching the Finn’s tyres at the end of Lap 28, with Ferrari reacting one lap later. Vettel emerged from the pits with his lead that had been 1.5 seconds trimmed to just a few car lengths, but he was able to pull clear in the laps that followed.

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While Vettel looked in control at the front, Hamilton had brought himself into contention with a stunning fight from the back of the grid, having benefitted from an early safety car called following clashes that eliminated Stoffel Vandoorne, Kevin Magnussen and Esteban Ocon.

Hamilton made his reverse strategy work wonders to vault into the lead after the leaders had pitted, before ultimately making the switch to super-softs at the end of Lap 43. With 28 laps to go, Hamilton found himself just 18 seconds off the leader, albeit with four drivers to pass.

Hamilton made light work of Max Verstappen in P4 as the Red Bull driver struggled to keep his tyres alive, with the Mercedes racer quickly latching onto the back of Kimi Raikkonen in third place, sitting just five seconds off Vettel at the front.

Having worked his tyres hard, Hamilton was unable to pick off Raikkonen with the same ease he did Verstappen, toiling behind the Ferrari through the closing stages to allow Vettel and Bottas to escape up the road.

Vettel took the flag two seconds clear of Bottas for his fifth win of the year, while Raikkonen held on to P3 from Hamilton after a tight battle on the final lap as tyre fade denied the Mercedes driver a famous podium finish. Nevertheless, Hamilton won the Driver of the Day vote after charging from the pit lane to P4 with a number of classy overtakes on the way.

Red Bull’s tyre struggles forced Verstappen into a late pit stop, leaving the Dutchman to settle for P5 at the checkered flag. Teammate Daniel Ricciardo was able to fight back from a grid penalty that meant he started 14th to take sixth, having also made a second stop due to tyre concerns.

Felipe Massa‘s final F1 appearance on home soil saw him deliver one of his drives of the year, taking seventh for Williams after keeping Fernando Alonso and Sergio Perez at bay in a late battle. Massa received a special message from his son, Felipinho, over team radio on the cool-down lap, before being invited onto the podium to bid his home crowd farewell after 15 years in the sport.

With Alonso and Perez taking P8 and P9, Nico Hulkenberg completed the points for Renault in 10th, leading home teammate Carlos Sainz Jr. Pierre Gasly took 12th for Toro Rosso ahead of the Sauber duo of Marcus Ericsson, while in-race issues left Romain Grosjean and Lance Stroll 15th and 16th respectively.

Brendon Hartley’s wait for his first F1 points continued as he retired from the race due to an issue, with Esteban Ocon, Kevin Magnussen and Stoffel Vandoorne also failing to finish after being caught up in the incidents on the first lap.