Ferrari driver ends winless run and builds confidence ahead of season-finale in Abu Dhabi
Sebastian Vettel wins Brazilian Grand Prix to create much-needed momentum for 2018
Sebastian Vettel has spoken over the past two weeks since Lewis Hamilton clinched the Formula One drivers’ championship in Mexico that it was important that Ferrari finished the season with some positive momentum to prepare for 2018.
Part 1 of that objective was completed on Sunday as he won the Brazilian Grand Prix in Sao Paulo ahead of the Mercedes-GP car of Valtteri Bottas and teammate Kimi Raikkonen as world champion Lewis Hamilton came through from the back of the grid after a crash in qualifying to finish fourth.
Vettel’s next objective will be go into the winter with the last word on the 2017 season at the final race of the year, the Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, on November 26 at Yas Marina Circuit.
Vettel’s 47th victory of his career was his first since Hungary in July and ended a miserable run of seven winless races, which ultimately ended his hopes of a fifth world title.
Leaving Hungary he had led the championship by 14 points, but a string of mechanical failures and driver errors cost him dear as Hamilton won the championship with two races to spare last month.
Vettel had missed out on pole position to Bottas on Saturday, but that did not prove too consequential as the Ferrari got away better at the start and took the lead into Turn 1 at the Interlagos track.
Although he was never more than three seconds ahead of the Finn throughout the race, he was rarely threatened as he controlled things to triumph for a third time in Brazil and his fifth win of the season.
Vettel said in his interview on the podium: "Really happy, especially for all the guys in the team back in Maranello. It's been very tough but it's great to have both cars up here."
Of his fast start, he added: "It was initially a great start. I had a very good getaway but then I had some wheelspin. I think I surprised Valtteri a bit so that was very crucial.”
While Vettel was out in front, much of the attention was on Hamilton, who effectively wrecked his hopes of winning the event on Saturday when he crashed on his first lap out of the pits in qualifying.
The Briton had previous for driving through from the back of the field in Brazil after finishing fourth in 2009 while driving for McLaren after he had started 17th.
He had been optimistic of achieving something similar and he was proven right.
He was quickly up to 14th following collisions at the start as the safety car was brought out following contact between the Force India of Esteban Ocon and the Haas of Romain Grosjean that eliminated the former from the race.
Using the speed of his Mercedes and its strong horsepower, Hamilton picked off cars on either the start-finish straight, or on the short straight leading down to Turn 4 once racing resumed.
He was quickly up to fifth place, and even led during the pit stops.
He was able to pass the Red Bull Racing car of Max Verstappen for fourth in the closing stages at Turn 4, but missed out on the podium by 0.8 seconds as Raikkonen held him off.
Sunday’s race, if anything, was a reminder of how dominant the top three teams in F1 are.
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Hamilton started from the pitlane and Daniel Ricciardo’s Red Bull car was spun around to the rear of the field at the start after contact with the McLaren of Stoffel Vandoorne.
Yet both were in the top six by Lap 50 of the 71-lap event as they made respective charges through the fields to get past the midfield runners.
Ricciardo particularly was helped by the safety car period allowing him to make up the ground lost by his spin after the coming together with Vandoorne.
There was home delight as Brazilian driver Felipe Massa in his final home race before he retires from the sport at the end of the season was seventh in his Williams.
He held off a late challenge from the McLaren of Fernando Alonso in the latter stages, with Force India’s Sergio Perez in ninth and Nico Hulkenberg’s Renault in 10th completing the scoring positions.
All eyes now switch to Yas Marina Circuit with Vettel hoping for more of the same, while Hamilton looks to reassert his dominance in the second half of the season.