Brazilian GP - Sunday - Race Report

Spinning wheels: The keys to Vettel's victory

Start, Brazilian GP 2017

Start, Brazilian GP 2017 

 © RV Press

 

By Dan Knutson in Interlagos

Valtteri Bottas edged ahead of Sebastian Vettel in qualifying to earn the pole for the Brazilian Grand Prix. But Vettel edged ahead at the start of the 71-lap race and then had to work hard to keep things under control on his way to win for the fifth time this season. Here are the keys to his victory and the rest of the race.

OUT OF THE PICTURE

Lewis Hamilton has almost always been a factor at the front of the races this year, but he was out of the picture for the win after he spun and crashed his Mercedes early in qualifying and had to start the race from the pitlane and in last place.

SPINNING WHEELS

Bottas and Vettel both got wheelspin at the start.

"Initially I had a very good getaway," Vettel said, "and then I had a bit of wheelspin, so I thought: 'Ah, I missed my chance.' But I think Valtteri was struggling even more off the line, so I really had a chance to squeeze down the inside. I think I surprised him a bit, which obviously was crucial."

STARTING LOSS

"We lost it in the race start," Bottas said. "The issue was just initial wheelspin. As soon as I started to release the clutch it just broke the traction and it was wheelspin and that's why I had a poor getaway. I was trying to cover the inside but honestly looking at the mirror I could only see Kimi (Raikkonen) behind. So, didn't see Seb anywhere. I was kind-of guessing that he could be shooting from the inside and so he did. There was nothing to do; he got a better start."

MEGA MESS

The leaders made it safely through the first turns but things got messy further back as Kevin Magnussen (Haas), Stoffel Vandoorne (McLaren) and Daniel Ricciardo (Red Bull) got snarled up. Only Ricciardo continued albeit now in last place.

ALL GOOD THINGS

Shortly thereafter Romain Grosjean (Haas) misjudged his pass on Esteban Ocon (Force India) and knocked him out of the race. It was Ocon's first DNF in his 28-race F1 career. All good things come to an end.

THE LEWIS BENEFIT

Hamilton avoided the mess because he had started from the pits. He was therefore already up to 14th place after just two laps.

PICKED OFF

Hamilton and Ricciardo picked off car after car as they moved up through the pack.

TO THE FRONT

Hamilton would eventually lead from lap 30 to 42 before making his pit stop. But starting so far back ruined Hamilton's shot to win and he wound up fourth just behind Kimi Raikkonen's Ferrari.

"I had a great time," Hamilton said. "I enjoyed the race very much. 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."

TRICKY BALANCE

In third place, Raikkonen wasn't too worried about holding off Hamilton, but equally he could not challenge Bottas and Vettel.

"I had a little bit tricky balance on the first set (of tires)," Raikkonen said. "It improved at the end of the first run. The second set was very good, the car handled very well and I could catch up with the guys, but it's impossible to get past here if you have this close the speed of a few cars. Yeah, he (Hamilton) got close to me, but I wasn't too worried. I had a pretty good run out of the last corner, so it was okay."

FLAT OUT STALEMATE

Out front, Vettel and Bottas were both going flat out and so a high-speed stalemate developed.

"After that it was very, very close with the Ferraris," Bottas said. "I was trying to put pressure on Sebastian but it didn't lead to anything more."

LEADER OF THE PACK

"It was tight," Vettel said. "I think we all had more or less the same pace. It was difficult to leave the pack. I tried very hard. Obviously, I tried to manage the gap. 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."

SLOW BULLS

Red Bull was fast enough to win the race in Mexico. But neither Max Verstappen, the winner of that race, nor teammate Ricciardo had a car to challenge Mercedes and Ferrari in Brazil. They finished fifth and sixth.

"It was definitely the best position we could do today," Verstappen said. "We just lost out a lot on the straights, as you could see when Lewis passed me. We have no chance on this track. It's really hard."

THE OTHER WINNER

Hometown hero Felipe Massa battled to seventh place in his last Brazilian Grand Prix.

"I'm really emotional today," Massa said as he came up on the podium, "because of all you guys (the fans). So thank you very much for everything that we passed together. For all the support, for all the energy that I felt today here, for making the best race I could, and to be honest I'm so happy for my race. I did the best of the car, what the car could achieve. It feels like a win."

"I finish with my head held high, that's the most important thing, in this place which is amazing for me," he added. "The only thing I can say is obrigado, I will miss all of you guys."


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