Sebastian Vettel took his 47th career grand prix win in a tight Brazilian Grand Prix that saw him finish just 2.7s ahead of Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas. Ferrari team-mate Kimi Räikkönen took the final podium position after fending off Lewis Hamilton in the closing laps, the Briton having charged through the field after a pitlane start.
At the start, Vettel snatched the lead ahead of Bottas, with the German sneaking through on the inside past the Finn. Further back Haas’s Kevin Magnussen collided with McLaren’s Stoffel Vandoorne, who was in turn pitched into the side of Daniel Ricciardo’s Red Bull. The Dane and the Belgian were forced out of the race but the Australian was able to continue.
There was more drama to come. A few corners later, Haas’ Romain Grosjean tangled with Esteban Ocon, with the result that the Force India driver was forced to retire.
That brought out the safety, which remained on course until the end of lap five. When the action resumed Vettel held his lead ahead of Bottas with Kimi Räikkönen third in the second Ferrari and Red Bull’s Max Verstappen fourth.
Lewis Hamilton, though, was on a march and after starting from the pit lane due to repairs needed after qualifying crash, the Briton was already up to ninth place on lap 10. Ricciardo too was advancing and by the same tour he had made his way from 17th place to 14th, behind Lance Stroll. He was quickly dismissed, along with Sauber’s Marcus Ericson and by lap 12 the Australian was 12th.
Hamilton too was continuing to stride forward and on lap 14 he claimed the scalp of Force India’s Sergio Perez to take seventh place. That put him 15.2s behind race leader Vettel, who was two seconds clear of Bottas and a further two ahead of Räikkönen.
By lap 21 Hamilton had muscled his to way to fifth place, 10 seconds behind Verstappen and was continuing to gain ground as the Dutchman began to complain of rear tyres wear on his starting set of supersofts. At the front, Vettel was losing ground to Bottas, with the Finn now 1.7s seconds behind the German.
Bottas was the first of frontrunners to Pit on lap 27 for soft tyres and he was followed a lap later by Vettel who responded to the undercut attempt. Verstappen and Raikkonen too made their stop for tyres and on lap 31 Hamilton, who had yet to stop, was promoted to the race lead.
Three seconds behind him was Vettel, with the German now enjoying a 2.7s advantage over Bottas. Räikkönen held fourth ahead of the Red Bulls of Verstappen and Ricciardo, who had not yet pitted, Williams’ Felipe Massa and McLaren’s Fernando Alonso.
Hamilton and Ricciardo finally pitted to change their starting supersofts on lap 44, with both taking on supesoft tyres. Vettel was boosted back into the lead, 2.5s ahead of Bottas, with Räikkönen a further two seconds behind. Verstappen was now fourth, 4.1 behind Räikkönen and 7.3s ahead of Hamilton. Massa now found himself sixth ahead of Ricciardo and Alonso.
The question now was how far Hamilton would be able to advance and his race engineer offered a clue by telling the four-time champion that he was battling for a podium place. That meant he would need to pass Verstappen and find the 10s necessary to get him onto third-placed Räikkönen’s gearbox.
He swiftly began to close on Verstappen and by lap 55 he was just 3.0s in arrears to the Dutchman who was complaining that his tyres felt “like rocks”. By lap 59 the gap had been erased almost entirely and though the Red Bull driver defend well in the Senna S at the start of the lap, he couldn’t resist Hamilton’s pace and the Mercedes man swept past on the straight before Turn 4 to claim fourth place. He now targeted Räikkönen who was 4.8s ahead and with five laps remaining he closed to within DRS range of the Ferrari.
Räikkönen though was alive to the threat and he expertly kept Hamilton at bay over the closing laps. Ahead Vettel took his 47th career victory in relative comfort with Bottas second. Räikkönen took his 91st career podium finish ahead of the superb Hamilton, while Verstappen, in fourth, led home team-mate Daniel Ricciardo.
Felipe Massa ended his final Brazilian Grand Prix with an excellent run to seventh place, the hometown hero finishing ahead of Alonso and Perez. The final point on offer went to Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg.
2017 Brazilian Grand Prix – Race
1 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1’31:26.260
2 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 2.762
3 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 4.600
4 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 5.468
5 Max Verstappen Red Bull 32.940
6 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull 48.691
7 Felipe Massa Williams 68.882
8 Fernando Alonso McLaren 69.363
9 Sergio Perez Force India 69.500
10 Nico Hulkenberg Renault 1 lap
11 Carlos Sainz Renault 1 lap
12 Pierre Gasly Toro Rosso 1 lap
13 Marcus Ericsson Sauber 1 lap
14 Pascal Wehrlein Sauber 1 lap
15 Romain Grosjean Haas 2 laps
16 Lance Stroll Williams 2 laps
Brendon Hartley Toro Rosso
Esteban Ocon Force India
Kevin Magnussen Haas
Stoffel Vandoorne McLaren