Hamilton wins in Brazil after Verstappen gets spun out
Lewis Hamilton recorded a fortuitous victory to guarantee Mercedes the constructors title after Max Verstappen was spun out of victory contention by lapped traffic.
Hamilton was outmaneuvered by Verstappen, who jumped the Mercedes driver in the second stint thanks to a superior tire strategy — but the Dutchman was crashed into by Force India’s Esteban Ocon while holding a comfortable lead, gifting the victory back to the Briton.
“I’m just so proud of everyone,” Hamilton said, paying credit to his title-winning team. “These guys have worked so hard. The last six years have been an incredible journey.
“They really pulled together as a unit. I’ve told you how much of an honor it is to drive for them.”
Max Verstappen chased Hamilton hard, but he fell just 1.5 seconds short in his quest to correct his result. He was forced to finish a frustrated second.
“I don’t know what to say,” he fumed. “The car was working brilliantly today, the team gave me the right strategy, but yeah, I don’t know what to say.”
Kimi Raikkonen finished third, but he was made to work for it, defending against a relentless Daniel Ricciardo for the final 10 laps, denying the Australian his first podium place since May.
“It was good,” he said. “Not easy, but it was some battling, so it was fun.”
The race was a thriller, with the composition of the podium in doubt until the checkered flag.
Hamilton got the perfect start from pole, sprinting away from the pack while second-placed Sebastian Vettel struggled with his launch, opening the door for Valtteri Bottas to pass him around the outside of Turn 1.
Ferrari’s struggles only worsened from there. Verstappen, who before the race had claimed there was little chance of forward momentum for Red Bull Racing, was haranguing Kimi Raikkonen for fourth, relieving the Finn of the position on the third lap.
The Dutchman was in an aggressive mood, and on lap four he sliced down Vettel’s inside at turn one. The German then ceded fourth to Raikkonen after a lock-up into Turn 5.
Ricciardo, meanwhile, who started from 11th with a five-place penalty for a turbocharger change, took five laps to recover to sixth behind Vettel, whose soft-compound tires were taking time to come up to temperature sufficient to compete with the supersofts favored by Mercedes and Ferrari.
MORE FORMULA 1 ON RACER.COM
It took the red cars until Lap 10 to hit their straps, by which point Verstappen had stolen second place from Bottas, who was beginning to struggle particularly badly on his red-marked rubber. The 29-year-old Finn began bottling up the Ferrari pair and Ricciardo behind him.
Try as Raikkonen might, he found no way past his obstinate compatriot, who kept his rivals behind until the end of Lap 18, when he switched to a new set of medium tires for an ambitious 52-lap final stint.
Hamilton followed suit on the following lap, leaving Verstappen with the lead, and though the Briton set the fastest lap of the race shortly thereafter, the Dutchman was easily eking out a gap over the following Ferraris to keep Hamilton on the cusp of his pit window.
Red Bull Racing’s strong race pace was coming to the fore. Vettel and Raikkonen took their new medium tires on Laps 27 and 31 but neither Verstappen nor Ricciardo, who was now second, showed any need to stop, with both setting competitive lap times on their well-worn rubber.
Verstappen was eventually brought in at the end of Lap 35, and though he fell to 2.5 seconds behind Hamilton in net second place, he could take the soft tire rather than the slower medium. It took him just five laps to drive around Hamilton’s outside at Turn 1 with his superior grip, and by the end of the lap he was more than two seconds ahead.
That should’ve been the race won, but on Lap 44 Verstappen came unstuck in a tangle with Force India’s Esteban Ocon. The Frenchman was attempting to unlap himself into Turn 1, but Dutchman closed the door on him into Turn 2, causing both to spin.
Ocon was handed a 10-second stop-go penalty, but Verstappen slipped to second place and more than five seconds behind Hamilton, and with a damaged car set about chasing down the lead again. Meanwhile the scrap for the final place on the podium was coming alive, with Bottas still under pressure from Raikkonen and Vettel. Raikkonen got past Bottas on Lap 44, but Ricciardo, who stopped for new softs at the end of Lap 39, was threatening to scythe past all of them.
The Australian got past Vettel on Lap 46, but it took him until Lap 58 to cut past Bottas, by which point he had lost the best of his tires. He pressured Raikkonen for the final 10 laps but couldn’t find a way past and settled for fourth.
Bottas finished fifth ahead of Vettel, with Charles Leclerc taking the checkered flag as the best midfield driver for Sauber.
Haas teammates Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen finished eighth and ninth, while Sergio Perez collected the final point for Force India in 10th.
FOR MORE RACING NEWS AND ANALYSIS VISIT RACER.COM