Vettel puts Ferrari back on top as Mercedes slip up

2017 Brazilian Grand Prix review

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Mercedes haven’t won four consecutive championships by giving victories away. But this, their seventh defeat of 2017, was undoubtedly a win which got away from them.

Even in the scorching heat of Interlagos, where track temperatures hit 60C at the start of the race, the W08 was quick enough to win. But errors by both its drivers let Sebastian Vettel in to claim his first victory since the summer break.

Lewis Hamilton had taken himself out of realistic contention for victory by crashing in qualifying. But there were times in the race when the new world champion looked capable of fighting for the top spot despite his pit lane start.

Meanwhile team mate Valtteri Bottas lost his advantage from pole position within moments of the start.

Bottas loses out

Bottas gave Vettel room
The last time Bottas started from pole position, in Austria, Vettel was also alongside him. And the Ferrari driver was stunned by how quickly the Mercedes driver reacted to the start.

This time the two cars pulled away as if they were connected to each other. But as the acceleration kicked in the Ferrari began to gain ground, Bottas not finding as good traction.

Vettel might have been discouraged from trying a move had Bottas been as aggressive as, say, Vettel was in Singapore. But Bottas was more conservative and Vettel claimed space for himself on the inside of turn one, securing the lead of the race. That proved pivotal. As they accelerated out of turn two Bottas again didn’t quite have the grip to stay with the Ferrari.

“I think we lost the race in the first corner,” Bottas admitted afterwards. “When I dropped the clutch at the start initially, there was less grip than I expected, so I broke the traction and got some wheelspin.”

Within a few moments Bottas had to call off his pursuit of Vettel. Two separate accidents had left three cars stranded on the side of the track.

At turn two Kevin Magnussen had squeezed Stoffel Vandoorne into Daniel Ricciardo. The Red Bull driver spun around but it was the other two who sustained race-ending damage. All three were cleared of responsibility.

At the same moment the Safety Car was deployed Esteban Ocon and Romain Grosjean were disputing the apex of Ferradura. The Haas driver had the inside line but skidded wide – the result, he later claimed, of a tyre deflating due to contact at the first corner. He took the Force India off with him and left Ocon with a puncture which prevented him from returning to the pits, ending his career-long streak of race finishes. Grosjean continued but was given a ten-second penalty.

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Hamilton flies through the field

The field trundled through the pits while the turn two debris was cleared away. Ricciardo and the Sauber pair took the opportunity to fit fresh tyres while Hamilton counted his blessings: Not only was he up to 14th place already but the Safety Car had slashed his deficit to the leading cars. When the race restarted on lap five he was just 4.7 seconds – and 13 cars – behind Vettel.

Bottas was unable to do anything about Vettel at the restart. However the Ferrari driver didn’t have the pace to pull much more than two-and-a-half seconds clear of the Williams.

Meanwhile Hamilton was making rapid gains through the field. He passed Brendon Hartley, Lance Stroll, Marcus Ericsson, Pierre Gasly, Carlos Sainz Jnr and Nico Hulkenberg with ease. Sergio Perez put up token resistance, but Hamilton was never going to face any realistic opposition until he caught the much quicker cars.

Behind him Ricciardo, who had fallen to last behind the Safety Car, made similarly rapid progress. Both drivers were running the soft tyre for this stint – Ricciardo having fitted new ones at the end of lap one – so they would inevitably have to stay out later than those who had started the race on the super-softs.

On lap 22 Hamilton hit free air and reeled off a 1’13.485 – the fastest lap of the race so far. From lap 24 he was consistently the quickest driver on the track until the front runners made their pit stops. Perhaps he had a chance?

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Vettel keeps Bottas back

Bottas was the first of those at the front to pit, heading in for a new set of softs on lap 28. From entry to exit he had the fourth-quickest pit stop of the race, and having been so close to Vettel before he came in Ferrari had to react.

They did, beautifully. Vettel later admitted he hadn’t stopped on his marks well on recent visits to the pits but this time he nailed it. It wasn’t the quickest pit stop but he gained three-tenths on Bottas, and those proved critical as he rounded the inside of turn three and merged back on-track just in front of his rival.

Vettel had contained Bottas, but what about Hamilton, who was still yet to stop and now led by three-and-a-half seconds? Vettel bided his time: Bottas was not pressing him hard from behind and Hamilton was only losing a tenth here and there to his pursuers.

For Hamilton and Ricciardo, Mercedes and Red Bull alike were wary of fitting the super-softs too soon. The pair came in together on lap 43 for their sole stop and both set their fastest laps of the race soon after resuming. But Hamilton, unlike Ricciardo, was able to keep running at or near his peak pace, slicing well over a second a lap out of the cars in front of him.

He caught and passed Verstappen with dismaying ease: Not because the Red Bull driver didn’t put up a fight, but because the combined might of Mercedes’ power unit and the advantage of DRS made it futile. Soon afterwards Verstappen lobbied Red Bull to let him put super-softs back on so he could have some fun. He did, breaking the lap record, while Hamilton pressed on in pursuit of Raikkonen.

This finally proved too great a match for Hamilton. By the time he was on the Ferrari’s tail Hamilton’s tyres were 22 laps old. A lock-up at turn one signalled their useful life was nearly over, and he had to settle for the last place off the podium. Had he breezed past Raikkonen then, assuming Bottas would have stood aside, he might have got within DRS range of Vettel on the final lap, but this never looked like a realistic scenario.

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Massa takes his final bow at home

A more fraught battle was being contested over seventh place. Felipe Massa had breezed past Alonso at the restart, Honda power no match for Mercedes, then kept him behind for the rest of the race.

Alonso knew that getting close enough to Massa to use DRS was the best chance he had to stay in front of the fast-closing Sergio Perez, who he’d elbowed aside on lap one. Alonso was hugely quicker than the Williams in the corners but couldn’t hang on down the straights, so the trio crossed the finishing line covered by seven-tenths of a second.

“Being the last lap of Felipe’s last-ever F1 race in Brazil, I wasn’t sure how hard he would defend,” Alonso admitted later. “I think one more lap and I could probably have got both of them,” reckoned Perez.

Nico Hulkenberg collected the final point ahead of Sainz, both Renaults a lap in arrears. Gasly was the only Toro Rosso driver running at the finish in 12th after Hartley suffered yet more power unit-related woes. “We knew that there was a problem early on in the race, as I had to start transferring oil,” he said. “I didn’t want to ask, but I had the feeling that we were not going to get to the end and we didn’t.”

Pascal Wehrlein did his best to complete virtually the entire race on one set of softs after his first lap pit stop, but fell behind his team mate with three laps to go. The luckless Stroll dropped to last after a tyre delamination.

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Vettel back on top

Vettel’s fifth victory of the year brought some cheer to Ferrari who had seen their championship hopes shattered in the races since the summer break. No driver has beaten a Mercedes rival in the championship since the V6 hybrid turbo era began but Vettel is likely to become the first unless Bottas has a lucky weekend in Abu Dhabi.

Although the cards fell favourably for Hamilton in the race, Bottas will surely be dismayed at seeing his team mate finish just 2.7 seconds behind him after starting from the pit lane. Between them both Mercedes drivers squandered chances to win this grand prix, but Hamilton certainly delivered on race day.

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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59 comments on “Vettel puts Ferrari back on top as Mercedes slip up”

  1. Maybe, counterintuitively for some, this result just shows how much Lewis Hamilton makes. Bottas, a decent fast driver, is not able to beat Vettel. Lewis gets the job done for Mercedes. The contract negotiations will be interesting.

    1. correction: how much difference Lewis makes

      1. Funny nobody, not even pundits and reporters, even considers how much difference is Vettel making? If ferrari had the best car Kimi would be regularly in front of Bottas. They don’t and Kimi isn’t.
        Vettel just won a race in the clear third best car, albeit against a clear number 2 driver.

        1. clear third best car


          1. I assume he meant 3rd best as in there were 2 Mercedes? Can’t see why he would say the Red Bull was better.

          2. @hugh11

            Why would any Vettel fan say Ferrari were better than Red Bull? Clearly it’s Vettel’s talent that even got Ferrari a shot at the title this year.

        2. @davidnotcoulthard @hugh11 @todfod

          3rd best car is exacty that. Mercedes, Mercedes, Ferrari, Ferrari. (Unless Merc are giving Bottas a ‘B’ grade car)

          Clearly vettel is extracting more from his car than 3, maybe 4 drivers around him, yet whenever he gets a good result people only talk about Ferrari. The opposite is true with Hamilton when he is talked about above the car. They are both doing what the other would be doing in the other car, as Alonso also did. It’s blinkered to suggest Hamilton is the best performer out there because he’s picking up the prize money.

          I’m not a vettel fan. I don’t like the way he seems to be influenced by his days admiring Schumacher, which cost him last month. Seems a nice enough lad off the circuit though.

    2. @svianna Yes. I’m sure, 2nd half of the season Lewis is a step above Bottas that said we must take in consideration the fact the safety car and the retirements meant Lewis had to make up a lot less time than in a normal race, not to mention that his situation was far better than in what he had to do in Mexico, with a damaged car and a lot more time to make up. Lewis made up 10 to 15 seconds, which is a lot considering how close the cars had been in practice, that said to gain 10-15 seconds on 50 or so laps of fresh air you just need .2 to .3 per lap gain, on a short lap that’s a lot but Lewis was at a point gaining .5 on s3 on Vettel so he’s PU was doing just fine, a new pu can easily be worth .2
      I wonder if next season with just 3 Pu’s if any team or teams will take penalties so they might sacrifice that PU and a grid slot in order to carve up the field and win.

    3. I agree that Hamilton is a level above Bottas but as for yesterday neither of them got the job done of passing the Ferrari ahead. Bottas weren’t able to overtake Vettel just as much as Hamilton weren’t able to pass Raikönnen because those four cars were pretty equal with slight advantage to Ferrari even. Hamilton were only able to pass the slower cars easily.

      1. Mercedes number 2 driver (with two wins to his name) put it on pole 1.5 tenths ahead of Ferrari’s number 1 driver, a four times world champion. Mercedes car dominate practice as well.
        Conclusion: Ferrari is a better car.

        1. Mercedes 12 poles. Ferrari 4 poles.
          Conclusion: Ferrari is the faster car.

          Vettel recovers from last to fourth in Malaysia.
          Conclusion: How strange he collided with Stroll after the race.

          Vettel comes second in the championship.
          Conclusion: Hamilton and Alonso would have won it if they were driving his Ferrari.

    4. Michael Brown (@)
      13th November 2017, 20:22

      Bottas spent almost all of the race in Vettel’s dirty air. Hamilton had clear air most of the time. More importantly, which people seem to ignore, is that Hamilton had a new engine that only had to do two races.

  2. But this, their seventh defeat of 2017, was undoubtedly a win which got away from them.

    Wasn’t this their eighth defeat of the season @keithcollantine ?
    (VET – 5 VER – 2 RIC -1)

    1. Agreed. 9 wins for Hamilton, 2 for Bottas = 11/19.

  3. Why would Bottas stand aside? He needs the points more, for 2nd

    1. for 2nd

      I don’t see how letting they guy you’re chasing for 2nd past (though not that kind of letting past) would be a good idea.

      1. Even doing a ‘VettelSingapore’ would be better option ;)

        1. I might have missed something in the Sky commentary as I was crunched for time getting the race in and so I did a small amount of fast forwarding on occasion. I was surprised there wasn’t more talk during the race about the scenario of LH potentially going for the win, which they did hit on of course, several times, but didn’t talk much about how that would affect VB. I suppose it was presumed that we understood that if LH took the win off SV, then that would help VB by forcing SV into taking less points for the day.

          But I was surprised they didn’t talk about scenarios surrounding that, and rather only talked about whether LH could win. I envision that had LH gotten past Kimi, presumably VB would have let LH go to go after SV. But what if LH couldn’t pass SV? Would that not have meant he would have backed off and handed the spot back to VB, like happened earlier this year?

          LH obviously didn’t need the win, but VB ideally needed to outpoint SV or at least minimize the damage. VB pretty much has to win the last race with SV a dnf in order for VB to take second place in the driver’s standings. I was just surprised that wasn’t more of the conversation, because I also would have been surprised if LH had been allowed past VB to go after SV, without some conversation about what they’d do if LH couldn’t pass SV. Surely they wouldn’t have left VB in third?

  4. A question of ignorance: Hartley referred to a need to “transfer oil” before he retired. What does that mean?

    1. I believe the regulations require most (if not all) systems on the car be under the driver control – under guidance from the pit wall, they can move spare oil out of the auxiliary tank(s) to compensate for oil loss or burn using the on-board controls.

  5. Hamilton’s coming through the field is not in the least impressive with the aid of DRS and being on the fortunate side of the biggest engine disparity the sport has seen in decades.

    1. fortunate side of the biggest engine disparity the sport has seen in decades.

      you mean coming-through-the-field drives of those decades are even further from Impressive?

    2. While all his moves were DRS+Mercedes, so he never even had to really outbrake anyone as he was ahead even before the corner, he still had amazing pace. Sure, not as impressive as others (looking at you, Button at Canada 2011), but still impressive.

      1. While all his moves were DRS+Mercedes

        Not true. He overtook one of the toro rossos on the brakes into the corner he crashed at the day before, which must have been particularly nerve wracking.

  6. After Mercedes wrapping up both championships this year, I find it hard to believe they really give a damn about the next races. There isn’t incentive to push as hard and that undermines the “show” element in my view.
    Good to see Vettel bringing Ferrari back up top. But it feels hollow after the championships are already done and dusted.

    1. The Championship is just a math exercise (a random number of points distributed over a random number of drivers in a random number of races). With that all settled, no one has anything to lose and all that counts is the win. In essence that’s what’s racing all about, it’s surely not about adding some random points scorings. These last two races should be the most interesting and highest valued of the season.

    2. It kinda equals out Vettel’s mistake in Singapore, where Mercedes won while Ferrari should have won.

      1. @paeschli I think you’d mean Malaysia where Red Bull won, Hamilton got second and Vettel had to come from the back. Vettel did nothing wrong in Singapore, he simply defended what any other pole sitter in history has done after a mediocre start.

        1. @flatsix I don’t think he would have acted quite the same way with Bottas next to him. He covered too much and Raikkonen and Vettel obviously didn’t talk about what they were gonna do at the start, which shows a lack of preparation.

          1. @paeschli Yes, I quite believe Kimi didn’t say he was going to have a lighting start in the pre-race briefing,…

            I’m also not really into reading Sky as they are one of the most one sided news reporters I have come across, ever. Verstappen is good, and it’s only logical Vettel and Hamilton keep an eye on him.

            That being said, Bottas for example did the exact same thing in Brazil, it is what you do after a mediocre start,…

  7. Bottas was unable to do anything about Vettel at the restart. However the Ferrari driver didn’t have the pace to pull much more than two-and-a-half seconds clear of the Williams.

    Ferrari really have lost their edge then.

  8. Their is a small mistake in the article, it seems to suggest Bottas is still driving for Williams:

    Bottas was unable to do anything about Vettel at the restart. However the Ferrari driver didn’t have the pace to pull much more than two-and-a-half seconds clear of the Williams.

    1. …or even There is….

      1. Michael Brown (@)
        13th November 2017, 20:02

        @aliced Good job, Nico

  9. Ben Rowe (@thegianthogweed)
    13th November 2017, 10:15

    I think Hamilton did gain a little advantage at the start to be honest. After the first few corners, you could see him in the distance behind the car in 19th driving in the pitlane. Then he got past, Magnussen, Ricciardo, Grosjean, Vandoorne and Ocon because they all got involved in incidents and went off track. And then the safety car came out. He indeed did have a very good recovery after this, but if it wasn’t for all this at the start, he’s have had to do several more tricky overtakes which will have cost him time. He’ll still have been 4th, but I don’t think he’ll have quite got to challenge the Ferrari of Kimi. Nothing negative about his race, but I just think he was helped out a little. The team also managed to jump Wehrlein in the pit stop due to the safety car. So his race basically began from 14th position. So it basically was nowhere near as difficult as starting from the pitlane without retirements on the first lap to help with a safety car included too. One reason why I think Hamilton has been just a little over rated this race.

    1. @thegianthogweed You really like to stretch things as far as you can huh?

      Why only for Hamilton though?

    2. Ben Rowe (@thegianthogweed)
      13th November 2017, 14:58

      Well there are discussions on other forums that some say Hamilton’s race basically began from 14th. and I don’t see how anyone can disagree really.

      Bottas did have luck in Baku, OK, if you want me to criticize Bottas a bit… but he wasn’t totally responsible for that incident. Whereas Hamilton was fully responsible for having to do a recovery drive this weekend, and he did get a little lucky with it. Bottas got a lot more lucky with his recovery drive in Baku, but according to the stewards, Bottas was no more at fault than Kimi and at the time that incident happened, Bottas was the one who suffered a lot more.

      One reason why I’m trying to stick up for Bottas and partially doing the opposite towards Hamilton this weekend is because many are saying Bottas has done an awful job and Hamilton has been incredible. What was the end result? Bottas finished 2nd, Hamilton finished 4th. Bottas got 18 points – Hamilton got 12. Bottas on the whole simply did better this weekend, so I don’t know why there is so much criticism towards Bottas and the opposite towards Hamilton. His recovery drive was good, but he finished lower than Bottas and only had to do that drive because of a big mistake.

      1. It’s ok man if that’s what you need to feel better then so be it.

        I’m not criticizing Bottas. I think he did all he could. Start he lost out a little and even though he was still ahead a little the issue was that he had the outside line. All he could do then was try the undercut which almost worked.

        Of course his pace looked rather underwhelming compared to Hamilton. Especially when Bottas was told to close the gap to Vettel and couldn’t.

        1. Ben Rowe (@thegianthogweed)
          13th November 2017, 19:25

          But did you notice that when Hamilton got close to Kimi, he just couldn’t get past? It seems that Mercedes suffer much more when traveling behind cars with similar pace. But yes, Bottas couldn’t get withing DRS range of Vettel, but he definitely wasn’t a lot slower than Vettel and it was his own fault he got there.

      2. I can disagree as the race starts on lap 1. Hamilton was on the pit lane when the lights went out. So how on earth did he start 14th. It’s impossible. End of.

        1. Ben Rowe (@thegianthogweed)
          13th November 2017, 19:29

          My main point was that he got 6 free passes without even having to attempt an overtake. 3 of them were through the pit exit, 2 were off the track and the next one had a bad pit stop so Hamilton jumped him at the start of lap 2. Since the safety car was deployed after basically 2 corners and he was in 14th when the race was on again, that basically is where the race restarted and they all started racing. Hamilton didn’t actually do any typical overtakes before this. That was my point.

  10. ‘Bottas was more conservative’… Never a truer word. I#m sure he is a nice guy and his mother loves him but he’s not who I’d pay to watch. Danny Ric yes yes yes.

    You want to improve the show Liberty, well get some drivers who are happy to throw the cars into a corner. I even like watching Stroll overdrive the car. He is feast or famine with his drives but at least it looks exciting.

    The Mercedes isn’t helpful I admit, flat track bully it is but Bottas seemed content to trundle round and pick up some points. A shame and a waste of a good seat.

  11. Bottas wasn’t conservative, Bottas was essentially non-existent.
    Conservative would be if he tried to cover the inside, but not too aggressively. But the way it was, Bottas didn’t even factor in the battle for the first corner, or more accurately, there was no battle for the first corner, even though Bottas had plenty of time to cover the inside.
    Absolutely pathetic drive.

    1. He has no race craft to defend. Rosberg is increasings showing how good he was. He might have one this season again vs. Hamilton?!

      1. *increasingly

      2. He never won a season against Hamilton

      3. Without clutch issues and reliability I don’t see how Rosberg would win this season. Least we forget, Rosberg was quite average in traffic. Then there is his form in the rain… If you want to see how much of an outlier Rosberg beating Hamilton in 2016 was, have a look at his head to head with Hamilton as team mates since their karting days.

        It’s almost comical how when some people review Ham v Rosberg they only talk about 2016. What about 2013-2015? 3 years of consecutive defeats?

    2. first few corners are not Bottas’s strong suite.

  12. Ben Rowe (@thegianthogweed)
    13th November 2017, 12:28

    This statements are just harsh towards Bottas.

    Bottas was essentially non-existent

    Absolutely pathetic drive.
    And then people complained in Spain and Baku when he tried to defend his position…
    He maybe didn’t want to risk doing what Vettel did in Singapore. Being cautious sometimes is a good thing. In this case he did try to defend, but could have done a little bit earlier. He did at leased try to do something, but didn’t take a big risk which kept him out of trouble.

    Why just why are so many against Bottas? He got the 2nd best result possible and was only 2 and a half seconds off the leader. That is hardly a bad job is it? Why are you all not against Hamilton for binning it in qualifying and ending up 2 places behind Bottas due to a mistake of his own. Bottas got pole, and did lose it on the first corner, but kept up with Vettel the whole race. He had a very solid weekend and better than his team mates, just not spectacular.

    1. Ben Rowe (@thegianthogweed)
      13th November 2017, 12:29

      Sorry the 2nd line was meant to be a quote not bold.

    2. Because its racing dude, not book keeping.

      1. Bottas and Kimi should leave top teams, they are not top material. But em both in Haas..

        1. Ben Rowe (@thegianthogweed)
          13th November 2017, 13:43

          Bottas has so far got about 81% of the amount of points Hamilton has got. Is that bad for who is considered to be a number 2 driver in his first year with the team against who many consider to be the best ever in his 5th year with the team? Surely not….

          Bottas has also scored basically 45% of the teams points this year so only roughly 10% less than Hamilton.

    3. Ah, you stretch in the opposite direction for Bottas. Makes sense.

      1. Ben Rowe (@thegianthogweed)
        13th November 2017, 14:48

        What do you mean?

        1. Ben Rowe (@thegianthogweed)
          13th November 2017, 14:58

          Think I’ve worked it out now.

  13. Using my hindsight-vision, it appears that Bottas may have won comfortably had he switched to a two-stop, such was the raw pace of the Mercedes in clean air. We saw how Hamilton ran down the Ferraris with new super softs like they were chained to a post. Of course, the safer bet—accounting for this raw pace advantage—was to try the undercut. I have a feeling that a driver with a touch more raw pace and determination could have eeked out another .5s to make that work, but Mercedes races with the drivers they have. The added benefit of an early stop, especially at a track known for SCs, is that it would have forced one or both Ferraris to cover, opening things up strategy wise for Hamilton as well. As it was, I think Mercedes panicked when Hamilton lost some time to Vettel in traffic and brought him in too early. He was holding his own to Vettel more or less. A two-stop may have suited Hamilton as well, given his full stock of tires. But the “mirroring” strategy for coming from the back is tried and true and two-stopping was an even harder sell form that view, especially after it became clear he would assuming the lead with strong pace on a one-stop.

    1. People seem to forget that Bottas showed the truer pace of the Merc. Yes, Hamilton would most certainly be a bit faster, but you can’t take his pace in the race compared to Bottas. He had a brand new engine which is only intended to last two races so they used much higher engine modes while the rest of the front runners ran down turned engines to end off the year. Hamilton did do a good job and he could have won had they started at the front but his race wouldn’t have been nearly as impressive.

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