Vettel wins Brazilian GP; Massa bids adieu to local fans

AP
Vettel overtook Bottas on the first turn and essentially held the lead the entire way for his 47th career victory, his fifth this season, and his third in Brazil.
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Reuters

Ferrari's Formula One driver Sebastian Vettel of Germany celebrates after winning the Brazilian Grand Prix at the Interlagos circuit in Sao Paulo, Brazil, on November 12, 2017.

It was all about who got the best start at Sunday's Brazilian Grand Prix.

Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel had it, starting from the second spot on the grid. Pole sitter Valtteri Bottas didn't, and it probably cost the Mercedes driver the race.

Vettel overtook Bottas on the first turn and essentially held the lead the entire way for his 47th career victory, his fifth this season, and his third in Brazil.

The victory solidified Vettel's hold on second place in the season standings after Lewis Hamilton clinched the title two weeks ago in Mexico City.

"I thought I had a pretty good launch," said Vettel, who slipped by Bottas on the first turn — a left-hander heading down a slight grade at the rolling Interlagos circuit.

"I knew I had to go for it. There was a little bit of a gap and it turned out to be very important."

Hamilton started last after crashing in qualifying on the first lap, but managed to push his way into contention, staying out longer before pitting while the other leaders changed tires earlier because they were running on softer compounds.

Bottas finished second with Kimi Raikkonen of Ferrari taking third. Hamilton was fourth, just 5.4 seconds behind Vettel.

Hamilton closed relentlessly, and Vettel was asked if he was ever worried about the Englishman passing him.

"Not really," he replied. "I didn't think he was a threat."

Hamilton said he expected to finish fifth, at best.

"This was the first time I pushed the engine like that," he said. "It was more than I looked for. I was very happy with the day. Yesterday was horrible."

Vettel has 302 points with the final race in two weeks in Abu Dhabi. Third-place Bottas has 280. Even if Bottas wins in Abu Dhabi, Vettel can take second place in the season rankings by finishing in eighth place or higher.

"He's got quite a lead now, so it will take a miracle in Abu Dhabi," Bottas said. "I was very disappointed in the race start. After that, I was trying to catch up on Sebastian but it didn't lead to anything more."

The victory was a long time coming for Vettel, a four-time champion — like Hamilton — who had not won since the Hungarian Grand Prix in July.

Vettel won three of the first six races this season and then faded as Hamilton surged.

Calling it a "great relief", Vettel said "it's been a tough day, a tough race. There was no room for mistakes."

Dutch 20-year-old Max Verstappen was fifth for Red Bull, and set the fastest lap after a second stop for fresh tires, with Australian teammate Daniel Ricciardo sixth after fighting back from a first-lap collision and spin.

AFP

Williams' Brazilian driver Felipe Massa bids farewell to the crowd after his final home city race at the end of the Brazilian Grand Prix, at the Interlagos circuit in Sao Paulo on November 12, 2017. Massa is to retire from Formula One at the end of the season.

Retiring Brazilian Felipe Massa said farewell to his home crowd with seventh place for Williams, the former Ferrari driver then ushered onto the podium to be interviewed in front of the crowd by retired compatriot Rubens Barrichello.

"Last year I had so much love and emotion from the people, but I didn't finish the race like I wanted," said the Brazilian, who had retired in 2016 only to be summoned back when Bottas left for Mercedes to replace retired champion Nico Rosberg.

"Today I finished the race like I wanted. That's why I did another year."

Massa will bow out of Formula One in two weeks and is expected to race next season in the electric-powered Formula E series.

He won 11 races in his career and came within a point of taking the season title in 2008, which was won by Hamilton. A year ago he said he was retiring, only to come back with Williams. It won't happen again, he said, addressing the sellout crowd at the Interlagos track.

Massa's departure means F1 will be without a Brazilian driver for the first time since 1969.

"I am going to miss you a lot," he told fans. "The thrill I felt today was immense, just like last year. I will never forget today."

Massa's former Ferrari teammate Fernando Alonso, who applauded the 36-year-old after they parked up, was eighth for McLaren.

Force India's Sergio Perez was ninth and Germany's Nico Hulkenberg, lapped by the leader, took the final point for Renault.

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