Tuesday 20 February 2018 / 04:44 PM


The penultimate race of the Formula 1 season at Interlagos produced a typically challenging yet entertaining contest, while also allowing retiring Brazillian driver Felipe Massa to have the farewell he deserved in his home race.

The weekend was dogged somewhat early on by the heated off-track exchanges between Toro Rosso and their engine supplier and rival team Renault, with Toro Rosso essentially criticising the engines supplied to them for their unreliability issues, which Renault angrily argued against. In Free Practice 1 Brendon Hartley’s Toro Rosso again broke down with an engine failure after just two laps. His teammate, Pierre Gasly, only managed five cautious laps. The Silver Arrows dominated the session with Hamilton just pipping Bottas as the fastest car, ahead of Kimi Raikkonen’s Ferrari and both Red Bull cars.

More bad news for Renault powered cars came in FP2 with Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo and Toro Rosso’s Hartley both receiving grid penalties for replacing their MGU-H, while Gasly had new power unit elements installed. Hamilton and Bottas again topped the times for the session with Ricciardo closing the gap. Vettel and Verstappen were next quickest. Felipe Massa posted the eighth-best lap time.

Free Practice 3 was impacted somewhat due to the heavy rainfall overnight which left some parts of the track a little damp. Lance Stroll’s Williams car came to a sudden halt when his gears and engines all stopped working. Verstappen was on a flying lap when he lost control of his car and spinning near the end of the lap. Bottas had the best time, just 0.003 of a second quicker than Hamilton. Raikkonen and Vettel were very closely behind. Ricciardo was almost a second slower than Bottas, with Alonso and both Force India’s behind him.

Qualifying produced possibly the biggest news story of the weekend when Hamilton lost control of his car on the out lap in Q1 and slammed into the wall, retiring without setting a time. Raikkonen was fastest in the first session, while both Saubers, Stroll and Gasly failed to get out of Q1. Hartley failed to post a time in Q2, while Vettel posted a greatly improved time, giving him the fastest lap of the session, ahead of Bottas and Verstappen. The fight for pole was a four-way battle with just over half a second separating them. In the end Bottas snuck ahead of Vettel by 0.038 of a second to claim top spot on the grid. Raikkonen came in third with Verstappen fourth. Fernando Alonso’s stunning performance saw him post the seventh best time, but after Ricciardo’s grid penalty, Alonso will start on the third row.

Hamilton’s damaged car received a new engine, which also meant he would have to start the race from the pit lane. The first turn at Interlagos is a sharp left hander going down a hill and is notorious for seeing plenty of collisions and this year was no different. Vettel snuck past Bottas to take the lead in the first turn while further back, Magnussen went the long way around turn one, while Ricciardo charged up the inside line, with Vandoorne caught in the middle. As Magnussen turned, Vandoorne clipped the back of Ricciardo’s car, causing him to spin. Ricciardo got back onto the track, but the other two cars were forced to retire.

At the next turn, Ocon and Grosjean came together when neither wanted to yield while cornering. Both left the track with Grosjean later handed a 10-second stop-go penalty for causing the accident. Ocon’s car was also retired after the clash.

The safety car came out to clean up the mess from both incidents which saw Ricciardo pit to run a longer lasting tyre, resuming in last place. Hamilton had managed to work his way from 20th to 14th place.

After resuming, Massa snuck past Alonso to move into fifth place. By lap 9, Hamilton had moved into the top 10 and 5 laps later, Ricciardo had joined him after making several great passing manoeuvres.

Five laps later, on lap 20, Hamilton had moved past the feuding Massa and Alonso to claim fifth place while Ricciardo had jumped into eighth place.

There were little changes to the positions after the pit stops had been complete by lap 30. Vettel went on to win, constantly maintaining a two second lead over Bottas, who was holding a similar lead over Raikkonen. Verstappen tried closing in on the Finn veteran, but was unable to get close enough to make a challenge. He eventually lost his fourth place to Hamilton on faster tyres. Ricciardo came home in sixth place while Alonso spent most of his race trying to get in front of Massa, but was unable to do so, the Brazilian coming home in seventh place, his best result of the year on his last race on home soil. Alonso was very competitive in his McLaren to finish 8th, keeping himself in front of the more powerful Force India of Sergio Perez.

Despite the Drivers and Constructors championships being decided, the battle for second and fourth on the drivers standings is still being keenly fought, while there is still a big battle going on in the middle of the pack in the constructors championship.

Final Standings (Top 10)
1 – Vettel (Ferrari)
2 – Bottas (Mercedes)
3 – Raikkonen (Ferrari)
4 – Hamilton (Mercedes)
5 – Verstappen (Red Bull)
6 – Ricciardo (Red Bull)
7 – Massa (Williams)
8 – Alonso (McLaren)
9 – Perez (Force India)
10 – Hulkenberg (Renault)

Drivers Championship (Top 10)
1 – Hamilton – 345 – Champion
2 – Vettel – 302
3 – Bottas – 280
4 – Ricciardo – 200
5 – Raikkonen – 193
6 – Verstappen – 158
7 – Perez – 94
8 – Ocon – 83
9 – Sainz – 54
10 – Massa – 42

Constructors Championship
1 – Mercedes – 625 – Champions
2 – Ferrari – 495
3 – Red Bull – 358
4 – Force India – 177
5 – Williams – 82
6 – Toro Rosso – 53
7 – Renault – 49
8 – Haas – 47
9 – McLaren – 28
10 – Sauber – 5

[YouTube – FORMULA 1]

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About the author

Andrew Ferguson

A rugby league historian and stats buff – most notably as the brains behind the phenomenal Rugby League Project resource – Melbourne-based Andrew has written extensively for Rugby League Review and the Men of League magazine, and is a valued addition to CBS’s rugby league stable.

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