Lewis Hamilton has won the Brazilian Grand Prix for the second time - and it was one of the luckiest victories of his career, with the five-time F1 World Champion inheriting the lead from Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen on Lap 44, when the Dutchman spun passing a backmarker. Hamilton then stayed ahead to the flag, earning Mercedes a fifth-straight constructors’ championship.
Hamilton started from pole, and led initally, but didn’t have the pace to match Verstappen - the Dutchman getting ahead for the lead after the stops, on Lap 40. But just four laps later, Verstappen spun after contact with Racing Point Force India’s Esteban Ocon, who was trying to unlap himself. That handed the lead to Hamilton, one he would never lose despite a blistered right front tyre.
It was the Brit’s 50th win from 99 races in the turbo hybrid era, his 10th of 2018, and he was ecstatic given he was not only struggling on his medium tyres - but with engine issues.
“These guys have worked so hard the last six years, and this is what everyone worked for the whole year!” Hamilton said. “Today was the best style that we could do it, as we were struggling. We had problems with the engine, we were just like a sitting duck at one stage. Then they made a mistake, which brought us back into contention.”
Verstappen was naturally dejected to finish second, following the win that got away from him - a mistake from Ocon costing him back-to-back victories.
“I don’t know what to say,” Verstappen said. “I mean you do everything well, you go through the field with a great car. But you get taken out while he’s [Ocon] being lapped. I have no words.”
Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen completed the podium, on his 150th race for Ferrari - only Michael Schumacher and David Coulthard completing more races for a single team.
The sport now has a two-week break before the final round at Abu Dhabi’s Yas Marina Circuit, the last race of 2018 held on November 25.
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Here’s how the FORMULA 1 2018 BRAZILIAN GRAND PRIX played-out lap-by-lap:
It’s the penultimate race of the season - at classic track, Interlagos - and the Brazilian Grand Prix is always an exciting event, even with the drivers’ title sorted this year, with the constructors’ championship still on the line. And Ferrari needing to outscore Mercedes by at least 13 points to keep it alive to the final race in Abu Dhabi. Should the Silver Arrows prevent the Scuderia doing that, it will take a fifth-straight world championship, one behind the Prancing Horse - moving it ahead of Red Bull and McLaren, both of which have four.
And we’re in for a thrilling start, with Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel on the front row, the Brit taking his 82nd career pole and the 100th for Mercedes. Both lucky to escape sanctions, with Hamilton having to avoid Williams’ Sergey Sirotkin and Kimi Raikkonen in qualifying - neither affecting their respective hot laps. Vettel reprimanded and handed a 25,000 Euro fine for breaking the FIA’s weighbridge, the German should have stopped and been pushed onto the scales (and pushed off). But with the Ferrari driver impatient to get onto the soft tyres, with rain coming - he angrily drove on (and off), and just escaped a grid penalty by turning his engine off on the scales.
And while it’ll be all eyes on the front row at the start, Hamilton and Vettel’s teammates are directly behind them, with Valtteri Bottas in third and on the clean side of the grid. Kimi Raikkonen in fourth for his 150th race for Ferrari, only Michael Schumacher and David Coulthard to rack up that tally for a single team. Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen is directly behind that battle in fifth place, and looking very good to break into the top-four at the start, with Sauber’s Marcus Ericsson closing out the third row of the grid in his best-ever qualifying position. The Swede lost a piece of his diffuser on his way to the grid, making it a stressful final few minutes for his team on the grid.
Ericssons’s teammate Charles Leclerc starts behind him, having completed a stunning extra lap in a wet Q2 to to take himself to Q3. Toro Rosso’s Pierre Gasly in P9 is sandwiched by both Haas’, with Romain Grosjean starting eighth and Kevin Magnussen 10th. Red Bull Racing’s Daniel Ricciardo starts 11th after taking a grid penalty for an additional turbocharger. He’s expected to clear those ahead and move up behind teammate Verstappen very quickly, making for a fascinating opening stint. Force India’s Esteban Ocon in P18 also has a penalty for a gearbox change.
Strategically, it’s a one-stop race - but Mercedes and Ferrari are on different tyres to start the race, with the Silver Arrows on the Supersofts, and the Scuderia on the more durable softs. Those on the supersofts should go to at least Lap 20, then move onto the mediums - with the softs able to go a lot longer. Warm conditions with 42 degree track temperature for the start. But rain could change everything, and we’ve seen in the past races treacherous conditions, like those in 2003 and 2016, with the drivers having it all to do to keep it on the track. And many going into the barriers.
In terms of starting tyres, the majority of the top-10 are on the supersofts - with both Ferraris and Haas’ Kevin Magnussen on the softs. Behind them, it’s a sea of softs with only Ricciardo in P11 and Perez in P12 on the supersofts, and Hartley looking to go very long on the mediums. Vettel got away slowly at the start of the formation lap, slow to get his car into gear, but has re-taken his place.
Hamilton gets a good start, and he leads, with Vettel losing momentum into Turn 1 locking up - Bottas goes ahead into Turn 2. Max Verstappen is challenging Raikkonen. Leclerc is battling with the Finn as well. Ricciardo is behind Ericsson in 10th.
So it’s Hamilton leads Bottas by 0.5 sec, then Vettel and Raikkonen. Ricciardo takes Ericsson into Turn 1 for P9, with the Swede now under fire from Magnussen. Hulkenberg is battling Sainz, side by side and the pair almost touch into Juncao.
Verstappen passes Raikkonen for P4 into Turn 1, as the Dutchman sets the fastest lap of the race, a 1:14.517. DRS has been enabled. Hamilton is now 1.2 seconds ahead of Bottas. The Brit the only other one in the 1:14s.
Hamilton then Ricciardo sets the fastest lap, a 1: 13.784. Verstappen passes Vettel for P3 at Turn 1. He was breathtakingly fast, ambitious on the inside. Vettel is struggling as Raikkonen has passed him into Turn 5, the German locking up and going off at Turn 4.
So it’s Hamilton, Bottas, Verstappen, Raikkonen, Vettel. Ricciardo passes Leclerc for P6 into Turn 1. Replays showing both Ferraris locked up into Turn 1 on Lap 1. Hamilton building his lead over Bottas, he’s now 1.7 seconds ahead.
Verstappen is all over the back of Bottas, 0.5 seconds the gap there. The Finn will want to play rear gunner to Hamilton.
Verstappen is closing on Bottas, as Hamilton extends his lead to 1.9-seconds.
Verstappen makes an attempt on Bottas but can’t get past. Hamilton asks what tyres Verstappen is on, “same as you”. Replay showing part of Ericsson’s engine cowling has come off. Raikkonen in P4 is still ahead of Vettel., 0.5 seconds the gap.
The top-six is covered by 5-seconds. Hamilton leading Bottas by 1.7 seconds. Ericsson is down to P13, having lost three places in the last lap. Bottas is really under fire from Verstappen.
Verstappen passes Bottas on the inside into Turn 1 and is into P2. He’s now after Hamilton, 2-seconds the gap. Ricciardo has set the fastest first sector.
The top-six are all within touching distance. Raikkonen is now all over the back of Bottas, and tries to pass him around the outside of Turn 4 - but can’t get ahead. Bottas remains P3 for now.
Hamilton leads Verstappen by 1.8 seconds - the Dutchman two tenths faster on that last lap. Ricciardo told Bottas is struggling. Bottas in P3 back to Ricciardo in P6 a very close pack.
Verstappen sets a personal best, three tenths up on Hamilton - just 1.4 seconds the gap there. Bottas is keeping both Ferraris behind him.
Hamilton leads Verstappen by 1.1 seconds. Then it’s Bottas, Raikkonen, Vettel and Ricciardo. Leclerc in P7 is 2.6 seconds behind the leading pack.
Hamilton has responded, having done a similar lap time as Verstappen - 1:14.2s. Ocon has passed Alonso for P15 into Turn 1. Hamilton’s front left and Bottas rear right tyres blistering.
Bottas in P3 is struggling, as Raikkonen closes. They look very close into Turn 6, but no change in position. Hamilton and Verstappen up front have set personal best laps. Alonso pits for the mediums.
Hamilton sets another personal best lap, two tenths faster than Verstappen - the gap 1.5 seconds.
Ferrari out in the pit lane, they have the medium tyres out. But they roll back into the garage, a bit of gamesmanship there. Hamilton four tenths faster than Verstappen on that last lap, the gap 1.6 seconds to Verstappen.
Verstappen sets the fastest lap, a 1:13.599. As Bottas pits from P3, releasing the Ferraris. He’s onto the mediums, 2.4 second stop. And exits in P9 behind Magnussen.
Hamilton pits from the lead, releasing Verstappen, despite thinking he’s got another lap in the tyres - he’s onto the mediums, 2.6 second stop. He’s down to P7 behind Grosjean. So Verstappen leads this race, 7.4 seconds ahead of Raikkonen.
Verstappen sets the fastest lap, a 1:13.429. “Don’t overdrive it,” says his engineer. He’s half a second faster than Raikkonen behind him. Ericsson has spun at Ferra Dura, triggering yellow flags. He rejoins the track, but says he needs to box.
So it’s Verstappen, Raikkonen, Vettel, Ricciardo, Leclerc and Hamilton - who has set the fastest lap of the race, a 1:13.025, seven tenths faster than Verstappen’s lap. Ericsson retires from the race. Hamilton in P6 is 1.4 seconds behind Leclerc.
So Verstappen leads, but Raikkonen behind has matched his lap time - 7.7 seconds the gap. Hamilton and Bottas in P6 and P8 respectively.
Verstappen has lapped Alonso at Turn 1, first time Red Bull Racing has led in Brazil in hybrid era. Hamilton passes Leclerc for P5 at Turn 1.
Verstappen has extended his lead over Raikkonen, Vettel 2.9 seconds behind his teammate. Ricciardo is 1-second behind Vettel in P4. Then it’s Hamilton and Leclerc. Hamilton asks “have we lost ground on Verstappen?” His engineer says no gaining ground, but manage your tyre temperatures.
Ricciardo sets a personal best lap in P4. Verstappen up front is now 8-seconds up on Raikkonen, and says the back markers are being a pain. Sainz pits.
Verstappen on his own out front, 8.1 seconds ahead of Raikkonen. 40 per cent chance of rain in this race, will we see the storm arrive before the chequered flag?
Ferrari mechanics are now out in the pit lane, as Vettel pits. He’s onto the mediums, 1.9 second stop - wow, seriously quick! He exits in P9 behind Magnussen. So it’s Verstappen, Raikkonen and Ricciardo now, with Hamilton in P4.
Bottas in P7 is 0.7 seconds behind Grosjean, and he gets through into Turn 1 for P6. Ricciardo sets the fastest lap, a 1:12.919 - he’s 2.2 seconds behind Raikkonen. Vettel in P9 is chasing down Magnussen.
Vettel has passed Magnussen for P8, through the infield. Verstappen leads Raikkonen, and Hamilton told to match the Dutchman’s time of 1:13.2s and that they are 0.7 seconds safe.
Verstappen and Raikkonen setting personal best laps. Vettel passes Grosjean for P7 into Turn 1. Vandoorne has passed Alonso into Turn 1, but the Spaniard gets back ahead into Turn 4.
Raikkonen pits from P2, he’s onto the mediums - and exits behind Vettel in P7. Up front Verstappen sets a personal best lap, ahead of Ricciardo - then it’s Hamilton, Leclerc, Bottas, Vettel and Raikkonen in P7.
Grosjean pits. Bottas again holding back Vettel and Raikkonen, though the Ferraris are now in a different position with Vettel chasing Bottas.
Hamilton in P3 is now matching Verstappen’s times, but has he done enough to stay ahead after the Dutchman’s stop? He’s 19.7 seconds behind Verstappen on the track. Hulkenberg retires from the race, pitting in his garage.
So it’s Verstappen, Ricciardo, Hamilton, Leclerc, Bottas, Vettel and Raikkonen - with both Red Bulls yet to stop. Vettel has let Raikkonen through at Turn 4 to attack Bottas.
Verstappen pits from the lead, he’s onto the softs - and is behind Hamilton in P3, exits between back marker McLarens. Raikkonen in P5 has set the fastest lap of the race, a 1:12.532.
So it’s Ricciardo leading Hamilton by 9.7 seconds, then Verstappen 2.4 seconds behind the world champion. Bottas is in P4, 5.3 seconds behind Verstappen. Then Raikkonen, who is chasing Bottas, just 0.7 seconds the gap.
Verstappen has set a personal best lap, 0.8 seconds faster than Hamilton ahead. He’s 1-second behind Hamilton. Bottas under fire from Raikkonen as the pair pass through traffic.
Verstappen sets the fastest lap, a 1:12.143. He’s 0.9 seconds behind Hamilton - and closing, in DRS range. Verstappen told his tyres are several laps fresher.
Ricciardo pits, as Verstappen passes Hamilton around the outside down the straight and is into the lead at Turn 1. Ricciardo back to sixth. Hamilton still battling Verstappen for the lead. As Raikkonen in P4 is chasing down Bottas.
Bottas in P3 is still keeping Raikkonen behind him. Verstappen has built a 2.1 second lead over Hamilton, then it’s Bottas, Raikkonen, Vettel and Ricciardo.
Ricciardo in P6 sets the fastest lap, a 1:11.608. He’s all over the back of Vettel going into Turn 4.
Vettel fends off Ricciardo at Turn 1 and 2, and again at Turn 4. Bottas in P3 is fending off Raikkonen, just 0.5 seconds the gap.
Verstappen has spun going down the hill, handing the lead over to Hamilton. As Raikkonen passes Bottas at turn 1. So replays show that Verstappen was trying to pass Ocon at Turn 1, but the Frenchman wasn’t letting him past - and his front left tagged the Dutchman’s right rear, forcing him into a spin.
So Hamilton leads Verstappen, as Ricciardo passes Vettel into turn 1 - and the Australian stays ahead into Turn 4, retaining P5.
So it’s Hamilton, Verstappen, Raikkonen, Bottas, Ricciardo and Vettel.
Ocon/Verstappen incident under investigation. Hamilton has set a personal best lap, he’s 5 seconds ahead of the Dutchman. Only the top-13 on the lead lap.
Verstappen is reeling in Hamilton again, with the Brit struggling on his tyres. Replays showing Verstappen’s floor is damaged.
Hamilton sets another personal best lap, less than a tenth down on Verstappen behind - the gap now 4.6 seconds. Power unit concerns for Hamilton?
Bottas in P4 is now under fire from Ricciardo, who is in the 1:12.3s.
Bottas responds with a personal best, but the gap remains at just 0.5 seconds. Only the top-10 now on the lead lap. Hamilton has been told to turn his power unit down, as Verstappen closes to 4.1 seconds. Sainz passes Ocon for P13 down the pit straight.
Ricciardo is tucked up behind Bottas, but can’t get ahead into Turn 4. Verstappen still told he’s got a chance to take Hamilton.
Hamilton four tenths faster on that last lap over Verstappen, the gap still at 4.3 seconds. Bottas told no more overtaking. Raikkonen is 1.6 seconds behind Verstappen, and closing.
Vettel pits, 2.2 second stop - and onto the supersofts. He exits behind Leclerc in P7. Hamilton leads but his front left tyre is graining. Mercedes in the pit lane, likely for Bottas.
Mercedes back in the garage. It’s Hamilton leading Verstappen by 3.9 seconds, then Raikkonen, Bottas, Ricciardo, Leclerc and Vettel.
Top-four all set personal best, top-three all 1:12.0s. Bottas asked if he can hold up Ricciardo for sure?
Ocon has been handed a 10-second stop-go penalty for contact with Verstappen. Vettel sets the fastest lap, a 1:11.402. He’s chasing down Leclerc.
So Hamilton preserving his 3.6 second lead over Verstappen, with the pair doing very similar lap times. And Vettel is past Leclerc for P6.
Ricciardo goes down the inside of Bottas, ambitious move for P4 - the Australian dived down the inside. Are Mercedes about to pit Bottas?
So it’s Hamilton over Verstappen, 3.3 seconds the gap. Bottas pits from P5, he’s onto the softs. 2.5 second stop.
Hamilton does a personal best lap, similar time to Verstappen - 1:11.9s. Vettel in P6 sets the fastest lap, a 1:11.362. He’s 1.4 seconds behind Bottas.
So 8-seconds covers the top-four. Bottas and Vettel passing through traffic. Ricciardo sets the fastest lap, a 1:11.343.
Hamilton leads Verstappen by 2.5 seconds, then Raikkonen in P3 is 2.6 seconds behind. Ricciardo in P4 is 1.9 seconds behind the Finn. Hamilton complaining of understeer.
Hamilton leads Verstappen by 2.5 seconds, but the Brit has him covered on pace - within a few tenths on that last lap.
Bottas in P5 sets the fastest lap, a 1:10.845 - which is a new lap record.
Hamilton trying to pass traffic, with a graining front right tyre, as he seeks to retain his lead over Verstappen - just 2.1 seconds now. Another fastest lap for Bottas, a 1:10.540.
Hamilton now 1.9 seconds ahead of Verstappen, as he clears the traffic to now close down on the Brit. Ricciardo told his battery is full so can go after Raikkonen for the final step of the podium.
Hamilton leads Verstappen by 1.1 seconds as they clear more traffic - but Verstappen stuck behind them through the middle sector which is tight and twisty.
Hamilton leads Verstappen by 1.5 seconds, Hamilton struggling for grip and asks his team for help. Only the top-nine are on the lead lap. Alonso has been given a 5-second time penalty for ignoring blue flags.
Hamilton now 1.7 seconds ahead of Verstappen, then it’s Raikkonen and Ricciardo - both battling for position.
Lap 71 - FINAL LAP:
Hamilton does a personal best lap, 1.6 seconds ahead of Verstappen - top four covered by 5-seconds. And Hamilton holds back the Dutchman to take his 72nd win, his second in Brazil and 50th win in 99 races of the turbo hybrid era.
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