Hamilton win secures fifth constructors' title for Mercedes


Had Ferrari and Sebastian Vettel not fallen apart after the summer break, it would have been fitting to see the title decided here at Interlagos, one of the few remaining epic circuits on the F1 calendar.

Indeed, going slightly off topic, it was almost nauseating to hear the Sky F1 team gushing over the Hanoi track this weekend, a characterless, uninspiring layout that will soon take its rightful place alongside the likes of the tracks in India and Korea, while the Sky F1 team gushes about the proposed track in Kabul.

Anyway, Interlagos deserves to be the place for title - and titanic - showdowns, not the likes of Abu Dhabi... or Hanoi.

Despite the title being decided, it is great to see that for once Lewis Hamilton hasn't eased off, his performance in Q3 yesterday was as if the championship was still wide open, while Sebastian Vettel was similarly charged.

Though the all-important constructors' title is still up for grabs, it would be great to see these two giants of the sport, go for it today if only to prove a personal point, and based on yesterday's showing that is exactly what they intend. Rather than being an anti-climax, there is every chance today could be one of the highlights of the season.

We live in hope.

Other than raw pace, we also witnessed what looks to be a brilliant - and rare - strategic masterstroke from Ferrari in terms of qualifying on the soft tyres, even if it took some silliness at the weighbridge to get there.

Behind Hamilton and Vettel we have the usual suspects, in terms of Bottas and Raikkonen, with Verstappen breathing down their necks.

Having looked strong on Friday, once the party modes were introduced yesterday the Bulls didn't stand a chance. However today, they should be able to give a good account of themselves, and on Friday they didn't appear to suffer the blistering issues that affected the Mercedes and Ferraris.

Poor old Danny Rick, courtesy of a turbocharger wrecked by an over enthusiastic marshal in Mexico, will start from eleventh, however, rather than wondering how quickly he will dispose of the likes of Magnussen, Gasly and Grosjean, we're sure the popular Aussie will be more concerned at actually getting to see the chequered flag for once.

As for Messrs Magnussen, Gasly, Grosjean... what a midfield battle we (hopefully) have in prospect today, what with Ericsson starting from sixth ahead of his Sauber teammate, Charles Leclerc, whose final Q2 lap was the stuff of legend.

The fight for domination of the midfield, especially with Force India and Renault having had a torrid time of it thus far this weekend should be epic, though, not for the first time the lesson to all is that the race cannot be won at the first corner... only lost.

The Haas duo, in particular, should pay heed to this warning, for though there have been technical and strategic issues this season, Grosjean and Magnussen haven't helped themselves, and the failure to be closer to - if not ahead of - Renault is not entirely the fault of the Monza stewards.

Indeed, with six Ferrari-powered cars in the first ten, this could be a significant day for the Italian company as it seeks it first constructors' title since 2008.

Further back, yet again Stoffel Vandoorne has failed to out-qualify his teammate, yet at the same time few have pointed out the fact that at Williams Sergey Sirotkin has regularly out-paced Lance Stroll. While Mr Stroll might give Sergio Perez a run for his money next season, one has to wonder how he would fare against Esteban Ocon.

Then again, as we know from experience, in F1, money talks.

In terms of strategy, according to Pirelli, the quickest today is a one-stopper, starting on softs for 32-36 laps, then mediums to the finish, or starting on supersofts for 25-30 laps, then mediums to the finish. A two-stopper is nearly as quick as a one-stopper, the best strategy being two stints on supersofts of 20-22 laps each, then softs to the finish. However, all this is assuming conditions are warmer than the previous two days.

If conditions were to be cooler, say similar to Friday, the quickest strategy is a one stopper; starting on supersofts for 27-33 laps, then softs to the finish, or alternatively, starting on supersofts for 25-30 laps, then mediums to the finish.

Of course, the Ferraris are the only two drivers starting in the leading ten on the softs, which means that while they have durability the Maranello pair will not have the pace of the supersoft-shod drivers. Therefore, a strong start is imperative.

The pitlane opens and one by one the drivers head out. Air temperature is 21.7 degrees C, while the track temperature is 43.2. The air temperature is a little down on yesterday, while the track temperature is warmer. However, there is a 40% chance of rain, with talk of it arriving one hour into the race. To add to the fun, though there is a lot of cloud, when the sun pops through the temperatures suddenly rise, only to drop when it disappears again.

Ricciardo asks his team to check his car as he has seen something "fly off" the Sauber and he is concerned it could be lodged somewhere on his car. It turns out that it is part of Ericsson's diffuser. Rotten luck for the Swede who is heading to IndyCar next season, and is starting from his best ever grid position for an F1 race.

As well as the Ferraris, Magnussen, Hulkenberg, Sirotkin, Sainz, Alonso, Ocon, Stroll and Vandoorne start on the softs, while Hartley is on mediums. The rest are on supersofts.

The field heads off on the warm-up lap, though Vettel is very, very slow in getting away. On board suggests he had an issue selecting gear.

The grid forms.

They're away. Good starts from Hamilton and Bottas. While Hamilton leads into T1, Bottas is going around the outside of Vettel who locks-up his front-left slightly after a slow getaway. Verstappen, who is behind Bottas, goes around the outside of Raikkonen, both Ferraris overtaken in the same corner in similar moves, their cause clearly not helped by those harder (soft) tyres.

However, thanks to sheer grunt on the back straight, and sheer bravery, Raikkonen makes a great move on Verstappen in T4 to re-take fourth as Magnussen runs wide behind.

A poor start from Ericsson is compounded by a slight clash with Grosjean, meaning the Sauber loses a little bit more bodywork in addition to the damage incurred before the race had even started.

At the end of lap 1, it's: Hamilton, Bottas, Vettel, Raikkonen, Verstappen, Leclerc, Grosjean, Gasly, Ricciardo and Ericsson.

Sainz and Hulkenberg are battling for 13th behind Perez. The gloves are off, as the Renault pair touch, forcing Hulkenberg to take avoiding action.

Verstappen blasts his way past Raikkonen to re-take fourth, the Red Bull driver immediately setting off after Vettel.

At the start of lap 4, Verstappen passes Vettel on the inside going into T1 as Ricciardo passes Grosjean for 7th.

A mistake sees Vettel run a little wide which allows teammate Raikkonen through.

Out front, at the end of lap 4, Hamilton leads his teammate by 1.3s with Verstappen just 0.4s behind the Finn.

Ricciardo makes quick work of Leclerc for 6th, his next target being Vettel who is 1.3s up the road.

From out of nowhere, Vettel ups his pace, the German lapping around 0.4s quicker than anyone else. Meanwhile, with the aid of DRS Verstappen is all over Bottas.

Concerned at understeer, Hartley calls on his team to check for a puncture. He is currently 16th.

At the end of lap, courtesy of a tow from Bottas, Verstappen closes on the Finn going into T1. However, he is carrying too much speed and does well to hold it all together.

As Raikkonen goes quickest in S1, the Renaults continue to scrap for 13th.

Ericsson has dropped to 14th, the Sauber still continuing to shed bits of his Sauber.

At the end of lap 9, Verstappen once again closes on Bottas, this time he makes it stick, going through on the inside at T1, much to the crowd's delight.

Check out our Sunday gallery from Interlagos, here.

Now Raikkonen closes in on Bottas, the softs appearing to come into their own, or rather the supers dropping off. The Ferrari driver tries to go around the outside at T4, but Bottas isn't making it easy. In the meantime, Vettel and Ricciardo are closing in.

Ricciardo is told that Bottas is struggling and that the Mercedes "are not particularly quick at this stage".

Verstappen posts a PB on lap 12, closing to within 1.49s of Hamilton.

Replay shows Magnussen making a brave move on the struggling Ericsson a little earlier as the Dame took 9th. Ericsson has since dropped to 14th.

Ricciardo goes quickest in S1 as Leclerc closes to within 2.499s of the Australian.

Alonso reports that his tyres are fine and that it's the traffic that's an issue. The Spaniard is currently 16th.

Verstappen reports that Hamilton is "sliding a bit more than me". "Creep up on him," he is told.

Raikkonen mounts another attack, the second Mercedes now clearly holding up the drivers behind him.

At the end of lap 16, Alonso makes the first stop of the afternoon, but it is a total disaster and the Spaniard heads out again in last position. It's unclear if he stalled or the tyres weren't properly fitted. Sirotkin also stops.

The Ferrari crew head out into the pitlane, suggesting one of its drivers will go for the undercut, particularly on Bottas, but neither driver stops.

At the end of lap 18, Bottas pits, he rejoins in 9th on mediums. Meanwhile, Verstappen posts a new fastest lap (13.599).

Next time around Hamilton pits, the Briton rejoining in 7th also on the mediums.

Radio replay reveals that Hamilton wanted to stay out for another lap.

Verstappen now leads Raikkonen by 7.547, with Vettel 1.8s behind.

"Don't overdrive it, keep it clean," Verstappen is told.

Ericsson spins at T8 as his afternoon goes from bad to worse. "I need to box," he tells his team. "I can't drive this".

Passing Grosjean for 6th, Hamilton posts a new fastest lap (13.025).

Verstappen is now lapping the backmarkers, the first of which is Alonso. Elsewhere, Hamilton passes Leclerc for 5th, the Monegasque having posted a PB (14.244).

"Keep me up to date with what they are doing," says Verstappen. He is told that Hamilton is "too quick on the new tyre."

"We stopped too early," complains Hamilton. "Just protecting against the undercut," he is told.

"The backmarkers are a bit of a pain," says Verstappen.

And in the distance, one can see heavy rain coming down. But will it head this way?

At the end of lap 27 Vettel pits. Switching to mediums he rejoins in 9th ahead of Perez. Just up ahead, Bottas is battling Magnussen for 7th, the Finn passing the Haas on the inside at T1.

Lap 28 sees a new fastest lap for Ricciardo (12.919).

Out front, Verstappen appears to have everything under control, the Dutchman enjoying a 9.6s lead over Raikkonen. However, Hamilton is being assured that all is well, even though the Briton clearly has doubts. As well he might, for Verstappen is banging in a string of PBs, all 0.2s quicker than the world champion.

Raikkonen pits at the end of lap 31, rejoining in 6th just behind his teammate.

The McLaren pair are having a great scrap for 18th. Alonso passes Vandoorne but the Belgian subsequently retakes the position.

Grosjean pits at the end of lap 32, as does Hulkenberg. While the Frenchman rejoins in 11th, Hulkenberg is told that he has to retire. "Scenario 12," the Renault driver is told, "we need to box and retire."

He is clearly quicker than you; Vettel slows to allow his Ferrari teammate through having been told to allow Raikkonen through to attack Bottas.

At the end of lap 35, half-time, Verstappen pits. Switching to the softs he rejoins in third behind Hamilton. Leclerc also pits, as Raikkonen posts a new fastest lap (12.532).

It's déjà vu all over again as Raikkonen attacks Bottas. These two have history remember.

At half-time, it's: Ricciardo, Hamilton, Verstappen, Bottas, Raikkonen, Vettel, Magnussen, Leclerc, Perez and Grosjean. Though Ricciardo, Magnussen and Perez have yet to stop.

A new fastest lap from Verstappen (12.143) as he closes to within 0.822s of Hamilton.

"We do have several laps fresher tyres than Hamilton," Verstappen is told. Moments later the Dutchman leaves the Mercedes for dead on the pit straight. Meanwhile, Ricciardo has pitted, and rejoined in 6th. Perez has also pitted.

Though Verstappen is clearly quicker, Hamilton hasn't given up, and though he hangs on to the rear of the Red Bull, shortly after, as the Briton struggles on his mediums, the Dutchman is 2.1s up the road.

"Get in there my son," Verstappen is told, "get in there."

Ocon pits at the end of lap 40.

As Magnussen pits - at the end of lap 41 - Ricciardo posts a new fastest lap (11.608). Magnussen rejoins in 9th.

"Is there nothing we can do," asks Hamilton. "We've done all we can," he is advised.

Meanwhile, Ricciardo mounts an attack on Vettel.

Oh dear. Verstappen has spun at the bottom of the Esses. Replay shows that the Red Bull driver was overtaking Ocon when the Frenchman came back at him to un-lap himself. They touch, causing both to spin.

Verstappen takes it with a pinch of salt. "f****** idiot," says the Dutchman, "f****** idiot."

The incident is under investigation.

Ricciardo makes a move on Vettel in T1 and they touch, the Australian is through, clearly a man on a mission.

So, after 46 laps (of 71), Hamilton leads Verstappen by 4.9s with Raikkonen a further 1s behind, the Finn having passed Bottas during the previous excitement. Ricciardo is fifth, 0.82s down on Bottas, but 3s clear of Vettel.

"I have floor damage," reports Verstappen as he is told to calm down.

"Some nasty blisters on the rear-left," reports Bottas.

"There's a long way to go with the engine turned down like this," says Hamilton. "I don't want to lose position," he adds. "Yeh, Lewis, and we don't want to lose the PU," he is told.

"Can you go quicker, can you go quicker," Vettel is asked. "I'm trying to go as fast as I can," comes the frustrated reply.

"I need to charge more," says Verstappen, "it's nearly empty."

Now Ricciardo closes on Bottas, as the Australian is advised that the Finn has been told he cannot use his overtake anymore.

At the end of lap 53, Vettel pits. Switching to supersofts he rejoins in 7th, but in a whole load of traffic.

The Mercedes crew head out, seemingly for Bottas, but then head back into the garage.

Check out our Sunday gallery from Interlagos, here.

Verstappen goes quickest in S2, as the leading four all post PBs.

"Can you hold Ricciardo up and let us have a think," Bottas is asked. "Not without overtake," he admits.

Ocon is given a 10s stop and go for the Verstappen incident. The Frenchman is currently 14th.

Vettel close on his 2019 teammate, in the process the German posts a new fastest la p (11.402).

"All things considered, pace is good," Hamilton is told.

A late, typically brave move sees Ricciardo go down the inside of Bottas in the Esses to take fourth. Meanwhile, Ocon serves his penalty, and rejoins in 17th.

Bottas pits at the end of lap 59, rejoining in 5th ahead of Vettel.

"Right, Raikkonen," he's four seconds ahead," Ricciardo is told, "let's get him."

Now 1.4s down on Bottas, Vettel posts another fastest lap 11.362).

With 10 laps remaining, it's: Hamilton, Verstappen, Raikkonen, Ricciardo, Bottas, Vettel, Leclerc, Grosjean, Magnussen and Perez.

Vandoorne and Sirotkin battling hard for 14th.

Told there is a podium (position) on offer, Ricciardo posts a new fastest lap (11.343), while Alonso is under investigation for ignoring blue flags.

"Got quite a lot of understeer," reports Hamilton.

Alonso asks about the fastest lap, at which point Bottas posts a 10.845.

"Get them out of the way, guys," says Hamilton as he comes up behind a battling Alonso and Stroll.

Bottas posts 10.540, but is 22.7s behind Ricciardo.

"These tyres are worn out," insists Hamilton as Ricciardo closes in on Raikkonen. "Battery's full," the Australian is told.

Hamilton is having difficulty in passing the backmarkers, but Verstappen will have the same problem, as will Raikkonen and Ricciardo.

Alonso is given a 5s time penalty for ignoring those blue flags.

As Hamilton continues to struggle, his fronts show some nasty blistering. Verstappen is just 1.6s behind.

Hamilton begins his final lap, the leading four covered by 5.062s.

Hartley and Gasly are fighting hard for 11th, both calling on their team to ask the other to ease off.

Hamilton takes the flag, and with Bottas fifth, that's enough for a fifth constructors title, and a fifth consecutive double.

Verstappen is second, ahead of Raikkonen, Ricciardo, Bottas, Vettel, Leclerc, Grosjean, Magnussen and Perez.

Hartley is eleventh, ahead of Gasly, Vandoorne, Ocon, Sirotkin, Alonso and Stroll.

"I don't know what to say," Verstappen is told. "I know what to say," comes the reply. "By such an idiot, you get taken out. I have no words." The expletives follow.

The sheer joy on the faces of Hamilton and his crew contrasts somewhat with Verstappen, who has a face like thunder... and rightly so.

While the Mercedes party will continue long into the night, so too will the post mortem, and no matter how Otmar Szafnauer might want to spin it, the fact is Ocon was a lap down and should not have been battling Verstappen.

As Hamilton and his team celebrate and Verstappen glowers at anyone who looks remotely connected to Ocon or even French, Raikkonen sits, waiting patiently in the podium ante-room.

Hamilton and Verstappen eventually arrive, and the Dutch driver, having warned his team that he hopes he doesn't encounter Ocon, proceeds to tell his fellow podium finishers about the incident. The word "idiot" is used a lot.

Hamilton and Raikkonen bothy appear to agree with the Dutchman, even though they haven't seen the incident. Then again, it's probably easier just to say you agree.

The win secures the constructors' title for Mercedes, while Raikkonen is virtually assured of third place in the standings.

Once again, Vettel must be wondering what went wrong, the German finishing behind his teammate and even Ricciardo who started 11th.

Not a classic, but it had its moments.

The trophies presented, as Hamilton and Raikkonen prepare to spray the Champagne, Verstappen has disappeared. Either the youngster has gone in search of Ocon or he wants to avoid the bevvy of young ladies who have stepped out on to the podium to dance.

In a year in which F1 has banned grid girls and the like, Chase Carey will be having palpitations.

Meanwhile, the stewards announce that they have handed Ocon a 10s stop and go penalty and three penalty points for failing to complete the pass at turn one, and as an lapped car, fighting the leader for track position and subsequently causing a collision at turn.

Check out our Sunday gallery from Interlagos, here.

Article from Pitpass (http://www.pitpass.com):

Published: 11/11/2018
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