Mercedes celebrated a fifth constructors’ title in a row at the Brazilian Grand Prix as world champion Lewis Hamilton claimed his second race win in Sao Paulo – albeit after Esteban Ocon had ruined Max Verstappen’s chances.
Ferrari needed 13 points more than the Silver Arrows to keep the constructors’ battle alive heading into the final round of the season, but Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen were unable to deliver.
Even though both Mercedes were forced to change to the medium tyre well before the Ferraris, it was Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas who produced the goods on the track. Claiming a race win looked like being too much of an ask as Verstappen impressed again in Brazil. Verstappen got every last drop out of his supersofts before switching to the soft compound and it looked like victory was assured, but Ocon threw a spanner into the mix on lap 44.
The Racing Point Force India driver got tangled with the race leader at the second corner and both cars were sent spinning, a move that allowed Hamilton to retake the lead. Ocon was rightly handed a 10-second stop/go penalty, but that did little to help Verstappen, who got to within two seconds of Hamilton before running out of laps.
Hamilton’s 10th race win of the season ensured Ferrari were never going to overtake Mercedes in the constructors’ battle, Raikkonen’s third place and Vettel’s sixth not good enough.
MAX VERSTAPPEN – TYRE WHISPERER
If Verstappen’s sensational recovery drive at the 2016 edition of this race – when he made up 13 places in the final 16 laps – was good, his ability to keep the supersofts performing this year was just as good. While Hamilton could only get 19 laps out of his starting tyres, Verstappen managed 35! It was unable to get him back out in front of the world champion, but the decision to go for soft tyres paid dividends as he overtook Hamilton within four laps. However, Ocon’s untimely intervention ensured Verstappen had to settle for second.
BOTTAS DELIVERS FOR MERCEDES
Starting from third, Bottas quickly found himself in second place behind Hamilton, but his role was not to challenge for the race win, instead the Finn keeping Ferrari at bay. While Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo enjoyed great pace, there was little Vettel and Raikkonen could do to get past and push on to get the points they needed to keep the constructors’ championship alive. Raikkonen was eventually able to break free from his compatriot, but Vettel endured a miserable day as Bottas’ disciplined drive helped Mercedes complete the double.
I CANNOT DRIVE THIS!
Spare a thought for Marcus Ericsson. In his penultimate race before moving to IndyCar, the Swede is forced to retire after starting sixth on the grid. Early problems saw Ericsson – who has lost his 2019 seat to Raikkonen and Antonio Giovinazzi – slide to 10th, and by lap 20 he was four places worse off. More problems were to come as he struggled to keep his Sauber on the track, with Ericsson deciding to retire the car after declaring on team radio: “I cannot drive this!”