Lewis Hamilton has taken a fortuitous victory in the Formula 1 Brazilian Grand Prix to hand Mercedes the Constructors’ Championship title after a lapped car cost Max Verstappen his chance of the win.
Hamilton led the opening phase but looked resigned to second after Verstappen seized the advantage following his pit stop, only for Esteban Ocon to punt the Dutchman.
The lapped Force India driver had tried to pass Verstappen around the outside of Turn 1 then failed to back out at Turn 2, turning the Red Bull driver around and dropping him to second.
Kimi Raikkonen held on to complete the podium ahead of Daniel Ricciardo after a stirring recovering following a grid penalty from the Aussie.
At the start, a smoked brake for Sebastian Vettel into the opening turn allowed Bottas to clear him around the outside to make for a Mercedes one-two before the second corner of the opening lap.
Ricciardo moved forward two places on the opening lap before taking Marcus Ericsson as they started the second.
Carlos Sainz and Nico Hulkenberg ran wheel to wheel throughout the middle part of the lap, coming close to banging wheels on the approach to Juncao as they looked to begin their third tour.
Up the road, Verstappen put a move on Raikkonen to clear the Ferrari around the outside into the first turn before setting off after Vettel, completing that move at the same corner a lap later.
A mistake from Vettel at Turn 4 saw him snatch a brake and skate wide of the apex, allowing Raikkonen through as the German dropped two spots in four corners.
Both Ferraris had started on the Soft compound Pirelli tyres courtesy of their gamble in qualifying, with the race beginning to swing in their favour after 10 laps.
It saw Bottas head a four car train with Verstappen unable to find a way through as he had on the two Prancing Horses, which in turn were locked on to the back of the Red Bull.
A better drive up the hill left the Dutchman in the slipstream of the second placed Mercedes, Verstappen climbing up to second at the start of Lap 10.
While Verstappen was clearing off in pursuit of Hamilton, team-mate Ricciardo latched on to the back of the pack he’d just jettisoned himself from.
Bottas was clearly struggling for pace, coming under fire from Raikkonen as both Vettel and Ricciardo maintained a watching brief.
At the end of Lap 18 Bottas stopped, the first of the front runners to take to the lane, dropping in behind Kevin Magnussen when he rejoined the race in ninth place.
Mercedes called Hamilton in on the next lap, bolting a set of the white-walled Medium tyres and releasing Verstappen into the race lead.
Back out on track the Englishman dropped in behind Romain Grosjean, trailing the Haas for the better part of a lap before clearing him down the front straight.
Released from Grosjean, Hamilton set the fastest lap of the race as he tried to cover off the threat posed by Red Bull.
Vettel stopped after 27 laps to swap his Soft compound tyres for Mediums, dropping back out in front of Sergio Perez and behind Magnussen.
Ricciardo proved Red Bull’s pace wasn’t limited to Verstappen’s side of the garage, setting the fastest lap of the race a lap after Vettel had pulled into the pits from in front of him with a 1:12.919s.
Out front the early tyre advantage Hamilton had after taking service soon reversed, Verstappen turning in low 1:13s laps while the Mercedes could only muster mid-1:13s – a two tenth of a lap swing that turned the race in favour of Red Bull.
Raikkonen pitted on Lap 32, rejoining just behind his team-mate, promoting Ricciardo into second with the Australian much faster than those he had been running with despite not having stopped.
Hulkenberg’s day came to an end with an early retirement, Renault pushing him into the garage with 33 laps in the books with high temperatures in his Renault engine.
Verstappen was in the lane on Lap 36, taking a set of soft compound tyres and ceding the race lead in the process.
Ferrari swapped their drivers around, Vettel waving Raikkonen through with the Finn promptly setting the fastest lap with a 1:12.532s.
As they started Lap 40, Verstappen drove by Hamilton down the front straight to take the race lead as Ricciardo stopped.
Hamilton tried to fight back down the back straight but wasn’t able to make a move stick, Verstappen extending a 1.8s gap in the final two thirds of the lap.
Ricciardo rejoined sixth but with much fresher tyres than those ahead and was soon attacking Vettel who was forced to defend vigorously into the opening sequence of corners on Lap 43.
Verstappen lost the lead on the next lap as he spun at Turn 2, dropping to second after Esteban Ocon tried to unlap himself, tagging the Red Bull and pitching him around.
Ocon was slapped with a 10-second stop-go penalty for the contact, scant consolation for Verstappen given the Force India driver was running out of the points in 14th at the time the penalty was handed down.
The contact left massive damage to Verstappen’s floor, and therefore without the blistering pace he had earlier, and unable to reel in Hamilton who’d inherited the lead.
Concerns over Hamilton’s power unit saw him turn down the output from the Mercedes power unit in his car, offering Vertappen a glimmer of hope.
Ricciardo moved by Vettel at the start of Lap 46, defending down the back straight to maintain the position and demoting the Ferrari driver to sixth.
Quickly closing on Bottas, Ricciardo then found himself marooned under the Finn’s rear wing, unable to find a way forward despite holding a pace advantage.
He was holed up until Lap 59 when he dived underneath at Turn 1, wrong footing the Mercedes driver who promptly took to the lane on Lap 60.
Ferrari had hoisted the white flag for Vettel, pitting the German on Lap 54 for a set of Supersofts after he’d struggled for pace throughout the race.
Bottas’ second stop was an effort to cover off that late race threat.
The race built to a crescendo in the final laps, Verstappen closing to 1.5s behind Hamilton with three laps remaining, while Ricciardo shaped up for a battle with Raikkonen for the final podium place.
Hamilton was able to respond, pegging the gap out front to head into the final lap just outside of DRS zone.
The same wasn’t true for Raikkonen as Ricciardo looked to attack down the back straight but wasn’t close enough to take the place.
Out front Hamilton held on to take the win from Verstappen and Raikkonen, in doing so handing Mercedes the Constructors’ Championship for the fifth consecutive season.
Elsewhere Ericsson had a woeful race, his car shedding parts of the diffuser on the sighting lap to the grid before the race started before picking up damage on the opening lap.
A spin later in the race capped off a poor race for the Swede following his best qualifying performance in F1, retiring with just 12 laps to his name.
Fernando Alonso picked up a five second time penalty for ignoring blue flags, a penalty that had no impact as he crossed the line 17th.
Bottas came home fifth at the flag ahead of Vettel, with Charles Leclerc seventh from Grosjean, Magnussen, and Sergio Perez.
Result: Formula 1 Brazilian Grand Prix
|2||Max Verstappen||Red Bull Renault||71||+1.469s|
|4||Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull Renault||71||+5.193s|
|7||Charles Leclerc||Sauber Ferrari||71||+44.199s|
|8||Romain Grosjean||Haas Ferrari||71||+51.230s|
|9||Kevin Magnussen||Haas Ferrari||71||+52.857s|
|10||Sergio Perez||Force India Mercedes||70||+1 lap|
|11||Brendon Hartley||Toro Rosso Honda||70||+1 lap|
|12||Carlos Sainz||Renault||70||+1 lap|
|13||Pierre Gasly||Toro Rosso Honda||70||+1 lap|
|14||Stoffel Vandoorne||McLaren Renault||70||+1 lap|
|15||Esteban Ocon||Force India Mercedes||70||+1 lap|
|16||Sergey Sirotkin||Williams Mercedes||69||+2 laps|
|17||Fernando Alonso||McLaren Renault||69||+2 laps|
|18||Lance Stroll||Williams Mercedes||69||+2 laps|
|DNF||Marcus Ericsson||Sauber Ferrari||20|
|3||Red Bull Renault||392|
|7||Force India Mercedes||48|
|9||Toro Rosso Honda||33|
|EX||Force India Sahara||0|