Brazilian Grand Prix: Winners and Losers

Brazilian Grand Prix: Winners and Losers

13 November 2017 – Sebastian Vettel got the jump on Valtteri Bottas for victory, Lewis Hamilton staged an eye-catching comeback and Felipe Massa left everyone in tears. GPUpdate.net presents its winners and losers from Brazil.

Winners

Vettel and Ferrari lost the 2017 title in two stages: his errors in Azerbaijan and Singapore, and the reliability woes in Malaysia and Japan. All four events were victory opportunities for Ferrari, while wins were agonisingly missed in Austria and Belgium. However, Vettel and Ferrari struck back in Brazil. The silver and red machines were closely matched around Interlagos and, while Vettel claimed provisional pole, he "chickened out" into the Senna 'S' on his second lap, and fell behind Bottas. However, he made amends at the start by placing his SF70-H in-between the pit wall and his Mercedes rival, forcing Bottas to open the steering, and compromising his line. From there, Vettel remained ahead, preserving a slender gap, to finally give Ferrari something to celebrate. They may have lost the war, but they at least won this battle.

The sight of Lewis Hamilton sending his Mercedes into the barriers on the first lap of Q1 was unexpected, to say the least, and set up the tantalising prospect of a charge from the back. Hamilton duly delivered, even if he was aided by the first-lap drama, the DRS zones, and the full beans from a fresh power unit. Hamilton's decisiveness in picking his way through traffic proved crucial in making swift progress, and his pace on used Soft tyres was impressive. Once back in the lead fold, Hamilton still could not be ruled out of victory, such was his speed, though his Super Softs went past their optimum, and he was unable to provide a serious challenge to Kimi Räikkönen, his prospects damaged by a heavy lock-up. However, from the pit lane to fourth, just five seconds shy of Vettel, represented a fine recovery.

Felipe Massa's 2016 Interlagos farewell was emotional, and this one raised the bar further – aided by the home hero putting in unquestionably his best display of the campaign. Massa made progress on the opening lap and pounced on Fernando Alonso at the restart, even if he was boosted by his Mercedes unit harbouring more horses than Alonso's Honda. From there, Massa kept Alonso at bay, despite rapidly deteriorating tyres at the end, and he labelled his race as "perfect". If the tears weren't already flowing, then they certainly were after the post-race radio message from his son, Felipinho, and the emotional scenes up on the podium, alongside Rubens Barrichello. Brazil faces an uncertain Formula 1 future, amid a lack of young drivers and the regular question marks over its Grand Prix, but Massa at least delivered a fitting swansong – an end of an era.

Losers

While one Williams driver was in seventh heaven, the other suffered a dismal weekend. Lance Stroll was on the backfoot after a gearbox failure in FP3 disrupted his run plan, and left him lumbered with an older power unit, thus compromising his performance. However, a scruffy Q1 skewered his prospects further, leaving him with a mountain to climb. Having complicated his task by stalling, Stroll remained toward the rear of the field, and his lack of top end speed meant he had to be aggressive in his move against Romain Grosjean. Aggressive he was – and it left him with a flat spot, leading to the eventual delamination during the closing stages. Stroll was unlucky with the situation in which he found himself, though complicated his task through inexperience and misjudgements – a weekend to forget, but he will learn.

Haas' prospects of scoring points in Brazil lasted less than a lap after both Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen became wrapped up in separate incidents. Magnussen drifted across the circuit through the second section of the Senna 'S' and wiped out himself and McLaren's Stoffel Vandoorne, while also compromising Daniel Ricciardo. A few turns later, Grosjean – who felt his VF-17 had copped a puncture after a whack at the Senna 'S' – spun through Ferradura, taking compatriot Esteban Ocon with him in the process. No further action was taken against Magnussen, though bizarrely Grosjean was handed a 10-second time penalty and two penalty points, a harsh sanction considering the circumstances. Any frustration was lessened by the feeling that points were not going to be on the table, but it was still a messy Grand Prix for the team.

Renault at least scored a point, but it was another weekend in which the manufacturer struggled for reliability, amid a shortage of spare parts, which prompted customer Toro Rosso to go nuclear with its criticism. Cyril Abiteboul's misguided comments incensed Toro Rosso, after an array of problems, with the Faenza-based outfit insinuating that Renault could be sabotaging the team for its own championship prospects – quite the accusation. Ultimately, Renault turned down the power to focus on reliability, but it needs to make strides across the winter as it faces supplying three teams with race-winning (and even title-contending) ambitions – across a season which features two more events, and regulations which allow for even fewer components. Renault has yet to consistently marry performance and reliability in the turbo era, and has managed to fall out spectacularly with Toro Rosso. It is still behind where it should be.

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