Mercedes Takes The Constructors’ Title As Hamilton Wins In Brazil
Graham Read, Formula 1 Correspondent
It’s a truism about Formula 1 that the Drivers’ championship gets most public attention, but it’s the Constructors’ one which receives even more from the teams as it pays the prize money. So two weeks after Lewis Hamilton had claimed his fifth F1 title in Mexico everyone reconvened in Brazil with the still to be determined Constructors battle the main focus and, whilst Hamilton won the race, the Mercedes team was absolutely delighted to wrap things up on the Constructors front for a fifth year running.
In Friday’s opening free practice session Red Bull’s young Dutch charger Max Verstappen, fresh from his Mexican victory, had set the pace. It was encouraging though to see three different teams represented by the fastest trio and covered by just one tenth of a second. Sebastian Vettel ended up second fastest in his Ferrari just ahead of Mercedes’ Hamilton.
Later the same day Nico Hülkenberg pitched his Renault into the barriers and caused a temporary halt to the second practice period during which the other Mercedes driver, Valtteri Bottas, topped the timesheets, followed by Hamilton and Vettel. Come Saturday’s final practice session Vettel went quickest, but the German multiple champion was closely pursued by both Mercedes cars.
Light rain affected the opening two parts of the qualifying process, but at least it stayed away for the crucial top ten shootout. Hamilton claimed his tenth pole position of the year, which was also the 100th in F1 for his Mercedes team, with Vettel the best of the rest ahead of Bottas, Kimi Räikkönen and the Red Bull duo. Daniel Ricciardo’s sixth position became 11th on the grid for the following day’s race after being penalised for a turbocharger change.
Vettel had to explain himself to the stewards following qualifying after initially failing to turn his power unit off when called to the weighbridge during the second part of qualifying and damaging the scales as he left. The Ferrari lead driver had been desperate to change tyres and get back on track as soon as possible before rain fell and was frustrated by the timing and delay caused by the random check. After deliberation he received a reprimand and a 25,000 Euro fine, but retained his front row starting position as there were mitigating circumstances.
Hamilton however avoided any penalty following ontrack incidents during qualifying with both Williams’ Sergey Sirotkin and Ferrari’s Räikkönen.
Mercedes and Ferrari had chosen different tyre strategies for the opening stint of the Grand Prix, with the silver cars starting on the softer and grippier but less durable Supersoft rubber and the red cars lining up on the grid on the harder but more durable Soft tyres. In theory this would enable the Ferraris to stay ontrack longer than the Mercedes duo before pitting.
The Formula 1 weekend at the iconic Interlagos circuit near São Paulo is such a contrast of wealth and poverty, but the Brazilian fans love their motor racing and the atmosphere was wonderfully intense as the cars lined up for the start.
When the red lights went out Hamilton and Vettel made decent getaways, but Bottas made a dream start and was ahead of the German driver by Turn 2. The two Ferraris were clearly struggling on their harder tyres in the early laps and Verstappen, on softer rubber, passed them both by the fourth tour. Six laps later the Dutchman in a flying car 33 also dispatched Bottas to move up to second position.
As expected, both Mercedes cars suffered tyre wear before the Ferraris and the likeable young Finn Bottas was soon holding up Räikkönen, Vettel and Ricciardo. His team pitted him to switch to Medium tyres on lap 19 and immediately did the same with Hamilton.
This made Verstappen the new leader, but when he subsequently made his first stop for fresh tyres he rejoined behind Hamilton. The gap to the new champion kept reducing though and on lap 40 Max swept past Lewis on the start/finish straight to take the lead again as his team-mate Ricciardo made his own first stop.
The result of the whole Grand Prix though was to hinge on a highly controversial incident four tours later at Turn 2 as Force India’s Esteban Ocon clashed with the leading Verstappen whilst trying to unlap himself. This subsequently earned Ocon a ten second stop-go penalty for causing an avoidable accident, but more importantly the off-track excursion for a furious Verstappen handed the lead back to a very grateful Hamilton.
As the race entered its closing stages Verstappen reduced Hamilton’s lead to just 1.4 seconds, but it was a case of too little too late as the British champion held on to take the victory, with Räikkönen completing the podium trio. Ricciardo, Bottas and an unusually lacklustre Vettel completed the top six finishers, with Sauber driver Charles Leclerc, all set to drive for Ferrari next year, being the best of the rest.
So Mercedes left Brazil with both 2018 titles in the bag. The whole team has again done a brilliant job and they thoroughly deserves their success, but their domination of both championships every year since 2014 highlights both the need for change in Formula 1 and for the other teams to do better.
This just leaves one Grand Prix remaining this season. It will take place in Abu Dhabi in a fortnight’s time and is always a popular destination for fans to combine live F1 action with some welcome sunshine before the winter close season.
2018 Formula 1 Brazilian Grand Prix
1 Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) 1hr27m9.066s
2 Max Verstappen (Red Bull) +1.469s
3 Kimi Räikkönen (Ferrari) +4.764s
4 Daniel Ricciardo (Red Bull) +5.193s
5 Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) +22.943s
6 Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari) +26.997s
7 Charles Leclerc (Sauber) +44.199s
8 Romain Grosjean (Haas) +51.230s
9 Kevin Magnussen (Haas) +52.857s
10 Sergio Perez (Force India) Lapped
11 Brendon Hartley (Toro Rosso) Lapped
12 Carlos Sainz (Renault) Lapped
13 Pierre Gasly (Toro Rosso) Lapped
14 Stoffel Vandoorne (McLaren) Lapped
15 Esteban Ocon (Force India) Lapped
16 Sergey Sirotkin (Williams) Lapped
17 Fernando Alonso (McLaren) Lapped
18 Lance Stroll (Williams) Lapped
19 Nico Hülkenberg (Renault) Retired
20 Marcus Ericsson (Sauber) Retired
2018 Formula 1 Drivers’ Championship (after 20 of 21 Grand Prix)
1 Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) 383
2 Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari) 302
3 Kimi Räikkönen (Ferrari) 251
2018 Formula 1 Constructors’ Championship (after 20 of 21 Grand Prix)
1 Mercedes 620
2 Ferrari 553
3 Red Bull 392
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Mercedes Takes The Constructors’ Title As Hamilton Wins In Brazil, 12th November 2018, 9:01 AM