Hamilton hangs on in Brazil as Mercedes takes team title

Brazilian Grand Prix: 1st place Lewis Hamilton (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1 W09.
© XPB 

Lewis Hamilton had his work cut out in the Brazilian Grand Prix to secure his 72nd career F1 victory in the face of spirited competition from Red Bull's Max Verstappen.

Verstappen had been looking on course for victory when he clashed with lapped traffic and spun, sustaining damage to the RB14's bodywork which compromised the rest of his race. He was still able to secure second place ahead of Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen.

The final result secured the constructors championship for Mercedes for the fifth season in a row.

2018 Brazilian Grand Prix race results

1Lewis HamiltonMercedes71 laps - 1:27:09.066s1
2Max VerstappenRed Bull+ 1.469s1
3Kimi RäikkönenFerrari+ 4.764s1
4Daniel RicciardoRed Bull+ 5.193s1
5Valtteri BottasMercedes+ 22.943s2
6Sebastian VettelFerrari+ 26.997s2
7Charles LeclercSauber+ 44.199s1
8Romain GrosjeanHaas+ 51.230s1
9Kevin MagnussenHaas+ 52.857s1
10Sergio PérezForce India+ 1 lap1
11Brendon HartleyToro Rosso+ 1 lap1
12Carlos SainzRenault+ 1 lap2
13Pierre GaslyToro Rosso+ 1 lap1
14Stoffel VandoorneMcLaren+ 1 lap1
15Esteban OconForce India+ 1 lap2
16Sergey SirotkinWilliams+ 2 laps1
17Fernando AlonsoMcLaren+ 2 laps2
18Lance StrollWilliams+ 2 laps2
19Nico HülkenbergRenaultDNF1
20Marcus EricssonSauberDNF2

Lewis Hamilton (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1 W09 leads at the start of the Brazilian Grand Prix

After the various controversies of Saturday qualifying, the front row line-up of Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel had been confirmed overnight. It set up a straight head-to-head between the top two drivers into the first corner of the Autodromo José Carlos Pace when the lights went out to get the penultimate race of 2018 underway.

Supersoft tyres gave the Mercedes the upper hand down thew straight and Hamilton kept first place, while his team mate Valtteri Bottas succeeded in passing the soft-shod Vettel for second as the Ferrari locked up. Kimi Raikkonen briefly lost out to Max Verstappen, but the Finn fought back robustly and quickly regained fourth place through the Senna Esses.

The matter was far from settled, and Raikkonen continued to have his hands full. On lap three Verstappen was able to blast his way past the Ferrari, and moments later, the Dutch driver lined up a similarly successful strike on Vettel into turn 1 for a podium place. Raikkonen followed in his wake to dump an unsettled Vettel down to fifth, which put him just ahead of the second Red Bull as Daniel Ricciardo had already worked himself up to sixth from his post-penalty P11 spot on the grid.

Hamilton had pulled out a two second lap at the front, but Bottas was under heavy attack from Verstappen. The Red Bull finally blew past at the start of lap 10. In the meantime, their battle had given the two Ferraris the opportunity to close back up. Their soft tyres were now starting to come into their own against the less durable supersofts of the cars around them, just as they had hoped when they made the gamble in yesterday's Q2 session.

While Verstappen sped off in pursuit of Hamilton, Bottas continued to valiantly defend from losing a further place to Raikkonen. Mercedes decided to call their man in for his pit stop and change to medium tyres on lap 18, getting him back out in ninth place; Hamilton was in next time by to fend off the risk of the undercut, rejoining in sixth between Sauber's Charles Leclerc and the two Haas of Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen.

Charles Leclerc (MON) Sauber F1 Team C37.

Hamilton was soon up to speed and setting new fastest laps as he quickly caught and passed Leclerc, but Verstappen was still going strong in the lead with an eight second advantage over Raikkonen and in no hurry to change his tyres. Instead it was Vettel who pitted first for fresh mediums on lap 28 despite having started on the nominally longer-lasting soft tyres, dropping to ninth when he came back out and quickly making it eighth with an immediate move on Magnussen.

Raikkonen pitted on lap 32 and came back out immediately behind his team mate, meaning that the two Red Bulls were now at the front having made their initial sets of supersofts last longer than all their main rivals. Also playing the long game was Leclerc, who was up to fourth place between the two Silver Arrows as the race neared the halfway point.

Leclerc and Verstappen finally pitted on lap 36, the Red Bull taking on soft tyres to the finish. It came just after the unusual spectacle of team orders being applied at Ferrari to put Raikkonen back in front of Vettel. Ricciardo was yet to stop meaning that he was now the race leader ahead of Hamilton and Verstappen running neck and neck for second place, with Bottas further back defending against the two Ferraris.

Verstappen's undeniable superiority in speed saw the Red Bull blow past Hamilton for second place on lap 39, which became the lead moments later when Ricciardo finally pitted. Kitted out with a new set of soft tyres, the Aussie was back out in sixth place just behind Vettel. He immediately declared his intentions by posting a new fastest lap of the race as the Red Bull camped out on the Ferrari's rear wing. When Ricciardo went into turn 1 side-by-side with Vettel on lap 43, the pair bumped wheels but fortunately without lasting damage to either car.

Verstappen's progress looked unstoppable, but on lap 43 there was disaster when Force India's Esteban Ocon attempted to unlap himself by repassing Verstappen into turn 1. Verstappen closed the door but in the process the two cars made contact and spun, the RB14 sustaining heavy damage to the floor as the lead was handed back to Hamilton on a plate. Unsurprisingly, Ocon earned himself a ten second stop/go penalty for causing the collision.

Max Verstappen (NLD) Red Bull Racing RB14.

Two laps later and it was the other Red Bull making F1 into a contact sport through the Senna Esses, with Ricciardo bouncing off the wheels of Vettel's Ferrari in his ultimately successful bid to secure fifth place.

Even with the bodywork damage to his car, Verstappen was starting to close back up to Hamilton who had been told to turn down his engine by the Mercedes pit wall to guard against potential problems. "You need to give me some power back, guys," urged Hamilton. "It's a long way to go with the engine turned down like this. I don't want to lose this position."

Nor were things looking any easier for Bottas, who reported "a nasty blister on the rear left" as he worked hard to fend off Ricciardo. Behind them, a dispirited Vettel took the opportunity for a 'free' pit stop and a change to supersofts in a bid to revive his own fortunes.

Ricciardo finally forced his way past Bottas on lap 59, putting him up to fourth place but a long way off Raikkonen for the final podium spot. Bottas decided that enough was enough and took his own 'free' second stop next time by, while retaining fifth place in the process.

The laps were swiftly running out for anyone to pull off any further heroics, but the leaders found themselves getting increasingly held up by lapped traffic. Hamilton threaded his way through the slower cars but his advantage over Verstappen had closed to only 1.5s and he was struggling for grip through the final three laps. Ricciardo was similarly able to close up on the back of Raikkonen.

Despite a tense finish to the race, ultimately no one was able to take advantage of the close running. Hamilton had done just enough to hold on to victory ahead of Verstappen and Raikkonen who scored a podium on his 150th appearance for Ferrari. Ricciardo had to settle for fourth ahead of Bottas and Vettel.

Lewis Hamilton (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1 W09.

The result meant that Mercedes had done more than enough to successfully clinch their fifth constructors championship, securing victory over Ferrari with a race to spare.

Best of the rest was Leclerc followed by Grosjean and Magnussen in a productive week for Haas. Sergio Perez rounded out the top ten for Force India. The two Toro Rossos of Pierra Gasly and Brendon Hartley narrowly missed out on points, sandwiching the 12th placed Renault of Carlos Sainz between them.

McLaren's Stoffel Vandoorne was next up, with Ocon ending up 15th after serving his stop/go penalty. He was ahead of Williams' Sergey Sirotkin who just held off a furious Fernando Alonso at the finish, the Spaniard's race having been compromised by a costly bungled pit stop early in the race and compounded by a five second penalty for ignoring waved blue flags. Lance Stroll was the final finisher, one of three drivers to end up two laps off the lead.

Having achieved his best-ever qualifying position of sixth place on Saturday, Brazil proved a bitterly disappointing race for Marcus Ericsson. His Sauber suffered damage to its extractor on the way to the grid which the team endeavoured to glue back together, but more bits of bodywork dropped off the C37 following a first lap clash with Grosjean. The loss of aero parts left the Swede struggling even to stay on track, and the team was finally obliged to retire the car on lap 21.

Renault's Nico Hulkenberg was the second and final driver to retire from the race, ordered into the pits on lap 33 with clogged radiators that had caused engine temperatures to soar.

Marcus Ericsson (SWE) Sauber C37 spins.

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