Team-mate wars: Brazilian Grand Prix

Date published: November 16 2017

Lewis Hamilton lost this one to Valtteri Bottas while Felipe Massa scored his final Brazilian point…

Mercedes
Hamilton 15 – Bottas 4
Race: Bottas
Nasty things can happen when you go out and forget that you have a cold floor, and that was one of the things that was crossing Lewis Hamilton’s mind as he climbed out of his car at the side of the track in Q1 on Saturday.

From that point on, with Vettel at his predictable Q3 best, it was a question of hoping that Valtteri Bottas could get on pole, get in front, and either win the race himself, or that an opportune Safety Car might compress them all at a beneficial time. Valtteri managed 50%. During the race, Lewis did a much-predicted burn from the stern, but the Safety Car came too early.

Bottas did a mighty job to get P1 in Qualifying but decided to take Turn 1 as though he was avoiding trouble when the lights went out. Had he not seen all the videos of races at Interlagos where people follow lap after lap after lap after remorseless lap?

The Mercedes in race trim was definitely the fastest beast at Interlagos yet neither driver could take the win. That is perhaps the ‘yang’ to the Singapore victory ‘yin’.

Ferrari
Vettel 11 – Raikkonen 8
Race: Vettel
Before we get onto the main event, one word of comfort for Ferrari fans who might be worrying that (Fiat-Ferrari boss) Sergio Marchionne is going to be taking the Scuderia out of F1. With Italy going out of the 2018 World Cup this week causing a national scandal, the next big tournament for the Azuri is Euro 2020.

Would the influential Gazetta dello Sport be happy with Ferrari indicating that they were going to quit the F1 world sporting stage at a time when the football team weren’t on it? Sticking Fiat into the BTCC doesn’t quite make up.

Vettel outqualified Raikkonen (who is worth his weight in team radio messages these days – in and out of the car, the two Kimis are different people) and only unnatural caution stopped Seb from grabbing pole. He soon dispatched that trifling matter in less than 300 metres and the race was his.

Red Bull
Max Verstappen 14 – Daniel Ricciardo 5
Race: Verstappen
Max took the qualifying honours in Brazil, although it looked as though Daniel made a calculation not to exert himself in Q2 and Q3 more than he had to. His Q1 time was on a par with Max, and then in Q2 and Q3 he did just enough to stay ahead of whoever was occupying P6.

In the race he did some fabulous, and wholly expected, late braking manoeuvres into Turn 1, but as with Lewis, only a nicely timed Safety Car was going to put him in the thick of it. The loss of the engine in Mexico meant that this team-mate battle was never a starter.

Force India
Sergio Perez 10 – Esteban Ocon 9
Race: Perez
Sergio will be kicking himself that his qualifying performance wasn’t a race ago. As it was he proved to be the best of the rest, squeezing past Fernando Alonso in Q3 to finish P6 (elevated to P5 by Daniel Ricciardo’s penalty).

In the race, that slippery Fernando Alonso got past him at the start, and from then on it was a race-long view of the McLaren rear wing. Esteban Ocon qualified near Romain Grosjean and made a swift exit thanks to the veering Haas.
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Williams
Felipe Massa/Di Resta 15 – Lance Stroll 4
Race: Massa
Jacques Villeneuve probably enjoyed this grand prix as Lance Stroll was miserably bad. Stroll qualified in 18th a whole second slower than Massa in Q1 and struggled to get his car off the line. Massa made it through to Q3 and got a blinding start (which has been a hallmark of his career).

Felipinho liked it, so that’s got to be a good way to end your last race. Massa kept the agile McLaren of Fernando Alonso at bay for the whole race to finish 7th in front of his beloved fans. Stroll gave his tyres a massive flatspot that ultimately delaminated and he finished last.

McLaren
Fernando Alonso/Button 16 – Stoffel Vandoorne 3
Race: Alonso
Fernando Alonso eked out some more daylight between himself and Stoffel Vandoorne at Interlagos with yet another superb qualifying performance, only eclipsed from the mid-grid by Sergio Perez.

Everybody in commentary (Sky/BBC/C4) enjoyed the tired old “Fernando is faster than you” jokes as he got stuck behind the Williams of Felipe Massa for the rest of the race, but he did manage to stay in front of another Mercedes-engined car which was surely a result.

Vandoorne was the entirely innocent party to a first lap Kevin Magnussen move that was inept, as opposed to his usual belligerent.

Toro Rosso
Carlos Sainz 11 – Daniil Kvyat/Pierre Gasly 5
Kvyat 1 – Hartly 0
Hartly 2 – Gasly 0
Race: Hartley
With hefty grid penalties for replacing everything with a Renault badge on it from Mexico, and reduced running speed to make sure the same thing didn’t happen again, this was hardly a test of balls-out racers.

Hartley made it into Q2 while Gasly qualified behind a Sauber, which is never a good start. In the race Brendan’s getaway was hampered by a sluggish Lance Stroll right in front of him and a lack of radio connection for the first part of the race (surely Renault didn’t build the radio, too).

Haas
Romain Grosjean 10 – Kevin Magnussen 9
Race: Grosjean
Kevin – stroke my Chuppa Chups – Magnussen failed to outqualify  Romain Grosjean in Brazil. Both got a bit rude on the opening lap thanks to some epic Haas understeer which carried Magnussen wide into Stoffel Vandoorne and on into Daniel Ricciardo, ending Vandoorne’s and his own race. Grosjean ran wide into Ocon and ended the Force India driver’s race.

The stewards leapt onto the Grosjean accident with all the alacrity of a sloth (native to Brazil) on its lunchbreak and finally dished out a penalty when he was least expecting it, much to the amusement of anyone who was waiting for it to be relayed over team radio. We weren’t disappointed. To be fair, the penalty points were a bit harsh; we got our laugh, and that should have been that.

Renault
Nico Hulkenberg 15 – Jolyon Palmer 1
Nico Hulkenberg 1 – Carlos Sainz 2
Race: Hulkenberg
With Renault’s fear of their over-spinning turbo this wasn’t a true test of the drivers, but the Hulk has got the vibe around Interlagos with the confidence of that solitary pole whilst at Williams. He outqualified Sainz and brought his car home in front, in what is now a true team-mate tussle.

Sauber
Marcus Ericsson 2 – Antonio Giovinazzi 0
Marcus Ericsson 7 – Pascal Werhlein 10
Race: Wehrlein
With the Renault-powered cars all asthmatic and wheezy at the not-so-high Interlagos, the Ferrari-engined Saubers had the opportunity to actually race people again. Pascal Wehrlein came within a snip of putting his car in front of both Torro Rossos.

In the race, Sauber thought it might try the old-school trick they used to bring out to score points in the old days by getting Pascal to do almost the entire race on one set of tyres. It didn’t work and ultimately he finished behind Ericsson.

Star of the Race: Lewis Hamilton
Overtaking Move of the Race: Sebastian Vettel on Valtteri Bottas (it’s the one that really mattered)
The Maldonado Award: Romain – you’re kidding me, you’re kidding me – Grosjean
The Last Word: The BBC’s Jack Nicholls came up with a quote vaguely reminiscent of one of the early Harry Potter films (the one with the big snake at the end) as Max Verstappen cruised around in FP3: “There’s a concerned look on the heads of Christian Horner.”

Andrew Davies