With both the Drivers World Championship and the Constructors Title already been won, the Brazillian GP was mainly about bragging rights.
Max Verstappen who started from 1st on the grid after yesterday’s sublime performance in Qualifying looked to better last year’s result in Sao Paulo when he was so close to a race win but a collision with Esteban Ocon prevented that.
The race got to a clean getaway with a few position changes heading into turns 1 and 2. The most notable one was Lewis Hamilton overtaking Sebastian Vettel into the first turn of the start of the GP.
It was a contact free race until lap 8, when Renault’s Daniel Ricciardo went for the infamous ‘dive bomb’ overtake on HAAS’s Kevin Magnussen into turn 5 which resulted in a collision between the two.
Magnussen spun out losing positions whilst Ricciardo’s front wing was damaged and he needed to pit for a replacement dropping him down the grid order as well.
The stewards deemed the Renault driver at fault for the collision and punished Ricciardo with 5 seconds added onto his next pit stop or at the end of the race should he not stop again.
Strategic battle at the midpoint of the race
Once we reached lap 20, all teams were starting to look around at their direct rivals to see what they are doing in terms of pit stop strategies. The battle between Hamilton and Verstappen for the lead of the race was at its most crucial part with the Briton slowly catching Verstappen.
In lap 22, Hamilton pits in order to try the undercut on Max, and succeeds temporarily with a little help from back marker Robert Kubica who squeezed out Max on the exit of the pit lane nearly causing a collision between the two.
Verstappen however didn’t give up and within a lap, caught up-to Lewis and overtook him into turn 1 on lap 23 to regain the lead of the race. That marked a period of struggles for the Mercedes driver who felt the team had pit him on the wrong set of tyres.
Williams’ Kubica received the same 5 second penalty as Daniel Ricciardo for squeezing out the Red Bull driver in the pits, with the stewards deeming that a dangerous release by his team.
Late drama and double trouble for the Ferraris
All hell broke loose on lap 52 when Valtteri Bottas’ engine gave up as he was chasing down Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc. Bottas was forced to retire marking Mercedes’ first mechanical retirement since 2018.
As Valtteri was forced to stop by turn 5, a Safety car was brought out until his Mercedes was wheeled away from the track. The safety car brought the whole pack together, with Leclerc and Verstappen deciding to pit for new tyres whilst Vettel and Hamilton choosing to stay out.
A split in strategies across the top 4 meant an exciting end to the race for the fans but that was nothing compared to what everyone was about to witness in the coming laps.
The Safety car ended on lap 59 and as soon as lap 60, Max was ahead at the front again after a very quick and easy overtake when you take into consideration Lewis was on a very worn set compared to Verstappen’s brand new one.
Everyone was in position until drama struck on lap 66 when Lecrect overtook team mate Vettel into turn 2 and 3, but Sebastian tried to come back at him on the DRS straight leading upto turn 5. Unfortunately for Ferrari team principle Mattia Binotto, the two collided resulting into a double DNF for the prancing horse and a lot of questions to be asked of the drivers. The incident brought out a second safety car for the race.
Racing Point’s Lance Stroll added to the already hefty list of retirements for the race after front suspension failure took him out of the race too.
The dying laps of the race were mostly spent behind the safety car. It wasn’t until lap 69 that the drivers were allowed to race once more, for the final two laps of the race, which would prove to be as action packed as the whole race up until then.
Upon the restart, Hamilton quickly took Gasly to get up to 3rd and had Albon in his sights next. The two collided on lap 70 however in a similar fashion to the collision between Ricciardo and Magnussen at the start of the race, with Albon spinning out and ending up back of the grid and Hamilton claiming P3.
Somewhere down the grid, Nico Hulkenberg received a 5 seconds added on penalty for overtaking someone before the restart procedure was fully implemented.
On the dying lap, it was a scrap battle between Hamilton and Toro Rosso’s Pierre Gasly for P2, with the Mercedes driver coming to a whisker behind Gasly as they both finish nearly side to side at the end in an emphatic fashion.
The podium was set at Verstappen claiming victory with a dominant display all weekend, a surprise second place for Pierre Gasly and Hamilton picking up third temporarily before the stewards awarded him with a 5 second penalty post race just like Ricciardo.
The penalty Hamilton received dropped him down the order, and gave McLaren’s Carlos Sainz his maiden podium in F1 after a superb drive from the Spaniard seeing him climb from 20th at the start, to a podium position.
Coming up next in two weeks time is the final Grand Prix of the 2019 Formula One season. The dazzling Abu Dhabi GP. The drivers will be looking to steal the show on the final race of the season under the streetlights on the glamorous Abu Dhabi race track. Join us in two weeks time for our final report of the season.
(Picture taken by Steve, under Creative Commons license)