SAO PAULO (AP) — Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel won the Brazilian Grand Prix on Sunday to solidify his hold on second place in the season standings after Lewis Hamilton clinched the title two weeks ago in Mexico City.
It was Vettel’s 47th career win and his fifth this season. It was also the German’s third victory in Brazil.
Vettel started second on the grid, but overtook pole sitter Valtteri Bottas of Mercedes on the first lap and then led most of the way.
Vettel probably won the race with his start.
“I thought I had a pretty good launch,” Vettel said. “I knew I had to go for it. There was a little bit of a gap and it turned out to be very important.”
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Hamilton started last after crashing in qualifying but managed to push his way into contention, staying out longer while the other leaders changed tires earlier because they were running on softer compounds.
Bottas finished second with Kimi Raikkonen of Ferrari taking third. Hamilton was fourth, just 5.4 seconds behind Vettel.
Hamilton closed relentlessly, and Vettel was asked if he was ever worried about the Englishman passing him.
“Not really,” he replied. “I didn’t think he was a threat.”
Vettel has 302 points with the final race in two weeks in Abu Dhabi. Third-place Bottas has 280. Even if Bottas wins in Abu Dhabi, Vettel can take second place in the season rankings by finishing in eighth place or higher.
If they tie on points, Vettel wins because he has more season victories.
“He’s got quite a lead now, so it will take a miracle in Abu Dhabi,” Bottas said. “I was very disappointed in the race start. After that, I was trying to catch up on Sebastian but it didn’t lead to anything more.”
The victory was a long time coming for Vettel, a four-time champion — like Hamilton — who had not won since the Hungarian Grand Prix in July.
Vettel won three of the first six races this season and then faded as Hamilton surged.
Calling it a “great relief,” Vettel said “it’s been a tough day, a tough race. There was no room for mistakes.”
Brazilian Felipe Massa finished seventh in his final race in Brazil. He will bow out of Formula One in two weeks and is expected to race next season in the electric-powered Formula E series.
He won 11 races in his career and came within a point of taking the season title in 2008. A year ago he said he was retiring, only to come back with Williams. It won’t happen again, he said, addressing the sellout crowd at the Interlagos track.
“I am going to miss you a lot,” he told fans. “The thrill I felt today was immense, just like last year. I will never forget today.”
Brazilian Grand Prix Results
1. Sebastian Vettel, Germany, Ferrari, 71 laps, 1:31:26.262.
2. Valtteri Bottas, Finland, Mercedes, 71, +2.762 seconds.
3. Kimi Raikkonen, Finland, Ferrari, 71, +4.600.
4. Lewis Hamilton, Britain, Mercedes, 71, +5.468.
5. Max Verstappen, Netherlands, Red Bull Racing Tag Heuer, 71, +32.940.
6. Daniel Ricciardo, Australia, Red Bull Racing Tag Heuer, 71, +48.691.
7. Felipe Massa, Brazil, Williams Mercedes, 71, +68.882.
8. Fernando Alonso, Spain, McLaren Honda, 71, +69.363.
9. Sergio Perez, Mexico, Force India Mercedes, 71, +69.500.
10. Nico Hulkenberg, Germany, Renault, 70, +1 lap.
11. Carlos Sainz, Spain, Renault, 70, +1 lap.
12. Pierre Gasly, France, Toro Rosso, 70, +1 lap.
13. Marcus Ericsson, Sweden, Sauber Ferrari, 70, +1 lap.
14. Pascal Wehrlein, Germany, Sauber Ferrari, 70, +1 lap.
15. Romain Grosjean, France, Haas Ferrari, 69, +2 laps.
16. Lance Stroll, Canada, Williams Mercedes, 69, +2 laps.
Brendon Hartley, New Zealand, Toro Rosso, 40, did not finish.
Esteban Ocon, France, Force India Mercedes, 0 did not finish.
Stoffel Vandoorne, Belgium, McLaren Honda, 0, did not finish.
Kevin Magnussen, Denmark, Haas Ferrari, 0, did not finish.
1. x-Lewis Hamilton, Britain, 345 points.
2. Sebastian Vettel, Germany, 302.
3. Valtteri Bottas, Finland, 280.
4. Daniel Ricciardo, Australia, 200.
5. Kimi Raikkonen, Finland, 193.
6. Max Verstappen, Netherlands, 158.
7. Sergio Perez, Mexico, 94.
8. Esteban Ocon, France, 83.
9. Carlos Sainz, Spain, 54.
10. Felipe Massa, Brazil, 42.
11. Lance Stroll, Canada, 40.
12. Nico Hulkenberg, Germany, 35.
13. Romain Grosjean, France, 28.
14. Kevin Magnussen, Denmark, 19.
15. Fernando Alonso, Spain, 15.
16. Stoffel Vandoorne, Belgium, 13.
17. Jolyon Palmer, Britain, 8.
18. Pascal Wehrlein, Germany, 5.
19. Daniil Kvyat, Russia, 5.
1. Mercedes GP, 625.
2. Ferrari, 495.
3. Red Bull Racing Tag Heuer, 358.
4. Force India Mercedes, 177.
5. Williams Mercedes, 82.
6. Toro Rosso, 53.
7. Renault, 49.
8. Haas Ferrari, 47.
9. McLaren Honda, 28.
10. Sauber Ferrari, 5.
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