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Vettel takes Brazil F1 victory as Hamilton fights from pit lane to P4

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Sebastian Vettel gave Ferrari a late-season boost by charging to his first Formula 1 win since the end of July in Sunday’s Brazilian Grand Prix, but it was former championship rival Lewis Hamilton who stole the show at Interlagos with a charge from the pit lane to P4.

Vettel was able to fight his way past Mercedes pole-sitter Valtteri Bottas early on and control proceedings to lead most of the way en route to his fifth win of the year, and his first since the Hungarian Grand Prix before the summer break.

Bottas had a quiet race en route to second, coming close to catching Vettel just once during the pit stops, while Kimi Raikkonen was able to hold on to the final podium position despite late pressure from the recovering Hamilton, who ultimately had to settle for P4 at the checkered flag.

Vettel made a clean start from P2 on the grid to lunge down the inside of Bottas at the first corner, but was unable to forge much of a lead on the opening lap after the safety car was deployed early following two on-track incidents.

A three-car clash at Turn 3 eliminated Stoffel Vandoorne and Kevin Magnussen on the spot, as well as forcing Daniel Ricciardo to pit for minor repairs, while Romain Grosjean and Esteban Ocon collided through Turn 6 when scrapping for position. Grosjean was able to continue, but Ocon was forced into the first retirement of his F1 career.

The carnage allowed Lewis Hamilton to rise up to P14, as well as giving Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa the chance to take fifth and sixth respectively ahead of the restart.

Vettel was able to ease clear of Bottas on the restart, moving out of DRS range before it was activated as Ferrari teammate Kimi Raikkonen tried to stay in touch with the lead duo in third, sitting just over a second back from his Mercedes rival.

Hamilton continued to scythe through the field at the expense of the midfield runners, rising all the way up to seventh through the opening 15 laps to sit behind the battling Massa and Alonso in the race for P5. Ricciardo was doing his best to follow Hamilton’s lead, recovering from his early clash and prior grid penalty to sit inside the points for Red Bull.

Hopes of another close fight between Hamilton and Alonso as in Mexico two weeks ago were quickly dashed as the four-time champion made light work of his former teammate to take P6, before following that up with a pass on Massa one lap later. With the first round of pit stops approaching, Hamilton sat P5 and some 17 seconds off leader Vettel at the front.

Running on the soft tire, Hamilton began to gain time on the lead quartet as the super-soft runners began to struggle for pace, prompting Mercedes to pit Bottas at the end of Lap 28 in a bid to get the undercut on Vettel at the front.

Ferrari was forced to react immediately, bringing Vettel in one lap later, and found the German driver’s advantage had shrunk to just a few car lengths as he snaked out of the pit lane, albeit still in front.

Vettel was able to put his foot down and pull out over a second’s lead on Bottas, rising back up to P2 when Raikkonen and Verstappen both came in for their stops, with Hamilton leading on the soft tires he started on.

Despite his Pirellis being some 28 laps older than the tires Vettel was running on, Hamilton continued to stay on pace at the front of the pack, holding a lead of around three seconds before eventually diving into the pits on Lap 43 for a fresh set of super-softs.

Hamilton quickly began to push on fresh tires, lapping over a second a lap faster than the drivers ahead as they worked to manage their softs to get them to the end of the race. Mercedes informed Hamilton his target was a podium, with third-placed Raikkonen just 10 seconds up the road with over 20 laps to go.

Hamilton was soon able to latch onto the back of Verstappen in fourth as the Red Bull racer struggled with his tires, complaining they felt “like rocks”. The Dutchman was powerless to halt Hamilton’s advance, dropping to fifth on Lap 59.

Hamilton made use of the free air and quickly began to reel in the leading trio, leaving him just five seconds back from Vettel at the front with five laps remaining. Hamilton came close to picking off Raikkonen, only for his tires to begin to fade, causing him to slow.

At the front, Vettel managed to take the checkered flag 2.7 seconds clear of Bottas to record his fifth win of the year, as well as moving to within three points of clinching second place in the drivers’ championship for Ferrari.

Raikkonen crossed the line in third for Ferrari less than a second clear of Hamilton, who was left ruing a lock-up at Turn 1 that took life out of his tires late on. Nevertheless, the Mercedes driver’s charge from the pit lane to P4 was enough to secure him the Driver of the Day honor.

Red Bull drivers Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo were left to settle for P5 and P6 respectively, with both making a second stop late on to take on a fresh set of super-softs after struggling for pace.

Felipe Massa took an emotional result as he finished his final home grand prix in F1 seventh for Williams, fending off Fernando Alonso and Sergio Perez on the final lap after a close fight. Massa was greeted by cheers from a passionate home crowd at Interlagos after taking the checkered flag, holding a Brazilian flag aloft from his car on the warm-down lap.

Nico Hulkenberg rounded out the points for Renault, pulling the team a point closer to Toro Rosso in the constructors’ championship after the Red Bull B-team had another tough race. Pierre Gasly took P12 behind Carlos Sainz Jr., while teammate Brendon Hartley retired with an issue.

Sauber drivers Marcus Ericsson and Pascal Wehrlein took P13 and P14 respectively, finishing ahead of Grosjean, who was penalized for his clash with Ocon early on, while Lance Stroll took 16th after a late tire issue on his car.

The 2017 F1 season concludes with the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on November 26.

Here’s what drivers said after Sunday’s INDYCAR race was postponed until Monday

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Here’s what several drenched drivers had to say after Sunday’s Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama was postponed until Monday morning (11:30 a.m. ET, LIVE on NBCSN):

JOSEF NEWGARDEN (No. 1 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet, 2017 Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama winner, 2018 pole winner): “It’s tough because we have so many people that come out here to watch us. We want to put on a good race. We want to put on a show. So calling the race, running around behind the pace car not running, it’s tough, it’s tough to do that. But I think it was the right thing in the end. When we started the race, the conditions were OK. You could run at that level of rain. Then, it intensified right before that first caution. I think when the caution came out, it got to a point where it was just too much. There was too much puddling and pooling of water on every straightaway. Then the rivers started flowing, high-speed compressions in Turns 1 and 2, fast corner, 12 and 13, fast corner where the river starts to form. Just tough. I mean, look, we love racing in the rain. It’s got nothing to do with not wanting to run in the rain, not being able to do that. It’s that this type of track with this water level was too much to race today. We’ve run here in the rain before, but it intensified to the point where you’re starting to get in a situation where it’s going to take it out of the drivers’ hands. What happened with Will (Power), I don’t think is a driver error. I don’t know how anyone is going to drive hydroplaning on the front straightaway. I think you would have had that for the rest of the track, too. A tough situation. Thanks for the fans that came out and supported us. Hopefully we’ll get some people back tomorrow and we’ll get the show in and put on a great event.”

MATHEUS “MATT” LEIST (No. 4 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet):
“Tough day so far. We had some problems with our radio and fuel alarm, but otherwise the car was alright. It was just too dangerous out there, we couldn’t see anything, so I think they made the right call. Hopefully we’ll have a good race tomorrow.”

WILL POWER (No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet): “It’s just a real shame for everyone on the Verizon Chevy team. The car was good and we were doing our best out there, but it was really hard to see anything in front of me. The conditions were just so bad. As soon as I got to the frontstraight, the car just came around, and I tried to keep it off the wall, but it was hydroplaning and there was nothing I could do. I feel bad for the team and for the fans in this weather. Just too bad. Hopefully our luck can turn around when we get to Indianapolis.”

TONY KANAAN (No. 14 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet): “Very difficult day for us. In the race we were 13th at the time and we had some electrical issues, so that caused us to pit and we lost a lap. Not the ideal situation, but we don’t give up. There’s still a race tomorrow and we’re going to go for the most points. Anything can happen.”

GRAHAM RAHAL (No. 15 Mi-Jack Honda): “It was a tough beginning, but when we kind of got going it was OK and kind of fun to challenge for a while, but visibility was a major issue today, no doubt. I’m glad that the series postponed it. I would have like to get it in today, but that’s life. We will go racing tomorrow.”

ALEXANDER ROSSI (No. 27 Kerauno / MilitaryToMotorsports.com Honda, Verizon IndyCar Series points leader): “I think definitely the right decision was made to red flag the race. It’s a very difficult position for everyone to be in. It’s never the result that you want, but safety is obviously a priority. I think everyone did a good job considering the conditions of looking out for each other. Not being able to see is not doing anybody any good. It is hard for everyone, but glad that we’re all in one piece and try again later.

TAKUMA SATO (No. 30 Mi-Jack / Panasonic Honda): “As you could see on TV, if you couldn’t see the car, it was probably three times worse in the cockpit on the main straight or any straight. You had to completely trust the guys that they were accelerating. Never the less, I made good progress on the short stint and I made up a few positions.  The car was working well, but also was aquaplaning a lot, too, so I have to respect INDYCAR’s decision for everyone’s safety. Now we really need to concentrate on having a good car for tomorrow. I’m sorry for the fans that sat in rain all day, but thank them for their support.”

RENE BINDER (No. 32 Binderholz tiptop timber Chevrolet): “It was a short day. In the beginning the conditions were not that good, but afterwards the conditions started to improve. The race was stopped, then restarted, and I think the conditions were not too bad at that point. Unfortunately, it was red flagged again and then cancelled for the day. It would have been nice to get halfway, but we will come back and try again tomorrow.”