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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.

Could Scott Dixon someday break Foyt, Andretti wins and championships records?

IndyCar
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With five races left in the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series season, Scott Dixon is in the driver’s seat to potentially earn a fifth career IndyCar championship.

After winning Sunday at Toronto, Dixon now has a 62-point edge over second-ranked and defending series champ Josef Newgarden and a 70-point lead over third-ranked Alexander Rossi.

The triumph north of the border was Dixon’s third there, as well as his 44th career IndyCar win, third-highest in IndyCar annals.

Add in the four IndyCar championships and those are stellar numbers indeed.

What makes things all the more amazing is Dixon has done all that in under 18 full seasons on the IndyCar circuit. Heck, he’s only 37 years old, too (although he turns 38 on July 22).

Dixon’s championships have come in 2003 (his first full season in IndyCar after two prior seasons in CART/Champ Car), 2008, 2013 and most recently in 2015.

The quiet, unassuming New Zealander has been one of the most successful drivers ever not just in IndyCar, but in all forms of motorsports.

When his name is mentioned, it’s typically included with the only two drivers who have more career wins than he does: A.J. Foyt (67 wins and seven championships, both records) and Mario Andretti (52 wins and four titles).

That’s a pretty lofty pair to be part of.

One might think that after all the success he’s had, Dixon could easily walk away from IndyCar and Chip Ganassi Racing and enjoy an early retirement.

But competing in and winning races isn’t really a job for Dixon. He enjoys what he’s doing so much that he easily could keep doing what he’s doing – and at a high level – for another seven or more years, at least.

So, can Dixon catch Mario and A.J.? The former would be easier than the latter, for sure.

Numerically, it’s possible – at least part of it:

* Dixon can easily be competitive into his mid-40s.

* He’s averaged three-plus wins every season since 2007 (37 wins from then through Sunday). That means if he can keep that average going, he could reach 24 more wins – to overtake Foyt – by 2026. Yes, that may be a stretch to even imagine, but if there’s any current driver who potentially could overtake Foyt, it’s Dixon.

* Dixon already has three wins this season, and with five more races still to go, he could easily win another one, two or maybe even three more in 2018 as he continues his road to the championship. And let’s not forget that with each additional win, that’s one win closer to overtaking Andretti and Foyt.

In his usual modest and humble manner, Dixon downplays not just talk comparing him with Andretti and Foyt, but also overtaking one or both.

“I think A.J. is pretty safe,” he said. “He’s a long ways ahead. … Eight (championships) is an infinity away. Takes a long time to get eight.”

But that doesn’t mean Dixon can’t keep working at approaching Foyt’s mark.

“I think for us, we take it race by race,” he said. “We’re in the business of winning races. If we’re not doing that, I won’t have a job for too long. That’s the focus for right now.”

If he wins the championship this year, he’ll pass Andretti’s championship mark. That would be one record down, three to go.

And if he can win nine more races over the next few seasons, he’ll pass Andretti’s 52 career wins, making it two records down and two more to go.

“Right now with 44 wins, next on the list is Mario I think at 52 or something,” Dixon said after Sunday’s win. “We’ll see how it goes. Right now, we’re just trying to get the job done for the team.”

And he’s doing a darn good job at that indeed – with likely even more success still to come.

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