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.

Colton Herta, Bobby Rahal team up with BMW in pursuit of Rolex 24 at Daytona overall win

Herta Rahal Rolex 24
IMSA, BMW Motorsport
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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Though they have opposed each other in the NTT IndyCar Series the past four seasons, the Rolex 24 at Daytona union of Bobby Rahal and Colton Herta seems natural.

Bryan Herta scored his first CART victory with Team Rahal during a 1996-99 run before Colton was even born, and the ties built then

“It’s very cool,” Colton Herta, 22, told NBC Sports. “Obviously Bobby is a legend in the sport that I normally compete in in IndyCar, a three-time champion and won the Indianapolis 500 (in 1986). It’s really cool, and I’ve known Bobby forever. My dad drove for him in the ‘90s in CART and so that transpired into me getting to know him growing up, so it’s really cool and an honor to say you drive for Team RLL.

“We’re not talking about our Indy cars and setups and stuff. We’re talking about how we can make our sports cars faster that we’re driving that weekend. So it’s a completely separate thing, and honestly, I see it as a completely different sport in that aspect. There is no hard feelings over anything in IndyCar and we can just go racing.”

Rahal’s team is known as Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing in IndyCar, but it’s branded as BMW M Team RLL for its IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship entries – signifying its status as the operating arm for BMW, which essentially foots the bill and calls the shots on car development and driver selection.

But Rahal, whose Hall of Fame career was launched by his sports car successes, plays a vital role as team principal. So it’s a special throwback to have having Herta in both of the team’s new BMW M Hybrid V8 prototypes.

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“We, of course, compete against Colton almost every weekend in IndyCar racing, and I really wish he was with us in that series,” Rahal told NBC Sports. “But he’s certainly proved himself to be one of the fastest guys out there and of course, his father was my teammate for several years. We go back a long way. So it’s really fun for me to have Colton with us. For both personal and professional reasons.”

This won’t be the first time Herta has driven a sports car for BMW Team RLL. He made six starts in the BMW M8 GTE from 2019-20 and was part of the winning GTLM team at the 2019 Rolex 24 in his debut.

With seven victories and nine pole positions through four IndyCar seasons, the California native has proven adept at getting up to speed quickly in whatever he is driving. Last year, a Formula One test for McLaren Racing nearly led to an F1 ride in 2023.

“And it’s not just speed,” Rahal said of Herta. “I think he brings a lot of good judgment. When he won the 24 Hours (in 2019), it was a horrible rain, and as an 18-year-old, he didn’t put a foot wrong. And really helped put us in a position to win that race. So he’s smart. He’s obviously very capable. And so he’s a plus for us to have.

“Having said that I would say all our drivers bring attributes that are unique. I won’t say our drivers are better than anybody else’s. Only the race will tell that, but I feel very confident the drivers we do have are equal to anything that’s out there.”


Herta will be teamed with Philip Eng, Augusto Farfus, Marco Wittmann, Connor De Phillippi, Nick Yelloly and Sheldon van der Linde in this year’s Rolex 24.

It’s an unusually long list of co-drivers because Herta is in a unique situation – listed as the fourth driver for both BMW’s No. 24 and No. 25 in the Grand Touring Prototype (GTP) category.

The step up from GT racing to the new premier hybrid class will be major for BMW, which will race a prototype for the first time in two decades.

But there also is special meaning for Rahal, who put himself on the map with an overall victory in the 1981 Rolex 24 at Daytona (co-driving with Bob Garretson and Brian Redman).

“This was the biggest race I won at that point, and at a time in my career when it probably could have gone away more easily than continued,” said Rahal, who recently turned 70. “It was a nexus point at my career. We had a very trouble-free race. Great strategy. As a 28-year-old whose career was kind of iffy, winning this race was a huge turning point for me (and) very, very special and meaningful.

“I can’t think of anything better than if we start our GTP relationship with BMW on a winning note. For me, (GTP) is where we’ve wanted to be. We’ve always been a company that has raced for overall victories, particularly in IndyCar. We’ve had a long relationship with BMW mainly in the GT category, which has been a tremendous honor for us. We won a lot of races (in GT). Won Daytona a couple of times. Won Sebring a couple of times. So those are great victories and things we’re proud of, but for us now, we’re running for overall victories. We worked hard to get to this point and are thrilled to be partnering with BMW to be able to do that.”

Though the GT success provides a great foundation, the leap to prototype is a massive undertaking. BMW also was the last of the four manufacturers to commit to GTP, getting the green light in June 2021, five months after Porsche Penske Motorsport had been announced (Cadillac and Acura are holdovers from DPi, the previous premier prototype division).

Maurizio Leschiutta, the LMDh project leader for BMW M, has described the transition as “a GT is more of a bulldog, the LMDh car is a ballerina. So they require different approaches.”

Though it had the latest start among the four automakers, BMW has tested with furious intensity over the last several months, recently hitting Sebring and Circuit of the Americas.

Before getting 25 laps across both cars on the Daytona International Speedway road course in last week’s Roar before the Rolex 24 practice sessions, Herta had a handful of days testing at Daytona and Bowling Green, Ohio.

The new hybrid system will put a complicated menu of buttons and options on the steering wheel that Herta still was digesting. The car is a high-downforce, high-speed car that bears some similarities to an Indy Car, and Herta does have prototype experience as the LMP2 winner at last year’s Rolex 24 (on a team with Pato O’Ward).

“I’d say the deceleration feels a little different,” Herta said. “The way the brakes changes throughout the brake zone is different. And that’s all done because of the regeneration, and it might regen more at the beginning or more at the later end of the braking zone. But it changes the balance and the way the brake bias is set. There is a little bit of an adjustment period, and you do need to be on your toes with making adjustments inside the car as you drive it. So it’s a little bit more of a handful initially when you get in, but once you get a few laps under your belt and understand how all the systems work, it is a friendly car to drive.

“It’s close to being representative with IndyCar lap times. I don’t think it’s quite as fast, but definitely a huge chunk faster than the GT cars. And a little bit more of a different driving style with obviously a lot more downforce and power.”


Known for being smooth, Herta and the rest of the GTP field will be extra careful about being gentler on the equipment while managing a track clogged by 61 cars with reliability at a premium. Parts supplies are scarce for the GTP cars, and there also are major concerns about the durability of the hybrid engines in their 24-hour debut.

“It seems like it’s going to be a really big endurance race and not a sprint race how this race usually is,” Herta said. “Even the DPis were so reliable, and you could smash the curbs for 24 hours and hammer the throttle, and you wouldn’t have that much of a worry of breaking or blowing an engine or a gearbox.

“It seems with this new formula, everyone is still getting to grips, so maybe reliability will be more of a key and a little more of what we’d see in the ‘80s and early ‘90s of it being more of an endurance race. But it’s still too hard to say. For sure BMW has had great success not only in IMSA but all around in sports car racing as a whole. It shows they have a program that’s capable of winning endurance races and at a very high level.”

Though Herta is uncertain how much time he will have in each car, BMW M Team RLL already has settled his biggest concern of ensuring his seat insert fits well in each car. The main challenge then becomes adapting with each car featuring distinct seat positioning and setups based on the other three drivers.

It also will be a shot at history. Herta is trying to become the third driver to win the overall and score multiple podium finishes with the same team in the top category (a feat also accomplished in the 1968 and ’70 races).

“It’ll be a good opportunity for me to have two chances at winning,” Herta said. “Not a lot of people get that. It’s going to be a really cool dynamic of being able to drive both cars. For sure, it’s a little different, but it’s part of the job. You need to be able to adapt very quickly. I really feel like that’s something that can be taught. You hop around in all these different cars long enough, you learn some tricks to get up to speed a little bit quicker. Hopefully that plays into my advantage, but it is a very exciting opportunity that I think will be very interesting to see how it goes.

To be used in each car, Herta will need to make a minimum drive time of two hours. Rahal views Herta as “an insurance policy to a large degree” if a driver falls ill or gets injured.

“There’s no question he’s up to the challenge,” Rahal said. “Colton’s a race car driver, and race car drivers want to be in the car. So I’m sure naturally a guy like Colton or any other would want to be in a regular basis on the starting rotation, but the way this race is and the difficulty, and of course these cars are going to exact more energy from the drivers than the cars in the past, I think he’s going to get more than his share.”

He also will be running wheel to wheel against familiar teams – Indy 500 winners Team Penske (Porsche), Chip Ganassi Racing (Cadillac) and Meyer Shank Racing (Acura) all have GTP entries.

Herta laughs about even competing against his IndyCar car owner, Michael Andretti, who just became a partner in Wayne Taylor Racing’s championship-contending GTP team.

“It’s very cool,” he said. “Not only do you have these great manufacturers but these amazing IndyCar teams. So it’s pretty cool to see the crossover. I know these teams are very well respected in North America and the manufacturers they bring are respected all across the world. It’s a really cool championship and really cool era of sports car racing that’s dawned here.”