A very eventful start, and congratulations to Mr. B on backing Vettel to lead lap 1. Annoyingly, of the bets I shortlisted the only ones that didn’t come off were the long shot and the one I actually backed (Ricciardo spun on lap 1 and could easily have crashed out... but didn’t). To make matters worse, between 3 and 4pm Betfair decided to void my bet on Hamilton not reaching the podium (which came off). My initial attempt to contact them didn’t work as the site kept timing out.
Before the race started there was some concern at Ferrari over the electronics, definitely on Raikkonen’s car and maybe Vettel’s too. Happily, this seemed not to cause a serious problem.
At the start, Vettel just about managed to get ahead of Bottas thanks to a better second phase off the line. Meanwhile, Ricciardo spun off-track and came very close to crashing out. But he didn’t. The swine.
Grosjean lost control slightly which unfortunately coincided with Ocon passing him on the outside, putting the Force India out (Grosjean was able to recover, but I think he subsequently got a rather unnecessary time penalty). Magnussen and Vandoorne also tangled with one another and failed to complete the first lap.
Contrary to my expectations, reliability thereafter was actually pretty damned good, with only Hartley going on to retire, about halfway through the race.
Anyway, first lap shenanigans brought out the safety car for several laps as the track was cleared of debris.
At the sharp end, Vettel was just eking out a lead over Bottas. Verstappen looked faster than Raikkonen but couldn’t pass.
Hamilton and Ricciardo, however, could pass, and were carving their way through the field with aplomb (admittedly, with much faster cars than almost everyone else).
An intriguing battle which got less coverage than it perhaps deserved was that Massa managed to squeak ahead of Alonso and the Spaniard was unable to pass him. This duel continued all race long and, towards the end, Perez was right behind Alonso too. The three finished nose-to-tail, Massa doing very well to keep 7th ahead of his old team mate. At his final Brazilian Grand Prix, Alonso was not faster him.
Mercedes pitted Bottas first, and though Ferrari reacted on the following lap it very nearly stole the victory. Vettel emerged barely a car’s length ahead and for a few corners Bottas, with tyres up to temperature, looked very feisty. However, once things settled Vettel soon pulled out a significant gap and was untroubled by the Finn any more.
Except for Hamilton and Ricciardo rising through the field, it was pretty much as you were. Hamilton passed Verstappen, who was struggling on his tyres, and should’ve passed Raikkonen late on. However, the Briton locked up at the critical time, and on the subsequent lap his supersofts, Raikkonen being on softs, had just lost the critical edge of performance. He was quicker but not so fast as to be able to effect a pass. Raikkonen held on for another podium.
Vettel got the victory which, apart from the pit stop, never seemed in doubt. Bottas got 2nd, with Raikkonen ensuring two Prancing Horses on the podium.
Hamilton got 4th, and whilst 3rd was possible that’s still a great result from the pit lane. Verstappen, despite a late pit stop to get fresh tyres and the fastest lap, was 5th, right ahead of his team mate.
Massa, Alonso and Perez finished 7th to 9th, with Hulkenberg getting the final point, ahead of his team mate. That will be a very interesting intra-team battle to watch next year.
I shortlisted four tips (one a long shot) and two came off. The long shot and the one I actually backed didn’t, which was a bit disheartening. And, as I mentioned, Betfair voided the 2.4 on Hamilton not to get a podium, for reasons that I have yet to ascertain. Luck’s meant to shake out over a season but it does feel like 50/50s have tended to go against me this year.
On early bets, I totally misjudged the relative pace of Red Bull, so that’s on me.
I’ll be glad when this season’s over.