Neither race bet came off. Been a rather bad year, to be honest. Of the early tips, they’re green overall thanks to Verstappen winning (tipped pre-weekend at 5). Both race bets were at least credible, but you don’t get sympathy winnings.
Ricciardo ended up taking a grid penalty. After all that, he started near the back.
Anyway, off the line it was very close, Verstappen just about passing Vettel and staying on track. The German tried to come back as Hamilton sought to take advantage and the two collided. Vettel lost part of his front wing, Hamilton suffered a puncture. Verstappen broke away from Bottas and, after lap 1 pit stops from the title contenders, Hamilton was dead last and Vettel was last but one, albeit some way up the road.
Behind Bottas, it was spring time for the midfield chaps with Ocon, Hulkenberg and Sainz all ahead of Raikkonen (the Finn has a habit of starting badly).
Meanwhile, Ricciardo’s brand new engine failed. A short and not very spectacular race for the unfortunate Aussie.
Vettel set about carving his way through the field on a circuit where overtaking is notoriously difficult. Indeed, we were lucky he and Hamilton tangled on the first lap otherwise almost the only overtaking would’ve been by the McLarens. However, Hamilton found running in the hot air much harder than Vettel (a rare weakness for the Mercedes) and it took him maybe a dozen laps to pass Sainz, who early on had had to pit (I think he ran over debris and got a puncture).
At the sharp end, Verstappen was being told to slow down a bit. He responded by setting fastest laps repeatedly and laughing at his race engineer, whilst pulling out an ever increasing lead over Bottas.
Further down the order, the two McLarens were making progress from the back (due to grid penalties). Alonso passed Grosjean quite roughly, with relative serious contact, and I was surprised there was no penalty, to be honest. When the Spaniard reached Vandoorne, the Belgian (bottled up behind Ericsson) was told to move aside, which is indicative of how McLaren might treat 2018 if they’re in a title-contending position.
Hulkenberg retired due to an electrical issue, and was ordered, after pulling over, to climb onto the front and then jump off the car to avoid getting a shock.
Ocon, who had been ahead of Raikkonen, pitted earlier. After this, the Finn started extending the lead to an extent whereby he could pit and retain 3rd spot.
It was then that Hartley’s engine failed. He pulled over, aflame, and the virtual safety car emerged (a proper use of the measure unlike the Azerbaijan safety car showboating that caused such carnage and artificially altered the race). This enabled the frontrunners, including Raikkonen, to pit and keep their places, pushing Ocon down to 4th .
From there, Vettel and Hamilton passing a few more cars aside (Vettel passing Ocon), the race was effectively over. The start was exciting, the middle was tense, and the end was a bit of a procession.
Verstappen got his third ever triumph, Bottas and Raikkonen next in the order but with very wide gaps between them on track. Vettel ended up 4th, and was the only other man not lapped by Verstappen.
Ocon was 5th and Perez 7th. A very strong result for Force India, yet again. Their silly tangles at a few races aside, the driver pairing is fast and reliable, and the car’s solid as a rock, only Mercedes being more reliable.
Stroll was 6th. Whilst he was aided by the timing of the VSC (he was running 4th at the time, between Raikkonen and Ocon) he nevertheless drove well and fully deserves the place, with Massa in 11th.
Magnussen finished 8th. Rather surprising, actually. Haas had been the worst car in qualifying, slower than the Saubers, so one imagines the odds on him scoring points would’ve been pretty good.
Hamilton finished 9th. Not the most glorious way to seal a title, nor as dramatic as the 2008 victory in Brazil, but he claimed his fourth title nevertheless. Damned shame that Ferrari lost reliability at two races and denied us a proper fight to the end.
Alonso was 10th. With Renault engines failing all around, the Honda kept ticking. A good performance from man and car. (Vandoorne was 12th).
Hamilton has the title, and Bottas cannot be caught for 3rd (I tipped Bottas pre-season at 26 each way, fifth the odds for top 3, to win). There’s still a lot to be decided in the middle of the Constructors’ race, though. From fifth:
Toro Rosso 53
The race was dreadful for Renault. At one point they had two cars in the top five, and both ended up with DNFs. Meanwhile, Stroll extended Williams’ lead of the mid-grid pack by eight points. Williams have probably got fifth now, but behind them it’s down to just two races and could go any way. Haas, thanks to Magnussen’s surprise 8th, is now just a single point behind Renault.
Ahead of this group, the order is settled: Mercedes, Ferrari, Red Bull, Force India. Behind them we have McLaren and Sauber.
The next race is at Interlagos, my favourite circuit, in a fortnight. After that, just one more race, in Abu Dhabi.