The celebration on the radio, a thumping round of donuts in his blood red Ferrari, and a massive relief on his face: Sebastian Vettel, much to the delight of his fans, finally came good at the end of 71-lap competition in Brazil. But even as at the end of the race one finally got to see a Ferrari emerge on top of the podium, a spectacle last seen in July at the Hungaroring, the Brazilian Grand Prix was a lot about car number 44.
Lewis Hamilton, who drove at his peak, aggressive, undaunted and charging like a lion hell bent on assault, came within fighting distance of third-placed Kimi Raikkonen.
So in ‘Senna land’, as Vettel finally wielded the famous wining finger, the question boiled down to if the second and third placed drivers could’ve won the race.
Could Valtteri Bottas have won the Brazilian Grand Prix?
Doubtful, one reckons, if not ruled out completely.
It wasn’t too hard to note who had the maximum advantage heading into the race, having secured a memorable pole at Brazil on Saturday, the first of his career at Interlagos.
But there was little that Bottas could do in the immediate aftermath of the five red lights going out, as Sebastian Vettel dived down the inside of the Finn into turn one to take the early lead of the 71-lap competition. It would be a position that Sebastian would hold to great effect, finding little need to defend from car number 77 up to the final stages of the grand prix.
So even as Bottas failed to demonstrate scorching pace at the Brazilian Grand Prix, with Vettel scoffing away right from the start, finishing ultimately with a lead of 2.7 seconds, one feels the Finn did well to drive a clean, error-free race.
In fending off Raikkonen, who came within two seconds of his fellow Finn at times, Bottas could only settle for second, even as he and Sebastian did mightily well to manage their supersoft tyres in the fight to the checkered flag.
To be fair, the only time that it seemed the Mercedes driver would mount a charge on Vettel was when the German driver, who pitted a lap later than Bottas, came close to being passed by the Finn in what would turn out to be an unsuccessful undercut for Bottas and Mercedes.
Vettel did well to hold off the Silver Arrow from lap 33 onwards in what would be an utterly dominant Ferrari show till the end, even as top-notch grand prix racing was taking place a few positions back between the teammates of the top two podium grabbers.
Could Kimi Raikkonen have won the race?
Grabbing a respectable but bravely fought third, Kimi Raikkonen never quite looked like taking a shot at the top step of the podium, a spot teammate Vettel stuck to early in the competition.
Even as Kimi was lapping other drivers at a considerably quicker pace on laps 36 and 37, being dominant in the tricky middle sector (having opted for the supersofts in a one-stop strategy), the ‘Iceman’ didn’t quite pose a threat to spoil Vettel’s charge at the front.
That said, take nothing away from the brilliant defensive driving of the experienced Ferrari driver, who could do only as much as clinch yet another third place, having shown mightily good form in the USA and Mexico.
In taking the 91st podium of his career, Kimi gave fans a feisty run to the checkered flag in his nail-biting dogfight with Hamilton, and came threateningly close to being overtaken by the fourth-placed Briton, clearly the driver of the day.
Early in the grand prix, Raikkonen drove well to defend his third-place start from Max Verstappen, who would unsuccessfully attempt to pass the Ferrari driver in the opening laps.
Even though not the quickest driver today, Raikkonen, who was four seconds slower than teammate and race winner Sebastian Vettel in the end, did well to manage his tyres and defend from the marauding pace of Lewis Hamilton, who ultimately mowed down Verstappen in the closing stages, with the Dutchman’s cold, stubborn tyres wearing out earlier than he would’ve desired.
But in securing a hat-trick of third-place finishes starting in the USA, Raikkonen, it seems, would definitely want to go better at Abu Dhabi, a track he has won at in the past.
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