What happened at the Brazilian Grand Prix?

Sebastian Vettel had Ferrari back on top, but a pair of robust recovery drives from Lewis Hamilton and Daniel Ricciardo stole the show in Sao Paulo.


Lewis Hamilton: qualified 20th, finished 4th. Valtteri Bottas: qualified 1st, finished 2nd.

There was one Mercedes driver who had a standout performance in Brazil, and it wasn’t the one who started on pole and finished in second place. Bottas had a golden opportunity to use the fastest car in the field to claim a much-needed first win since Austria back in round nine; since, he’s been roundly thrashed by Hamilton in the sister Silver Arrow as the Briton careered towards a fourth world title. With the Finn on pole and Hamilton starting from the pit lane after crashing out of qualifying, Brazil was there for the taking – instead, it was Bottas who was taken, the Finn elbowed into second place at the first corner by Vettel and never really staking a claim for the lead later on, despite Mercedes getting aggressive with its pit-stop strategy and bringing him in for new tyres on lap 27 to put the frighteners up Ferrari. It didn’t work, and he finished 2.7 seconds from the win – and just 2.7secs ahead of Hamilton in fourth after the Briton narrowly missed out on becoming the third driver ever to start from the pits and end up on the podium. Hamilton came to Brazil vowing not to back off after winning the title last time out in Brazil, and showed how hard he was prepared to push when he overdid it in qualifying, burying his car in the Turn 6 fence and causing a red flag. An early safety car that bunched up the field helped his cause, but Hamilton was inside the top 10 after nine laps and looked set to catch Raikkonen for third, but a lock-up at the first corner inside the last five laps brought his stirring charge to an end. While a pole, a podium and Hamilton being voted Driver of the Day were good, what wasn’t was the news some Mercedes staffers had been robbed at gunpoint leaving the circuit on Friday night after practice, one of a number of similar incidents over the weekend that saw an increased security presence at surely the most dangerous location F1 continues to insist on visiting.

Red Bull Racing
Daniel Ricciardo: qualified 5th, finished 6th. Max Verstappen: qualified 4th, finished 5th.

The high altitude of Sao Paulo and Red Bull’s fragile Renault engine supply always loomed as a bad combination, and for Ricciardo, who retired from the previous two races in Austin and Mexico City with powerplant problems, Interlagos was a triple-whammy, more engine component changes making for a 10-place grid penalty. The chances of the Australian arresting his wretched record in Brazil – he’d competed in more races (six) than scored points (five) at Interlagos before Sunday – looked like a lost cause when was spun at Turn 3 by Vandoorne, whose McLaren had been tagged by the Haas of Magnussen at the previous turn, on the first lap. No matter; Ricciardo returned to the pits, had new tyres fitted, and then spent the afternoon tearing back through the field, his late-braking passes of one rival after another into the tricky downhill Turn 1 a highlight. Hamilton’s drive from the back in a better car gained more plaudits, but Ricciardo’s effort was sublime. Verstappen, who came in after winning two of the previous four races in Malaysia and Mexico, had a more statistically successful afternoon than his teammate, but spent much of the race frustrated at the power provided by his engine, and asked for a late-race pit stop to replace tyres that he said “felt like rocks”. With nothing to lose from fifth place, the team agreed to his request, and the Dutchman set the fastest lap of the race on lap 64 of 71. Fifth was as good as it was going to get – and sixth will be the best he can do in the drivers’ standings with just the race in Abu Dhabi to come.

Sebastian Vettel: qualified 2nd, finished 1st. Kimi Raikkonen: qualified 3rd, finished 3rd.

After losing the title to Hamilton in Mexico last time out, Vettel responded in the best way possible with just his second win in the past 13 races, a remarkable stat considering he led the title chase for the opening 12 rounds of the year. The German said he “chickened out” of his qualifying lap on Saturday, when Bottas edged him by 0.038secs for pole, but got his courage up on Sunday off the start, muscling past the Mercedes at the first corner and looking seemingly untroubled from there. It was Vettel’s fifth win and 12th podium of the year, and one that all-but assured him of finishing runner-up in the world championship – he leads Bottas by 22 points with a maximum of 25 available in Abu Dhabi. Raikkonen never looked like challenging his teammate in qualifying or the race, but took a third successive podium finish for the first time in his second stint at Ferrari, and for the first time since China-Bahrain-Spain in 2013, when he was at Lotus. Fourth in the drivers’ championship remains up for grabs, provided he can score seven more points than Ricciardo in Abu Dhabi.

Force India
Sergio Perez: qualified 6th, finished 9th. Esteban Ocon: qualified 11th, did not finish.

With fourth in the constructors’ championship sewn up, would Force India allow its drivers to race one another again in Brazil, and risk revisiting the acrimony between Perez and Ocon that marred the first half of the season? Sadly (for our entertainment, not the team’s) we never got to find out, as Ocon was pitched into a spin by Grosjean on the first lap and crashed, ending his perfect F1 finishing record; the young Frenchman had completed all 27 races he’d started before Interlagos. Ocon was unhappy with qualifying outside of the top 10 after he’d been a third-row fixture in recent races, and the dangers of being back in the pack in the frantic opening exchanges were painfully obvious. Perez, who didn’t drive in opening practice as the team elected to run Mercedes-backed British junior George Russell, this year’s GP2 champion, in his car, was thrilled to qualify sixth, which became fifth on the grid with Ricciardo’s engine penalty demotion. The Mexican was less happy on Sunday though, finishing at the back of the three-car train behind Massa and Alonso that flashed across the line almost simultaneously, two points a reward for his efforts.

Felipe Massa: qualified 10th, finished 7th. Lance Stroll: qualified 18th, finished 16th.

Interlagos was Massa’s final home Grand Prix – after it was his final home Grand Prix a year ago before he was retained for 2017 after the team lost Bottas to Mercedes. While he didn’t get the emotional send-off of last year after he shunted the car in the rain and was given an ovation from the passionate Brazilian fans, a seventh-place finish – effectively best of the rest behind the big three teams – was as good as it could have been, and Massa would have especially enjoyed keeping old Ferrari mate Alonso at bay in the closing stages, finishing less than half a second ahead of the McLaren. Massa jumped past teammate Stroll back into the top 10 of the championship after a difficult first visit to Brazil for the Canadian, who had his qualifying preparations ruined when his car needed a gearbox change – and subsequent five-place grid penalty – on Saturday morning. Stroll’s start from near the back was poor, and he had to make a late-race pit stop to change tyres after his left-front delaminated following several lock-ups into the first corner, finishing last of the 16 drivers classified.

Fernando Alonso: qualified 7th, finished 8th. Stoffel Vandoorne: qualified 13th, did not finish.

Watching Alonso manhandle his McLaren into positions it has no realistic business being in – onto the fourth row of the grid in qualifying and competing for decent points in the race – has become a Sunday staple, and the Spaniard’s Saturday lap in Q3 was raw aggression and sublime skill at its finest. The lack of long straights at Interlagos didn’t punish McLaren’s cruel lack of straight-line speed, and the car looked mighty in the twisty middle sector, where the driver can make a sweet-handling chassis sing. Four points for eighth was Alonso’s second-best result of the year, which was encouraging on one hand, but a reminder of his past glories on another; the two-time world champion has been on the Brazil podium eight times without ever seeing the view from its top step. On the other side of the garage, Vandoorne’s race was over almost before it started, the Belgian squeezed into contact with Ricciardo’s Red Bull by Magnussen and making the long journey back to the pits on foot.

Toro Rosso
Pierre Gasly: qualified 17th, finished 12th. Brendon Hartley: qualified 15th, did not finish.

No points, but plenty of drama for Red Bull’s ‘B’ team in Brazil. Toro Rosso took engine penalties in Brazil for the fourth race in a row as their relationship with Renault splutters to a conclusion before a move to Honda next season – and then things got really interesting. Renault intimated that the installation of the engine could be to blame – “there are never coincidences in this sport,” said Renault head Cyril Abiteboul – which Toro Rosso team principal Franz Tost strongly refuted. The team then issued a statement prior to qualifying, suggesting that Renault’s constructors’ championship fight with Toro Rosso might have something to do with the recent unreliability of the engines it provides to the team … In the race, Hartley stopped just after half-distance with yet another reliability gremlin, while Gasly, who said he found the repeated engine penalties “hard to accept” as he negotiates the early days of his F1 career, was a lapped 12th after starting from the back. The good news? The lack of points didn’t hurt the team too much in the constructors’ championship, Toro Rosso taking a four-point lead over Renault (and six over Haas) into the final race in the UAE.

Romain Grosjean: qualified 12th, finished 15th. Kevin Magnussen: qualified 14th, did not finish.

Grosjean wasn’t happy to be in an incident with Ocon on lap one, and his mood didn’t improve when he was penalised – harshly, it appeared – 10 seconds at his first pit stop for being deemed to have caused the collision with his compatriot. “You must be kidding me,” he groaned. Stroll’s late puncture and subsequent pit stop spared Grosjean from finishing dead-last. Magnussen didn’t come close to getting that far after being the trigger for the first-lap accident with Vandoorne and Ricciardo. “I broke my front suspension, so it wasn’t the best,” he said afterwards.

Nico Hulkenberg: qualified 8th, finished 10th. Carlos Sainz: qualified 9th, finished 11th.

One point for finishing 10th usually isn’t much to get animated about, but for Hulkenberg, it was a welcome relief after the German hadn’t finished the past four races, and was driving with one hand behind his back to a degree, with Renault managing engine power delivery modes to combat Sau Paulo’s high altitude and its own unreliability. The margin between Hulkenberg and Sainz was miniscule all weekend, suggesting the car was being driven to its potential, but whether that potential can translate into points to vault past Toro Rosso in the team’s race despite having a much more experienced and successful duo of drivers remains to be seen.

Marcus Ericsson: qualified 19th, finished 13th. Pascal Wehrlein: qualified 16th, finished 14th.

Ericsson made a strong start and benefitted from the early chaos behind him to nibble at the edges of the points for quite some time, but faded to 13th as his search for that elusive first world championship point continues with just one race left this season. Wehrlein, who was given a new suspension and aerodynamic update to his car for the race to combat the handling problems that had plagued him in recent outings, ran ahead of his teammate for some time, but admitted to “really struggling” as he dropped to 14th by the flag.


Miller Time: Saying goodbye

Jack Miller writes about finishing up his 2017 season with a strong result in Spain – and his first taste of Ducati power later this week.


Hi everyone,

That was a pretty good way to end the year, that’s for sure. There was a lot going on for everyone at Valencia on Sunday – always is when you have the usual massive crowd there and there’s a Spanish rider in the championship fight like there was with Marc (Marquez) against ‘Dovi’ (Andrea Dovizioso) – but it was a big day in our garage too. And it was a pretty decent way for me to close out a couple of pretty memorable years.

I’d known I was leaving the Marc VDS team for a while now of course, because we all knew I was off to Pramac Ducati for next season for the last few months. But Sunday was different because this was it, the last time I’d ride for them after two years. After I broke my leg in September, my main reason for hurrying back as fast as I did was to get back for my home race and the Island, but being there at the end of the season for the team was important too. I mean, whatever happens to me from here, I won a MotoGP race with these guys, so I wanted to finish up properly with them. And to finish seventh in the dry at Valencia and have really good pace all weekend – great way to end up.

Valencia isn’t the easiest track for us MotoGP riders because it’s so narrow and you’re always turning the bike, there’s only one decent-length straight. It’s a short track too, so 30 laps around there feels like forever if the bike is hard to ride. I’ve never had a decent MotoGP race there before, so to be up there all weekend, making Q2 again, fighting with Vale (Valentino Rossi) and (Andrea) Iannone and them in the race for a decent result, that was pretty much perfect. Couldn’t really hold onto them and Alex (Rins) who came through at the end there, but seventh means I finished top 10 in the last three races of the year. That would have been decent even if I hadn’t busted my leg, so pretty happy.

By the time you read this we’ll probably be well on the way to have a decent celebration with the team – which is why I’m writing this now! It’s the last race here for my teammate Tito (Rabat) as well, so they have a pretty different look coming next year. These guys have been great for me, and to know I was the rider who gave them that first MotoGP win last year at Assen, that’s pretty special. They’ve done a lot for me and helped me grow up as a rider (even as a person, I know that’s hard to believe but they have), and I’ll always be thankful for that. The year I spent with my engineer Ramon (Aurin) this year has been huge for me, he’s a done a lot to make me a smarter rider and his experience has been great for a rider like me, what I needed for sure. He’s someone I’ll definitely miss working with day by day.

Of course, it all moves so quickly in MotoGP, and we’ll all be back here in two days with about 100,000 fewer people watching to get 2018 started with the usual post-race test. I remember how it felt two years ago when I left Lucio (Cecchinello) and his team to come down to Marc VDS, and as weird as that was, I was still on a Honda and things felt fairly normal. Thinking that I’ll be on a Ducati on Tuesday, in a new garage with a new team … it’s a lot to take in. Really up for it though, and then it’ll be time for a bit of a break and to get my body right.

Thanks for coming with me for the ride this year. Finishing 11th for the season in the end was just short of the top-10 goal I set myself, and that was after missing a race injured too. So, not too bad I suppose. But I’ll want more next year, and it’ll be good to let you know how it all goes.

Cheers, Jack

The Dan Diaries: Reasons to believe

In his latest exclusive driver column, Daniel Ricciardo writes about bad luck, Brazil and how the best elite sportspeople separate themselves from the rest.


If momentum and history count for anything with Brazil this weekend, then I might be in some trouble! I’ve not been able to finish the last two races in Austin and Mexico because of car dramas, and 19 racing laps total since Suzuka isn’t ideal. And then there’s Interlagos. For some reason, Brazil and I have never really gotten along. When someone tells you that you’ve done more races at a track than you’ve scored points, then it’s not great! The only way is up, clearly.

My record here – and even the last two races – makes you wonder about luck and the whole concept of it. Does good or bad luck really exist? Is it something people lean on to make themselves feel better when things go wrong? Or is everything explainable?

Sometimes, luck – good or bad – is a thing simply because it’s the only explanation you have for something happening. Not finishing the last two races because of things out of my control sucked of course, but equally you could say I had some luck at the start of the year with finishing races when (teammate) Max (Verstappen) didn’t, so things generally even themselves out. What goes around comes around, that sort of thing. Look at Baku earlier in the year when I won that race – I still had to drive well that day, but then you have something random like the headrest coming loose for Lewis (Hamilton) when he was ahead of me … that was what opened up the chance for me to win.

So for me, luck does exist. I’m a believer! Where do I stand on other things, racing-related or not? Let’s run through a few.

I’m a big believer in treating people the way you want to be treated in return. I see this in the sport and I’m sure anyone reading this knows people who have different ways of dealing with different people – some better, some worse. Some people treat others like it’s a transaction – as in what’s in this for me? – and I’m not a massive fan of that. For me, I try not to have too many different scales – I never understand why you would treat, say, someone famous any differently to someone you just met on the street. Aussies are like that generally, I think. Everyone should get the benefit of the doubt until they don’t deserve it anymore! So I try to keep pretty consistent with that.

A believer in God or a higher power? Sheesh … that’s not an easy one to explain! I was brought up and went to a Catholic school, and as a family we’d go to church on the occasions like Easter and Christmas Day. But the older we got, that began to drift a little, which perhaps is a generational thing. With work for me and where I’ve been, I’ve met lots of people, seen lots of things and got a taste for a lot of different angles when it comes to religion. My perspective has become more full, you could say. Sometimes religion can create divisions before people can get a chance to make their own minds up, just by its existence, so that’s one thing I don’t like about it. So that’s a very hard one to answer. It all comes down to how you were brought up and the experiences you had with family in those formative years, I guess.

The power of positive thinking? Believer. Big believer. A lot of the people I surround myself with and a lot of my mates are generally happy and positive people. There’s good energy that comes with that. The people who are on the other side of that – my mates and I call them ‘sappuccinos’ because they sap energy! – are always down and see the glass as being half-empty and not half-full. So positive thinking brings good energy, and good energy means you can get things done. Tick.

Can you learn from your mistakes? Absolutely I believe you can. Some people take time to analyse when things don’t work, and others are in denial or feel they can just brush it off and they don’t need to take anything out of it. I’m in the first category for the most part professionally, and I’m relatively good at that.

Can hard work overcome talent if talent doesn’t work hard? Believer. I’m not going to name names in F1 because that might be a bit tricky, but I’ll say there were definitely drivers growing up in Australia coming through karting with me who were very talented. They also moved abroad like me and tried to make it, but then they struggled a lot, and all of a sudden I was the one who was creating the headlines, which probably surprised a few people. They had just as much driving talent as me, but perhaps they were out partying and chasing girls and eating crap food and so on, I’m not sure. Whatever the case, things flamed out for them. So you need a baseline of talent, for sure, but hard work can be the thing that separates you. I believe I’m a product of that, and even now, I know that those first couple of years in Europe when I was a nobody and it was really hard to grind away, they completely set me up. Without those years and what they taught me about the hunger I needed, maybe I don’t make it at all.

Is sport more mental than physical? For most cases, yes. Some of my best races have been when I’m maybe not physically the strongest or fittest person on the grid, but I’m in the best place mentally because of what’s going on in my life and the way I’ve got myself in the right headspace to perform. Unless you’re talking, say, ironman or other sports where your results are based on almost purely physical performance, what separates the great from the very good at the elite level is all mental.

I’ve become a lot more aware of what I need to do to be in the right mental space and can get myself there on the days even when I’m not really feeling it. Anyone who works knows that there’s some days when you’re just not naturally in that space, so having the right triggers, routines or whatever that can get you there is really important. Diet, music, stretching … there’s a lot of things that, for me, go into it. Saying that, there are some days when you think you’re set to have a blinder of a race and don’t, or when you don’t expect much and you get a result. Look at Baku this year. Waking up that morning, that wasn’t a race I was expecting to win. Explains why I looked more surprised than any other emotions in the pics afterwards!

Can you learn more about yourself in bad times than good times? 100 per cent. A big weekend for me over the whole of my career was Canada in 2013 when I was still at Toro Rosso. Mark (Webber) was finishing at Red Bull at the end of that year, and I was putting a lot of pressure on myself, too much really. And it just wasn’t working. I had a shocker of a weekend and ‘JEV’ (teammate Jean-Eric Vergne) was really strong. I couldn’t keep going the way I was going, so I took a step back, re-assessed and did some serious thinking.

I wouldn’t say I was lost or at some sort of career crossroads, but I was in a rut, for sure. There’s a lot more room to grow from those situations, because if you win, there’s a tendency to think ‘I was the best today, let’s move onto the next one’. I’m trying to get better at learning from that too (it’d be good to have more chances to learn from winning too, I’m working on that!), but you learn way more about your ability and yourself on your worst days, if you’re willing to look into it rather than brushing it off as simply bad luck. Which brings us back to where we started …

So, Brazil. I know, five points in six races sounds pretty ugly. But I’m thinking positive thoughts. My stats in Malaysia were about as bad as Brazil until I won Sepang last year, so there’s that. Because I’ve never had a good one in Brazil, my motivation is to figure it out and get that right. We’ll give it a crack.

Who wins the MotoGP crown, and why?

It’s Marquez vs Dovizioso for the biggest prize in two-wheel motorsport – here’s five things you need to know before their final-round showdown in Valencia.


After nearly eight months, 17 Grands Prix, 399 racing laps, five race-winners and 10 different riders on the podium, the 2017 MotoGP season comes down to this – 30 laps in Valencia on Sunday to decide who will wear the crown as the king of two-wheel motorsport. Some 32 riders have taken to the grid for some or all of the 2017 campaign, but Valencia is all about just two.

For Marc Marquez, being in contention at the pointy end of the season is nothing new. In a whirlwind four MotoGP seasons before this one, the Repsol Honda man has won three titles, and leads this year’s championship by 21 points coming into Valencia.

Marquez knows what it’s like to be atop the table coming into the last race; in 2013, he led Yamaha’s Jorge Lorenzo by 13 points heading to Valencia, a third place as Lorenzo won the race seeing him win the crown by four points. Marquez has done it the easier way too; his 2014 title came in Japan with three races to go after he’d won the opening 10 Grands Prix of the season, while last season, he also secured the title at Motegi with three races remaining.

For Andrea Dovizioso, 2017 has been a breakout campaign for a rider who had managed just two premier-class victories in nine seasons before this one. Like Marquez, the Ducati rider has taken six victories so far in 2017, and no matter what happens in Valencia, he’ll top his previous-best championship finish of third, which he earned riding for Marquez’s current team back in 2011. It’s been 13 years since Dovizioso could call himself a world champion, which came when he won the 125cc title for Honda in 2004.

What are the mathematical implications of this weekend? What must Dovizioso do to pip Marquez at the post? Who’s hot and who isn’t? And what role could teammates Dani Pedrosa (Marquez) and Lorenzo (Dovizioso) play, let alone the likes of factory Yamaha pair Valentino Rossi and Maverick Vinales, among others? Here’s what to watch for, and why.

The maths

To say Marquez is in the box seat is an understatement. With a 21-point advantage over Dovizioso, the Spaniard need only finish 11th or better to win the title no matter what the Italian does. In 17 races so far this year, Marquez has finished 14 of them (he crashed in Argentina and France, and had an engine failure in Great Britain), and 11 of those finishes have been podiums. Sixth in Italy has been his worst result.

Dovizioso has been more dependable (he’s finished 16 times in 17 races, equal with Johann Zarco for the most finishes this year), and the one DNF wasn’t even his fault, taken out mid-race by Aprilia’s Aleix Espargaro in Argentina in round two. ‘Dovi’ has finished on the podium eight times, but picked a bad time for his worst result of the year last month at Phillip Island, when he finished just 13th as Marquez won the race to see an 11-point championship deficit balloon to 33.

The Valencia records

For all of his dominance elsewhere, Marquez has a surprisingly modest MotoGP record at Valencia, winning just once (2014) in four attempts. But before Ducati fans get too excited, it’s worth pointing out that Marquez made the podium on the other three visits – third in 2013, and second in 2015 and again last year.

Valencia is also home to perhaps Marquez’s most mesmerising world championship performance; in his final Moto2 race before graduating to the top flight in 2012, he was sent to the back of the grid for a practice infringement and started 33rd – and won anyway, his first lap that day one that still has seasoned onlookers shaking their heads in astonishment …

By contrast, Dovizioso has been super-consistent – he’s finished in the top 10 for nine consecutive years at Valencia – but has just one podium (third in 2011) on his CV. But that was the Dovizioso of old – who knows what this year’s re-booted version could achieve?

The recent form

Marquez has led the standings after eight races this season, Dovizioso two. More recently, over a snapshot of the past five races, it’s Marquez 108 points, Dovizioso 78. Included in that quintet of Grands Prix are three wins for Marquez (San Marino, Aragon and Australia), and two for Dovizioso (Japan and last time out in Malaysia, both of which came in wet conditions). In fact, the front-running duo have been so dominant that the last rider other than Marquez or Dovizioso to win a race this year was Rossi, way back in round eight at Assen in June. Since then, it really has been a two-horse race. Expect Dovizioso and Ducati to be doing a rain dance this week …

The teammates

What could Pedrosa or Lorenzo do to influence the title race? Lorenzo’s role in particular came under the microscope in Malaysia, when he led for much of the race before making a mistake at the final corner with five laps to go, Dovizioso steaming through to take the win. Afterwards, Lorenzo claimed he didn’t see a dashboard instruction from Ducati to let his teammate by to take the extra five world championship points that come with a victory, but added “I already knew, I didn’t need anyone to tell me what to do in this situation”.

What brings Lorenzo into play here is that the Mallorcan has been the dominant force at Valencia in recent times, winning three of the past four races there to go with his other triumph at the tight Spanish track in 2010. He secured the 2015 title – the only one not won by Marquez since the Honda rider came into MotoGP – with victory from pole. Rain, hail or shine, Lorenzo shapes as a factor at Valencia, which could help his teammate.

Pedrosa also has success to draw upon at Valencia, but not recently; the last of his three wins there came in 2012, while last year, he crashed out on lap seven after qualifying a lowly eighth.

If either teammate is figure prominently in Valencia, it’s likely to be Lorenzo – and especially if it rains.

The sideshows

While it’s all about the top two in Valencia, there’s several other storylines worth keeping an eye on.

With 197 points in 16 of the 17 races (he missed Misano with a broken leg), 2017 is already guaranteed to be Rossi’s lowest-scoring season in five years since he’s been back at Yamaha. Worse could be yet to come – should Pedrosa outscore him by 13 points in the final race, ‘The Doctor’ would fall to fifth in the championship, his worst finish on a Yamaha in 12 seasons. The Italian hasn’t won at Valencia in 13 years, and has just one podium (second in 2014) in his past six starts.

For his old Yamaha teammate Lorenzo, 2017 shapes as the first season in his 10 MotoGP campaigns that he hasn’t won a race; second last time out in Malaysia was the best of his three podiums so far in red.

And for Aussie fans, keep an eye on Jack Miller, whose goals coming into the season were to stay healthy after an injury-ravaged 2016, and to finish inside the top 10 overall. He very nearly managed the former before a broken right leg saw him miss the round in Japan, but he’s bounced back since with strong top-10 runs at home in Australia and in Malaysia a fortnight ago. As for the latter: Miller sits 12th on 73 points coming into Valencia, two points behind Ducati’s Alvaro Bautista, and just 11 behind Yamaha’s Jonas Folger in 10th, with the German set to miss the season finale with illness.

Fifth – and topping his season-best to date of sixth at Assen and in Misano – would do it for Miller, depending on what Bautista can manage.

What happened at the Mexican Grand Prix?

Red Bull’s Max Verstappen ran rings around the rest as the F1 roadshow hit Mexico City, while Lewis Hamilton’s worst race of the year secured his fourth world title.


Lewis Hamilton: qualified 3rd, finished 9th, won world championship. Valtteri Bottas: qualified 4th, finished 2nd.

Given Hamilton came to Mexico needing only a fifth place in the final three races of the year to secure the title, few were surprised when the Briton joined Alain Prost and Sebastian Vettel as a four-time world champion – but plenty were surprised as to how he achieved it. From third on the grid, Hamilton tried to take advantage of the contact between Vettel and Verstappen in the opening two corners, but came off second-best when his right rear tyre was punctured by Vettel’s front wing in a move he felt may have been intentional. A pit stop sent Hamilton to the unusual position of the back of the pack, and his Mercedes, so often at the other end of the field, strangely struggled to work its way back through to the points, finally getting back into the top 10 when he passed Massa’s Williams on lap 57. From there, it was all about bringing the car home and keeping an eye on Vettel, who needed to finish in the top two to take the title fight to Brazil in a fortnight’s time. The German couldn’t, and a third title in four seasons was Hamilton’s. “It was a horrible way to do it, to be honest,” he admitted after his worst result of the season, a ninth-place finish seeing him become the first driver since James Hunt in 1976 to secure the crown in a race where he was lapped. Only Michael Schumacher (seven world championships) and Juan Manuel Fangio (five) have won more than the Hamilton-Vettel-Prost triumvirate.

On the other side of the Mercedes garage, Bottas’ second was his best result in five races, and one that went by almost unnoticed given Hamilton’s dramas, Vettel’s own comeback drive and Verstappen sailing on serenely out front. One story to watch now Mercedes has won both the drivers’ and teams’ titles for a fourth straight year; Bottas is now just 15 points behind Vettel for second in the drivers’ standings, which will surely be Mercedes’ focus for the final two Grands Prix.

Red Bull Racing
Daniel Ricciardo: qualified 7th, did not finish. Max Verstappen: qualified 2nd, finished 1st.

On any other day, Verstappen’s drive to his second race win of the year and third for his career would have hogged 95 per cent of the headlines, but Hamilton’s fourth world title took some of the spotlight away from the young Dutchman. It arguably shouldn’t have, as Verstappen was in a class of his own from Saturday onwards in Mexico, even when Vettel edged him by 0.086secs to steal pole position. The long run to the first corner at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez always shaped as a chance for Verstappen to muscle past Vettel, and the pair briefly touched before Verstappen entered Turn 3 ahead, and that was that. Despite being told several times by his team that he didn’t need to push as hard as he was, Verstappen set fastest laps for fun in the early stages, and such was his dominance that he finished 54 seconds clear of Raikkonen’s third-placed Ferrari. For the ease of his victory, Verstappen admitted to some nerves when he saw one Renault-powered car after another out of the race with reliability problems, his mind undoubtedly drifting back to earlier in the year when he retired from multiple races through no fault of his own. “I had my bad luck at the beginning of the year so I am very happy that this time nothing happened to me,” he said. Speaking of luck, teammate Ricciardo’s ran out after he encouragingly topped the timesheets after Friday practice, giving a glimpse of the Red Bull pace Verstappen would show from then on. The Australian’s qualifying was a disaster, admitting he was “confused, annoyed, helpless” after finding no grip and starting seventh, and the team elected to take a 20-place grid penalty for a new engine on race day to give him a fighting chance of a good result. Ricciardo roared through to seventh from 16th on the grid in just six laps, but meekly returned to the pits with a turbo problem, retiring from a strong position for the second time in a week after his DNF in Austin. It was the first time Ricciardo has retired from consecutive races since his days at Toro Rosso in 2013. “The weekend turned to crap,” he lamented.

Sebastian Vettel: qualified 1st, finished 4th. Kimi Raikkonen: qualified 5th, finished 3rd.

With the championship mathematically possible but realistically improbable, Vettel drove like a man with nothing to lose in qualifying on Saturday, securing his first pole in five races with a lap that stunned Verstappen, who looked unbackable for top spot. But from the perfect place to start the race, the German’s Sunday unravelled after the contact with Verstappen and Hamilton in the clumsy opening exchanges, and he had to pit after one lap for a new front wing. He made better progress through the field than Hamilton did, but couldn’t get close enough to Raikkonen for Ferrari to flip its drivers for the sake of his championship chances. Vettel was understandably flat after the race, but praised the way Hamilton was able to join him as a four-time world champion. “Overall he was the better man and did the better job, simple as that,” he said. Raikkonen did what Raikkonen does, which is qualify nowhere near Vettel (he was three-quarters of a second slower), race consistently in a superior car after a poor start where he got elbowed back down the field, and take advantage of Ricciardo’s absence from the top six and Hamilton and Vettel being compromised to finish third, his sixth podium of the year.

Force India
Sergio Perez: qualified 10th, finished 7th. Esteban Ocon: qualified 6th, finished 5th.

Force India secured fourth place in the constructors’ standings for a second consecutive year with another solid haul of points in Mexico, but it was Ocon, rather than home hero Perez, who flew the flag for the team on race day. The Frenchman, who admitted before the event that he’d received death threats from Mexican fans via social media after his various run-ins with Perez this year, out-qualified Ricciardo to slot into sixth, and took third early on after the first-lap mess ahead of him, with a maiden podium looking a chance. The recovering Ferrari duo of Raikkonen and Vettel demoted him to fifth, which equalled his best F1 result and saw him draw to within nine points of his teammate in the drivers’ standings. Seventh for Perez, who pitted on lap 51 to fit ultrasoft tyres for a late charge to the flag, meant the Mexican has never beaten a teammate at home, and while he harried the Williams of Stroll in the final laps, the Canadian was able to keep him at bay. An appearance on the podium after the official ceremonies had finished to thank his home fans for their passionate support over the weekend was a moment Perez will surely never forget.

Felipe Massa: qualified 11th, finished 11th. Lance Stroll: qualified 12th, finished 6th.

Stroll’s last two races as an 18-year-old in Japan and Austin produced no points and plenty of pain, so race day in Mexico – on his 19th birthday – made for a welcome change, taking his second-best result of the year behind his podium finish in Azerbaijan back in June. It was a result that owed itself to consistent pace and a smattering of luck, as he was able to pit under virtual safety car conditions on lap 32 when Hartley’s Toro Rosso caught fire and ground to a halt, fitting supersoft tyres and going to the end despite plenty of pressure from Perez’s Force India. Massa’s chances of joining the birthday boy in the points came unstuck when a slow puncture saw him have to pit on lap three, and Stroll has now jumped the veteran Brazilian in the standings (40 points to 36). With Interlagos coming up next, will the out-of-contract Massa know his F1 future before his home race? On the more immediate horizon, eight points for Stroll saw Williams take a 23-point lead over Toro Rosso for fifth in the constructors’ standings with two races remaining.

Fernando Alonso: qualified 14th, finished 10th. Stoffel Vandoorne: qualified 15th, finished 12th.

Mexico was Alonso at his feisty best after the Spaniard and teammate Vandoorne – again – were consigned to the back of the grid because of engine replacement penalties. Both Alonso and Vandoorne were more than 30km/h slower – that’s no misprint – than the Mercedes-powered cars down Mexico’s mammoth start-finish straight, and Alonso feared he wouldn’t be able to do much starting so far back despite calling his chassis “the best in Mexico” after qualifying. He was wrong, a fighting drive to 10th featuring a wheel-to-wheel dice with the recovering Hamilton late that evoked memories of the good old days when Alonso was competing for something more meaningful than a single point. Twelfth for Vandoorne made it three races in a row for the Belgian without points after his back-to-back seventh places in Singapore and Malaysia.

Toro Rosso
Pierre Gasly: qualified 20th, finished 13th. Brendon Hartley: qualified 13th, did not finish.

That Gasly was still running at the chequered flag was something of a surprise, the young Frenchman struggling with one engine gremlin after another in practice and qualifying, so much so that he’d managed all of 12 timed laps before the race at a track he’d never driven at before. On the other side of the garage, Hartley had engine issues on Friday, made Q2 on Saturday before a puff of engine smoke saw him have to park up, took an engine penalty for the race, and then blew up again just before half-distance. “I’m not the happiest man today, but I’m still smiling because I’ve made progress compared to last week in Austin,” the New Zealander said. With Daniil Kvyat officially out of the mix at STR, it appears the unlikely pairing of Gasly and Hartley will be the team’s drivers for 2018 after they were confirmed for Brazil and Abu Dhabi to round out this season.

Romain Grosjean: qualified 19th, finished 15th. Kevin Magnussen: qualified 18th, finished 8th.

Nobody at Haas would have dreamed of points after qualifying, where the American team’s cars were slowest of all in what Grosjean called “a slap in the face” after being beaten by Sauber. So for Magnussen to finish eighth, especially after he laboured with a stomach bug on Friday, was something akin to a miracle, even after he gained through the pain of others after the various incidents on the first lap. “That was like a victory, it was incredible,” the Dane said. “It was a perfect race. It couldn’t have gone better.” Grosjean may well have joined his teammate in the points, but came off second-best in a clash with Alonso at the first corner on lap 10 that both damaged his car and saw him slapped with a five-second time penalty for exceeding track limits. Two laps down, the Frenchman was the final driver classified.

Nico Hulkenberg: qualified 8th, did not finish. Carlos Sainz: qualified 9th, did not finish.

A miserable Sunday in Mexico for Renault, with Hulkenberg not seeing the flag for the fourth time in five races because of a mid-race retirement with an energy recovery system issue, and Sainz pulling into the pits with less than 10 laps to go after reporting his car was pulling sideways on the straights. After both cars made the top 10 in qualifying, it was a disappointing end to a weekend where Toro Rosso, five points ahead in the constructors’ championship for sixth but looking increasingly vulnerable, looked there for the passing.

Marcus Ericsson: qualified 16th, did not finish. Pascal Wehrlein: qualified 17th, finished 14th.

Ericsson looked odds-on to snare his first points for the season when he ran convincingly inside the top 10 in the early stages, but had a brake-by-wire failure 14 laps from the end and returned to the pits with flames licking at the back of his gearbox for a seventh retirement in 18 races. Teammate Wehrlein was a chance to get a Sauber into Q2 for the first time since Azerbaijan 10 races ago before being edged by Vandoorne and Ericsson late in the first part of qualifying, but had a rougher race, finishing two laps down and ahead only of Grosjean’s heavily-damaged Haas.

Miller Time: Wanting more in Malaysia

Jack Miller writes about a race at Sepang that was equally good and bad, and the one box that can still be ticked with one MotoGP race left this season.  


Hi everyone,

Two top-10 finishes in a week? Normally I’d be pretty happy with that – actually, very happy with that. But as I started to cool down after Malaysia (or try to anyway, the humidity here isn’t the easiest for that), I was a bit disappointed in a way. Eighth is good, especially in a race like that when it’s wet and it’s so easy to make a mistake and end up with a zero. But there were definitely a few ‘what if?’ moments that I kept thinking about.

The start was one. I was 11th on the grid, but it’s such a long run to Turn 1 at Sepang that you can make up a heap of places if you get it right. I got off the line well and went tight down the inside and held my line, and was probably up to around fourth or so. Looking good. But then we got to Turn 2, there were people everywhere and a bit of contact, and people were coming inside of me, outside … I had to sit up a bit which didn’t help, and the next thing you know I’m 10th at the end of the first lap. The first lap was like being pinballed around – I was just too slow and couldn’t find the grip. Has some contact with Maverick (Vinales), and a few others actually – I was a bit of a roadblock.

And that’s how it felt for the whole race, until maybe five or six laps from the end – I knew I could be faster but just had no grip. When I was on the left-hand side of the tyre especially – even staying upright felt like a challenge. The tyre finally started to come good for me after that, and my best lap with five laps to go was the sixth-fastest of the race, so it shows that pace that was there – maybe I needed them to wear faster for me or something. By then though I was too far back and while I was able to get (Alvaro) Bautista and Scott (Redding) to get to eighth, I was too far back from Vale (Valentino Rossi) to seriously give him a challenge for seventh, and that was that.

Malaysia probably has the most changeable weather of anywhere we go, even Phillip Island, so I was hoping the weather would hold for the race. We had good dry-weather pace, and I was pretty quick in the morning warm-up. But then half an hour before we started, it bucketed down and threw everything up in the air. Some guys went backwards, other guys like Danilo (Petrucci) came from the very back after his bike broke down on the way to the grid and somehow finished sixth, right behind Dani (Pedrosa) who was on pole! It was a strange one alright. I go pretty good in the wet as you know, but I wanted it to be dry as our pace was strong, very strong actually. What was possible in a normal dry race? Top six, definitely. Maybe a bit more than that, if I’m being greedy. So happy with eighth, but a bit frustrated.

At the start of the year, I set myself a goal to try and finish in the top 10 in the championship, and that was looking good until the races after Assen, where I only scored three points from Sachsenring to Silverstone. Missing Japan after breaking my leg didn’t help either, I suppose. But the last two races mean I’ve scored 17 in a week, and I’m now only 11 points off Jonas Folger in 10th, and he’s not riding at the last race in Valencia. I 100 per cent wrote a top-10 off before Australia, but it could be back on again. I’d need my best result of the year to do it, fifth or better in Valencia, but it’s a chance. For that to even be a topic with one race left, that makes me really happy. It’s within reach, and while it’ll take a really solid effort from me and the team in Valencia, I believe we can do it.

The break between here and Valencia is pretty important for me, considering I’ve done these last two races while getting used to the plate and screws in my right leg and clearly not being 100 per cent. I can now get back to Andorra and launch into some physio this week, which I’m going to need after how physical Sepang was. It’s a week more into my recovery than Phillip Island was, but the Island was easier in some ways as the track goes left and the corners are mostly fast and long corners. Sepang goes right, there’s heaps of stop-start stuff where you’re standing the bike up, so definitely harder on the right leg. If I can get some better range of motion for Valencia, I should be a lot better.

It’s been a pretty full-on couple of weeks and the team is in a good mood to celebrate because Franco (Morbidelli) won the Moto2 championship today, so I reckon it’s time to stop talking and go for a beer with those guys, and then get back to Europe tomorrow. One more to go and one more thing I’m after for this year – I’ll speak to you from there.

Cheers, Jack

What happened at the United States Grand Prix?

Max Verstappen’s podium that wasn’t was the big talking point after Lewis Hamilton continued on his winning ways in Austin.


Lewis Hamilton: qualified 1st, finished 1st. Valtteri Bottas: qualified 3rd, finished 5th.

Mercedes won its 11th Grand Prix of the season – and fifth out of six races since F1’s mid-season break – to annex the constructors’ championship for a fourth year running, and could very well seal the drivers’ championship next weekend in Mexico after Hamilton continued his love affair with the Circuit of the Americas. Of the six races held at Austin, the Briton has now won five of them, and while he made a tardy getaway to be beaten by Vettel’s Ferrari into the first corner, Hamilton was untroubled after reclaiming the lead on lap six, and will take a 66-point lead to Mexico City with a maximum of 75 points left in the season. Also for the statistically minded, Hamilton’s pole position on Saturday was his 117th front-row start, breaking the record set by Michael Schumacher. Hamilton’s form since F1’s summer sojourn contrasts sharply with that of teammate Bottas, who, having re-signed for 2018, has dropped well off the pace. The Finn finished 34 seconds behind his teammate after making a late pit stop for tyres when Raikkonen and then Verstappen demoted him from the podium places, but in a six-race run where Hamilton has won five times, Bottas has managed just two podium finishes in what is undoubtedly the fastest car in the field. “A tough day for me,” he lamented.

Red Bull Racing
Daniel Ricciardo: qualified 4th, did not finish. Max Verstappen: qualified 6th, finished 4th.

It had almost been the perfect week for Verstappen, who signed a contract extension until 2020 in the lead-up to the race in Austin. Notice we said ‘almost’; after being beaten in qualifying by teammate Ricciardo and then taking an engine penalty that demoted him to the back, Verstappen was electrifying in the early stages of the race, passing 10 cars in the first 10 laps to give himself a chance of a podium finish. An audacious and opportunistic pass of Raikkonen’s Ferrari with four corners left on the final lap saw him cross the line in third place, but as he was preparing to head out onto the podium, the race stewards deemed he’d left the track and gained an advantage with his move, the subsequent five-second time penalty demoting him to fourth. Former Red Bull racer Mark Webber, commentating on British TV, called it a “shit decision”, while team boss Christian Horner found the verdict “unbelievably harsh”. Verstappen’s take? “We had a really great race, but with those stupid decisions you really kill the sport,” he fumed. Ricciardo’s Sunday was, initially at least, quite action-packed as he diced furiously with Bottas for third in the early stages, but that all came to nought when an engine failure saw the Australian sidelined on lap 14, snapping his run of three straight podiums. Ricciardo spent more time talking about his future in the wake of Red Bull hitching its wagon long-term to Verstappen – the 28-year-old comes out of contract at the end of the 2018 season – than he needed to spend analysing a race that ended all too quickly. He’s also likely to take a grid penalty for Mexico in seven days’ time.

Sebastian Vettel: qualified 2nd, finished 2nd. Kimi Raikkonen: qualified 5th, finished 3rd.

The Prancing Horse has a pulse, but only a faint one after Vettel again couldn’t hang with Hamilton despite a jack-rabbit start that briefly raised hopes that Mercedes could be challenged at COTA. After being overtaken by Hamilton, Vettel got aggressive with his first pit stop and tried the undercut in an attempt to thwart the Briton, but he ended up needing to pass Bottas and a compliant Raikkonen to get back to where he started and minimise his points deficit to the driver would could join him as a four-time world champion as soon as next weekend. “At the start it was looking good, but quickly we realised we couldn’t do the same pace as Lewis,” he said after finishing over 10 seconds adrift. Raikkonen, who turned 38 in the week leading into the race, robustly defended his driving before a wheel was turned in Austin, despite having scored 12 fewer points in 16 races than at the same stage of last season. Sunday – eventually – saw him grab a fifth podium for the season with one of his stronger drives for the year, but the gap to his teammate ballooned to over 100 points – and is a big reason why Mercedes wrapped up the teams’ title with three races to go.

Force India
Sergio Perez: qualified 10th, finished 8th. Esteban Ocon: qualified 7th, finished 6th.

Stop us if you’ve heard this before: Perez, behind teammate Ocon in the middle part of the race, was immediately on the team radio telling Force India brass that “I am a lot faster” in an attempt to get the team to move the Frenchman aside. The team didn’t, figuring the points earned for sixth and seventh would be the same no matter which pink car crossed the line first, but the decision came back to bite them when Sainz muscled his Renault ahead of Perez and narrowly missed out on passing Ocon as the laps wound down. Ocon’s qualifying effort was all the more meritorious given he was struggling with the onset of a migraine, and the 21-year-old set a record by finishing the opening 26 races of his F1 career, beating former Manor driver Max Chilton’s mark. Perez, who was apoplectic when Magnussen blocked him in qualifying, at least has the next race at home in Mexico to look forward to.

Felipe Massa: qualified 11th, finished 9th. Lance Stroll: qualified 17th, finished 11th.

While Massa’s future remains cloudy, with Williams testing Robert Kubica and Paul Di Resta in what amounts to a shootout for his seat before Austin, the veteran Brazilian is making the most of the present, using a long first stint on a contra tyre strategy on Sunday to vault into the points. Stroll narrowly missed out on joining him, a three-place grid penalty for dangerously impeding Grosjean in qualifying on Saturday proving costly.

Fernando Alonso: qualified 9th, did not finish. Stoffel Vandoorne: qualified 13th, finished 12th.

It’s been a season where good news has been in short supply at McLaren, but there were plenty of smiles at the pre-event press conference when Alonso announced an extension of his contract with the team. The Spaniard produced an extraordinary lap in qualifying to work his way into the top 10 shootout despite his car being 20km/h slower than the Mercedes-powered runners down COTA’s lengthy back straight, but the long faces returned on Sunday when he had to park with – you guessed it – an engine failure on lap 24. “I cannot believe it,” he sighed after his 10th retirement of the year, the most for one driver since Raikkonen in 2002. Vandoorne was on a hiding to nothing when he took yet more engine penalties and started from the back, and try as he might, the top 10 remained just out of reach. “It was a shame to get so close to the points, but we were always going to struggle starting so far back,” he said.

Toro Rosso
Daniil Kvyat: qualified 12th, finished 10th. Brendon Hartley: qualified 18th, finished 13th.

It was all-out, all-change at Toro Rosso for Austin, with the Suzuka line-up of Sainz (off to Renault to replace Jolyon Palmer) and Gasly (who stayed in Japan to contest the Super Formula season finale) replaced by Kvyat and Hartley. For the Russian, it was welcome reprieve after being benched for Gasly in Malaysia and Japan, while for 27-year-old sportscar ace Hartley, Austin was an opportunity he must have thought would never come, the New Zealander cast aside from Red Bull’s driver pool seven years ago. The Kvyat/Hartley pairing represented the first time in 23 years that a team changed both drivers between consecutive rounds of the championship. Kvyat, who admitted before the race that he was desperately seeking some clarity about his F1 future, scored his first points since Spain in round five with 10th, while Hartley’s debut was compromised by engine penalties that saw him start at the back. The Kiwi kept his nose clean, raced to 13th, and looked forward to being able to reflect on what had been a whirlwind week. “It won’t be until I go to bed tonight and put my eyes at rest that I’ll start to process everything,” he said.

Romain Grosjean: qualified 14th, finished 14th. Kevin Magnussen: qualified 20th, finished 16th.

The ‘home’ team in Austin left for Mexico without any points after a weekend of incidents for both cars, including one on track in practice between Magnussen and Grosjean that left the Frenchman fuming. Grosjean, wearing a Nicky Hayden-inspired helmet design in a nice nod to the late American MotoGP champion, struggled mightily with tyre wear late in the race as his outside chance of a points result faded, while Magnussen, who admitted fault in a qualifying incident with Perez that saw him demoted three places on the grid, had contact with both Saubers, Wehrlein on the first lap which necessitated an early pit stop, and Ericsson later on when the Swede had just been lapped by Vettel.

Nico Hulkenberg: qualified 15th, did not finish. Carlos Sainz: qualified 8th, finished 7th.

Hulkenberg must wonder why he even bothers travelling to Austin; the German’s lap three retirement after suffering an oil pressure problem was his fourth straight non-finish at COTA, and came after he’d taken a 20-place grid penalty for changing engine components. Sainz, on the other hand, couldn’t have had a more impressive start to life at his new team after coming across from Toro Rosso; after out-qualifying Hulkenberg on Saturday (something former teammate Palmer didn’t manage in 16 attempts), the Spaniard raced strongly to seventh on Sunday, and was the final car not lapped by race-winner Hamilton. Sainz’s six points saw his new team draw within five points of his old one for sixth in the constructors’ standings.

Marcus Ericsson: qualified 16th, finished 15th. Pascal Wehrlein: qualified 19th, did not finish.

Beneath the radar, Ericsson had one of his stronger Saturdays of the year in Austin, out-qualifying a Williams and a Toro Rosso and beating teammate Wehrlein by four-tenths of a second in what is clearly the slowest car in the field. The race didn’t go as well, the Swede given a five-second time penalty for the incident with Magnussen. Wehrlein, who turned 23 in the lead-up to the race, was out of it after five laps, the damage from his own coming-together with Magnussen too much to continue.