A strong drive from Sebastian Vettel helped Infiniti Red Bull Racing finish fifth at the Brazilian Grand Prix, guaranteeing the team runners-up spot in the Constructors’ Championship with one round remaining. Team-mate Daniel Ricciardo also looked set for a top-10 result before a suspension failure on lap 40 ended his hopes. Further back Scuderia Toro Rosso came within a whisker of scoring points courtesy of Daniil Kvyat’s 11th place finish, while Jean-Eric Vergne came home 13th. Lotus F1 Team’s Pastor Maldonado split the Toro Rosso pair for 12th.
Key race points:
50 degree-plus track temperatures saw the top-10 pit after just a handful of laps to discard the option tyres with which they’d qualified, allowing those who started on the primes to run near the front early on. It would make for an action-packed afternoon as the different strategies played out.
Having qualified sixth, Vettel found himself falling backwards on lap one after being swallowed up by both Kevin Magnussen and Fernando Alonso. The German was mighty over the remaining 70 laps though and, having run behind the Ferrari throughout his first and second stints, used the undercut to pass it and Magnussen’s McLaren at the second round of pit-stops. A slow stop for Valtteri Bottas then helped him leapfrog the Williams as well, before managing the tyre degradation and out-of-sequence cars ahead until the chequered flag. The afternoon proved less successful for team-mate Ricciardo however, whose run of 15 consecutive points scoring finishes came to an end after his Red Bull suffered front suspension failure.
Kvyat came within 0.6sec of scoring a point for Toro Rosso after fighting with Bottas over the closing stages. The Russian, who started on the more durable prime tyres, found himself running in the top-six at various stages of the race while each driver’s various strategies worked out, before switching to the option rubber for a short stint at the end. Team-mate Vergne, whose weekend was compromised on Friday, fought his way from 16th to 13th by the chequered flag.
Maldonado picked up four places throughout the afternoon to claim 12th for the Lotus F1 Team. The Venezuelan was the very first driver to pit when he swapped from option to prime tyres on only lap two, before enjoying a strong run to the finish. Romain Grosjean, who like Kvyat ran a long first stint inside the top-10 on the medium compound rubber, was sidelined late on with a Power Unit issue.
Ricciardo remains third in the Drivers’ standings despite his non-score, while Vettel’s fifth place helps him jump up to fourth ahead of Alonso and Bottas.
Rémi Taffin, Head of Track Operations:
It’s been a strange day really, with the few points we did score courtesy of Seb helping Red Bull claim the runners-up spot in the Constructors’ Championship. It’s no secret that we have endured a tough season – despite scoring three wins together so far – and this result is testament to the hard work carried out behind closed doors at both Viry and Milton Keynes.
Nevertheless, this degree of recovery is not enough and we must be realistic about the gap that still exists to Mercedes. We are not accustomed to finishing second and will be working extremely hard in all areas during the winter to overhaul their advantage in time for next season.
Seb’s performance here, as in Austin last weekend, was absolutely fantastic. Both the Power Unit and tyres are tricky to manage in these conditions but collectively we coped very well indeed and extracted the maximum. It’s a shame we lost Daniel to a suspension problem but he remains third in the championship and, with one race remaining, looks odds-on to finish there.
Toro Rosso and Daniil were less than a second shy of scoring some points, which shows the package is still competitive in the tight mid-field battle. Lotus too demonstrated their pace with Pastor coming home 12th, but I am obviously disappointed for Romain whose car suffered a Power Unit problem and lost a cylinder towards the end. We’ll study the data and, as always, learn from the cause.