Sebastian Vettel overtook polesitter Valtteri Bottas into the first corner as he claimed victory at the Brazilian Grand Prix on Sunday.
The German's slim hopes of winning the drivers' title were ended in Mexico a fortnight ago, Lewis Hamilton finishing ninth in that race to clinch his fourth crown.
But, with the Englishman starting from the pit lane, Vettel stole a march on Hamilton's Mercedes team-mate from lights out and faced little threat to his lead throughout.
There was a brief glimmer of hope for Bottas thanks to the questionable timing of Vettel's pit stop, but the former Red Bull man re-emerged just in front of the Finn and opened up a lead once more.
Hamilton, meanwhile, made swift progress through the field and led for a period - during a flurry of pit stops for the frontrunners - but was ultimately unable to earn an unlikely podium finish.
Bottas had to settle for the runner-up spot for a second successive race, with Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen completing the top three.
Williams' Felipe Massa - competing in his final Brazilian Grand Prix ahead of his retirement at the end of the season - was the best of the rest behind F1's power trio of teams, following Red Bull duo Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo home in seventh.
TOO LITTLE, TOO LATE FOR VETTEL
Victory for Vettel was not met with the level of jubilation one might expect from a race winning driver or team.
Celebrations on team radio were muted and the hangover from their championship collapse was understandably still being felt.
Vettel is not yet assured of second place in the drivers' championship – sitting 22 points clear of third-placed Bottas – but an eighth-place finish in Abu Dhabi would be enough to emerge victorious from that particular battle.
VET: "I had a chance to squeeze down the inside at the start and tried to control the race from there. I'm pleased for the guys back home who have been working so hard" #BrazilGP pic.twitter.com/TBEZTUDWA1— Formula 1 (@F1) November 12, 2017
HAMILTON IMPRESSES FROM THE PIT LANE
Hamilton's early progress evoked memories of Verstappen's heroic charge through the field to take third place at this circuit last year.
The conditions couldn't have been more different – glorious sunshine compared to the downpour of 2016.
Three retirements on the opening lap aided Hamilton's cause and he was into the top 10 by the end of lap nine.
He was unable to finish the job by picking off Raikkonen for third, but it was a mightily impressive drive – the Mercedes man hot on the heels Ferrari driver in the closing laps.
GOODBYE (AGAIN) TO MASSA
We've been here before.
Felipe Massa "retired" at the end of last season before being lured back after Bottas left Williams for the Silver Arrows.
He didn't finish the race at Interlagos in 2016, so it was nice to see the veteran go out on a high, holding off Fernando Alonso on the final lap to finish seventh.
Alonso applauded Massa into the pits after the race and the former Ferrari driver climbed to the top step of the podium to wave goodbye to his adoring home fans.
Massa's encore will come in Abu Dhabi, but this was his true send off.
IN THE POINTS
1. Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari)
2. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) +2.762s
3. Kimi Raikkonen (Ferrari) +4.600s
4. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) +5.468s
5. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) +32.940
6. Daniel Ricciardo (Red Bull) +48.691s
7. Felipe Massa (Williams) +68.882s
8. Fernando Alonso (McLaren) +69.363s
9. Sergio Perez (Force India) +69.500s
10. Nico Hulkenberg (Renault) + +1 lap
1. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) 345
2. Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari) 302 (-43)
3. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) 280 (-65)
4. Daniel Ricciardo (Red Bull) 200 (-145)
5. Kimi Raikkonen (Ferrari) 193 (-152)
1. Mercedes 625
2. Ferrari 495 (-130)
3. Red Bull 358 (-267)
4. Force India 177 (-448)
5. Williams 82 (-543)
The season comes to an end with the final race of 2017 at Yas Marina Circuit in a fortnight.
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