Sebastian Vettel broke the drought in Sao Paulo - but his first win since July was too little too late.
Lewis Hamilton is 2017 World Champion and Vettel's 47th victory guarantees he'll be the Bridesmaid and finish ahead of Finn Valterri Bottas.
"Vettel did a superb job. He got the start right and then controlled the pace," said Sky F1 commentator Martin Brundle.
But Hamilton wasn't going to make up the numbers after crashing in qualifying.
The Brit climbed from last to fourth place behind Kimi Raikkonen, and even led the race when the leaders pitted.
"Lewis' drive was exceptional," said Mercedes boss Toto Wolff.
"I think on pure pace Lewis was the fastest car today and probably would have deserved to win."
But the day belonged to Vettel, who was clearly relieved after a difficult stretch of races.
"It's a great release," said the German.
"It's been a tough day and race. We were all more or less the same on pace, it was really difficult and no room for mistakes."
Another man to come from the back of the field was Daniel Ricciardo, who's quick move up the order from 14th to eventually finish 6th behind team mate Max Verstappen.
In his final home Grand Prix, retiring Brazilian Felipe Massa finished 7th.
The season wraps up in two weeks time in Abu Dhabi.